It is Week 9 of the regular season for high school football.
And while a lot of teams across the state have seen conference title goals and playoff aspirations vanish weeks ago, there are still some teams out there with a lot to play for this weekend.
In the city, there are a few teams with some unfinished business to take care of and they hope to get the job done tonight.
Harper Creek seeks an outright division title tonight with a game at Battle Creek Central. But the Beavers already own a share, so they are playing with house money.
Pennfield hopes to climb back into a share of a conference title with a game at home against Constantine tonight. But it is out of the Panthers’ hands because they would need help from a big favorite in Schoolcraft to get it done.
Those teams need to stay focused, because they do need to finish the season right to attain certain goals.
But the most pressure is on the teams hoping to get that magical sixth win of the season to punch their ticket for the playoffs under the MHSAA postseason parameters, where six wins gets you in to the playoffs.
And one of the teams that has waited a long time to do that is Lakeview as it travels to Gull Lake tonight, looking to go to 6-3 on the season.
If the Spartans get to the playoffs, it will be the first time for the school since 2003.
Lakeview is trying to get that playoff monkey off its back.
“Yeah, that’s what we hope to do,” Lakeview coach Matt Miller said. “We talked about goals in the preseason and every player, to a man, had as one of their top three goals for the team was to get Lakeview back in the playoffs.”
For the players, it has become a matter of pride. They have heard the talk of Lakeview’s dry spell when it comes to the playoffs. And these Spartans are looking to end that streak.
“We wanted to go out to make the program better than it has been here before,” said Lakeview senior Rodney Harvey. “We want to stop everyone from not having faith in us. I think this year we can change a lot of minds about what people think about Lakeview football. Everyone is focused on making the playoffs, but we have to beat Gull Lake first.”
Lakeview started the season 1-3 and was faced with having to win its last five games of the season just to make the playoffs. The would-be fifth game in that winning streak is a game against Gull Lake.
Gull Lake is new to the Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference and it is the first time Lakeview is playing the Blue Devils. For that reason, plus the fact that Lakeview needs to win to make the playoffs, Miller sees tonight’s game as an early must-win ‘postseason game’.
“This is a playoff game, playing Gull Lake for the first time, a team we aren’t familiar with, so it’s like a playoff game like that also,” Miller said. “Obviously if we lose, we are picking up shoulder pads after the game and putting them away and if we win, we move on.
“So for us it’s the playoffs already and that’s something we have talked about the last few weeks and the kids have responded to that.”
Other area teams in the same situation include Marshall, Olivet, Colon and Union City – all sitting at 5-3 with must-win games tonight if they want to make the playoffs.
St. Philip is at 5-3, but is in a different position because the top 16 teams in 8-man football will make the playoffs regardless of schedule. The Tigers seem to have a comfortable position based on computer points and will remain so, win or lose.
Also in a comfortable position is the aforementioned Harper Creek, having already clinched a share of its third-straight SMAC East Division title. Harper Creek has a one-game lead in the SMAC East over Lakeview, meaning the Spartans actually have more to play for than just the playoffs. If Harper Creek were to lose and Lakeview were to win, the Spartans would gain a share of the SMAC East.
But the Beavers can earn the division title outright if they get past city rival, but winless, Battle Creek Central.
“We are happy we have won the league title for a third year in a row, but the big mantra for this week is that we want to be selfish now. We don’t want to share the title with anybody,” Harper Creek coach Ed Greenman said. “We don’t want to take anyone lightly. Battle Creek Central will be coming out to play. Battle Creek Central has a lot to play for, they want to try to end the season with a win. And we want to win the league title by ourselves.”
A similar scenario is playing itself out in the Kalamazoo Valley Association as undefeated Schoolcraft sits on top of the league, having already clinched a share of the title. Pennfield and Constantine, who face off tonight, both sit at 7-1 and the winner could get a share of the title also, if Schoolcraft were to lose to Maple Valley (3-5).
Climax-Scotts has already gained a share of the SCAA at 5-0, with a game lead over Pittsford. If the Panthers beat Colon tonight, Climax-Scotts earns the title outright.