Top games: Markowski picks all 32 region finals, look for Muskegon to roll once again
Muskegon – It’s business as usual for Muskegon and its coach, Shane Fairfield.
The Big Reds have blown out eight of the 10 teams they defeated this season including Byron Center (49-14), the team they’re playing on Friday in the Division 3 Region 1 final at Muskegon at 7 p.m.
Both teams are 10-1 and Byron Center is looking to advance to its first state semifinal.
“We handled them well the first time,” Fairfield said. “I feel confident but you can’t look ahead.
“We’ve been blessed in that we’ve had very few injuries. (Quarterback) LaDarius (Jefferson) has picked up his game. This has opened it up for Kalil (Pimpleton) for screens, bubble screens, speed options and sweeps.”
Pimpleton played quarterback exclusively last season and as this season has progressed he’s seen fewer and fewer plays as a quarterback. Pimpleton has played receiver, slot receiver and returns punts and kickoffs. Even with his limited time at quarterback (68 attempts), Pimpleton has thrown 14 touchdown passes.
Jefferson and Pimpleton have been afforded most of the carries but if the Big Reds need a yard or two Andrew Ward, known more for his play at linebacker, is there to get those tough yards.
In mid-season the offensive line received a lift when junior tackle A.J. Reed returned to Muskegon after a brief stint at IMG in Florida. Pick: Muskegon by 21.
Friday games (all at 7 p.m.)
Detroit Cass Tech (11-0) at Saline (11-0): Cass Tech kept Saline out of the semifinals in 2012 and Saline returned the favor two years later. One has to wonder how Saline will handle Cass Tech’s team speed. Dearborn held the Technicians to 24 points last week. Saline will need a similar defensive performance to pull off the upset. Pick: Cass Tech by 8.
Romeo (8-3) at Clarkston (9-2): The 2014 champion faces the 2015 champion. Clarkston actually won back-to-back titles (’13-’14) and defeated Romeo, 42-10, in a district final on its way to its first. Pick: Clarkston by 6.
Southfield A&T (8-3) vs. Utica Eisenhower (11-0) at Utica High: Eisenhower blasted Macomb Dakota 45-7 last week and has dominated many of its opponents. Southfield struggled at times during the season but the Warriors have found their groove and could gave the Eagles problems. Pick: Eisenhower by 9.
Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central (9-2) at Lowell (11-0): These two O-K White Division rivals played an entertaining game earlier as Lowell slipped away with a 41-37 victory on Oct. 7. The Red Arrows seem to play their best in pressure games, such as this. Pick: Lowell by 7.
Grosse Pointe South (8-3) at Birmingham Groves (10-1): This promises to be an old-style type of game where first downs will be gained grudgingly and points will be at a premium. South rebounded well from losing two straight in midseason, games that the Blue Devils managed just four points. Groves has had a tremendous two-year stretch and the Falcons need to forget about last week’s huge victory over Birmingham Brother Rice and stuck to the task at hand. Pick: Groves by 4.
Dearborn Divine Child (9-2) at Allen Park (11-0): Two years ago Divine Child upset Allen Park, 9-7, at Allen Park. The Jaguars remember that game well and will be ready. Pick: Allen Park by 6.
Orchard Lake St. Mary’s (7-4) at DeWitt (10-1): These teams have met in the playoffs before. Sometimes it’s in the semifinal round, as it was in 2010, when St. Mary’s won, 41-20. DeWitt is going to keep this one close but an upset is unlikely. Pick: St. Mary’s by 9.
Edwardsburg (11-0) at Chelsea (11-0): Kind of the forgotten team in this division, Edwardsburg has played well all season and will earn some respect with a victory here. The Eddies have won 32 games in the last three seasons. Pick: Edwardsburg by 5.
Adrian (7-4) at River Rouge (10-1): Adrian upset Milan last week but it wasn’t as big of an upset as many might be led to believe. The Maples play a difficult schedule and are prepared to play in big playoff games. River Rouge had trouble with Detroit Mumford (34-22) last week and the Panthers played an inferior schedule this season. That could come into play here. Pick: River Rouge by 4.
Lake Odessa Lakewood (10-1) vs. Hudsonville Unity Christian (9-2) at Jenison: Unity Christian’s overtime victory over Benton Harbor last week showed everyone in this division the Crusaders can compete. Pick: Unity Christian by 6.
