Four league titles will be up for grabs in key high school football games tonight.
Three contests are showdowns between teams that are unbeaten in their league: Grand Ledge (5-1, 4-0) at Everett (6-0, 4-0) in the CAAC Blue, Lansing Catholic (5-1, 4-0) at Portland (6-0, 4-0) in the CAAC White and Pewamo-Westphalia (5-1, 5-0) at Fowler (5-1, 5-0) in the CMAC.
Waverly (4-2, 3-1) is also seeking a possible share of the CAAC Gold title if the Warriors can top Lumen Christi (6-0, 4-0) at Jackson.
CAAC BLUE: Grand Ledge at Everett
Division 1 honorable mention Grand Ledge’s only loss this season was 40-30 at Division 1 track and field power East Kentwood in its opener. Comets coach Matt Bird is similarly concerned with Everett’s speed, which includes all-state 400 (4×100) relay members (and seniors) Jaleel Canty, Javon Moore, DiQuan Hunt and Anthony White.
“The toughest part is we can’t simulate or re-create that speed in practice,” he said. “We just have to hope the first two series we’ll get a good adjustment. The kids will have to tackle a lot in space.”
Bird wasn’t sure if Everett’s 15-14 win last year at Grand Ledge that kept the Comets from winning the league title outright was an advantage or disadvantage.
“That was the thing that catapulted them last year, and they finished the season really strong,” he said. “You could see they were getting better, and that game was a realization of who they are, and what they could be — which is what we’re seeing now.”
The speed of the Vikings, ranked fourth in Division 2, has been especially apparent on defense, where 2011 Division 1 all-area linebacker James Mills, defensive back Cha’Quan Love and the Vikings have given up just 43 points so far this season– which is just 7.2 per game.
– Dick Hoekstra
CAAC WHITE: Lansing Catholic at Portland
Division 5 sixth-ranked Portland has revenge on its mind since its only two losses in 2011 came at the hands of eventual state runner-up Lansing Catholic — including its state playoff loss.
“Emotions are going to be high on both sides of the field,” Portland coach John Novara said. “We will have a big crowd, and it will be a lot of fun.”
The Raiders were outscored 99-47 last year in their two losses to Lansing Catholic (42-24 and 50-33).
But they have scored at least 36 points in five games this season, and it appears Portland may have the offense to keep up this time around with the Cougars, who are ranked 10th in Division 5 in the latest Michigan Associated Press poll.
“Nobody has slowed them down yet,” Lansing Catholic coach Jim Ahern said. “As effective as they’ve been, I don’t think we’re going to shut them out or stop them.”
Meanwhile, Novara knows that Lansing Catholic will come with some tricks to try to get the victory.
“It’s a little scary going in against him and knowing he’ll have some stuff prepared for you,” Novara said.
– David Cassilo
CMAC: Pewamo-Westphalia at Fowler
Both Fowler and Pewamo-Westphalia made the MHSAA state finals at Ford Field last year.
Both came up one game short, with P-W losing to Saginaw Nouvel Catholic in the Division 7 title game while the Eagles were shut out by Mendon in the Division 8 final.
Both communities were there to support one another, because their town’s proximities forged an alliance after fierce league competition.
Both are hoping to get back to Detroit in November, but the two conference unbeatens will sort out who takes a commanding lead in the CMAC tonight.
The Pirates put the Eagles’ backs against the wall last year, earning a 15-14 win to drop them to 1-2.
But Fowler ripped off wins in their next 10 games and its only two losses since have come against Mendon, as the Hornets once again proved to be too much for the Eagles in the season opener for both teams this fall.
P-W boasts a dominating defense that’s allowed an average of 12 points per game this season. That number would be even lower if not for Lansing Catholic’s 45 points in the season opener. Since then, the Pirates have given up seven points or less in four of five games.
– Denny Schwarze
CAAC GOLD Waverly vs. Lumen Christi at Jackson
When Waverly travels to Jackson for their first-ever league football game with Lumen Christi tonight, the Warriors will look to pull the Titans back to the pack in the CAAC Gold title race. Lumen Christi is unbeaten and Waverly and Charlotte are both one game behind in the league standings.
While the 4-2 Warriors are enjoying a successful 2012 campaign so far, the two programs’ pedigrees could not be more different. Lumen Christi has almost as many state championships in its program history (eight) as Waverly has winning seasons (nine). The Titans have already qualified for their 15th consecutive playoff appearance, and are currently ranked second in Division 5, while Waverly is looking to make its third playoff appearance in school history this year.
The Warriors will have to rebound from a disappointing 28-7 loss at Charlotte last week, their first league loss of the season. Waverly coach Anthony Walker said that the players were disappointed with their performance.
“They knew that they went from the driver’s seat to being a passenger (in the league race),” Walker said. “They knew that they let one slip away.”
Lumen Christi leads the all-time series between the teams 5-1, with Waverly’s only win coming in 1975, but the teams have faced each other only once since 1976, a 28-6 Titan win in 2005.
Walker said that taking care of the football is the most important thing that his team needs to do to win. The Titans picked off four passes in the first quarter alone in their 39-3 win over Mason last Saturday, and led 26-0 going into the second as a result.
“Lumen Christi takes advantage of every turnover they get, and they get quite a few,” he said. “They create turnovers and every one that you make, they capitalize on it.”
– Scott Yoshonis