By Mitchell Boatman
With three games to go in the high school football regular season, there is plenty left to be decided.
Whether it’s a team fighting for its playoff life, or vying for a conference crown, or just trying to win a good old-fashioned rivalry game, it seems like nearly every game this time of year has an added angle.
In our Week 7 coverage, LocalSportsJournal.com is highlighting three “Spotlight Games” with big implications.
Fruitport and Reeths-Puffer battle in a decades-old rivalry that could spell the end of the loser’s playoff chances. North Muskegon will try to dampen Oakridge’s West Michigan Conference title chances while boosting its own playoff hopes. Spring Lake takes on Grand Rapids Catholic Central with a chance to move atop the O-K Blue standings.
LSJ will be on hand to provide full coverage of those great matchups, and will have recaps of all 15 area games.
Fruitport (3-3) at Reeths-Puffer (3-3), Friday 7 p.m.
The annual showdown between Fruitport and Reeths-Puffer always means something. But for the first time since the rivalry was renewed in 2016, both teams are playing for more than bragging rights, because both are still alive in the playoff hunt.
Both teams are coming off impressive wins last week. Fruitport posted a 45-18 win over Kenowa Hills, while Reeths-Puffer beat Greenville 42-7.
And with three wins apiece, neither team can afford another loss, since there are only three games left and it takes six wins to gain an automatic playoff berth.
The Fruitport offense is led by Ethan Flores, who is a threat as a rusher, receiver and returner. He’s scored touchdowns in all three of those areas and has 12 total on the year. Quarterback Tyler Zimmerman has passed for 740 yards and eight touchdowns. Crue Cooper is also an impact player, running for 125 yards and a score last week against Kenowa Hills, while also throwing a touchdown pass.
The Rocket offense is powered by big-armed quarterback Evan Moskwa. The senior has thrown for 1,203 yards and 11 touchdowns in five games this year. Daven Fox is his top target, with 26 catches for 418 yards.
Fox is electric in the rushing and return game as well. Last week against Greenville, he had 107 yards and two touchdowns receiving, 81 yards and a score on three rushes, and returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown.
The Trojans and Rockets will be meeting for the 53rd time, the most either has faced any opponent. Reeths-Puffer leads the all-time series 32-19-1, but the last 24 meetings have been an even split. The Rockets have won the last two matchups.
Oakridge (6-0) at North Muskegon (4-2), Friday 7 p.m.
Oakridge is putting together another impressive season, coming in undefeated, leading the West Michigan Conference and ranked No. 1 in the state in Division 5.
Despite the success, the Eagles could have their hands full with North Muskegon this week. The Norse’s 4-2 record might not seem all that threatening, but those two losses came by a combined total of five points.
North Muskegon has shown it can compete with the top teams in the WMC, falling to Ravenna by just a point, 14-13, and losing a back-and-forth affair with Montague, 28-24.
Will this be the week the Norse come out on the right side of a tight battle? Not if Oakridge has anything to say about it.
The Eagles come in after a dominant 70-8 victory over Hart. As usual, running back Leroy Quinn led the Oakridge attack, rushing for 179 yards and four touchdowns on just a handful of carries. Corey Vanderputte rushed for 113 yards and three scores in the win. Shaw Raymond added a pair of scores, one rushing and one on an interception return.
North Muskegon had a defensive battle with Whitehall last week, coming out on top 17-7. Quarterback John Hayhurst led the charge, throwing for 204 yards and a touchdown and rushing for another score. Brendan Moat had 104 yards receiving while Kyler Dana had 60.
The Eagles lead the all-time series 36-20 and have won 24 straight regular season contests against North Muskegon. The Norse beat Oakridge in the 2006 playoffs, but haven’t won the matchup in the regular season since 1994.
Grand Rapids Catholic Central (5-1) at Spring Lake (4-2), Friday 7 p.m.
After a 38-3 loss to Sparta in Week 3 gave them to a 1-2 record, it appeared that the Lakers might have a tough season ahead. But the three games following that loss tell a different story.
Spring Lake has ripped off three consecutive wins in dominating fashion, putting them in position to compete for an O-K Blue title. The Lakers have posted back-to-back-to-back shutouts, topping Coopersville, Comstock Park and Grand Rapids West Catholic by a combined score of 111-0.
In last week’s 42-0 win over West Catholic, Steve Ready paced the offense with 123 rushing yards. Zack Keyser was 3-for-4 passing for 65 yards and had two total scores. Christian Folkert scored twice, giving him four TDs in the three-game win streak.
Now the Lakers face off against conference-leading Grand Rapids Catholic Central. A win would bring Spring Lake even with the Cougars at 4-1 in league play. Sparta can also move to 4-1 with a win Friday.
The Lakers are 0-5 all-time against the Cougars, including a loss in both the regular season and playoffs last season.
Other area games
Fremont (0-6) at Tri-County (2-4)
Caledonia (2-4) at Grand Haven (2-4), 4:30 p.m.
Morley Stanwood (4-2) at Hesperia (2-4)
Hart (1-5) at Ravenna (5-1)
Kent City (4-2) at Holton (1-5)
Wyoming Lee (2-4) at Ludington (4-2)
Mason County Central (2-4) at Whitehall (2-4)
Jenison (2-4) at Mona Shores (5-1)
Montague (4-2) at Shelby (0-6)
Grand Rapids Union (0-6) at Muskegon (6-0)
Manistee (3-3) at Muskegon Catholic Central (3-2)
Orchard View (6-0) at Muskegon Heights (0-6)