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Jason Schmitt is the editor of MIPrepZone.com, the high school sports website for The Oakland Press. He has served as the sports editor for a number of newspapers, including the Daily Tribune in Royal Oak and the Macomb Daily in Mount Clemens. In his time in the industry, he has covered every high school sport and has served a a beat writer for boys and girls soccer, boys and girls tennis, hockey, wrestling, bowling and cross country.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Down to the Final Four

First off, I want to congratulate Catholic Central, Brother Rice, Walled Lake Western and St. Mary's. To get to this point in the state playoffs is quite a feat. There are only 32 teams still playing football. More than 500 started the season on a quest to claim one of the 256 playoff spots. And now we're down to this.
So again, congratulations. You are the envy of your peers.
That being said, only 16 will move on to play for a state championship on Thanksgiving weekend. I'm going to attempt to pick which 16 teams will move on and lace 'em up at Ford Field on Nov. 25-26.
Last week, I went 5-0. Let's see if I can up that this week.

Division 1
Rockford (11-1) vs. Novi Detroit Catholic Central (11-1): Amazing how the cream always seems to rise to the crop. The Shamrocks opened the 2000s with three state titles (2001-03) and looked like they would dominate the decade. But the Rams took over in 2004 and won three state titles of their own (2004-05, 2008). CC added another (2009) to give the two schools seven championships over a 10-year span. Surprisingly, this is the first time the two teams have played since CC beat Rockford for the 1998 state championship.
So it's no coincidence they're starting off the 2010s fighting for a chance to play for another state title. Rockford boasts a balanced attack, led by steady quarterback Mark LaPrairie (15 TD, 3 INT) and an arsenal of running backs, led by Brady Gent and Connor Darby. Last week's leading rusher was Ryan Hartley, who amassed 125 yards and a TD in the Rams' 30-28 win over Grand Blanc.
But Catholic Central is coming off a game where it shut down the state's top rusher (Drake Johnson). The defense again may very well be the difference in this game. I think it will. And the offense will put up just enough points to give the Shamrocks a chance to play for yet another state title.
PREDICTION: Catholic Central 20, Rockford 13

Utica Eisenhower (11-1) vs. Detroit Cass Tech (9-3)
PREDICTION: Eisenhower 27, Cass Tech 13

Division 2
Lowell (11-1) vs. Walled Lake Western (11-1): The Warriors have had a valiant run in these playoffs. They've provided their fans with the type of excitement not seen since the 1999 team went all the way, claiming the school's second state title in four years.
But Lowell is on another level. The Red Arrows have won three state titles since 2002 and are an incredible 132-18 since 2000. They beat Western 30-7 in the season opener a year ago. The Warriors have a chance to keep this game close, if their defense plays near perfect. But Lowell's defense is stout, and it will be the difference.
PREDICTION: Lowell 27, Walled Lake Western 7

Birmingham Brother Rice (8-4) vs. Detroit Martin Luther King (9-3): Kind of fitting that two teams that opened up the season playing in the Prep Showdown at Eastern Michigan University, would now play for a chance to finish its season at Ford Field.
Rice won that first game, 28-21. King's Dennis Norfleet rushed for 234 yards in the loss. This time around, I don't think he'll come close to that number. If the Warriors can hold Farmington Hills Harrison to just seven points, there's no telling what they'll do to the Crusaders. Expect Rice to run the ball well, and let their defense - which has allowed just 21 points in three playoff games - do the rest.
PREDICTION: Brother Rice 23, King 10

Division 3
Mount Pleasant (12-0) vs. East Grand Rapids (9-3)
PREDICTION: East Grand Rapids 31, Mount Pleasant 20

Battle Creek Harper Creek (12-0) vs. Orchard Lake St. Mary's (10-2): A year ago, the Eaglets fell a game short in their quest for a Division 3 state championship. They were loaded, with a talented senior leader at quarterback.
Fast forward a year. That senior quarterback is gone, but the team is still uber-talented, and will get another shot to show it as it takes on an undefeated Harper Creek squad. St. Mary's depth at running back (Spencer McInnis, Grant Niemiec, Parker McInnis) and a rock-solid defense, led by James Ross, will be the difference in this one.
PREDICTION: St. Mary's 37, Harper Creek 27

Division 4
Comstock Park (10-2) vs. Zeeland West (12-0)
PREDICTION: Zeeland West 33, Comstock Park 17

Grosse Ile (10-2) vs. Marine City (12-0)
PREDICTION: Marine City 31, Grosse Ile 10

Division 5
Grand Rapids West Catholic (10-2) vs. Lansing Catholic (12-0)
PREDICTION: Lansing Catholic 37, GR West Catholic 31

Almont (11-1) vs. Flint Powers Catholic (8-4)
PREDICTION: Almont 22, Flint Powers Catholic 16

Division 6
Iron Mountain (11-0) vs. Ithaca (12-0)
PREDICTION: Ithaca 27, Iron Mountain 13

Constantine (10-2) vs. Ecorse (10-1)
PREDICTION: Constantine 21, Ecorse 13

Division 7
Traverse City St. Francis (11-1) vs. Saginaw Nouvel (11-0)
PREDICTION: Saginaw Nouvel 28, TC St. Francis 17

Pewamo-Westphalia (12-0) vs. Hudson (12-0) 
PREDICTION: Hudson 34, P-W 13

Division 8
St. Ignace La Salle (12-0) vs. Fowler (10-2)
PREDICTION: St. Ignace La Salle 21, Fowler 16

Mendon (12-0) vs. New Lothrop (12-0)
PREDICTION: Mendon 31, New Lothrop 27

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November 16, 2011 at 9:23 AM 

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