PREP FOOTBALL PLAYOFFS NOTEBOOK: Clarkston, Lake Orion on opposite ends; Avondale looking forward to rough run
BY DAN STICKRADT
For the past two decades, whenever Clarkston and Lake Orion were in the postseason at the same time, they were often lumped into the same district or region. Proximity-wise, this made sense, considering the two schools are only around 10 miles apart.
This season, the two state powerhouse teams have a line drawn between them on the state playoffs map. The two OAA Red Division rivals are placed in opposite brackets, meaning that they could face each other in a state final if they are both able to make a run.
Clarkston, ranked No. 1 in the state in the Associated Press polls, defeated Lake Orion, 21-14, in a come-from-behind fashion to win the OAA Red Division title in Week 8. Neither of the two will get a chance to host a rematch.
If Clarkston wins its district, it will get a chance to host a team from the west side in the regional finals. Lake Orion will stay in the Oakland-Macomb areas for the first three rounds if the Dragons are to prevail.
Clarkston hosts Davison in the first round, while Lake Orion will entertain Sterling Heights Stevenson, the 2009 state runner-up that defeated Clarkston in the Final Four that season. Lake Orion was the 2010 state champion and the 2008 state runner-up.
Three times, Clarkston has reached the Final Four, including 1999, 2000 and 2009. The Wolves have never reached the state title game.
What helps makes this potential scenario this season is that three teams from the OAA-Red, Rochester, Rochester Stoney Creek and Troy, all finished 5-4 and all just missed the cut. Had any of these teams gone 6-3 or made the cut as an at-large team, Lake Orion would have likely remained in the same district with Clarkston.
Regardless of what happens, Clarkston and Lake Orion are the only Division 1 teams with local ties to www.northoaklandsports.com to make the postseason.
The other local teams to qualify are Oxford (Division 2), Auburn Hills Avondale (Division 3), Pontiac Notre Dame Prep (Division 4), Rochester Hills Lutheran Northwest (Division 7) and Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes (Division 4) will also play one more week (please see statewide pairings at http://northoaklandsports.com/2012/10/21/2012-mhsaa-prep-football-playoffs-pairings/ )
Auburn Hills Avondale will face Bloomfield Hills Lahser for the second time in three weeks when they meet at Avondale in a Division 3 pre-district.
“If we can beat Lahser again, then we should get another shot at (Orchard Lake) St. Mary’s. We understand that we have to see teams like that eventually if you are going to make a run,” noted Avondale coach Steve Deutsch.
This is the fourth time in five seasons that Avondale has made the postseason cut. Back in 2007, the Yellowjackets finished 0-9.
Two years ago Avondale had one of the state’s best offenses but was exposed by St. Mary’s in the district finals.
“We have to beat Lahser first, but if we do, we’ll be ready, this time,” said Deutsch. “There are no easy games in the postseason and St. Mary’s is always one of the teams to beat.”
There were four local teams that held faint hope this weekend that 5-4 records would include enough playoffs points to get into the postseason as at-large teams.
Troy, Rochester, Rochester Stoney Creek and Holly all finished with those marks but saw their bubbles burst Sunday evening. There were a total of 19, 5-4 teams statewide that reached the postseason in one of the eight divisions of 11-man football and no local school were included in that elect group.
Rochester lost three of its final four games after starting 4-1, including losses to Stoney Creek and Rochester Adams the final two weeks of the season.
Troy had an injury-plagued season with a revolving door of injuries to starters, in particular skilled positions players. The Colts played Week 9 without its two running backs and even had to go down to a third-string quarterback in some games in the middle of the season.
Stoney Creek could not hold onto a halftime lead against Southfield in Week 9, plus the Cougars lost to Troy earlier in the season. The 5-4 record does not overshadow the fact at how improved Stoney Creek was in 2002 after finishing 1-8 last season and 2-7 in 2010.
Rochester Hills Lutheran Northwest coach Don Justice opted not to play in Week 9 this season for a reason.
“I know the last few years we’ve been so beat up by the end of the year that it hurt us in the end,” said Justice. “Last year we didn’t even make the playoffs. I thought we had a good chance to get five wins (on an eight-game schedule). We planned it so if we get to the postseason, we would have a week off to rest.”
The Crusaders, who are making their fourth trip in five seasons, will host Flint Beecher in a pre-district game.
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