Area teams set for playoffsPublished 9:21pm Thursday, October 25, 2012
Brandywine is looking to make history tonight when the Michigan High School football playoffs get underway.
The Bobcats have never won a playoff game. Brandywine’s only other appearances in the postseason came in 1995 and 2002 when the Bobcats fell to Hopkins in the first round of the playoffs.
Other area schools that begin their playoff journey tonight are Dowagiac and Edwardsburg.
A huge challenge awaits Brandywine as the Bobcats (7-2) play No. 2-ranked Schoolcraft (9-0) in a Division 6 pre-district game. This marks the fourth straight year that the Eagles have qualified for the playoffs.
“We have everything to gain and nothing to lose,” said Brandywine coach Mike Nate, who played and coached at Dowagiac. “We want to be the first Brandywine football team to win a playoff game. Our kids believe that they can be successful. With that kind of attitude you have a good chance to win.
Brandywine has won three straight games since losing to Buchanan (28-22). The Bobcats’ other loss came against Bridgman (27-26).
“We’ve been in close games and that’s what we’re expecting against Schoolcraft,” Nate said. “You’ve just got to go all out. There’s no tomorrow.”
The Bobcats are led by running back Courtlan Gordon, who rushed for 1,487 yards and scored 22 touchdowns.
“He’s a scatback, who’s fast,” Nate said about his talented running back. “If he gets in the clear he’s gone.”
Nate is also very happy with how his team has played on defense. The Bobcats have allowed only 119 points this season.
“A lot of our success is due to our defense,” Nate said. “We’ve played much better defense this year.”
Schoolcraft has scored 312 points this season and allowed 145.
“Schoolcraft has got a lot of good players,” Nate said. “Benny Clark is a running back, who’s solid and quick. He’s a Barry Sanders-type of back. Their quarterback has thrown for 1,300 yards and they have a 6-foot-5 tight end who’s a solid player.
“Defensively, they have no weaknesses. They’re a good all-around team.
“It’s a good challenge for us, but we’ve had a good week of practice and we’re ready to go.”
In Division 4 pre-district action, Dowagiac (9-0) hosts Otsego (6-3). The Chieftains, who advanced to the Division 5 regional finals last year, were ranked fifth in Division 5 in the final Associated Poll.
It’s the second time in a week that the Chieftains and Bulldogs meet. Last Friday, Dowagiac blanked Otsego, 43-0.
“We’re pounding into our kids that they have to be focused and ready,” said Dowagiac coach Mike Stanger when asked about the possibility of his team looking past Otsego. “Five years ago, South Haven beat us, 70-20, in week one. We came back and beat them, 55-22, in the first round of the playoffs. Championship level teams play at a high level all the time.”
Dowagiac, which is in the playoffs for the seventh time in the last eight years, has scored 343 points and allowed only 62. The Chieftains have 13 starters back from last year’s team.
One of those veterans is Brett Scanlon. Scanlon is a threat as a quarterback and a kicker. Scanlon, who shares quarterback duties with Cal Cox, has rushed for 439 yards and passed for 350 yards. As a kicker, Scanlon is 6-for-6 on field goals under 40 yards. He’s also 40-for-43 on PAT’s and totaled 52 touchbacks out of 62 kickoffs.
“Our ultimate goal is to make it to Ford Field (for the state finals),” Stanger said. “But we don’t talk about it. We’re taking it one game at a time.”
In Division 3, Edwardsburg (6-3) hosts Hamilton (5-4). The Eddies are in the playoffs for the third straight year, while the Hawkeyes are in the playoffs for the first time since 2009.
Edwardsburg finished the regular season with losses against Dowagiac (28-8) and Paw Paw (46-36). The Eddies led Paw Paw, 36-22, in the third quarter.
“I think we learned a lot from our last few games,” said Edwardsburg coach Kevin Bartz. “We had some minor breakdowns. The last two teams we played were ranked and we played them tough.”
Edwardsburg has succeeded despite losing 20 starters from last year’s team and having 10 starters out this year because of injuries.
“We’ve done a great job stepping up and plugging holes,” Bartz said. “Our offensive line has been our best group.”
That offensive line has helped Edwardsburg rush for 2,956 yards this season.
One of Hamilton’s wins this year was over Division 4 defending state champion Zeeland West (42-38).
“Hamilton is a big, quick and physical team that has lost four close games,” Bartz said. “The last two teams they’ve played (Zeeland West and Hudsonville Unity Christian) run the same offense (wing-T) that we run.”