FOOTBALL PREVIEW: Chips, Portagers put perfect records on the line

Manistee’s Bryson Jensen (right) breaks into the open field in the Chippewas’ 33-14 win at Ludington on Sept. 7. Manistee will face Orchard View on Friday for Homecoming. (News Advocate file photo)

Manistee’s Bryson Jensen (right) breaks into the open field in the Chippewas’ 33-14 win at Ludington on Sept. 7. Manistee will face Orchard View on Friday for Homecoming. (News Advocate file photo)

MANISTEE — Typically, schools try to schedule weaker opponents for their homecoming games, in an attempt to assure that the big crowd goes home happy.

That will not be the case this week for the undefeated Manistee Chippewas, who will face a tough Muskegon Orchard View squad in a key Lakes-8 matchup.

Do not let the Cardinals’ 1-3 record fool you. Their three losses were to 4-0 Spring Lake, 3-1 Belding and Muskegon Reeths-Puffer, which has twice the enrollment of Orchard View. And their one win was over traditional state powerhouse Muskegon Catholic Central.

“This is a quality opponent,” Manistee head coach Troy Bytwork said. “They may be 1-3 overall but we know their kids from the last couple years. They’re going to put some pretty stout kids on the line. They’ve got a pretty good quarterback who slings it around the yard pretty nicely and they’ve got some speed. The one thing Orchard View has not been lacking since I arrived here is athletes in the right positions and some big strong kids up front.

 “This is going to be a heck of a ballgame. It should be a dogfight.”

The undefeated Chippewas enjoy a bit of momentum going into the contest, having scored over 43 points per game in its four wins this season.

But the Cardinals have a potent offense of their own, having scored more than 42 points in three of their four games, including two of their losses.

 Their quarterback is sophomore Owen Swanson, who was the Cardinals’ starting signal-caller as a freshman last year, and led them to a 50-28 win over the Chippewas.

Bytwork said that stopping Swanson will be a key to Manistee coming out with the win and staying undefeated.

“We’re going to have to stop throws and stop them from getting behind us,” Bytwork said. “The back end of our defense is going to have to do a good job. But also I think we can get some pressure on them. If we can get some pressure, he’s a sophomore quarterback, throws a nice ball but it’s going to be imperative we get some pressure on him early, force him into some bad decisions. To cut down on the points they’ve been putting up we have to get in his face a little bit.”

If the Chippewas win the game, they would clinch at least a share of the Lakes-8 Activities Conference championship. The last league title that Manistee won in football was in 1972, when they shared the top spot in the North Central “B” Conference with Cadillac. The Chippewas’ last outright conference championship was in 1961, when they went undefeated and finished second in the state in the final AP Class B poll.

Onekama in Battle of Unbeatens

ONEKAMA — Two of the top 8-player football teams in the state will meet on Saturday, when Onekama travels to Wyoming, Mich. to face Tri-Unity Christian.

The third-ranked Portagers (4-0) will face the sixth-ranked Defenders (4-0) in a game that will likely decide the champion of the Midwest Central 8-Man Football Conference West Division.

Tri-Unity is led by two seniors, quarterback Brayden Ophoff and running back Benson Heath, both of whom earned All-State honorable mention last season.

Onekama head coach John Neph said that Tri-Unity will feature a spread offense, similar in scheme to Bellaire, whom the Portagers defeated 59-0 in week two, but much more sophisticated.

“They have an exceptionally balanced offense,” Neph said. “Their quarterback is an exceptional athlete, he does things that drives defensive coordinators crazy. He’s a real handful, I’ll tell you that.”

Ophoff will face a Portager defense that is playing with confidence, having allowed just a single touchdown this season, to defending state champion Central Lake.

Neph said that his team needs to stick to its fundamentals in order to be successful on Saturday.

“We’ve got to be exceptionally good tacklers this week,” he said. “Our defense has been phenomenal this whole season, and we’re going to be tested in new ways this week with the plays they run and the high quality of skill players that they have.”

A win for Onekama would clinch at least a share of the league title with one league game left on the schedule.

Kickoff will be at 1 p.m. Saturday in Wyoming.

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Posted by Scott Yoshonis

Scott is the sports editor of the Manistee News Advocate. You can reach him at (231) 398-3112 or syoshonis@pioneergroup.com.

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