playoff previews/predictions: Willow Run must continue to create turnovers to sustain success
For the first time in its football program's history, Willow Run High School will host a playoff game on Friday as Grass Lake head's to Ypsilanti for the Division 6 - Region 4 -District 1 final. Following is a preview of the game.
Both Willow Run and Grass Lake picked up upset wins in the opening round of the playoffs last Friday. The Flyers took advantage of four interceptions - including one inside their own 10-yard line with under a minute to play - to defeat the district’s No. 2 seed Manchester, 28-26 on the road. It was Willow Run’s first playoff win since 1981 and just the second in program history. The Warriors of Grass Lake proved to be of the road variety as well last Friday, defeating previously unbeaten Michigan Center, 29-28. Trailing 28-27 after scoring a touchdown with 1:09 left in the game, Grass Lake went for a two-point conversion and the win, and were successful in knocking off its Cascades Conference rivals and avenging a 32-14 loss in week 4.
Heading into the playoffs, nobody saw this matchup coming. Michigan Center had rolled to a perfect regular season record and a Cascades Conference championship, beating Grass Lake along the way. Meanwhile, Manchester’s high-powered offense looked to be too strong for a Willow Run team that benefited from a relatively easy independent regular season schedule.
“We heard what everyone was saying, that our schedule was easy and all that, and after not playing well against Perry and Dundee to end the season, we were kinda hanging our heads,” said Willow Run coach Rufus Pipkins. “Getting a win against a good playoff team in Manchester gave us a lot of confidence going forward and gave us some affirmation.”
AnnArbor.com file photo
“I think it’s going to come down to the same thing as it did with us, which is turnovers in the game,” said Manchester coach Wes Gall, whose team beat Grass Lake 24-20 on Oct. 8. “If Willow Run can create turnovers, they have the ability with their athleticism to create problems for Grass Lake.”
Grass Lake’s hybrid Wing-T offense won’t present as many opportunities for turnovers as Manchester’s spread formation did, but if the Flyers can contain the running game, powered by Kevin Fischer (110 rushes, 604 yards) and Frank Vuocolo (95 rushes, 570 yards) the Warriors will go to the air. Grass Lake attempted 22 passes against Michigan Center, the most it has all year.
“Against Michigan Center, we thought we’d have to have a successful passing game to win,” said Grass Lake coach Randy Cole. “(Willow Run) got some great cover guys on the outside we’ll mix it up, but yeah, we want to run the ball and maybe set up the pass.”
Willow Run was able to disrupt Manchester quarterback Nate Bossory last week, but dual-threat Grass Lake senior signal-caller Mason Finch will present a different type of challenge for the Flyers. Finch rushed for 127 yards and a touchdown and threw for another 170 yards and a score against Michigan Center.
“Their quarterback seems real athletic,” said Pipkins. “(Bossory) we knew wasn’t really a threat to beat us with his legs, just his arm. So we’ve definitely got to respect the run and the pass.”
Pete's Prediction: Grass Lake, 20-16