10-0 Almont vs. 10-0 Marine City.
MAC-Gold champs vs. BWAC champs.
One football-crazed community vs. another.
It simply doesn’t get better than this for a district title game.
It will be a scene straight out a football movie with cities shutting down and fans from both sides draped in black and orange covering every inch of East China Stadium. The teams will be running and bashing their ways toward a dream of a state title, leaving one team with its first loss and a finished season.
But before both teams run onto the field for a game no one will soon forget, there’s one business item both squads are taking care of — watching film, and lots of it.
“(I’ve watched) enough for to make sure I take my wife out to dinner a couple times once the season ends,” Marine City head coach Ron Glodich said.
Take a trip 40 miles northwest, and life isn’t much different at Almont. When Raiders head coach Jeremy Ferman isn’t teaching physical education, he’s breaking down tape in between classes. Senior running back Mike Couch isn’t even waiting for breaks, just simply whipping his iPad out in class to sneak in a few plays with his teammates sitting around him.
So, what are both teams seeing? Well, it’s kind of like they’re looking in a mirror with how similar the two black and orange teams compete on the field.
Both teams thrive on physicality like they’re crash test dummies. There’s rarely a play without at least three defenders bringing down the ball carrier, giving Marine City its hardest-hitting opponent yet.
“They’re a whole different team,” Mariners running back Jarrett Mathison said. “They’re more physical than any team we’ve faced.”
For Almont, three running backs split carries and they are all lethal with the ball in their hands. With Couch, Nick Baker and Jake Zielinski all sharing touches, it allows the Raiders always to have a fresh set of legs pounding the ball between the tackles.
The Raiders aren’t one to pass the ball often, but when quarterback Trevor Nichols is called on to throw it, he does it efficiently.
Almont’s mayhem meter only gets cranked up when its defense takes the field. Without a doubt the Raiders boast one of the best defenses in the state, allowing their opposition to score a lowly 4.9 points per game.
“As a whole, when you get to this point, defense and special teams are what gets teams to the pinnacle of the state championship,” Ferman said.
To put its run defense in perspective, Almont held Richmond running back Devin Skatzka — one of the area’s top offensive threats — to just 26 rushing yards when they met Sept. 26 in a game that decided the BWAC title.
When looking at what Marine City has, Ferman simply said he sees a squad with “everything it takes to be a state champion.”
The Raiders will be tasked with stopping another potent offense with Marine City’s running back duo of Jarrett Mathison and Trevor Quandt. The two had only eight combined carries in last week’s 61-8 drubbing against Detroit Central, a game where most starters stood on ice-cold sidelines to rest after the first quarter.
It’s no question Mathison and Quandt will see the ball in their hands, but if the running game hits a stall, expect quarterback Alex Merchant to be airing the ball out.
“You stick to what you’re good at and continue to do what you’re good at,” Glodich said about any exploitable flaws he sees in Almont’s defense.
In case you’re new to the area, it’s worth knowing Marine City is the reigning state champions for Division 4. Just don’t suggest to Glodich that last year’s run gives the Mariners an overwhelming sense of comfort in this Division 5 playoff run.
“It’s a totally different team,” he said. “We got a whole new set of players with new things to prove. What benefits us is that our coaching staff has been through games like this.”
Contact Matt Sheehan at (810)-989-6267 or firstname.lastname@example.org. He’s on Twitter @Sheehan_Sports.
• Marysville (7-3) at Richmond (9-1), 7 p.m.
• Almont (10-0) at Marine City (10-0), 7 p.m.
• Morrice (6-4) at Peck (10-0), 7 p.m.
• Kingston (7-3) at Deckerville (8-2), 7 p.m.