Dowagiac, Cassopolis set for first-round playoff games
DOWAGIAC — When South Haven left the Wolverine Conference to join the BCS Athletic Conference, one of the reasons was that Rams were not very competitive in football.
That all changed this season for South Haven as the Rams ended the shortened regular season 4-2 and are appearing in their first postseason game since 2008 when the face former Wolverine Conference foe Dowagiac Friday night.
The Chieftains enter the game at 3-3 and fresh off a 20-0 in over arch rival Niles to renew the long-time rivalry after 13 seasons. In that win, Dowagiac finished with a season-high 309 yards rushing.
The Chieftains have dominated the Rams throughout the years and will be putting their five-game winning streak on the line when the two teams kick off at 7 p.m. at Chris Taylor-Alumni Field.
South Haven comes into the game on a three-game winning streak. The Rams have defeated Berrien Springs (28-18), Comstock (14-0) and Hartford 65-20. South Haven’s other win was a 34-20 decision against Niles. Brandywine and Buchanan were the two teams to beat South Haven in the regular season.
Second-year Dowagiac coach, Randy Brooks’ team, has played well throughout the season. It will have to bring its “A” game once again against the Rams.
“South Haven has some really fast athletes on offense that will present some matchup problems for our defense,” he said. “They also run the single-wing, which we do not have much experience defending. We have played South Haven in the past. This is their first year out of the Wolverine Conference and they have had more success coming in with a 4-2 record. I expect they will play with a lot of confidence.”
Dowagiac has struggled throughout the season, holding onto the football. The Chieftains must do a better job of that against South Haven in order to keep drives alive and the clock running. Dowagiac was able to do that last week and it resulted in a season-high in total yards.
“Last Friday against Niles, we were able to limit the turnovers and mistakes on offense, which allowed us to rush for over 300 yards,” Brooks said. “We must continue to improve in those areas along with just playing physical Dowagiac Football. We feel like if we can physically beat them up the scoreboard will reflect that at the end of the game. We have played really good defense most of the season and we need to continue doing that.”
Cassopolis at Mendon
The Rangers and Hornets were scheduled to meet in a Southwest 10 Conference game on Oct. 16, but Cassopolis was forced to forfeit the game due to COVID-19 issues.
The two teams get their chance to square off at 7 p.m. Friday night in Mendon with a spot in the Division 8 district title game on the line.
The Rangers enter the contest on a four-game losing streak, including last week’s 41-0 loss to Berrien Springs.
First-year coach Steve Green knows that Mendon will not beat itself, so the Rangers must take care of the football, limit the penalties and be physical upfront if they are going to compete.
“They are the most fundamentally sound team year in and year out, rarely do they hurt themselves with penalties or turnovers, so it’s a must that we play very disciplined with our assignments,” he said. “Controlling the line of scrimmage on offense and defense will be a challenge for us. We are undersized upfront, so that will be a big task for us.”
Green said his linemen lacked experience when the season start, but have been getting better. Those lines will have to come up big.
“There was not a lot of playing experience among our linemen at the beginning of the year,” he said. “We have improved in this area throughout the season, and will lean on them heavy come Friday night.”