Bobcats chase playoff berth, look to make history 

Brethren quarterback Troy Macurio lets fly during a game against Suttons Bay earlier this season. Macurio has been sacked only once all season. (Kyle Kotecki/News Advocate)

Brethren quarterback Troy Macurio lets fly during a game against Suttons Bay earlier this season. Macurio has been sacked only once all season. (Kyle Kotecki/News Advocate)

BRETHREN — With a win against West Michigan D League foe Baldwin Friday, Brethren football can clinch its third playoff berth since 1990 and first since 2014.

Though Baldwin (0-6 overall, 0-4 West Michigan D League) has been struggling this year and just managed its first points of the season last week in a 21-6 defeat at the hands of Big Rapids Crossroads, Brethren (5-2, 5-0) head coach J.J. Randall and his players will not be taking the Panthers lightly.

“Baldwin has been having a down year this year, but their quarterback is a pretty decent athlete,” Randall said. “If we can’t contain him he’s able to make long runs and able to throw the ball down the field with decent accuracy, but if we put pressure on him it makes it pretty hard for him to do that.”

The Bobcats’ defense is no stranger to getting after the quarterback, with Logan Tighe, Jake Riggs and the rest of the players amassing a respectable number of sacks this season.

“The key for us each week is our physicality and our pressure on the quarterback and being able to get good, quality hits on the quarterback time and time again,” Randall said. “Just having those consistent hits on him, so when he goes to drop back he’s feeling the pressure right away.”

A win Friday would result in Brethren’s first season with six or more wins since the Bobcats went 8-3 in 1990.

Randall expects his offensive line to do what it has been doing all season: Opening up holes for the running backs and protecting quarterback Troy Macurio in the pocket.

“Troy Macurio, our quarterback, has only been sacked once all year,” Randall said. “We look at our offensive line as a major component to what we do. Last week it really showed when we had over 400 yards rushing. Throughout the whole four quarters our line was getting good blocks and working downfield.”

Playoff appearances are not commonplace for Brethren football, and clinching one Friday would mean a lot to the team.

“It’s another confidence-booster going into Week 9 if we were able to win,” Randall said. “It would allow us to have that relief that we are in the playoffs. It’s something we haven’t seen in a while here at Brethren. … Every coach wants to be in the playoffs and it would just be really good if we were able to clinch it against Baldwin on our home field.”

The game will start in Brethren Friday at 7 p.m.

Sabers have little margin for error at Crossroads

MANISTEE — Manistee Catholic Central football will need to win its final two games of the season to clinch a playoff berth. The Sabers head to Big Rapids Crossroads Friday for a West Michigan D League contest with hopes of staying in the playoff hunt.

The Sabers (4-3 overall, 3-2 West Michigan D League) have typically had the Cougars’ (2-5, 1-4) number and are 10-1 overall against Crossroads.

“Crossroads has two wins on the season,” said Sabers coach Jake Szymanski. “They’re looking a lot improved from years past. We’re looking to slow them down a bit on defense. They’ve been able to put up a few points here and there. We have to be worried about that — especially with our health. We want to make sure we can put the best eight out there at the time and see if we can’t rest up a few of our other people.”

Manistee Catholic will look to pound the ball up the middle against the Cougars with hopes of eating up both yardage and clock.

“We’re going to try to keep it (between the tackles) a little bit,” Szymanski said. “We’re probably going to put some other people back there at times. Like I said, we’re still trying to get healthy enough for a good show Week 9, but we know we have to take care of business first. If we can get out there and get out to a feasible lead to where we can switch some guys in and out and start trying some different things, that would be real nice.”

Crossroads is coming off a 21-6 win over Baldwin while MCC fell to Marion 30-26 last week.

Crossroads’ sole win over the Sabers took place in 2015, so freshmen from that team are now seniors. Szymanski has made sure the players aren’t looking ahead to a Week 9 matchup against a 6-1 Posen team and are giving the Cougars the respect they deserve.

“There are a few seniors on this team that have been the only (Crossroads) team that’s been able to beat us in football, so you know they’re going to be using that for extra motivation this week,” Szymanski said. “As it pertains to the guys looking forward to next week, they know they’re playing a good opponent. We’ve played good opponents in the past. We just have to put a full four quarters together and that should take care of things.”

The game kicks off in Big Rapids at 7 p.m. Friday.

Hobbling Lakers travel to Mesick

BEAR LAKE — With numerous Lakers on the mend, Bear Lake football limps into its West Michigan D League game against Mesick grateful to have enough players to be able to field a team Friday.

“That was our biggest concern, but we should be good to go,” said Bear Lake head coach John Prokes. “We have 10 guys that are healthy and able to go, so that’s the main thing.”

The Lakers (1-5 overall, 1-3 West Michigan D League) lost to the Bulldogs (3-4, 3-2) last season by a score of 48-14.

With multiple key contributors on the shelf for Friday’s contest, the coaching staff has had to make adjustments to the offense to best utilize the healthy players.

“We tried to experiment with a couple different formations based on the personnel we have,” Prokes said. “Our personnel just keeps changing because we’re losing bodies so much, so we’ll probably get back to the basics — just try to play some fundamental football and execute those plays.”

Bear Lake fell to Bellaire last week by a score of 48-0 and Prokes notes similarities between Bellaire’s offense and Mesick’s.

“It’s kind of like everybody that’s been on our schedule: It’s going to be a challenge for us,” Prokes said. “We’re just down so many guys. (Mesick) spreads the ball out, too. They don’t pass as much as Bellaire, I think, but they’re going to run and they’re going to pass, so it kind of makes us have to get ready this week for defending both.”

Prokes is hoping to control the clock with some hard-nosed football to minimize the Bulldogs’ scoring opportunities.

“If our guys can block, we’re going to try to not look for any big plays but just churn out some small-yardage plays and hopefully control the ball and keep (Mesick) off offense. I think that’s going to be our best strategy going into Friday.”

The game begins Friday at 7 p.m. at Mesick.

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