Buczek: 2016 Football Season Full of Surprises

Off to its first 5-0 start since its undefeated 1981 season, Kalkaska has been one of the best football stories in northern Michigan this fall.

The Blazers opened their season by rallying over now-ranked Pine River, and has followed up with dominant wins over Mancelona, Benzie Central (forfeit), Elk Rapids and Cheboygan.

Kalkaska’s start shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, though, as the Blazers returned 18 seniors from a 2015 squad that just narrowly missed out on their third playoff appearance in four seasons and fourth in school history.

If the Blazers can get past Boyne City and Kingsley, respectively, over the next two weeks, it sets up a potential undefeated matchup with rival Traverse City St. Francis. The Gladiators have dominated the all-time series, owning a 32-1 record against the Blazers, with Kalkaska’s lone win coming in 1982.  

More surprises

Kalkaska isn’t the only local program off to a surprising start this fall. Forest Area has adjusted well to eight-man football and is off to its best start (4-1) since 2008, while once perennial power Gaylord St. Mary is 5-0 for the first time since 2004. At 4-1, Ludington has its best start to a season since 1999 and is seeking just its second playoff bid since 2000.

CSAA Gold showdown

Though three weeks remain in the Central State Activities Association season, Friday’s matchup of undefeated Reed City and Chippewa Hills will go a long way in settling the Gold division title.

The Coyotes (5-0, 4-0) have won five consecutive league titles and five straight over Chippewa Hills (5-0, 4-0), but Friday’s game might be the most evenly matched the series has seen in years. The two sides are beating opponents by an average of 33 points per game, with the closest win being Reed City’s 20-point victory over Newaygo.

Postseason clinchers

As we enter Week 6 of the season, eight local teams can clinch an automatic playoff berth with a sixth win on Friday.

Traverse City Central, Chippewa Hills, Reed City, Roscommon, Frankfort, Kalkaska, Gaylord St. Mary and Traverse City St. Francis can all secure a playoff spot with a win.

What to watch in Week 6

D6 No. 5 Glen Lake (4-1, 3-0) at D8 No. 5 Frankfort (5-0, 1-0) – Since losing to top-ranked Traverse City St. Francis three weeks ago, Glen Lake has outscored its last three opponents 167-19, including a stunning 49-7 win over previously ranked Charlevoix last Friday.

Frankfort hasn’t faced much of a task since its season-opening win over Manton, outscoring the opposition 146-20 since, including a 58-12 defeat of Johannesburg-Lewiston last week.

Glen Lake won last year’s meeting, 10-6.

Marion (3-2, 2-0) at Wyoming Tri-Unity Christian (5-0, 4-0) – Though we’re now in Week 6 of the season, this is Tri-Unity Christian’s first test of the year. Through four games, the Defenders have outscored league opponents 222-14. This is a must-win for Marion to keep its playoff hopes alive.

D1 HM Traverse City West (4-1) at D4 No. 6 Benton Harbor (5-0) – Benton Harbor was the state’s Cinderella story a year ago, making the postseason for the first time in school history. The Tigers are off to their best start since 1985 and aren’t catching anyone off guard this season.

McBain (3-2, 1-2) at Beal City (3-2, 2-1) – With the regular season winding down, this rivalry game is full of playoff implications. Beal City and McBain’s final three games are against teams that are currently 20-10 combined.

Beal City has won four straight in the series.

Week 5 MIVCA rankings

The Michigan Interscholastic Volleyball Coaches Association released its latest state rankings, and 10 local teams have found the spotlight.

Cadillac (fifth) and Grant (honorable mention) continue to show strong in the Class B poll, while Traverse City St. Francis (fourth) and McBain find themselves ranked in Class C.

Class D features six local programs, including Leland (third), Onaway (sixth), Suttons Bay (ninth) and Forest Area (10th). Engadine and Rogers City also check in with honorable mention honors.

Categories: Football