Dreams officially began for three local high school football teams Sunday night, while two were left to wonder what could have been.
Automatic MHSAA playoff qualifiers Hillsdale, Reading and Pittsford all found out their first-round destinies, while 5-4 Jonesville and North Adams-Jerome got verification that week nine losses were indeed a disappointing end to exciting seasons.
Hillsdale (6-3) is headed toward Grand Rapids, where they will take on 9-0 Wyoming Kelloggsville in Division 5 action, Reading (9-0) is hosting 6-3 Ottawa Lake Whiteford in Division 7, and Pittsford (6-3) will play host to 6-3 Eau Claire in Division 8.
The Hillsdale and Pittsford contests are set for 7 p.m. kickoffs Friday, while late Sunday evening Reading was trying to get official confirmation from its opponent that 7 p.m. Friday is going to be the time and day at Barr Field.
The Hornets went on a month-and-half blitz to end the season with six straight wins to make the playoffs, but a rough start is a big reason Hillsdale will have to travel several hours away.
Hillsdale head coach Marc Lemerand admits he thought his team would be staying closer to home, with a possible re-match with Lumen Christi even entering his mind a time or two.
“When we saw Wyoming flash on the screen we kind of said ‘Wyoming?’ I thought it would maybe turn out a little different…I thought maybe we would at least be in Lumen’s district,” he said.
Lemerand said “it’s just another bus trip” and everyone is 0-0 again at this point so opponent and location is only part of this unpredictable time of year.
Oddly enough Lemerand had a small glimpse into what Wyoming Kelloggsville has to offer Saturday morning — by accident, thanks to the click of a remote.
“Kind of by accident I just turned on channel 900 on cable (the MHSAA Network) yesterday morning and I saw Allendale and Wyoming on and I decided to check it out for a while because we saw Allendale a couple of years ago (2006) in the playoffs,” he said. “(Wyoming Kelloggsville) is athletic, good-sized and look like they can power it, but also pass the ball well.”
The Rockets are a member of the Ottawa-Kent-Silver Conference and they have out-scored opponents 346-109 this year.
The winner will play the victor of the Hopkins (6-3), Berrien Springs (7-2) contest.
In Reading’s first round battle, they are the undefeated team looking to make quick work of a 6-3 team, as they host the Bobcats of the Tri-County Conference.
The Bobcats are 2-3 against playoff teams this season, including wins over Pittsford (34-13) and Adrian Madison (46-43).
Local fans should be forgiven if they looked past round one, to a possible second round match-up with 9-0 Hudson, who plays 6-3 Concord in round one, but Bailey is not about to make that mistake.
“We haven’t looked at week two yet, and we know that Whiteford is a very good 6-3 team,” he said. “They had losses to a 7-2 Blissfield team, 8-1 (Petersburg) Summerfield, and 8-1 Clinton, so they’re better than their record indicates.”
Bailey said Whiteford is traditionally very rugged and physical and their offense relies on having several available options on every play.
“They also run the option game and we know they have a very good, athletic QB from seeing them on the baseball diamond in the spring,” he said. “They will be bigger and likely stronger than us, we know that.”
The Rangers have had plenty of success as of late, including a run to the state semifinals last season, and Bailey said his first order of business Monday is to start getting his defense prepared for what it will see.
“Myself and the other coaches will be trading tapes with their coaches and right away we’ll start focusing on how defensively we can prepare to stop them,” he said.
The other playoff game inside county lines this week will be in Pittsford, where head coach Bob Clement is ecstatic to be at home in the first round.
“It’s really good. We thought we were going to get one after Friday’s game,” he said, referring to the Wildcats 35-6 win over Vandercook Lake.
Eau Claire is out of the Red-Arrow/St. Joe’s Conference and they are 0-3 against playoff teams and did not beat a single winning team all year.
Clement said he will wait to reserve judgment on the opposition until he has seen some film.
“I know about the same as you do,” he said. ”I know who they played and what the scores were and we’re on our way to exchange tapes with them right now.”
Right now Clement is focused on keeping his kids healthy. One of his players had a confirmed case of the H1N1 virus last week and several other players are recovering from illness or tending to bumps and bruises.
If the Wildcats can survive week one it would set up a possible showdown with 8-1 Colon. The Magi handily defeated Pittsford earlier this season after the Wildcats ended their 2008 campaign in the playoffs.
Clement said his team is a different team than when they met almost two months ago and his boys would surely enjoy a rematch.”
“They’re pretty excited and playing better every week,” he said. “They’re pretty competitive and I’m sure they’d be real glad to have a shot at them.”