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TVC State Semi-Finals Preview

With 3 Tri-Valley teams gearing up to play in the State Semi-Finals this weekend I wanted to take a look back to see how historic that number actually is.  Turns out it’s only been done one other time and fairly recently back in 2009.  Swan Valley, Millington and Ithaca all made the Semi-Finals that year, unfortunately, none of them made it on to the Finals.  Swan Valley actually came the closet to advancing, eventually falling 14-10 to Three Rivers.  Three ‘current’ Tri-Valley teams made the Semis in 1995, Freeland, Frankenmuth and Shepherd but Shepherd wasn’t a member of the TVC back then, they were members of the CSAA.

I then went a step further to see how the TVC fared in Semi-Final games.  Outside of Ithaca’s 6 straight Trips to the Finals, with 5 titles, only 3 other programs that were in the TVC at the time, have made the Championship game.  St. Charles made it in 1999 and defeated Hopkins 21-14 to become State Champions.  Bullock Creek, who played their hearts out with a gritty defensive performance but couldn’t get past Lumen Christi in the 2004 Finals.  Then finally, in 2008, Ovid-Elsie took on Oakridge in the D5 Finals and had a lead heading into halftime but couldn’t overcome an Eagle surge in the 2nd half and a hobbled Chris Robinson (the state’s 5th leading rusher all-time), who played through an injury.  Both Chesaning (2001, 1998) and Michigan Lutheran Seminary (1986) both own state titles but weren’t with the TVC at the time of their Championships.

So, three TVC teams enter the Saturday Semi-Finals.  All three teams have a combined 11 trips to the Final 4 and will try to buck the history of a 1-10 record in those games.  MLS is the only team to have won a Semi-Final game of the three and also are the last team to make the Semis, with their 2014 trip.  Come Saturday afternoon, when the clock starts ticking down from 12:00, none of that history will matter when it comes to what will be settled on the field.  Frankenmuth, Millington and MLS will all have a great shot to come out winners this Saturday and all should be great games.  I would say by studying the match-ups, I won’t be surprised either way, when it comes to the final result.  My judgement may be slanted but I will say this, if all three teams play their best football on Saturday afternoon, we could definitely see all three teams making Post-Thanksgiving travel plans.  Now for a better look at the match-ups!

D5 SEMIS – (11-1) Frankenmuth Vs (11-1) Menominee

I have covered the last 12 MHSAA Football Finals and from my viewpoint, Menominee had to be one of the most frustrating teams to play as an opponent.  During their back to back titles in 2006 and 2007, the not just dominated many facets of the game but they made it almost impossible to figure them out because of the single-wing offense.  ‘Gimics’ played a small part in their success but execution play the bulk of it.  They made clutch play after clutch play, many times when the other team had gotten their hopes up for stop, only to be dashed with a crucial third down conversion.  The Maroons weren’t afraid to gamble either.  Over the next few years, the mystique got just a tad bit thinner and teams were able to get past them in the post-season and then in 2013, Menominee returned to the State Finals against West Catholic.  That was a classic game and it didn’t hurt that West Catholic may have had superior talent but they also played a smart game and also gambled when it came to momentum tight areas of the game.  It will be interesting to see which Menominee team Frankenmuth faces up in the Superior Dome, they surely have earned their right to the Final 4 and will have the advantage of playing in the U.P.  With many more high schools having turf now vs. the natural grass, Muth should have good experience when it comes to that and it won’t be foreign to them, check the Freeland game.  Menominee only has one loss on the season and a slew of one-sided, blowout wins.  I’m sure the Muth coaching staff will spend time checking any game film they can on the DeWitt/Menominee game from October 14th, a 34 point loss and the only blemish on the Maroons’ schedule this season.

I don’t think it needs to be said how high Frankenmuth is riding at the moment, they are coming off of a convincing win over Freeland in the District Finals, a team that had beaten them 3 times in a row before that and then last week’s huge win over defending State Champion, Ithaca.  Muth had more than doubled Ithaca’s yardage total and rushed for over 400 yards but still needed a last minute interception on defense by Grant Bronner to seal the deal in their 28-20 win.  The story of that game and the story of their season has been the dominance upfront.  The Eagles had a combined 10 tackles for loss last week.  On offense, you cannot say enough of how well the Eagles are executing their reads, orchestrated by QB Jared Davis.  Their mis-direction along with just straight ahead power football has allowed their defense to get rest and for the offense to stay in rhythm.  Like any other game but especially against a physical Maroon team that will want to take control of the game, the Eagles must get a good start to the run game and hang onto the football.  The last thing you want to do, is to go down 14-0 for the 2nd straight week.  Frankenmuth was able to practice yesterday and today at the Northwood football facility to get a feel for what the playing conditions will be like on Saturday.  I give the Eagles a great shot in this one just because of the personnel they have in just about every group of both offense and defense but you cannot discount the fact that the team will need to adjust quickly after the 6 hour ride.  I’m assuming the team will get there on Friday with plenty of time to get ready and to ease into Saturday.

