HARBOR BEACH — The last time Saginaw Nouvel suffered a loss it was to a Thumb school.
Harbor Beach is hoping to make it two in a row.
The Pirates (11-0) will travel to face the Panthers (10-0) at 7 p.m. Friday in Saginaw to play for the Division 7 regional championship.
Last year, Ubly ended Nouvel’s season in a 34-21 victory.
“We talked about that a little bit,” said Harbor Beach coach Troy Schelke. “I think that definitely gives us hope. We know we’re going to have to play a real good game, but we think we can play a real good game.
“If we don’t believe that we can do it, we really don’t have a chance. We first have to believe and then go out and do it.”
Nouvel has been barely tested this season, with its closest game coming in Week 8 when it beat Flint Northwestern, 36-14.
Meanwhile, the Pirates are battle tested, including last week’s 27-21 victory over Reese.
During the regular season, Harbor Beach defeated five playoff teams.
“I’m sure Nouvel is very confident and they should be, they’ve blown nearly everyone out this year,” Schelke said. “We have to get them into a close game late. If we do that, I like our chances.”
Schelke said he expects a number of different looks from the Panthers offensively.
No matter the formation, it’s a good bet the ball will be going to Class C Player of the Year candidate, running back Bennett Lewis.
In 10 games, Lewis has posted outstanding numbers, rushing for 1,463 yards and 28 touchdowns. He averages 13.2 yards per carry.
Three times this season Lewis has scored four touchdowns in a game, including last week’s win over Blanchard-Montabella.
In that contest, Lewis ran for 225 yards on just nine carries and scored on runs of 6, 31, 61 and 75 yards.
Quarterback Joe Buchalski was perfect, going 5-for-5 for 134 yards and three more scores.
“Nouvel looks very good on film, they run a lot of different formations offensively and have good athletes all over the field,” Schelke said.
The Panthers are nearly as impressive on defense. They haven’t allowed more than 14 points in a game this season.
“Defensively, they’re very aggressive and sound,” Schelke said. “It will be a good challenge.
“They’re very fast, very athletic.”
Nouvel has done most of its damage early. In the playoffs, it has outscored its opponents 63-0 in the first quarter.
For the season, the Panthers have outscored their opponents 415-46 in the first half and have allowed a total of just 12 points in the first quarter.
“If they score a touchdown, or make a big play, we can’t hang our heads,” Schelke said. “They’ve gotten teams down after the first quarter.
“We have to be real physical and limit our turnovers and finish some drives.
“As much as we can, we’re going to have to keep the ball away from them while still making some big plays and finishing drives.”
Like Nouvel, Harbor Beach has shown the ability to run a number of different offenses.
The Pirates, led by sophomore quarterback Eli Kraft, junior running backs Sloan Klaski and Derek Pfaff, along with junior receiver Aaron Ginther, can run anything from spread to Wing-T.
“We’re going to have to take full advantage of our opportunities,” Schelke said. “We’re going to have to mix things up offensively with our pass and run.
“Whatever we do, we have to be real physical. We have to be strong on special teams and take care of the ball. If we do have a turnover, we have to play over it.
“We’ve been real opportunistic and we’ve really improved the last two or three weeks.”
Harbor Beach hasn’t advanced this far in the playoffs since making it to the Division 7 semifinals in 2007. The last Nouvel was this far was 2008, when the team fell in the 2008 Division 6 semifinals.
This will be the third meeting between the teams.
Neither time went well for the Pirates as they fell to the Panthers 21-13 in the 2003 Division 6 district championship and 42-7 in the 2006 Division 6 district championship.
Regardless of Friday’s outcome, Schelke said he’s proud of this group for coming together so quickly.
“Coming off of 4-5 (in 2010), I was a little dismayed that some people were picking us to be so good,” he said.
“I have been surprised that early on that we won some of the games we won, because I thought it would take us a few games to learn how to win. Our kids won some close games and improved throughout the year. I’m really happy with how things turned out so far.”
The winner of this game will play the winner the Ishpeming at Traverse City St. Francis regional championship contest.
W1: Bad Axe 42-0
W2: N. Huron 48-0
W3: Reese 30-16
W4: Brown City 34-21
W5: Ubly 34-22
W6: Marlette 12-8
W7: Sandusky 26-12
W8: Mayville 47-0
W9: USA 56-0
W10: Br. City 40-7
W11: Reese 27-21
PF: 396 (36.0)
PA: 109 (9.9)
W1: Powers 55-14
W2: TCSF 48-12
W3: Wind. Holy 43-7
W4: DWCA 55-14
W5: MABT 41-6
W6: Chatham 43-0
W8: Flint NW 36-14
W9: Freeland 37-0
W10: Coleman 63-14
W11: Bl-Mont. 62-6
PF: 483 (48.3)
PA: 87 (8.7)
BOGAN SAYS: Here’s a quote from the Freeland coach after his team lost to Nouvel in Week 9. “Unbelievable. I hope everybody from Saginaw has no plans for Thanksgiving weekend because Nouvel is going to the finals.”
Harbor Beach is a very good team. Nouvel is just loaded this season.
PICK: Nouvel 30, Harbor Beach 13
ADAMS SAYS: Nobody outside of Harbor Beach is giving the Pirates a shot in this game. I think the players and coaches are going to use that. Is it going to be easy?
Harbor Beach has to play the perfect game and get some things to break its way.
PICK: Harbor Beach 24, Nouvel 23