Previewing D3 Semi-Final: Battle Creek Harper Creek vs. Muskegon (@East Kentwood HS)
Can anyone challenge Muskegon as they eye the D3 state title in 2017? Undefeated Battle Creek Harper Creek would like to think so - and they'll give it their best shot this Saturday @ 1:00pm at East Kentwood HS in Grand Rapids.
The undefeated Muskegon Big Reds, the #15 team in the entire country according to USA Today, have been on cruise-control thus far in the 2017 MHSAA football playoffs, outscoring their opponents 151-33 in the first three rounds. In last weekend's regional final, the Big Reds absolutely dominated an otherwise very good Dewitt squad, 49-0, scoring three touchdowns before Dewitt had even run three plays.
Undefeated BC Harper Creek, a playoff qualifier 15 of the past 18 seasons, is coming off a narrow victory against East Lansing in their regional final, 16-13. This is the 4th times the Beavers have made it to the semifinal round, failing to make it any further on the first three occasions. One thing BCHC and Muskegon undoubtedly have in common is a mutual disdain for Orchard Lake St Marys - the Eaglets eliminated the BCHC in all three of their semifinal appearances, and they knocked off Muskegon in the state finals in two of the past three seasons.
The Beavers have strung together an impressive season, remaining unbeaten with regular season victories over playoff qualifiers Jackson Lumen Christi, Parma Jackson Western, Coldwater, and Whitehall. BCHC's path to the semifinals has taken them past Coldwater, Stevensville Lakeshore, and East Lansing. The Beavers will roll out a potent rushing attack, despite losing their all-state-caliber starting RB early in the season. Leading BCHC is dual-threat QB Jackson Malone who has 700+ yard rushing and 9 rush TD's on the season. Malone makes up one-third of a three-headed rushing attack, along with RB's Noah Bausermen and Jalonty Hervey. The Beavers will hope their dual-threat QB and versatile running attack can challenge what has been a nearly untouchable Muskegon defense.
The Muskegon Big Reds, lead by QB and D1-prospect La'Darius Jefferson (offers from Mich State, Central Florida), boast a college-level prospect at nearly every position on the field. The massive Big Red offensive line is anchored by tackles Antwan Reed (Penn State commit) and Anthony Bradford (multiple Big-Ten offers), and has spear-headed a scary-good running attack. That running attack starts with QB La'Darius Jefferson, and includes versatile backs CJ Jefferson, Davion McCall, and Lonnie Clark Jr. - who all have no problem transitioning seamlessly between RB and WR. The stable of Big Red backs has put up some monster numbers this season - all while often not playing all four quarters due to the high margin of victory Muskegon has been accustomed to.
The Muskegon defense has allowed an average of 6.5 points per game this season, and 8.5 points per game in the playoffs. Upfront, DL Eli Jackson and LB Ali'Vonta Wallace, both averaging nearly double-digit tackles/game, have led a rushing defense that has been all-world this season, allowing -2 rush yards in the regional final against Dewitt. In the secondary, Willie Shanks Jr. has an amazing 10 INTs on the season (multiple of which have been pick-sixes) breaking the Muskegon school record. Shanks' athleticism has gotten him some touches on the offense side of the ball as well.
Battle Creek Harper Creek has great squad and has put together a memorable season, unfortunately for the Beavers they're about to run into one of the nation's best - I just don't think there's anyway they'll be able to slow the Big Red's ground game or consistently penetrate the Big Red defensive front.
My prediction in this one: Muskegon 56 - BCHC 14. Big Reds continue their roll to Ford Field.