Match-UpFrankenmuthMenominee
Winning Streak3 Games4 Games
Points Scored/Game34.941.6
Points Allowed/Game7.515.0
Rushing Yards/GM263N/A
Passing Yards/GM97N/A
Opponents Win %.630.586
Record Against Playoff Teams3-13-1
Signature Win(11-0) Ithaca(9-2) Escanaba
Last Semi-Final Appearance19972014
Head 2 Head HistoryFirst MeetingFirst Meeting
Leading PasserJared Davis - 1169/11N/A
Leading RusherKris Roche - 1005/16N/A
Leading RusherJared Davis - 922/16N/A
Leading ReceiverGrant Bronner - 411/3N/A
Leading ReceiverRyan Khan - 211/2N/A

D6 SEMIS – (10-2) Lumen Christi Vs (11-1) Millington

At Halftime of Friday night’s game between Detroit Central and the host Millington, it may have seemed like the Cardinals being at this point today, was a long-shot.  Down 20-0, Millington didn’t feel the same and instead came out and shutout Trail Blazers, scored 22 unanswered and advanced to the State Semi-Finals.  The most important play of Millington’s season may very well be the fumble they caused with their backs to the wall at their own 2 yard line, stopping Detroit Central and then adding another score to cut the lead to 4 points.  Brady Payne’s 10 yard touchdown with just under 5 minutes left in the game put Millington in the lead for the first time all game and it proved to be the winner, with the Cards pulling off the improbable comeback, 22-20.  Jared Roehl ran for 2 scores and 2, two point conversions.  Payne and Roehl combined for 223 yards on the ground with Bryce Bearss throwing for another 127.

As exciting and momentum building as the comeback was for the Cards, they likely won’t be able to have a half like that against Lumen Christi and advance.  The Titans had a shaky start, beginning the season at 1-2 but since have railed off 8 straight wins and are playing the best football they have all season.  2 weeks ago, they knocked off 10-0 Schoolcraft and last week in the Region Championship game, they put Napoleon away early and cruised to a 43 point win, led by Running Back Bo Bell’s 230 total yards of offense and 4 scores.

Like their partners from the TVC East, in Frankenmuth, the Cardinals will face a formidable foe but also like that game, a game where the path to victory is in their hands if they play their best game.  Millington has done a good job of finding a way to win either through the air or on the ground, what they will need to do Saturday is show out on both fronts.  They also have to do a better job of limiting the big play, something they did a great job of in the 2nd half last week.  Led by a big strong defensive front and one of the best LB Corps in the region with Roehl, Payne and Briar Bearss, the defense has the skill to get the job done.

Weather is also going to play a factor on Saturday afternoon, we are looking at a call for rain and it’s going to be cold, near 39 degrees at the time of kickoff.  All this means is more emphasis on defense, ball security and the ground game.  For Millington, the good news, is that their ground game has gotten a new dimension that they necessarily didn’t have at 100% during the regular season.  Future D1 athlete Roehl, one of the regions best all-around defenders has been nicked up for a good portion of the season but seems to be at full strength now.  He rushed for a grand total of 78 yards and one score during the regular season.  In his 3 playoff games alone, he’s rushed for almost 200 yards and 7 TDs, just one of many things that could be the ultimate difference maker on Saturday afternoon.

Match-UpLumen ChristiMillington
Winning Streak8 Games6 Games
Points Scored/Game34.741.1
Points Allowed/Game18.19.3
Rushing Yards/GMN/A187
Passing Yards/GMN/A186
Opponents Win %.586.495
Record Against Playoff Teams3-13-1
Signature Win(10-0) Schoolcraft(7-2) Garber
Last Semi-Final Appearance20092010
Head 2 Head HistoryFirst MeetingFirst Meeting
Leading PasserTroy KutchaBryce Bearss - 2212/25
Leading RusherBo Bell - 30 TDsBrady Payne - 1072/13
Leading RusherKyle MinderJared Roehl - 257/8
Leading ReceiverJacob LathersKohlton Sherman - 715/11
Leading ReceiverDayton KellerCameron Henderson - 657/4

D8 SEMIS – (12-0) Whiteford Vs (10-2) MLS

This may be the first ever meeting between Whiteford and MLS but both teams still have the feeling of the Semi-Finals fresh in their minds.  Whiteford made it to the Final 4 last year only to fall to Our Lady of the Lakes 36-20.  Seminary made it to the Semi-Final round just 2 seasons ago, falling to Ishepming by just 4 points (22-18).  MLS needs two more wins to equal their best record in school history, the ’86 title season.  The Bobcats on the other hand, have already bested their top season in school history, with 12 wins, 2 more than the previous record of 10, set last year.

