In Play with Tom Markowski


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Traverse City is site of early season showdown

By: Tom Markowski, September 11, 2014, 12:00 am

Traverse City – The biggest game in northern Michigan will be played Friday at Thirlby Field in Traverse City. Central and West, the two public high schools in the state’s cherry capital will play for the 18th time beginning at 7 p.m.

West is 1-1 after defeating Midland 31-14 in its opener then got schooled at home by Hudsonville, 48-17, last week.

Central (2-0) has played a less adventurous schedule defeating Marquette, 34-13, and Escanaba, 50-14.
A crowd of 10,000 or more is expected and should West lose its playoffs hopes would greatly diminish. Though there are six games remaining after this one West still has Cadillac (2-0) and Walled Lake Northern (2-0) left on its schedule.

Central has a tough road as well as it still has Detroit Catholic Central next week and Cadillac later in the season on its schedule.

Coach Tom Passinault is in his eighth season at Central. He spent the previous 13 as the head coach at GRand Rapids Catholic Central and when Passinault took over at Central he wasn’t fully aware of the significance of this game.

"I underestimated the importance," he said. "There’s a lot of quality football in Traverse City. We normally play this game in week nine so (playing in week three) wouldn’t be my first choice. It does give the loser a chance to rebound. It’s exciting no matter what week it is."

In 2012 Passinault and others added another dimension to the rivalry. It’s now called the Patriot Game with proceeds going to charities representing veterans of the armed services.  

West leads the series 12-5 winning last year 17-14 in overtime. Central is 3-4 under Passinault.

Central’s experience, led by seniors Ethan Campbell (RB) and Seth Tice (OT) trumps West’s big offensive line.          PICK: Central by 5

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

Allen Park (2-0) at Brownstown Woodhaven (2-0): Both teams are considered title contenders in the Downriver League. These teams have met just nine times with Allen Park winning six including last year 28-13. This is an important two weeks for Allen Park as it faces Wyandotte Roosevelt next.        PICK: Allen Park by 6.

Carleton Airport (2-0) at Riverview (2-0): The Huron League title is up for grabs and both of these teams have a shot to take it. Riverview won last year 27-10 but Riverview has a new coach in Derek McLaughlin. There’s a learning curve for such coaches.           PICK: Airport by 4.

Croswell-Lexington (1-1) at Richmond (2-0): During a four-game stretch (2008-11) Cros.-Lex won all four by the combined score of 169-25. The tables have turned. Richmond lost by three in 2012, won 28-21 last season and has recorded two shutouts this season.         PICK: Richmond by 10.

Lapeer (2-0) at Bay City Central (1-1): Central has given up far too many points (74) this season. Lapeer could be the surprise team in the Saginaw Valley.        PICK: Lapeer by 4.

Lowell (2-0) at East Grand Rapids (2-0): Always the biggest game on the schedule for both teams and is one of the best matchups in the state seemingly every year. Lowell enters ranked No. 13 with the Pioneers at No. 14. Lowell has a young team and a big game like this so early in the season could be too tall of a task.          PICK: East Grand Rapids by 4.

Muskegon Mona Shores (2-0) at Rockford (2-0): Rockford leads the series 14-4 and has won nine straight over the Sailors. Mona Shores likes to stretch the defense with quarterback Tyree Jackson but look for Rockford to own the line of scrimmage.        PICK: Rockford by 14.

Oak Park (1-1) at Farmington Hills Harrison (2-0): The winner takes a big step toward winning the OAA White Division. Last year Harrison outlasted Oak Park 60-52 in a game that took 3:40 to complete. No such marathon this time.         PICK: Oak Park by 3.  

Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary (2-0) at Ithaca (2-0): Ithaca doesn’t play a strong schedule but this could be a test. These schools didn’t play from 1988-05. Lutheran Seminary has lost eight straight to Ithaca since.  Ithaca has won 58 straight. Its last loss was to Montague in the 2009 Division 6 final, 47-16.             PICK: Ithaca by 19.

Westland John Glenn (2-0) at Livonia Churchill (2-0): Neither team seemingly could stop anyone last year but both defenses have shown improvement so far this year. Churchill lost to Glenn last season 49-40 but has given up just 35 points in two games this season. Glenn has surrendered just 24.          PICK: Churchill by 2.

Last week’s record: 7-2
Season record: 11-8