Frenzy preview: A look at regional finals

Football Frenzy

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The march to the MHSAA football state finals at Ford Field continues with regional titles up for grabs on Friday and Saturday. Winners advance to next weekend’s state semifinals. Here’s a closer look at the games involving area teams: 

Division 1: Hudsonville Eagles (8-3) at Brighton Bulldogs (9-2); Friday 7 p.m

The Hudsonville Eagles will vye for a regional title for the first time since 2014, after a pair of impressive wins in district play. Hudsonville outscored its two opponents, Traverse City West and Grand Haven, 73-14 en route to a district crown. Brighton is making its first appearance in a regional final since 2005 and defeated East Kentwood last week to claim a district title. 

“Our season motto has been ‘embrace the process,’ so it’s just another opportunity to get better today in practice,” Hudsonville coach Brent Sandee said. “We just love hanging out with these kids and it’s another week to do that and to be better at football. We’ve always talked about this as free football and it’s just an awesome opportunity that we’ve earned a third free football game and we’re going to treat it as such.”

Division 2: Mona Shores Sailors (9-2) at Portage Northern Huskies (10-1); Friday 7 p.m.

The Mona Shores Sailors are hoping for a return to the state finals after winning a district championship last week with a 35-12 win over Midland Dow. Mona Shores reached the state finals a year ago but will face a stern road test this week against a Portage Northern Huskies squad that set a new school record with its 10th win of the season last week against Forest Hills Central. The Sailors knocked off the Huskies 58-28 in last year’s regional final.   

“With a lot of kids back off last year’s team, there was the expectation that you have to get back to the regional championship game,” Portage Northern coach Pete Schermerhorn said. “That weighed heavily on our kids and coaches but having accomplished that and gotten the district title takes a little bit of weight off their shoulders. Hopefully they can play fast and free and can enjoy the game.”

Division 3: East Grand Rapids Pioneers (8-3) vs. Muskegon Big Reds (11-0) at Grand Haven HS; Saturday 1 p.m.

The marquee matchup of the weekend pits the unbeaten Muskegon Big Reds against the East Grand Rapids Pioneers in a rematch from earlier in the season. Muskegon edged EGR 28-23 in Week 3, however, the Pioneers are playing well and beat previously unbeaten Byron Center to win their first district title since 2015. Top-ranked Muskegon continued its dominance with a 54-10 win over Cedar Springs to claim its fourth straight district crown. The Big Reds have won 38 of their last 39 games. 

Division 3: DeWitt Panthers (9-2) at Edwardsburg Eddies (11-0); Saturday 1 p.m.

The Edwardsburg Eddies won a Division 4 state title a year ago and are looking for similar success after making the jump to Division 3. Edwardsburg defeated Zeeland West 16-2 last week to win a district title and have reeled off 25 straight wins over the past two seasons. The Eddies have allowed only 69 points on the season. The Dewitt Panthers have advanced to the regional finals four years in a row and reached the state semifinals last season. 

Division 4: Cadillac Vikings (7-4) at Catholic Central Cougars (10-1); Saturday 1 p.m.

The Catholic Central Cougars are riding a nine-game winning streak after claiming their school record fourth consecutive district title last week with a win over O-K Blue rival Sparta. Catholic Central’s lone loss came against an out-of-state team in Week 2. The Cadillac Vikings went 1-8 last season but has shown improvement this season. The Vikings entered the postseason at 5-4 but upset Escanaba and Sault Saint Marie to win their first district title since 2013. 

Division 4: Unity Christian Crusaders (8-3) at Paw Paw Redskins (10-1); Friday 7 p.m.

The Unity Christian Crusaders won the program’s first state title last season in Division 5 but have moved up to Division 4 this season. Unity captured its third district crown in the last four years with a win over rival South Christian. Paw Paw is making its first regional final appearance since 2011 and has allowed 14 points or less in 10 of its 11 games. 

“We had a lot of young kids that we had to do a lot of teaching with and it took a while,” Unity Christian coach Craig Tibbe said. “We’re not done, but we’re getting there, and we’re doing some things a little better now. Last year was fun, and this year is a different fun. We’ve got a different group of guys and we’ve had to learn who they are and what they can do. That’s been our focus.” 

Division 5: Kalamazoo United Hackett Fighting Irish (7-4) at Lansing Catholic Central Cougars (10-1); Friday 7 p.m.

After an 0-3 start, the Kalamazoo United Fighting Irish have won seven of their last eight games and defeated O-K Silver champion Hopkins last week to win their second straight district title. The Cougars avenged their only loss of the season last week with a 21-0 win over Portland to win a district championship. Lansing Catholic Central has scored 495 points this season, the most since 2014. 

Division 6: Sanford Meridian Mustangs (8-3) at Montague Wildcats (9-2); Saturday 1 p.m.

The Montague Wildcats have their sights set on a return for Ford Field after advancing to the finals a year ago. The Wildcats edged Ravenna last week to wrap up a district title and are 31-6 over the last three seasons. The Sanford Meridian Mustangs are back in the postseason after three straight losing seasons. The Mustangs earned wins over Ithaca and Hemlock to secure a district crown. 

Division 7: Schoolcraft Eagle (10-1) at Jackson Lumen Christi Titans (10-0); Friday 7 p.m.

The Schoolcraft Eagles averaged more than 50 points per game in their two district wins but will face a challenge against the defending Division 6 state champions. Jackson Lumen Christi has reeled off 23 straight wins and has suffered only three losses in the last four years. Schoolcraft’s only loss came against Kalamazoo United in its regular-season finale. 

“We felt like we had a talented team that deserved to be talked about in the mix of those other teams and when you start to map what the playoff picture looked like you knew you were going to collide with some of those teams early and here we are in the regional,” Schoolcraft coach Nathan Ferency said. “We feel like we can match up and do some things that’ll give them problems. We’re just trying to prepare and get ready for a big game.

Division 7: Pewamo-Westphalia Pirates (11-0) at New Lothrop Hornets (11-0); Friday 7 p.m.

Two unbeaten teams with state-title aspirations will clash Friday night. Pewamo-Westphalia recorded its school record, eighth shutout of the season last week in a win over Kent City in the district finals. The Pirates have surrendered only 21 points this season and hope to avenge last year’s 26-15 loss to New Lothrop in the regional finals. The Hornets are the defending Division 7 state champions and have outscored their opponents 462-74 this season. New Lothrop is 110-10 in the past decade.

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