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Jason Schmitt is the editor of, 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.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Football finals: This is it, folks

A lot of people are suggesting that last week's state semifinals were as exciting as any in a long, long time. Nine of the 16 games were decided by a touchdown or less and two in overtime. We can only hope this week's finals are half as compelling.
With all those close calls, it was a hard week to predict winners. I went 11-5.
This week, well, it's a whole new week. Let's see if we can get this thing right.

Division 1
Detroit Catholic Central 20, Detroit Cass Tech 13 (Preview)

Division 2
Birmingham Brother Rice 28, Lowell 27 (Preview)

Division 3
Orchard Lake St. Mary's 30, Mt. Pleasant 23 (Preview)

Division 4
Marine City 38, Zeeland West 27

Division 5
Lansing Catholic 34, Flint Powers 23

Division 6
Ithaca 27, Constantine 21

Division 7
Saginaw Nouvel 23, Pewamo-Westphalia 20

Division 8
Mendon 34, Fowler 13

Best of luck to all the teams for making it all the way to Ford Field.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Which conference in Michigan is the toughest?

Nothing creates conversation, or controversy, more than asking a state-wide audience if their football conference is better than another. I have covered football in a number of regions in this state, and each is passionate about the sport. I grew up in the Lansing area, went to college in Mount Pleasant, took my first job in Gaylord (up north) and made my way back downstate to the west side of Detroit, then the east side, and now in Oakland County.
About the only place I have not spent any time in is on the west side of the state. But from everything I have seen (covered state championship games), heard and observed (online), the west side boasts a number of the state's best football programs and leagues. I have a great deal of respect for the "West Side."
All that being said, and from spending a good deal of time reading up and down MLive's Football forums, I wanted to pose the question: Which football conference is the toughest in the state. You can break that question down a hundred ways. Some leagues are bigger than others. Some are top heavy, some are deeper. What exactly do you mean, "Toughest?"
Well, to simplify it, let's treat it like an ACC/Big Ten challenge in basketball. Try to seed the teams in each league, based on recent success - mostly weighted for this year - and include a hint of tradition. Then, pit those teams, based on seeds, against the other conference's top six. Add up the wins, and see what you get. Some will argue, why don't you go eight deep, or 10 deep, or 16 deep. Of course, that could change things up a bit. But because I have 10 other projects I'm working on right now, and the fact that this is for fun, I decided to keep it to just six. Yes, that's an even number, which could create ties, but oh well. That's life.
The greatest thing about this "debate" is that there will be no right answer. Everyone is going to have their own opinion. Loyalty is golden. But I love to hear people argue their case. Sometimes they make a good argument. Sometimes, not so much.
I narrowed it down to seven conferences from across the state. In alphabetical order, they are:

Capital Area Activities Conference: DeWitt, East Lansing, Grand Ledge, Holt, Lansing Sexton, Mason
Catholic High School League: Brother Rice, Catholic Central, Divine Child, De La Salle, Orchard Lake St. Mary's, U-D Jesuit
Detroit Public School League: Cass Tech, Crockett, Henry Ford, Martin Luther King, Pershing, Southeastern
Kensington Lakes Activities Association: Canton, Grand Blanc, Northville, Plymouth, Walled Lake Central, Walled Lake Western
Macomb Activities Association: Chippewa Valley, Dakota, Eisenhower, Marine City, Romeo, Stevenson
Oakland Activities Association: Clarkston, Harrison, Lake Orion, Oxford, Rochester Adams, Southfield
Ottawa-Kent Conference: East Grand Rapids, GR West Catholic, Lowell, Muskegon, Rockford, Zeeland West

I will follow this blog up with another and try my best to seed the teams and square them off. Opinions (you can leave them below in the comments section) will be very helpful. I would weigh recent success - mostly this season - when comparing teams head-to-head. I included a bit of tradition in selecting the teams so that you didn't necessarily get many one-time wonders on the lists.

We have a poll up on the right side of so viewers can vote on who they think the toughest conference is. And I would encourage you to follow us on Twitter @MIPrepZone to help spread the word. Check back by Thursday for an updated blog with the league matchups. And remember, leave your opinions here as to who you would seed where in each league.

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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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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Football playoffs - Prediction time - Regional Finals

The MHSAA playoffs are winding down. We're down to the final eight teams in each division. After this weekend: The Final Four. Last week, I went 7-3. My pick of the week was Port Huron 23, Rochester Adams 20. Final score was Port Huron 27, Rochester Adams 21.
On to this week's games:
Division 1
Region 2 - Ann Arbor Pioneer (9-2) at Novi Detroit Catholic Central (10-1) DETROIT CATHOLIC CENTRAL 34, ANN ARBOR PIONEER 13
Region 3 - Walled Lake Central (8-3) at Utica Eisenhower (10-1) EISENHOWER 23, WALLED LAKE CENTRAL 21

Division 2
Walled Lake Western (10-1) at Port Huron (10-1) WALLED LAKE WESTERN 20, PORT HURON 14
Birmingham Brother Rice (7-4) at Southfield (8-3) BROTHER RICE 27, SOUTHFIELD 13

Division 3
Linden (7-4) at Orchard Lake St. Mary's (9-2) ST. MARY'S 47, LINDEN 13

Click here to watch our latest MIPrepZone Football Picks show on

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Thursday, November 3, 2011

Football playoffs - Prediction time - Round 2

Last week I was 16-4 predicting Oakland County's playoff games. I missed Walled Lake Central's win over Lake Orion, Romeo's victory over Troy Athens, South Lyon's defeat of Holly and Lapeer East's win over Avondale.
My prediction of the week for Round 1 was Port Huron 31, Ortonville Brandon 13. The final score was 32-14. Runner-up: Walled Lake Western 27, Milford 20. The final score was 24-20. My Adams 24, Oxford 23 wasn't too far off the Highlanders' actual 26-20 win, either.

This week we've got 10 games to pick. So let's get to them.
Division 1
Region 2, District 2 - Canton (8-2) at Novi Detroit Catholic Central (9-1) CATHOLIC CENTRAL 24, CANTON 10
Region 3, District 1 - Walled Lake Central (7-3) at Clarkston (7-3) CLARKSTON 31, WALLED LAKE CENTRAL 20

Division 2
Region 2, District 1 - South Lyon (7-3) at Walled Lake Western (9-1) WALLED LAKE WESTERN 27, SOUTH LYON 10
Region 2, District 2 - Rochester Adams (7-3) at Port Huron (9-1) PORT HURON 23, ROCHESTER ADAMS 20
Region 3, District 1 - Birmingham Brother Rice (6-4) at Farmington Hills Harrison (10-0) HARRISON 30, BROTHER RICE 17
Region 3, District 2 - Farmington (6-4) at Southfield (7-3) SOUTHFIELD 23, FARMINGTON 17

Division 3
Region 4, District 2 - Orchard Lake St. Mary's (8-2) at Redford Thurston (9-1) OLSM 34, REDFORD THURSTON 7

Division 4
Region 4, Division 2 - Pontiac Notre Dame Prep (10-0) at Marine City (10-0) MARINE CITY 30, NOTRE DAME PREP 23

Division 6
Region 4, District 2 - Ecorse (8-1) at Madison Heights Madison (8-2) MADISON 28, ECORSE 13

Division 7
Region 4, District 2 - Royal Oak Shrine (9-1) at Detroit Loyola (10-0) DETROIT LOYOLA 34, SHRINE 13

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