Like MLS, the Bobcats are a run first team and can hit you in several ways, with a deep backfield. led by Running Back Jesse Kiefer, who over his career, has scored a TD in 29 straight games and has amassed 3,999 yards of total offense.  Kiefer has rushed for 1,057 yards alone this season and caught 18 balls for 287 yards, with 32 scores on the season.  The drop-off with their 2nd and 3rd backs are not far behind, with Conner Hoogendoorn rushing for 811 yards and Logan Murphy with 626 yards on the ground.  And then you have QB Thomas Eitniear, who through 12 games has nearly 1,700 yards of total offense, a little over 900 of those coming through the air.  I think we are going to see strength vs strength in this game.  A powerful rushing attack against a battle tested MLS defense that has slowed down even the best offenses this season and giving up just 13 total points over the course of the first three rounds of the post-season!

On offense for MLS, is starts with All-State caliber Jack-Of-All-Trades, Casey Williams.  Williams is projected as a Receiver at the next level but leads the team in rushing and is a dangerous weapon in the return game.  Williams has a combined 1,593 yards of total offense and 22 rushing/receiving scores.  His impact in the District Finals was immediately felt when the took the opening kickoff all the way back for a score that sparked their win over Nouvel CC.  Starting Quarterback Cade Kestner injured his arm in the first game of the season, stepping in was Adam Arrowsmith, who did a brilliant job, passing for almost 900 yards and rushing for over 300 more.  Once Kestner came back to start, the team got a little bit better on all fronts.  Arrowsmith was able to go back to his original position and the standout on defense has continued to flourish.  Speaking of defense, not only did Kestner come back to return to the QB position but showed his defensive skills as well, with a 4 INT game against Merrill in the District Semis.  Kestner’s quick feet have added a different dimension on offense as well.  While Williams is the leading rusher and brings the lightning, Caleb Heyn brings the thunder in the backfield, accounting for 650 yards and 4 scores.  You cannot discount the receiving corps either.  Williams of course is the biggest threat but Mark Burger leads the group with 6 scores and isn’t far behind in yardage.

As I had mentioned earlier, I think this came may come down to the best of each team.  Whiteford’s rushing attack vs. a stout MLS defense, a defense that features 3 All-Conference first teamers in the front 7 alone with Damon Pearce, Jacob Lewis and Tyler Broekhuizen.  History will be made on Saturday either way, will it be MLS’s first trip to the finals in 30 years or Whiteford’s first ever trip to the Championship Game, should be a fun one!

For an in-depth look and I mean a really in-depth look at the game through from the Whiteford/Tri-County Conference side, here’s the press notes from Doug Donnelly.  Be sure to check out Doug’s website dedicated to the coverage of TCC Sports here!

Match-UpWhitefordMLS
Winning Streak12 Games6 Games
Points Scored/Game45.429.3
Points Allowed/Game1912.8
Rushing Yards/GMN/A209
Passing Yards/GMN/A102
Opponents Win %.545.595
Record Against Playoff Teams4-03-2
Signature Win(11-0) Climax-Scotts(10-1) New Lothrop
Last Semi-Final Appearance20152014
Head 2 Head HistoryFirst MeetingFirst Meeting
Leading PasserThomas Eitniear - 920/9*Cade Kestner - 214/3
Leading RusherJesse Kiefer - 1057/32*Casey Williams - 1226/19
Leading RusherConner Hoogendoorn - 818/15*Caleb Heyn - 650/4
Leading ReceiverJesse Kiefer - 287Casey Williams - 367/3
Leading ReceiverKyle Thieken - 209Mark Burger - 343/6

*Cade Kestner Passing Stats – has only appeared in 4 games
*TD Totals for Whiteford RBs are total scores.

M. Anderson

The author M. Anderson

Co-Founder of the Varsity News Network, Web Designer, Amateur Photographer, Football Connoisseur and Administrator of a few thousand sites across the country.

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