Goricki’s prep picks: Look for Detroit C.C., Cass Tech to prevail

David Goricki
The Detroit News

Thirty-two football teams remain, just a win away from earning the right to play at Ford Field for a chance at a state championship over Thanksgiving weekend.

Here’s a look at this weekend’s semifinals:

Division 1

Detroit Catholic Central (8-4) vs. Clarkston (10-2), 1 Saturday, at Walled Lake Western

Catholic Central and Clarkston had to pull out victories in the regional-title games with Catholic Central defeating Canton, 27-26, in overtime, while Clarkston came back from a 22-6 fourth-quarter deficit to defeat Holland West Ottawa, 29-22.

“I think it’s going to come down to whoever’s power game is the best,” Clarkston coach Kurt Richardson said. “We’ve kind of transformed and became a power running team the last part of the season, especially with the weather, and that’s CC’s thing forever and the weather is supposed to be windy and rainy and nasty so it will come down to who can run the ball the best.”

Look for Catholic Central senior running back Cameron Ryan to have a big game.

Pick: Catholic Central by 2

Detroit Cass Tech (9-2) vs. West Bloomfield (10-2), 1 Saturday, at Troy Athens

West Bloomfield has won its first district and regional titles in program history and has a strong aerial attack in Bowling Green-bound quarterback Bryce Veasley and Wisconsin-bound receivers Taj Mustapha and A.J. Abbott. But Cass Tech has postseason experience and an outstanding secondary led by Kalon Gervin.

Pick: Cass Tech by 6

More: Detroit News prep football picks: State semifinals

Division 2

Livonia Franklin (10-2) vs. Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central (12-0), 1 Saturday, at Grand Ledge

Franklin has shown the ability to win close games and sophomore quarterback Jacob Kelbert is getting better every week. Forest Hills Central already has taken care of heavyweight Muskegon Mona Shores (28-21) and then Traverse City Central (28-10) and owns a strong secondary.

Pick: Franklin by 1

Warren De La Salle (10-2) vs. Detroit King (11-1), 1 Saturday, at Hazel Park

This is the Catholic League champion vs. the PSL champion. De LaSalle’s defense has played well in the postseason, allowing a total of seven points in the three games. Still, King has a lot of weapons, giving it a balanced attack with the running of Jalen Jackson (1,388 yards, 18 TDs) and passing of junior Jaquan Finn.

Pick: King by 4

Division 3

Battle Creek Harper Creek (12-0) vs. Muskegon (12-0), 1 Saturday, at East Kentwood

Muskegon is arguably the premier team in the state with a pair of Division 1 offensive linemen in junior Anthony Bradford and Penn State-bound Antwan Reed protecting quarterback La’Darius Jefferson, who received a recent offer from Michigan State.

Pick: Muskegon by 10

Farmington Hills Harrison (9-3) vs. Riverview (11-1), noon Saturday, at Rochester

Harrison’s defense, led by Notre Dame-bound linebacker Ovie Oghoufo, will be tested, but Harrison has an outstanding running game of its own, led by junior Rod Heard, who piled up 233 yards and scored three TDs in a 34-21 regional title win at Linden.

Pick: Harrison by 6

Division 4

River Rouge (10-2) vs. Edwardsburg (11-1), 1 Saturday, at Withington Stadium in Jackson

River Rouge will have to clean up its mistakes — three turnovers, two in the red zone in its regional victory — if it hopes to beat a talented Edwardsburg team led by linebacker Kyle Shrider. Look for River Rouge junior quarterback Emanuel Ferguson to shine.

Pick: River Rouge by 8

Escanaba (10-2) vs. Grand Rapids Catholic Central (12-0), 1 Saturday, at Thirlby Field in Traverse City

Escanaba has been piling up points, averaging 37 points, but it hasn’t gone up against a defense like Grand Rapids Catholic Central’s, led by Michigan-bound Jaylen Mayfield and Aidan Burns.

Pick: GRCC by 12

Division 5

Reed City (11-1) vs. Saginaw Swan Valley (11-1), 1 Saturday, at Greenville

Reed City has showcased a dominant running game, led by junior Phillip Jones, who has rushed for 1,776 yards and 31 TDs. He can get things done on special teams too, returning a kickoff 90 yards for a TD to help give Reed City its first regional title with a 46-34 win over Menominee.

Pick: Reed City by 2 (OT)

Grand Rapids West Catholic (10-2) vs. Frankenmuth (12-0), 1 Saturday, at Fenton

All you have to know is West Catholic is the four-time defending state champion, knows what it takes to get to Ford Field and has an experienced quarterback in Gaetano Vallone, who is a talented dual-threat.

Still, Frankenmuth has a talented quarterback of its own in Zach Jacobs, playing behind a strong offensive line led by Evan Geyer and Ben Schuler.

Pick: Frankenmuth by 1

Division 6

Jackson Lumen Christi (10-1) vs. Warren Michigan Collegiate (12-0), 1 Saturday, at Chelsea

Look for a lot of running in this one with Warren Michigan Collegiate quarterback Tracy Hubbard rushing for more than 2,000 yards and 30 TDs, and Lumen Christi running back Sebastian Toland averaging more than 10 yards a carry Lumen Christi’s postseason experience is the difference in this one.

Pick: Lumen Christi by 6

Traverse City St. Francis (11-1) vs. Ithaca (12-0), 1 Saturday, at Mount Pleasant’s Community Memorial Stadium

Ithaca has produced some excellent quarterbacks in the past and it has another in Joey Bentley, who has rushed for more than 1,400 yards and 20 TDs and thrown for more than 1,900 yards and 27 TDs. St. Francis has a solid running game, but won’t be able to stop Bentley.

Pick: Ithaca by 8

Division 7

Saugatuck (9-3) vs. Madison Heights Madison (12-0), 1 Saturday, at Lansing Catholic

Madison junior QB Austin Brown is used to playing in big games, starting for Detroit Catholic Central last year before suffering an injury in the semifinals. Brown and receiver Zyaire Croskey will be too tough to handle.

Pick: Madison by 10

Pewamo-Westphalia (11-1) vs. Lake City (12-0), 1 Saturday, at Clare

Pewamo-Westphalia won the state championship last season, but no longer has talented running back Jared Smith. Still, P-W has a talented quarterback in Jimmy Lehman who does some damage from his defensive end spot, as well.

Pick: P-W by 4

Division 8

Iron River West Iron County (11-1) vs. Saginaw Nouvel (12-0), 7 Friday, at Superior Dome at Northern Michigan

Nouvel has a talented quarterback in Tate Hausbeck who is big and talented, throwing for more than 2,300 yards while also getting things done on the ground when needed.

Pick: Nouvel by 6

Ottawa Lake Whiteford (12-0) vs. Mendon (12-0), 1 Saturday, at Howell

Mendon has been the class of this division, sending four-time defending champion Muskegon Catholic Central to the sidelines. Both teams have outstanding running backs, Logan Murphy for Whiteford and Wyatt Cool for Mendon. Whiteford lost to MCC at Ford Field in the championship game last year, but won’t be making a return trip.

Pick: Mendon by 2