SEBEWAING — The Greater Thumb West schedule was full of down-to-the-wire drama — and one of the most drama-filled games was the Week 4 matchup between Cass City and Unionville-Sebewaing Area.
A playoff rematch between the two gets the nod as the Advertiser Football Game of the Week.
“That’s what’s fun about this league, you have to be ready to play every night,” said USA coach Tyler Langs. “And when you live where we leave, you’re going to have to beat somebody twice to get out of districts, which makes it even harder to get a win.”
Cass City (6-3) at USA (8-1) in Division 7 is one of five games Friday featuring Advertiser-area teams competing in the first round of the playoffs. The others are: Essexville Garber (7-2) at Frankenmuth (8-1) in Division 5, Hemlock (5-4) at Millington (8-1) in Division 6, Reese (5-4) at New Lothrop (8-1) in Division 7 and Owendale-Gagetown (8-1) at New Haven Merritt (9-0) in 8-player football.
The first time Cass City travelled to USA, in the opening week of the GTW season, the Patriots dealt the Red Hawks’ title hopes a serious blow. Trailing 22-16 with the clock running down in the fourth quarter, USA running back Tanner Foley scored a touchdown on the final play of regulation to tie the game at 22-22. Then, with no time on the clock, Foley ran in the two-point conversion to give the Patriots a dramatic 24-22 win, in what would be a sign of things to come in GTW play. USA won the league title with a 5-0 record, Laker was second at 4-1, Cass City finished at 3-2 in league play and Reese was 2-3. Each game that included two of the four teams was decided by one score or less.
USA, the No. 8 team in Division 7 in the final AP poll, and Cass City feature similar styles of play — and both teams include an effective three-pronged running attack.
“It’s a good matchup up for us because Cass City is a team that is extremely physical,” Langs said. “And we like to hang our hats on (being physical), that’s our style of football for sure.”
The Patriots have received monumental rushing efforts from halfbacks Josh Lang and Macklin Gettel — and fullback Foley — this year. And quarterback Ryan Kain has been asked to carry the ball more of late, and was one of three USA players to rush over 100 yards in a season-ending win over Harbor Beach.
It’s not unusual to see three Red Hawks’s go over the century rushing mark either, it’s happened three times this year — including the past two weeks. Nick Perry, Brad Hacker and T.J. Moore have each showed the capability of breaking off a big run, and each is capable of putting up monster numbers on any given night.
The winner of Friday’s 7 p.m. game will advance to play the winner of Laker at No. 4 Ubly.
Division 7: Reese (5-4) at New Lothrop (8-1) Friday, 7 p.m.
The bad news for Reese is that the Hornets have won 61 of their last 62 regular season games. The good news is that one loss came last week against Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary. The Rockets, which lost their four games by a combined 21 points, still face a monumental task against the No. 6 team in the state. Reese is fueled by a high-powered offense that features quarterback Jake Galsterer, and running backs Jacob Hartman, Mitchell Bender and Ryan Maclin. The winner of this one faces the winner of Whittemore-Prescott at Flint Hamady.
Division 6: Hemlock (5-4) at Millington (8-1) Friday, 7 p.m.
Millington is the No. 3 team in Division 6 according to the final AP poll, and is heavily favored to advance to the second round of the playoffs against the winner of Montrose at Laingsburg. The Cardinals feature a high-powered and balanced offensive attack led by quarterback Bryce Bearss and running back Brady Payne. Millington got a boost mid-season with the return from injury of linebacker Jared Roehl — last year’s Thumb Player of the Year. Millington’s only lose came at Frankenmuth (24-1), while Hemlock also played the Eagles, losing 34-0 in Week 1.
Division 5: Essexville Garber (7-2) at Frankenmuth (8-1) Friday, 7 p.m.
The Eagles will look to regroup after seeing their chance for a perfect season end in Week 9 with a loss to Freeland for the second consecutive year. Frankenmuth and Garber are familiar foes, both playing in the Tri-Valley Conference East. The Eagles went to Garber in Week 6 and delivered a 34-8 loss to the Dukes. No. 7 Frankenmuth is led by dual-threat quarterback Jared Davis, who is also one of the best defensive backs in Michigan. Kris Roche leads the Eagles rushing attack while Nathaniel Lambeth, Davis and Roche have led an Eagles’ defense that allowed just 50 points this season. The winner of this game will play the winner of Saginaw Swan Valley at No. 3 Freeland.
Division 6: New Haven Merritt (9-0) at Owendale-Gagetown (8-1) Friday 7 p.m.
The Bulldogs will be looking for a little payback on Friday against the team that handed them their only setback of the year. A 36-30 Week 6 loss cost O-G its chances at a second Mid-Michigan 8-Player League championship in a row. O-G running back David Binder has been hobbled by injury most of the year. The senior, a first-team all-state selection a year ago, is healthy, and along with the emergence of fellow running back Jake Warack, gives the Bulldogs reason to be optimistic for a win against New Haven this time. The victor of Webberville at No. 2 Deckerville awaits the winner of this contest.