UPPER THUMB — Believe it or not, we’re already past the midpoint of the high school football season.
And that means it’s time to start talking league championships and possible playoff teams.
This week, instead of the usual Week 5 preview, we’re going to dive into the area’s three leagues and see which teams are headed up and which teams are headed down.
Here we go.
Greater Thumb East
Obviously, the big matchup Friday night takes place at Harbor Beach where the 3-1 Pirates host 4-0 Ubly in a battle of GTE unbeatens.
Because of the odd scheduling this season, this will be the Bearcats’ fourth GTE contest while it’s just the Pirates’ second league game.
Ubly, in fact, can clinch at least a share of the GTE championship with a victory. The Bearcats could then grab the outright title with a win over Brown City in Week 7.
Nevertheless, this game will be an excellent marker as to where these two teams stand.
The Pirates surprised a lot of people — including me, yes, — with their 31-7 shelling of Brown City last week.
In that game, Harbor Beach took advantage of five Brown City turnovers, scoring 31 unanswered over the final three quarters.
Defense ruled for the Pirates. They limited a decent Brown City running game to 117 yards on 44 carries.
Offensively, quarterback Sean Sorenson was Harbor Beach’s main playmaker. Sorenson scored on runs of 3 and 5 yards, and tossed a 12-yard TD pass to Ryan Maurer and had a 54-yard scoring hook-up with Aaron Ginther.
While the Pirates rushed for just 164 yards, Sorenson completed eight passes for 178 yards.
This is where, I think, Harbor Beach can take advantage against the Bearcats.
Ubly, this year anyway, seems vulnerable against the pass. The Bearcats gave up nearly 200 yards via the pass against Sandusky in Week 2, though did improve the following week against a talented Marlette team.
If the Pirates are going to hang with the Bearcats, they must be able to throw the ball and loosen up the Ubly defense.
I still think Ubly will eventually pull away from the Pirates late in the fourth quarter and win, but Harbor Beach — because of its defense — will hang around and make it tough.
The other interesting game in the GTE pits 2-2 Marlette visiting 2-2 Sandusky.
Both teams have been up and down this season, and both desperately need a win to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Both teams have solid offenses. The winner might have to get into the 40s.
The other GTE game this week is 2-2 Brown City at 0-4 Mayville.
The Green Devils have been a hard team to figure out so far this season. They pushed Cass City to the limit in a 7-6 setback in Week 2, but then they were wiped out by Harbor Beach last week.
Greater Thumb West
The GTW has a pair of quality matchups this week.
At Cass City, the 3-1 Red Hawks host 4-0 Reese.
The question for the Red Hawks is can they bounce back from a tough overtime loss to Unionville-Sebewaing Area last week?
Cass City had that game in its grasp, but let the Patriots off the hook with some shoddy defense in the game’s final minute.
I expect them to be fired up because it’s Homecoming, but the Rockets have too much firepower on the offensive end.
What’s going on with Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port you ask? Well, I am not sure either.
After opening the season with a promising road victory at Carrollton, the Lakers have dropped three straight games, including last week’s disappointing 24-14 setback at home to Marlette.
Now, the 1-3 Lakers host dangerous Bay City All Saints (2-2) on Friday.
BCAS quarterback Drew Janer could have a field day against the Lakers’ defense. EPBP is big, but not that quick. If Janer gets by the front six, he’s probable gone.
The other GTW matchup pits 3-1 USA visiting 0-4 Bad Axe.
The Patriots will have the best athletes on the field, and should be able to handle the Hatchets.
USA’s improbable march will get a stern test in the coming weeks. The Patriots travel to Vassar next week, followed by the annual Pioneer Sugar Bowl with Reese at home in Week 7. They close out the season with Sandusky and Harbor Beach.
North Central Thumb League
The only NCTL game this week takes place at North Huron where the 1-3 Warriors host 0-3 Peck.
After a brutal schedule to start the season, North Huron gets a reprieve this week before heading north to Mio-Au Sable in Week 6.
Non-league games this week include 2-2 Vassar at 1-3 Memphis, 4-0 Deckerville at 2-2 Saginaw Buena Vista, and 2-2 Kingston at 1-3 Arenac Eastern.
Of note, the Eagles are one of just eight undefeated teams in Class D.
The ironic part about this is that Deckerville usually has a very high playoff point total. But this year, because the Eagles have played three NCTL teams, they rank last in the unbeatens with just 42.000 points.
Here are my picks for the week. Last week, I was a so-so 12-3...
USA at Bad Axe – After consecutive hard-fought wins over EPBP and Cass City, the Patriots will get a little easier victory over Bad Axe.
SCORE: USA 40, Bad Axe 12
BCAS at EPBP – As much as I'd like to take the Lakers, they haven't shown me enough on offense.
SCORE: BCAS 28, EPBP 15
Reese at Cass City – Cass City will be ready to go on Homecoming, but the Rockets will spoil the party.
PICK: Reese 31, Cass City 20
Ubly at Harbor Beach – This is Harbor Beach's first home game of the season. It will be close at the half, but the Bearcats should pull away late.
SCORE: Ubly 34, Harbor Beach 15
Brown City at Mayville – A must-win for the Green Devils.
SCORE: Brown City 35, Mayville 8
Marlette at Sandusky – A very intriguing matchup. The Redskins will win a shootout.
SCORE: Sandusky 45, Marlette 35
Peck at North Huron – North Huron's Homecoming will be a victory.
SCORE: North Huron 40, Peck 18
Vassar at Memphis – The Vulcans will take out their frustrations on the Yellowjackets.
SCORE: Vassar 50, Memphis 12
Deckerville at Saginaw Buena Vista – BV is better than it has been in the past, but not THAT better.
SCORE: Deckerville 48, Saginaw BV 8
Kingston at Arenac Eastern – Arenac Eastern's three losses have been by a combined score of 136-6. Kingston steals one on the road.
SCORE: Kingston 21, Arenac Eastern 16
Bowling Green at Michigan – Let's hope the Wolverines put this one away quicker than they did against UMass.
SCORE: Michigan 40, Bowling Green 20
Northern Colorado at Michigan State – Letdown Alert. A big win. A recovering coach. MSU better be aware.
SCORE: Michigan State 31, Northern Colorado 17
Central Michigan at Northwestern – The Wildcats are a pretty good team.
SCORE: Northwestern 28, CMU 10
Alabama at Arkansas – Probably the Tide's toughest test of the season. I think Arkansas can win, and it might hold a lead for a while, but Alabama is good. Real good.
SCORE: Alabama 31, Arkansas 22
Lions at Vikings – What better way for Brett Favre to get back into the groove than to go up against the Lions pitiful secondary. Favre might get sacked 7 times, but I bet he throws for over 300 yards.
SCORE: Vikings 28, Lions 14