Portagers look to clinch league title

ABOVE: Onekama then-sophomore Jacob Mauntler (22) runs the ball during the Portagers’ 27-0 win over Central Lake in the first round of the playoffs on Oct. 30, 2015. The two undefeated teams will meet Friday night for the championship of the Midwest Central Michigan 8-Man Footbal Conference, and possibly home-field advantage in the upcoming playoffs. BELOW: Manistee quarterback Trevor Johns (11) runs to daylight during the Chippewas’ win over Ludington on Sept. 8. (Brian Fogg/News Advocate)

ABOVE: Onekama then-sophomore Jacob Mauntler (22) runs the ball during the Portagers’ 27-0 win over Central Lake in the first round of the playoffs on Oct. 30, 2015. The two undefeated teams will meet Friday night for the championship of the Midwest Central Michigan 8-Man Football Conference, and possibly home-field advantage in the upcoming playoffs. BELOW: Manistee quarterback Trevor Johns (11) runs to daylight during the Chippewas’ win over Ludington on Sept. 8. (Brian Fogg/News Advocate)

CENTRAL LAKE — Onekama football faces its biggest challenge of the season Friday night, and it could be a prelude to another match up down the road.

The Portagers (7-0, 6-0) will have their biggest game of the regular season on Friday with conference and playoff seeding implications on the line at Central Lake (7-0, 6-0).

“It’s the biggest game of the year,” Onekama coach John Neph said. “They’re very talented and athletic. They have some very good linemen. They’re well balanced as a team. This is a great challenge for our guys.”

The winner of the game will win the Midwest Central Michigan 8-man Football Conference, and likely be on the road to a perfect regular season. Not only have these two teams cruised through everyone they’ve played, they are among the most dominant teams in 8-player football.

Onekama has outscored teams 374 to 72 (or 53.4 to 10.3 per game), while the Trojans have done the same (382 to 159 or 54.6 to 22.7) against similar competition.

The winner will be in the driver’s seat to clinch home-field advantage throughout the playoffs as well. The Portagers lead all of 8-player in playoff points, while Central Lake is fifth. A win on Friday would save either team travel time in the coming weeks.

“I think it’s a very significant goal for our guys to win the conference in our first year playing 8-man,” Neph said. “We’ve talked about it, but the most important thing is how we’ve achieved it. We spent a lot of time talking about how the end goal is just to win the next game, and all of the things that have to happen to win a game.”

Two seasons ago the teams played each other in the playoffs. The Portagers won 27-0 during the first week of the 11-player playoffs. Despite seeing some of the same names on the field, there isn’t a whole lot of holdover from those teams. Onekama has five players on the roster that were active that night, but only Jacob Mauntler played a great deal.

The same goes for the Trojans, who have seven players back from that game, so after switching to 8-player the tape of that game hasn’t been a huge help. Instead Neph has looked at the tape from the blowouts that Central Lake has inflicted this season to get ready for some of its threats.

The Trojans are led by senior quarterback Gavin Mortensen, who has 8 passing touchdowns and 0 interceptions. Despite the impressive stat line, he has only thrown 29 times all season, but 10 were last week against Atlanta. He also has 59 for 668 yards and 8 touchdowns on the ground.

Junior Skylar Spangler will see the ball on offense with 953 yards on 108 carries and 15 touchdowns, and junior Grant Papineau is the leading rusher with 1171 yards on 111 carries and 18 touchdowns. Papineau was the team’s leading rusher two seasons ago with 43 yards in the game.

“They have a senior quarterback (Mortensen), and he’s very elusive. He has a lot of moxy to him. He’s experienced, smart, and athletic. That’s a lot right there,” Neph said. “They have a fullback that’s a junior. He’s a big guy. He’s tough to bring down. Then, they have a passing game to go along with all of that. It’s a very complete offense.”

Kickoff will be Friday at 7 p.m. in Central Lake. The field is about one mile south of Central Lake High School on M88.

Manistee football looks to win against rival

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CADILLAC — The season hasn’t gone to plan for Manistee football with a series of close losses, but the Chippewas do have another opportunity to salvage something with a rivalry game coming up on Friday at Cadillac.

The Chippewas (2-5) will travel to face the struggling Vikings for the 53rd time in school history. Cadilliac leads the series 30-20-2.

Cadillac, much like Manistee, hasn’t had the season it was hoping for with a 1-6 start.

The Vikings have lost six in a row since a season-opening overtime win over Big Rapids, but two of those losses have been by single digits (23-14 to Alpena, and 27-26 to Gaylord), and are another team wondering ‘what if.’

“They’ve had a rough run. I talked to the guys today, and we kind of view this game as a rivalry. It’s one of the few teams we play that’s relatively close,” Manistee coach Troy Bytwork said. “They’re looking for a win as bad as we are. They’ve had some close games. I think they are as hungry as we are.”

Manistee is in the same boat with fourth quarter leads in a handful of the losses, but last week they didn’t lead at all against the number one team in Division 8, Muskegon Catholic Central. MCC won 42-6, and Bytwork is trying to get the guys to rebound from that for the rivalry game.

“Right after the game I talked immediately about Cadillac. The other thing I said to them is that any time in the off season that you think you’ve lifted enough, or run enough, or worked out enough, to look at them,” Bytwork said.

“I also said to put it in the back of their mind. That’s the kind of game we’ll worry about in the off season.”

If Manistee can beat Cadillac, that could leave a positive feeling about an otherwise rough season with wins over its two biggest rivals (on Sept. 8 Manistee defeated Ludington 42-28).

“I don’t know if it salvages it. It would make a big difference,” Bytwork said. “We talked today about how we beat Ludington, and how that’s something we might not appreciate until the season is over, because we lost some close ones. We won our homecoming game. Those are big deals.”

Kickoff will at at 7 p.m. at Cadillac High School.

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Posted by Brian Fogg

Brian is the sports writer for the Manistee News Advocate. You can reach him at (231) 398-3110 or bfogg@pioneergroup.com.

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