OSCODA – With just three weeks left in the regular season, the four Iosco County teams are officially in the back end of the nine week schedule. The county has had at least one team make the playoffs every year since 1997, but for that streak to continue, the area squads are in need of some wins and hopefully enough playoff points in the final weeks.
Oscoda (3-3 overall, 1-2 NMFL Legacy) at Johannesburg-Lewiston (0-6, 0-4)
What a difference a week can make. After dropping three straight contests, the Oscoda football team looked like their bid for a fifth straight playoff berth was a pipe dream. Thanks to the Owls 26-8 win at Harbor Springs last week, things are suddenly looking better.
“The players are excited to play,” head coach Mark Whitley said ahead of the team’s game at Johannesburg-Lewiston Friday.
While getting six wins no longer guarantees teams a playoff berth, closing the season out with three more wins at least gives Oscoda a punchers’ chance to play on. This week’s opponent, Joburg, reached the Division 8 semi-finals last year, but have had a tough time getting things going this fall. Much like the Owls, the Cardinals have had to deal with a big departure from graduation and injuries. They are still seeking their first win and lost to St. Ignace last week, 30-14
“Joburg is a good team every year and they run a wing-T, straight-T offense that tries to disguise the football.” Whitley said. “We will have to do our assignments and play team defense against them to have success. Offensively, we will need to continue to get better and work as an 11-player unit, blocking well on every play.”
Hale (2-4 overall, 2-2 NSL) at Mio (5-1, 4-1)
While Hale’s playoff chances don’t necessarily look good after dropping last week’s home game with AuGres, head coach Grant Kortman isn’t letting his team go out quietly.
“I was telling them the best-case scenario is we finish out with three wins and get enough playoff points and get in or worst case, we finish above .500,” he said. “If we want any hope of that we have to beat Mio and we know that. We have to have a good week of practice and have our best game Friday night.”
The Thunderbolts struggled through a winless season last year, but have flipped the script this fall, with their lone loss coming at the hands of AuGres, 62-54 back in week three. They topped Atlanta 49-32 last week in a game that saw quarterback Austin Fox throw for four touchdowns. Nathan Hurst has hurt teams as a running back and as a receiver, and Brandon Wiltse sees plenty of carries on offense as well.
“Another team that is really good, a high-powered offense averaging over 45 points a game and that is huge in football,” Kortman said. “This is going to be another challenge, hopefully we can recover a little bit and get healthier for this week. We are excited about the match-up and looking forward to Friday night.”
Tawas (0-5 overall, 0-4 NMFL Legends) hosts Grayling (4-2, 2-2)
A banged up Tawas Area team looks to right the ship Friday when a solid Grayling team comes to town on homecoming night. The Braves, who were unable to play in the fourth quarter of last week’s loss at Traverse City St. Francis, will now be tasked to stop the Vikings, who feature one of the best running backs in northern Michigan in David Milliken.
“They are going to have some pieces, they are a very, very good team,” Tawas head coach Aaron Hazen said. “Milliken is a heck of a runner, he runs hard and is shifty and fast. They went far in the playoffs last year and are going to go far this year into the playoffs.”
In fact, the Vikings, who are coached by Whittemore-Prescott graduate Eric Tunney, made it all the way to the Division 6 semi-finals. Grayling is coming off a 36-32 victory over Sault Ste. Marie last week.
“We are going to go out and have fun and give it everything we got as always,” Hazen said.
Whittemore-Prescott (2-4 overall, 1-3 NSL) hosts
Longtime rivals in 11-man football meet up for the first time in the 8-man game Friday. The teams’ enter with identical records and both have wins over the Charlton Heston Academy and losses to Inland Lakes.
The Tigers, after years of running a full house offense in 11-man, have transformed into a high-powered spread-type attack and are led by freshman quarterback Garrett Somers. Michael Basner, Jeremiah Bullis and Gavin Walker are other offensive weapons to look out for.
Alcona is coming off a 30-24 loss to unbeaten Rogers City last week.