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David Goricki breaks down prep football playoff field

David Goricki
The Detroit News

Division 1

Defending champion — Clarkston (two straight)

State final prediction: Saline over West Bloomfield

Toughest district: Region 2, District 1 with two-time defending state champion Clarkston having to go up against the toughest team in Macomb County in No. 9 Romeo before a possible matchup against the winner of unbeaten and No. 10 Lapeer vs. Davison (5-4). Clarkston defeated Lapeer, 23-20, in a district final last year.

Toughest region: Region 4 with Macomb County powers Dakota (7-2), Chippewa Valley (7-2) and Utica Eisenhower (6-3), which is coming off a 17-14 win over Romeo, all battling in District 1 for a chance at a possible matchup with either No. 4 Detroit Cass Tech or No. 18 Sterling Heights Stevenson.

Notable: Five teams with 5-4 records made playoffs, including a Novi team which started season 0-3 and a Monroe team which needed a 28-14 win over Dearborn Fordson Friday. Monroe’s reward is a first-round matchup at Saline.

High school football playoff pairings

Division 2

Defending champion — Warren DeLaSalle

State final prediction: Detroit King over Walled Lake Western

Toughest district: Region 1, District 1 with No. 6 Muskegon Mona Shores having a possible district final showdown with the winner of No. 16 Muskegon vs. unbeaten Traverse City Central if it gets by Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern (7-2) in the first round. Mona Shores defeated Muskegon, 21-18, in Week 8.

Toughest region: Region 4 with top-ranked Detroit King having a possible district final showdown with Wyandotte, then a possible regional final battle with PSL rival East English Village Prep, which King defeated in Week 3, 20-15. But, first East English would have to dethrone defending state champion Warren De La Salle in a district opener at Wayne State.

Notable: Muskegon moved up to Division 2 after losing to Orchard Lake St. Mary’s in last year’s state title game. Four teams with 5-4 records made the playoffs.

Division 3

Defending champion — Orchard Lake St. Mary’s

State final prediction: Orchard Lake St. Mary’s over St. Joseph

Toughest district: Region 3, District 1 with a possible showdown between St. Joseph (8-1) and Stevensville Lakeshore (6-3) in the final, but first St. Joseph — with standout junior defensive end Corey Malone-Hatcher — which defeated previously unbeaten Portage Central, 22-6, Friday, has to get by Sturgis (6-3), while Lakeshore has to get past unbeaten Edwardsburg. Stevensville handed St. Joseph its lone loss back in Week 4, 28-14.

Toughest region: Region 4 with Downriver League powers Allen Park (8-1) and Trenton (8-1) in the mix, along with Chelsea (8-1), which showcases three-star receiver Bailey Edwards, who had big plays — 70-yard TD kickoff return and 50-yard TD reception — Friday in a 34-24 win over Dearborn Divine Child.

Notable: Four teams with 5-4 record received slots, including a Redford Thurston team which was handed a 38-0 loss by U-D Jesuit Friday.

Division 4

Defending champion — Grand Rapids South Christian

State final prediction: Zeeland West over Detroit Country Day

Toughest district: Region 3, District 2 with Croswell-Lexington (6-3) facing Richmond (8-1) and Marysville (7-2) playing at Pontiac Notre Dame Prep (7-2). Richmond defeated Marysville, 20-12, in its opener. Notre Dame has played well all season aside from a pair of losses against Detroit Loyola, the top team in Division 7.

Toughest region: Region 4 with Detroit Country Day more than likely to get out of District 2 before having a potential showdown with either unbeaten Detroit Northwestern or Milan.

Notable: Five teams with 5-4 records will get the opportunity to play in the playoffs, including Benton Harbor, which will be making its first appearance after having its first winning season since 1989.

Division 5

Defending champion — Grand Rapids West Catholic (two-time)

State final prediction: Lansing Catholic Central over Dearborn Heights Robichaud

Toughest district: Without a doubt Regional 2, District 1 with unbeaten Portland and Lansing Catholic Central having a possible district title showdown. Portland handed Minnesota-bound quarterback Tony Poljan and LCC their lone loss back in Week 4, 28-6.

Toughest region: Region 1 with two-time defending state champ Grand Rapids West Catholic, and unbeaten Reed City and Menominee — ranked No. 1 by the Associated Press — competing.

Notable: Four teams with 5-4 record received playoff spots.

Division 6

Defending champion — Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central (ended Ithaca’s run of four)

State final prediction: Ithaca over Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central

Toughest district: Region 4, District 2 with an 8-1 Madison Heights Madison team, led by outstanding runner Lance Mitchell, possibly having a district-final matchup with unbeaten Clinton or defending state champ Monroe St. Mary (8-1) if it can get by Warren Michigan Collegiate (5-4).

Toughest region: Region 4 with the aforementioned Madison, Clinton and Monroe St. Mary, along with an 8-1 Manchester from District 1 which showcases running back Trevor Humphrey. Manchester has had rushing games of 374 yards and 339 during the last half of the season.

Notable: A pair of unbeaten teams in Traverse City St. Francis and Clinton moved up from Division 7. Seven 5-4 teams received postseason bids.

Division 7

Defending champion — Detroit Loyola

State final prediction: Detroit Loyola over Ishpeming

Toughest district: Region 3, District 1 with three unbeaten teams in the field: Pewamo-Westphalia, Saugatuck and Hesperia.

Toughest region: Region 2 with unbeaten New Lothrop and a 7-2 Flint Hamady team, which defeated Harper Woods Chandler Park, 29-8, in Week 9, in District 2 and unbeaten Sandusky competing in District 1. New Lothrop has outscored its opponents by a 419-49 margin.

Notable: Loyola and Ishpeming have faced each other in the state championship game the previous three years with Ishpeming coming out on top in 2012 and ’13. Six 5-4 teams will be competing in the playoffs.

Division 8

Defending champion — Muskegon Catholic Central (two-time)

State final prediction: Waterford Lakes over Muskegon Catholic Central

Toughest district: Region 4, District 1 due to the point no first-round challenge could be tougher than having a traditional power like Mendon (5-4) being the reward for an unbeaten season for Climax-Scotts.

Toughest region: Region 1 with unbeaten Lake Linden-Hubbell and 8-1 St. Ignace having a possible showdown in the final. However, Lake Linden-Hubbell has to first get past a first-round match against a 5-3 Crystal Falls Forest Park team which pushed it to the limit Friday, 34-28.

Notable: Three teams with 5-4 records got in, along with a 4-4 Baldwin team.