Local football teams learn their playoff destinations

Coach Jerry Rabideau and his Spring Lake varsity football team sat in Rabideau's classroom at Spring Lake High School on Sunday, fully expecting to get the news that they'd drawn powerhouse Grand Rapids Catholic Central in the opening round of the Division 4 state playoffs.
Nate Thompson
Oct 24, 2011

 

So when the announcers on Fox Sports’ Selection Sunday show said that Spring Lake will meet Comstock Park next Friday, the Lakers left their seats in celebration.

“They threw us a curve,” said Rabideau, unable to contain a smile. “We really did not want to play Grand Rapids Catholic Central. Comstock Park, I don’t know if we’ve ever played them.”

The Lakers are the third seed in a bracket that also includes Whitehall (6-3) at Sparta (7-2). The winners of Friday’s first-round games will meet in the district finals on Nov. 5.

Spring Lake has not played Comstock Park. The Lakers played Grand Rapids Catholic Central (8-1) in the first round of last year’s playoffs, losing 45-34. GRCC advanced all the way to the state finals before losing to Williamston.

Comstock Park finished 7-2 this fall. The Panthers were runners-up to Grand Rapids West Catholic in the O-K Blue Conference. The only like opponent between the Panthers and the Lakers is Coopersville. The Broncos beat Spring Lake in Week 9, 49-35, and edged Comstock Park in Week 4, 14-13.

Rabideau and Comstock Park coach Mark Chapman met in Coopersville shortly after the pairing was announced, trading game films. While the Spring Lake players were free to go home following Sunday’s selection show, the coaches were just getting to work as the prepared to watch film depe into the night.

“We try to make it as normal as possible for the players,” Rabideau said. “On Monday, we’ll do some defensive introductions to their offensive schemes, and we’ll do a lot of conditioning.

“We typically watch film as a team on Sunday night, but this week’s different because we as coaches haven’t had a chance to break things down. The hardest thing is waiting for this (show) to get done so I can get out driving and trade tapes.”

Comstock Park made the playoffs in 2004, ending a 20-plus-year playoff droubt. The Panthers missed out on the playoffs every year from 2006-2009, but advanced ot the Division 4 regional finals last fall, where they lost to Grand Rapids Catholic Central.

BUCS DRAW COMETS

Friends and family of the players and coaches from the Grand Haven varsity football team packed the upper level of Kirby Grill in downtown Grand Haven Sunday evening to watch the unveiling of the state playoff brackets.

From the applause in the room, the Buccaneers’ draw was well-received as the Division 1, Region 1 pre-district matchup of Grand Haven (8-1) hosting Grand Ledge (7-2) flashed on television screens throughout the restaurant.

The contest will be held at Buccaneer Stadium on Friday at 7 p.m.  

Grand Have coach Mike Farley said several players’ parents helped organize the get-together, complete with a pizza buffet — a small token of appreciation for an outstanding season.

Grand Haven senior lineman Norris Ellis said he was excited about the draw.

“It’s a good matchup,” he said. “It’s going to be exciting (hosting a playoff game again) mostly because it’s my senior season and most people expected us not to be as good this season. It’s given us a chance to prove them wrong.”

The Bucs’ matchup against the Comets is a rematch of a first-round playoff game two years ago, in which Grand Haven dominated, 34-10.

“Coach (Matt) Bird is still there and he runs a very solid program,” Farley said. “I grew up in the Lansing area, so I grew up following Grand Ledge football.”

Farley was on his cell phone almost immediately after the Bucs’ opponent was revealed. As standard procedure, both coaching staffs agreed to meet halfway between the two cities to exchange game tapes.

“We’ll start to get to work tonight breaking down their film,” Farley said. “It’s going to be a long night and a long day tomorrow. We’ve got to get the kids prepared for an outstanding week of practice.”

Grand Ledge’s two losses came in back-to-back weeks — an upset setback to 4-5 Lansing Everett in Week 7, and a 17-0 defeat at the hands of playoff-bound East Lansing.

Farley said the Comets primarily run a pro-style offense, heavy on play-action passing and some sets out of the shotgun.

Since winning the Division 1 state title in 2000, the Comets have qualified for the playoffs seven times — including the past four seasons.

“They’re a multiple playoff team, so you’ve got to respect that,” Farley said. “They’re a playoff football team nearly every year.”

Grand Haven is the second seed in its district, which also includes O-K Red foes West Ottawa (6-3) and Rockford (8-1). The Rams host the Panthers on Friday evening.

TROJANS TO FACE PIONEERS

Fruitport coach Steve Wilson said he was expecting to hear a matchup pitting his Trojans against East Grand Rapids during Sunday’s selection show, but the fact the Pioneers will be the home team was still frustrating to see.

“Our final playoff points were just one-tenth of a point different, so we were really close to hosting them,” Wilson said Monday morning. “They’re history is the thing that sticks out with their state championships. I believe them and Farmington Hills Harrison are the only schools to win five (state titles) in a row.”

The Pioneers have been in every sense of the word dominant under head coach Peter Stuursma, as their state title streak in Division 3 entering this season is five.

EGR has suffered an uncharteristic three losses this season — to Holland, Lowell and Grand Rapids Christian — but the difficulty of its schedule helped the Pioneers secure a first-round home game against the Trojans.

The last time EGR finished with more than three losses in a season was in 2000, when it went 3-6.

Fruitport, meanwhile, is making its second-straight trip to the playoffs. The Trojans last faced East Grand Rapids in a second-round playoff game in 2006, when they were dealt a 44-13 loss.

 

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