Column: Still a lot to play for Friday night

Published 1:11 pm Monday, October 18, 2021

The final week of the regular season is here for our six high school football teams.

I find it hard to believe we are already at Week 9, but here we are. Edwardsburg has already locked up a playoff berth with its 8-0 record. While I do not fully understand the new playoff system, I do know that the top 32 teams advance in each division based on their points.

The Eddies are No. 1 in Division 4, so even if Edwardsburg would be upset by Sturgis Friday night, which I highly doubt, the Eddies will still be playing in the postseason.

Two of our teams — Cassopolis and Niles — are currently in good position to qualify for the playoffs. Even with a loss to Berrien Springs, the Rangers look as if they will make the cut based on the current standings, which have Cassopolis 27th. The Rangers had this past Friday night off, so hopefully they have been able to heal some of those nagging injuries and are ready to go.

Then there is Niles. The Vikings are now 4-4 after their big win over Otsego last Friday night. Niles is seeking its first winning season since 2014 and only its fourth winning campaign in the last 35 years. That would be quite an accomplishment for first-year Viking Coach Scot Shaw.

Niles will make the short trip to Dowagiac to take on their archrivals in the annual “Black and Blue” game. The Chieftains will be trying to avoid the school’s first-ever winless season.

The Vikings currently sit 30th in the playoff point standings, so it appears that they cannot afford a loss to Dowagiac Friday night at Chris Taylor-Alumni Field.

Unfortunately for two of our schools — Brandywine and Buchanan — Friday night will wrap up their 2021 season. Both teams enter the season finale with disappointing 3-5 overall records. I know both Bobcats’ Coach Mike Nate and Bucks’ Coach Mark Frey expected bigger and better things from their squads this season.

Brandywine and Buchanan will wrap up the football season against non-league opponents. The Bobcats take on Benton Harbor, which Buchanan defeated 26-22 last Friday night, while the Bucks will take on defending Division 8 state champion Centreville.

Even though the playoffs are unattainable this season for the two schools, there is still a lot to play for Friday night. Each team should be looking to set the tone for next season. Both teams should be playing for pride and want to go out on a high note.

It has been an exciting and sometimes frustrating season for me watching our teams compete. There have been a lot of highs, but nearly as many lows. I am excited for the potential to have three schools to follow in the postseason. I am equally saddened by the fact that three of our schools struggled, because to me, there is no better way to spend an evening than watching your local sports team compete.

I have invested 39 years of my life covering high school sports. I would not trade a single one of them for what some people might call a “real job.” It is an emotional roller coaster every night when I head off to an assignment. I am elated when they win, and I feel terrible when they struggle.

No matter what the outcomes are this week, I am proud of each and every player that put on his school’s uniform and represented their communities to the best of their abilities. It is a privilege, not a right, to be able to strap it up on Friday night and sport your school’s colors.

I hope none of them forget that as they wrap up their high school careers and head off to college to begin preparing for the real world that they will have to navigate soon enough. They have made our lives just a little bit more enjoyable by playing high school sports and giving us a release from our daily problems that life throws at all of us.

Good luck to the Bobcats, Bucks, Rangers, Chieftains, Eddies and Vikings as you conclude the regular season.

 

Scott Novak is sports editor for Leader Publications. He can be reached at scott.novak@leaderpub.com.