By Mitchell Boatman
Believe it or not, the high school football regular season is already one-third of the way over.
This week’s list of LSJ “Spotlight Games” is headlined by a matchup of unbeaten teams from the West Michigan Conference – Whitehall at Oakridge. The winner will take a huge step toward securing a playoff berth, and will have an inside track in the tough race for the conference title.
North Muskegon will visit Montague in another key WMC clash, Ludington will visit Muskegon Catholic in an important Lakes 8 game, and Reeths-Puffer will host Jenison in an O-K Black battle that’s crucial for the Rockets.
LSJ will have live coverage for those four games on Friday night, along with reports from all other area contests on LocalSportsJournal.com.
Whitehall (3-0) at Oakridge (3-0), Friday 7 p.m.
Only seven unbeaten teams remain in the Greater Muskegon area, and one will fall off the list in this WMC rivalry game.
So far this year both teams have lit up the scoreboard and played great defense, but something’s got to give.
Oakridge running back Leroy Quinn has been nearly unstoppable this year, with 687 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns in three games. He scored five times and ran for 246 yards in last week’s 69-0 win over Shelby.
The Eagles, who average over 61 points per game, do most of their damage on the ground, but quarterback Koleman Wall has 251 yards and five passing touchdowns in three contests.
The Vikings are coming off a 49-0 win over Hart and have outscored opponents 118-28 in three games. Kayleb Venema led the attack against Hart last week with 115 yards and two touchdown runs.
Overall, Venema has rushed for 327 yards and five scores this year. Quarterback Gavin Schafer has had success as well, with 226 yards and five scores through the air.
Whitehall downed Oakridge 28-14 last year, which snapped a 17-game winning streak in the series for the Eagles. Overall, Oakridge leads the series 29-11.
North Muskegon (1-2) at Montague (2-1), Friday 7 p.m.
After back-to-back losses to WMC foes Oakridge and Ravenna, the path to the playoffs for North Muskegon has narrowed.
The Norse can only afford one more loss, but have several tough games remaining, starting with Montague on Friday, and Whitehall and Orchard View waiting in the wings.
North Muskegon dominated Hesperia in Week 1, but has allowed 114 points in its last two games. With Montague’s high-powered offense waiting, the Norse will need to turn it up a notch defensively.
The biggest strength this year for North Muskegon has been the passing game. Quarterback Mack Young has thrown for 875 yards and eight touchdowns in three games, including 390 yards and four scores last week in a high-scoring loss to Ravenna. Tight end Jesse Cooke has reeled in four TD catches and gained 236 yards through the air this season.
Montague has a number of offensive weapons, all of whom showed their abilities in a 55-0 win over Mason County Central last week.
Quarterback Drew Collins threw for two scores, giving him five on the season. Sebastian Archer rushed for 78 yards and a touchdown, while Bryce Stark ran for 72 yards and a pair of scores. Kenyan Johnston, the team’s leading receiver, had 91 yards and a pair of touchdown catches in the game.
Montague has won 16 of the last 17 meetings between these schools, with North Muskegon’s win coming in 2016. The Wildcats won 48-7 last year.
Ludington (2-1) at Muskegon Catholic Central (1-2), Friday 7 p.m.
Muskegon Catholic has dominated the Lakes 8 Conference for the past four years, but the young Crusaders are rebuilding, and the league title is definitely up for grabs this season.
Both MCC and Ludington lost conference games last week, so this is a must-win for both to stay in the chase for the trophy.
The Crusaders’ stunning 32-14 loss to Orchard View last Friday was their first conference defeat since joining the Lakes 8 in 2014. Last season, MCC allowed only 20 points in four Lakes 8 games.
The Crusaders now have a two-game losing streak, which is rare in MCC country. But that doesn’t necessarily spell doom.
The last time MCC lost two in a row was 2013, when it started 0-2, but the team went on to win a state championship.
The main problem for MCC has been taking care of the ball. The team lost six fumbles last week against OV. The Crusaders have also thrown six interceptions this year.
Quarterback Max Price has 258 yards through the air this season for MCC. Dawson Steigman leads the rushing attack with 162 yards and two scores. MCC has never lost to Ludington, going 6-0 with a combined score of 223-38.
Ludington comes in at 2-1, but lost its conference opener to Manistee last week. The Orioles have been pretty impressive on both sides of the ball early in the season, outscoring opponents by an average of 35-13.
Quarterback Garrett Meeker can create problems for defenses with his arm and his legs. He threw for 173 yards, ran for 52 and accounted for both of Ludington’s scores in last week’s loss. Overall, he has 529 passing yards, 250 rushing yards and eight touchdowns this year.
Jenison (2-1) at Reeths-Puffer (1-2), Friday 7 p.m.
This is a do-or-die game for the Rockets, in terms of the O-K Black title race and playoff hopes.
Reeths-Puffer hasn’t reached the playoffs since 2013, and will need five wins in its last six games to end the drought.
With a Week 9 trip to Hackley Stadium looming, the Rockets need to rattle off some wins in the coming weeks.
Reeths-Puffer fell short of an upset over Mona Shores last week, falling 49-35, but the Rockets showed everyone that their offense is legit. Quarterback Evan Moskwa threw for 297 yards and four touchdowns in the loss. Receivers Carter Fulton and Daven Fox combined for 203 yards and three scores.
After being shut out in its opener against Grand Haven, R-P has scored 90 points in its last two games. Moskwa had 680 passing yards and 10 touchdowns in those contests.
Jenison has a playmaker of its own at quarterback in Kyle Nott. In a 43-6 win over Fruitport last week, Nott ran for 181 yards and three scores, while throwing for another. The Wildcats have outscored opponents 105-63 so far this season.
Jenison leads the all-time series between the schools 3-2, but it’s always tight. The Wildcats won 20-10 last year and 11-8 in 2016.
Other Week 4 games
Central Montcalm (0-3) at Fremont (0-3)
GR Union (0-3) at Fruitport (0-3)
Grand Haven (2-1) and Grandville (1-2)
Mason County Central (0-3) at Hart (0-3)
Hesperia (0-3) at White Cloud (0-3)
Morley Stanwood (2-1) at Holton (3-0)
Kent City (3-0) at Lakeview (1-2)
Mona Shores (3-0) at Rockford (1-2)
Muskegon (3-0) at Kenowa Hills (1-2)
Manistee (3-0) at Muskegon Heights (0-3)
Belding (2-1) at Orchard View (1-2)
Ravenna (2-1) at Shelby (0-3)
Coopersville (1-2) at Spring Lake (3-0)