Reed City hosts Manistee; Big Rapids to host Chippewa Hills

BIG RAPIDS — Five area football teams learned their playoff fates with the MHSAA’s announcement of playoff pairings on Sunday. Three schools — Big Rapids, Reed City and Evart — will host first round contests, while Chippewa Hills and Baldwin will play on the road. Times and dates for this weekend’s playoff match-ups will be announced today. Big Rapids (8-1) will host CSAA rival Chippewa Hills (6-3) in a rematch of one of the league’s best regular season contests — a thrilling 29-27 decision in favor of the Cardinals. Chippewa Hills coach Larry Jose said he’s excited for a rematch with the Cardinals, but knows his team will have its hands full. “They’re a very good football team,” Jose said. “I thought we played very well against them the first time, but we didn’t quite get it done. They’ve got a ton of kids that are very good and will play on Saturdays.” Ogemaw Heights (6-3) will host Cheboygan (6-3) on the other half of the bracket. After its second consecutive undefeated regular season and CSAA title, Reed City (9-0) will host Manistee (6-3) in first round action in Division 5. Grant (6-3) will travel to Newaygo (7-2) on the other side of the region. The Chippewas have been a common opponent of the Coyotes since Reed City coach Monty Price has been coaching there. Price said a showdown with a nonconference rival is the perfect way to kick off the playoffs. “They’re a team we’re very familiar with,” Price said. “It’s always been a dog fight in our match-ups and I would expect the same thing here. It’s been a good rivalry for many years and our kids are excited to be playing them.” Manistee coach Gus Kapolka said the rivalry adds some excitement to the first round showdown. “I think that’s going to add a little something more to the game,” he said. “Everybody that has played football at Manistee has played Reed City at least once and that’s going back 50 years. So, there’s that added familiarity and maybe a little bit of animosity on both sides and I think that’s going to make for a heck of an atmosphere on Friday night down there.” Evart (7-2) will host its first round game against Carson City Crystal (7-2) in Division 7 action. The Wildcats are back in the playoffs for the first time since 2007. Evart coach Pat Craven said he only saw one scenario where his team would be hosting a first round game, and the Wildcats got it in their match-up against Carson City. “We’re excited for our kids, who worked hard all season to be in a position to qualify for the playoffs,” he said. “This was the only scenario I could see with us getting a home game, so the kids — especially the seniors — are excited to host a game.” Baldwin (6-3) will travel to Fowler (8-1) in Division 8 action. Vestaburg (6-3) and Muskegon Catholic Central (6-3) make up the other side of the bracket. Fowler is the defending state runner-up in Division 8. The Eagles’ only loss this season was to defending state champion Mendon in week one. Baldwin coach Doug Bolles said the match-up does have a “David vs. Goliath” feel, but his players are embracing the challenge. “We’re going into this with the mentality that if you’re going to be the best, you have to beat the best,” he said. “We keep telling the kids, at least we’re not putting our jerseys away. “Our goals this year were to win the (West Michigan D League title), make the playoffs and win a playoff game for the first time in Baldwin history,” he added. “We’ve done the first two and we’ve got a shot at the third.”