Ida (10-1) at Algonac (10-1): There’s something in the water. Algonac, which was 0-9 in 2008, takes aim on its first region title. Pick: Algonac by 6.
Detroit Central Collegiate (7-4) at Millington (10-1): Central is a young team that has surprised many this season. Quarterback El Julian Jordan is a junior who possesses a strong, accurate arm. Millington will likely have its hands full containing Central’s team speed. Pick: Millington by 3.
Concord (9-2) at Cassopolis (10-1): Cassopolis has never won a region title. Mark another one off that bucket list. Pick: Cassopolis by 9.
Detroit Loyola (9-2) at Hudson (10-1): Loyola hasn’t had trouble getting past its two playoff opponents to reach this point but that could change drastically here. Pick: Loyola by 6.
Climax-Scotts (11-0) at Ottawa Lake Whiteford (11-0): Whiteford got past Climax-Scotts last season in a region final and there’s no reason to think it won’t happen again. Pick: Whiteford by 14.
Grandville (10-1) at Detroit Catholic Central (11-0), 1: This game should last an hour and 40 minutes at tops. Both teams will run the ball and run it often. Grandville’s T-formation offense is nothing new to C.C. the Shamrocks often run out of that formation. Pick: C.C. by 4.
Fenton (9-2) at Walled Lake Western (10-1), noon: Quarterback Josh Czarnota posted video game numbers last week in Fenton’s victory over Midland Dow. He accounted for seven touchdowns and over 500 yards. Western hasn’t had difficulty scoring this season as last week’s victory over Pinckney showed (41-17). Cody White has attracted much of the attention for Western but don’t sleep on receiver/returner Cam Ford. Pick: Western by 8.
Temperance Bedford (9-2) at Detroit King (9-2), 3: Both teams like to run the ball but both have the players to make the passing game work as well. Bedford must contain running back Kevin Willis or else it could be a long afternoon for the Kicking Mules. Pick: King by 10.
Corunna (9-2) at Detroit Country Day (11-0), 1: Corunna hasn’t played against an athletic quarterback like Steve Mann and that could be the biggest factor. Pick: Country Day by 18.
Escanaba (9-2) at Grand Rapids Catholic Central (10-1), 1: C.C. gets to show off its new stadium to an Upper Peninsula team not ready for prime time. Pick: C.C. by 16.
Frankenmuth (10-1) at Ithaca (11-0), 1: I guess it doesn’t matter if Ithaca moves up a division. Pick: Ithaca by 9.
Grand Rapids West Catholic (9-2) at Berrien Springs (8-2), 4: West Catholic had arguably the two most competitive district games in any division. Just can’t afford a letdown. Pick: W. Catholic by 14.
Menominee (10-1) at Reed City (11-0), 5: The Maroons had better get used to driving over the bridge. The state finals are just a couple of weeks away. Pick: Menominee by 6.
Leroy Pine River (8-3) at Ravenna (9-2), 1: Ravenna most recently reached the semifinals in 2008 and ’09. It’s been awhile. Pine River won its first playoff game two years ago and has never won a region title. Pick: Ravenna by 8.
Maple City Glen Lake (9-2) at Calumet (10-1), 1: The Copper Kings live up to their nickname here. Pick: Calumet by 8.
Napoleon (9-2) at Jackson Lumen Christi (9-2), 1: Lumen Christi had its scare last week. Pick: Lumen Christi by 20.
Pewamo-Westphalia (11-0) at Traverse City St. Francis (11-0), 1: Pewamo-Westphalia had to hang on to defeat Saugatuck last week and playing two quality teams back to back will likely take its toll. Pick: St. Francis by 3.
Ubly (11-0) vs. New Lothrop (10-1) at Chesaning, 1: Here’s a game with contrasting offensive styles. New Lothrop likes to throw it a bit and the weather is conducive for that. Pick: New Lothrop by 2.
Frankfort (11-0) at Muskegon Catholic Central (11-0), 1: It matters little which team C.C. plays. It will be one-sided. Pick: C.C. by 29.
Norway (9-2) at St. Ignace LaSalle (10-1), 1: St. Ignace has 64 victories in the last six seasons. Make it 65. Pick: St. Ignace by 12.
Royal Oak Shrine (9-2) at Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary (9-2), 3: Seminary’s experience is more than enough to win. Pick: Seminary by 10.
Last week’s record: 6-4
Season record: 74-36