Here’s a preview of three TCC teams – Clinton, Sand Creek and Whiteford – who will play in the first round of the prep football playoffs tonight:
D I V I S I O N 7: SAND CREEK (6-3) AT SMCC (7-2)
When: 7 p.m. Friday.
Coaches: Scott Gallagher, 10-8 in second year at Sand Creek; Adam Kipf, 26-14 in fourth season at SMCC.
Playoff history: Sand Creek is making its 21st playoff appearances. SMCC is in the playoffs for the 23rd time.
Series history: The schools have never played before.
Stat watch: Sand Creek’s Alec Muck has rushed for 1,312 yards, passed for 107 yards and caught three passes for 76 yards. He needs 14 yards to reach 4,000 in career rushing. SMCC’s two leading rushers – Alex Morgan (800 yards) and Sam Cousino (580 yards) weren’t the starting running backs to open the season for the Falcons but pressed into the job due to injuries.
Key to the game: Tackling, said Kipf, is the key. “We’ve got to play physical upfront and tackle well,” he said. “We can’t let them find creases and hit the open field because they have a lot of speed.”
Final comment: “We are best when we have all of those guys and our offense can be more deceiving,” Sand Creek coach Scott Gallagher said. “That’s what the single wing is all about. With Will and Alec, we have two guys the defense has to watch out for.”
D I V I S I O N 7: CLINTON (7-2) AT SPRINGPORT (7-2)
When: 7 p.m. Friday.
Coaches: Jeremy Fielder is in his first season at Clinton. Springport is coached by Matt Schwartzkopf who is 57-40 in his 10th season.
Playoff history: Spingport has never won a playoff game. Schwartzkopf is 0-7 in the playoffs. Clinton has appeared in two state finals in recent years and this is the seventh straight season the Redskins have qualified for the playoffs.
Series history: Clinton is 2-0 against Spingport all-time a 7-0 win in 1970 and a 6-0 win in 1971.
Stat watch: Dylan Settles leads Clinton in rushing (611) and passing (401). Ryan Jonas is Springfield’s leading rusher (611 yards through 8 games) and quarterback Brady Petzold had 1,749 yards passing going into Week 9. Springport has two receivers with more than 35 receptions – Keegan Nutt and Mitch Nutt.
Key to the game: Clinton and Springport have had very similar seasons. Both lost to a highly-ranked team and a playoff-bound Division 6 team. Clinton has outscored its opponents 342-205 while Springport has scored 346 points and allowed 215. But, the differences are many when it comes to the offense. Clinton likes to run the ball behind a solid offensive line. Springport has completed nearly 120 passes.
Final comment: “Their quarterback is outstanding, and they have four very capable receivers,” Clinton coach Jeremy Fielder said. “They have several outstanding skilled players, in fact. Their offensive line is quick, not the biggest, but they are fast. Defensively, they are very fast and aggressive.”
D I V I S I O N 8: LENAWEE CHRISTIAN (8-1) AT WHITEFORD (9-0)
When: 7 p.m. Friday.
Coaches: Bill Wilharms is 36-21 in his sixth year at LCS. Jason Mensing is 70-13 in his seventh year at Whiteford.
Playoff history: LCS has made the playoffs four times, three under Wilharms. Whiteford has appeared in the state playoffs 19 times overall, including all seven years that Mensing has been coach of the Bobcats.
Series history: In the only meeting between the schools, Whiteford beat LCS 61-6 in the first round of the 2017 playoffs, launching the Bobcats’ state championship run.
Stat watch: Whiteford is 36-1 since the start of the 2016 season and has won 46 of its past 50 games. LCS was the No. 1 team in Division 8 according to the final Associated Press poll of the season. The Bobcats’ Logan Murphy needs 42 yards to reach 1,000 rushing for the season. LCS is led by quarterback Adam Baker, who has thrown for 1,504 yards and rushed for 409. He has 20 TD passes.
Key to the game: The Bobcats gave up more than 250 yards passing in Week 9 and now must work to limit Baker, who averages nearly 200 yards passing a game. Meanwhile, look for the Bobcats to run the ball against a smaller Cougar line.
Final comment: “It’s an opportunity for us,” Cougar coach Bill Wilharms said. “Jason (Mensing) has a great team again. They are big upfront and have that power run game and throw the ball just enough that you have to honor it. They’re good. It’s definitely going to be a heck of a mountain to climb, but we’re going to do our best.”