In Play with Tom Markowski


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Top 10 games: Grandville looks to end 13-game losing streak to Rockford

By: Tom Markowski, September 29, 2016, 3:10 pm

Grandville – Grandville has arguably been the most impressive team in the state the last two weeks blowing past O-K Red Division rivals Hudsonville and East Kentwood by a combined score of 82-9.

The last 13 times Rockford has played Grandville the Rams have, arguably, been equally as impressive. Rockford has won 13 consecutive games in this series and just once has the margin of victory been fewer than 16 points (21-6 in 2014).

Rockford (3-2) will host Grandville (5-0) on Friday at 7 p.m. in what should be the game that determines the division winner.

As meaningful as that sounds the next time they play this season the stakes will be higher.

“Their kids watched our kids play last spring,” Grandville coach Eric Stiegel said. “I don’t remember if it was in basketball or track but I told my players then that we would likely play them twice in the fall.”

Inevitably the power teams in the O-K Red meet in a Division 1 district. The reason for this is there are so few Division 1 teams in the Grand Rapids area. And this is why many coaches have petitioned for, indirectly in most cases, that the playoffs should be seeded one through eight in each of the four regions in each of the eight divisions instead of the current format, which has eight districts in each division seeded 1-4. The reasoning is that under the current system teams that have played each other during the regular season invariably play in the districts. Teams have the tendency to get stale when the opposition becomes so familiar. Seeding the teams according to region (1-8) would allow, in many instances, for teams like Rockford and Grandville to play a team outside of the Grand Rapids area in the first and, possibly, the second round.

Rockford played Grandville in the first round last season then defeated Hudsonville, another O-K Red division member, in the second round.

Since 2008 just once (2012) has this not occurred. That season just two O-K Red Division teams qualified for the Division 1 playoffs and they were paired in opposite pre-district games within the same region. At this time it looks as if at least three Red Division teams will qualify.

Stiegel knows this is an important game but it’s not the biggest game his team will play this season and he’s preaching to them to keep an even keel in their preparation.

“This game we’re playing Friday will have a bearing on who we match up with in the playoffs,” he said. “We’re more balanced, especially at running back, than we were last year. (Rockford) plays great defense week in and week out. It’s our toughest matchup.”

Brady Paganelli runs the tight T-formation offense from the quarterback spot and his two halfbacks, Josh Atwell and Shane Baker are equally effective. Atwell has rushed for 550 yards this season and Baker has 490 rushing yards. Jake Tipton is called on to run the all-important fullback trap and he’s rushed for 440 yards.

Defensively the Bulldogs have played an aggressive style thanks to coordinator Brian Haveman who has been with Stiegel the three seasons he’s been at Grandville. Haveman cut his teeth at Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern before coming to Grandville.

Leading the defensive charge is lineman Ian Hall. A senior, Hall has 11 sacks and was instrumental in the victories over Hudsonville and East Kentwood the past two weeks. Pick: Grandville by 2.


All games are Friday at 7 p.m. unless noted.


Clarkston (4-1) at Oak Park (3-2), 6: Here are two teams what were ranked in the top 10 in the preseason but have subsequently stumbled a bit out of the gate. I know. One loss in five games isn’t cause for alarm but a loss here would not bode well if the Wolves expect to carry momentum into the state playoffs. Pick: Clarkston by 7.

Grosse Ile (5-0) at Milan (5-0): Milan has won nine of the last 11 in this series and many have not been close including last season’s 44-7 victory. Grosse Ile hasn’t had much success against Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central recently either and the Red Devils were impressive last week with a 28-0 viyory over SMCC. Pick: Grosse Ile by 3.

Menominee (5-0) at Escanaba (5-0): This is for first place in the Great Northern U.P. Conference. Escanaba has given up 32 points this season; Menominee 41. Escanaba used to own the Maroons but not anymore. Menominee has won the last 17 in the series and holds a 32-28-1 edge. Escanaba last won in 1998 (34-27). Menominee has outscored the Eskymos 138-20 the last three seasons. The good news for Escanaba is it won’t have to play the Maroons in the state playoffs. Pick: Menominee by 14. 

Monroe (3-2) at Temperance Bedford (4-1): There’s little margin of error for Monroe if the Trojans expect to qualify for the playoffs. They could get in at 5-4 and with Saline (5-0) still on their schedule that might be the best they can hope for. Pick: Bedford by 12.

Pontiac Notre Dame Prep (4-1) at River Rouge (4-1): These teams could meet in the playoffs and, if so, the winner here could be the home team should that take place. River Rouge needs a game like this after all the cupcakes it’s faced so far. Pick: River Rouge by 8. 

Traverse City West (4-1) at Benton Harbor (5-0): Benton Harbor is playing an independent schedule after leaving the Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference. If the Tigers get past west they could finish 9-0. Pick: West by 6.

Trenton (5-0) at Allen Park (5-0): Allen Park received a wakeup call last week as it nosed out Gibraltar Carlson, 14-6. Allen Park holds a 22-20-1 edge in the series and hasn’t lost to Trenton since 1998 (12-6). And the beat goes on. Pick: Allen Park by 9. 

Warren Cousino (4-1) at Grosse Pointe North (4-1): Just how well North comes down from the cloud it’s on following its emotional 8-4 victory over Grosse Pointe South will greatly determine the outcome here. It’s difficult to maintain a high emotional level week after week. Pick: Cousino by 6.

Detroit King (5-0) at Detroit Cass Tech (5-0), Sat., noon: One of the state’s best rivalries should provide drama, and insight, that will last until these teams, likely, play for the Detroit Public School League title on Oct. 21. They’ve split the last 12 games with King winning the last two. One can only imagine what condition Cass Tech’s grass field will be like after all the rain the area has had this week. Pick: Cass Tech by 6.


Last week’s record: 7-3.

Season record: 34-16.