Canton is riding an eight-game winning streak and has its offense playing at a high level going into its Division 1 pre-district game against Saline on Friday night at Canton.
Canton — 8-1 and ranked No. 14 in The News Super 20 poll — has averaged 44 points and 500 yards of offense during the streak, piling up 405 yards a game on the ground.
While Canton longtime coach Tim Baechler isn’t known for an aerial attack, senior quarterback Connor Engel has completed 77 percent of his passes (37-of-48) during the streak for 784 yards and 10 TDs with just one intercepted.
Saline — 7-1 and ranked No. 15 — owns a seven-game winning streak and also has a strong offense, led by senior quarterback Cole Daniels (96-of-149, 1,293 yards, 11 TDs, two interceptions) behind an offensive line anchored by Michigan State-bound Dimitri Douglas.
“Saline’s offensive line is the best they have had and their D-line is very good and their entire defense is well coached,” Baechler said. “They have excellent receivers, quarterback and a tough running back (Brandon Munday).
“They can run it and throw it well. We have to make plays when they throw it and not make mental errors on their trick plays. We also must recover their onside kicks too. It’s a great rivalry we’ve had with them. They are so deep and don’t have anybody going both ways, we have five.”
The teams have played the previous three years in the postseason with Saline coming out on top twice, including 37-31 in last year’s district final.
Saline has lost two starters on defense to ACL injuries earlier this month and that will prove costly in trying to stop Canton’s running game.
Pick: Canton by 6
Bloomfield Hills (6-3) at West Bloomfield (7-2), 7 Friday: West Bloomfield will be looking for revenge after suffering a 28-24 Week 2 loss to Bloomfield Hills, failing to close out a 24-7 lead in the final quarter.
West Bloomfield has won seven straight since that loss, averaging 54 points. Bowling Green-bound quarterback Bryce Veasley has played at a high level the last four games, completing 73 percent of his passes (61-of-83) for 1,039 yards and 11 TDs while also rushing for eight TDs.
Look for Ball State-bound quarterback John Paddock to have a strong game for Bloomfield Hills, but there will be no fourth-quarter comeback this time around.
Pick: West Bloomfield by 8
Salem (5-4) at Belleville (9-0), 7 Friday: Salem earned its first state playoff appearance in 26 years and has played well defensively in a number of games, including a 10-7 win over Brighton, 40-12 win over Howell and 34-14 win over Novi, but No. 1 Belleville has an outstanding offensive line and too much firepower.
Jermain Crowell remembers his head-coaching debut at Belleville which just so happened to not turn out the way he planned, a 22-12 season-opening loss to Salem in 2015.
Look for Patrick Lupro, who recently received an offer from Syracuse, to score TDs in multiple ways to help Belleville earn its first playoff victory in 15 years.
Pick: Belleville by 12
Detroit Catholic Central (5-4) at Livonia Stevenson (5-4), 7 Friday: Catholic Central finds itself in unfamiliar territory, opening the playoffs on the road and trying to end a losing streak.
Catholic Central, which advanced to the Division 1 state championship game at Ford Field last season, has dropped two straight games — 20-6 and 35-14 losses to Warren De LaSalle the last two weekends — and will need a strong game to defeat a Stevenson team which has dropped four of its final five games after an impressive 4-0 start.
Pick: Catholic Central by 6