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  • Jim Townsend

Playoff Round Three – High School Football Preview

As we move another week into the MHSAA playoffs, both the Raiders and the Shamrocks are still alive in their hunts for a State Championship.

St. Patrick will host Kinde-North Huron at Portland High Saturday at 2:00 PM in the 8-Player Division 2 semifinal. Last week the Shamrocks routed the Phoenix of International Academy (Flint) 50-0 with wet and sloppy conditions to move to 10-1 on the year, while capturing their regional title.

The Warriors of Kinde-North Huron, located in the norther part of the thumb, defeated Bay City All Saints last weekend 38-36, and also have a 10-1 overall record. They are on a 10-game win streak after losing their season opener to Dryden 60-34. On the season the Warriors offense has put up 406 points, while the defense has only allowed 200 points.

Buck Geno from “ESPN 96.1’s Game of the Week” says, “The Shamrocks inched closer to a date at the Superior Dome with a commanding 50-0 decision over Flint International Academy last Saturday. They move on to the semifinal round of the 8-Man Division 2 playoffs where they will face Kinde-North Huron for the right to advance to the finals in Marquette. The Warriors come in at 9-2 after a thrilling 38-36 victory over Bay City All Saints last Friday. It is worth noting that the teams have no common opponents, so grading these teams on their performances must be done with a grain of salt. Offensively both teams have impressed offensively with strong running attacks, so the defensive sides will be charged with keying in and stopping the very same strategies their own teammates have succeeded with all season.

Per usual, this game will kick off on Saturday afternoon at 2:00 PM to allow local fans unfettered access to both contests in town, as well as to allow the visiting team to make the long treks to/from Portland more manageable.

The Shamrocks have been on a roll defensively of late, only allowing 34 points in the last 6 games. If they can get off to a hot start offensively, this game could become a game of catchup for Kinde-North Huron. The way things are going, Portland St. Patrick’s supporters may want to start reserving rooms in Marquette.

Portland St. Patrick’s 48, Kinde-North Huron 16.”

The winner of this game will move on to the State Championship game scheduled for next Saturday at the Superior Dome in Marquette. They will play the winner of Pickford and Crystal Falls Forest Park

The Raiders shut down league foe Lansing Catholic last week 35-0, earning the school its second district football title. This week they will host five time and defending Division 5 state champion Grand Rapids West Catholic. The Raider defense looked impressive as they caged the powerful cougar offense for the second time this year.

The Falcons of Grand Rapids West Catholic rolled over Kalamazoo Hackett last week 42-0. They sit with a 9-2 overall record with their only losses coming to perennial powerhouses Jackson Lumen Christi and Grand Rapids Catholic Central.

The Falcons have had amazing success in the MHSAA playoffs in recent years. Their last playoff loss was back in 2012, when they fell to none other than Portland, at Ford Field.

Buck Geno from “ESPN 96.1’s Game of the Week” will actually get to see the Raiders in action this week as he and Bret Bakita will be broadcasting the game live. Geno said, “The Red Raiders toppled a familiar foe on Friday. Lansing Catholic came to town with revenge on their minds… but they got back on the bus having been handed their second loss to Portland this season. Another dominating defensive performance was complemented by a strong offensive game plan in a 35-0 victory. This week that defense will be put to perhaps its most difficult test as another old nemesis comes to Portland – Grand Rapids West Catholic. These teams have met 5 times prior with 4 of the contests being “win or go home” scenarios in the playoffs. West Catholic holds the series edge 3-2.

Senior QB Gaetano Vallone leads the potent Falcon offense and their gaudy 40.9 PPG average. Portland has not given up a point in almost a month (Oct. 13 vs. Pontiac Notre Dame), so it truly is the battle of the unstoppable force vs. the immovable object.

The Falcon defense and the Red Raider offense have been adequate for the balance of the season. That particular matchup may be more intriguing. If Portland can control the football, the clock, and the field position, it will be difficult for West Catholic to showcase their diverse offensive attack. Conversely, West Catholic’s defense has not caused an abundance of turnovers, but they have played well when they have been called upon.

The key to this game will be the turnover battle. Giving either team extra possessions could spell doom; West Catholic’s offense can score from anywhere on the field, while a turnover to Portland could mean precious time being melted away on the clock.

Since 96.1 ESPN will be covering this game live (use the iHeart Radio app on your mobile device or visit to access the live streaming audio there) I will recuse myself from making an outright prediction in order to avoid any conflict. However, the following stat illustrates the intensity of this matchup – every time these teams have met previously, one or both of the teams has scored less than 14 points. Defense and the turnovers/field position they can influence are of paramount importance. The weather will also be something to look at as we receive our first prolonged winter conditions. This game will have fans on the edge of their seat or maybe even standing the entire time.

If you are a fan of well-coached, well-executed football, Portland HS is the place to be for you on Friday night.”

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