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Kalamazoo-area Round 4 playoff football picks: Which teams will make history?

MLive - GrandRapids/Muskegon/Kalamazoo logo MLive - GrandRapids/Muskegon/Kalamazoo 1/7/2021 Patrick Nothaft, mlive.com
a group of football players on a field: Constantine junior Carson Platz (21) and senior Ty Dumm (5) hangout out before their game against Schoolcraft Eagles at Schoolcraft High School in Schoolcraft, Michigan on Friday, Sept. 18, 2020. The season start was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. © Joel Bissell/Joel Bissell | MLive.com/mlive.com/TNS Constantine junior Carson Platz (21) and senior Ty Dumm (5) hangout out before their game against Schoolcraft Eagles at Schoolcraft High School in Schoolcraft, Michigan on Friday, Sept. 18, 2020. The season start was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

KALAMAZOO, MI - Regional championship trophies and state championship game berths are on the line Saturday, as four Kalamazoo-area football teams take the field for Round 4 of the high school football playoffs.

After a lengthy layoff, Constantine, Schoolcraft and Centreville return for regional title bouts in the 11-player game, while Martin vies for a spot in the 8-player state finals.

a man standing in a room: Martin junior Gabe Meyers poses for a portrait during the MLive/Kalamazoo Gazette High School Football Media Day 2 at the Kalamazoo Gazette in downtown Kalamazoo, Michigan on Wednesday, July 31, 2019. © Emil Lippe | MLive.com/Emil Lippe | MLive.com/mlive.com/TNS Martin junior Gabe Meyers poses for a portrait during the MLive/Kalamazoo Gazette High School Football Media Day 2 at the Kalamazoo Gazette in downtown Kalamazoo, Michigan on Wednesday, July 31, 2019.

Game day has been a long time coming for the athletes and coaches that were sidelined in mid-November due to rising COVID-19 cases, so the sharpness of each squad will be interesting to see, but for the four Kalamazoo-area teams, a win would mark an historic moment in program history.

a group of people playing football on a field: - Centreville's Sam Todd scans the field during a football game against Mendon on Thursday, Oct. 8 at Mendon High School © Patrick Nothaft | pnothaft@mlive.com/Patrick Nothaft | MLive.com/mlive.com/TNS - Centreville's Sam Todd scans the field during a football game against Mendon on Thursday, Oct. 8 at Mendon High School

Centreville has never reached the state semifinals, while Martin hasn’t played in a state championship game since claiming the Class D crown in 1987.

Schoolcraft hasn’t gone to the semifinals since 2001, and Constantine hasn’t been there since 2011.

Which teams will get the job done?

It’s hard to say at this point in the season, but after compiling a 147-25 record in my predictions from the first nine weeks of the season, including a 6-0 mark in Round 3, I’m trying to keep the momentum rolling with a new set of predictions for Saturday.

a group of football players on a field: Constantine junior Carson Platz (21) and senior Ty Dumm (5) hangout out before their game against Schoolcraft Eagles at Schoolcraft High School in Schoolcraft, Michigan on Friday, Sept. 18, 2020. The season start was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. © Joel Bissell/Joel Bissell | MLive.com/mlive.com/TNS Constantine junior Carson Platz (21) and senior Ty Dumm (5) hangout out before their game against Schoolcraft Eagles at Schoolcraft High School in Schoolcraft, Michigan on Friday, Sept. 18, 2020. The season start was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

RELATED: Early look at Kalamazoo-area prep football Round 4 playoff matchups

Division 6: Constantine (8-1) vs. Michigan Center (6-1)

Constantine and Michigan Center both lost in Week 1 and have won all their games since, with the Cardinals’ streak interrupted by a pair of COVID-19 cancellations.

Michigan Center was on the ropes in Round 3, when it trailed Jonesville 22-21 with 2:50 left in the fourth quarter, but quarterback Joe Olkowski found fellow senior Brock Cyrocki for a 16-yard touchdown pass to give the Cardinals a 28-22 lead with just over a minute left.

The Cardinals’ ability to deliver in the clutch will serve them well against a tough Constantine team that likes to pound the rock and keep the clock ticking.

The Falcons have scored more than 40 points in their last six games and will get a boost in this one with the return of explosive running back Davonte Conley, who missed Constantine’s three previous playoff contests due to contact tracing.

Between Conley, all-stater Brayden Clark and seniors Isaac Hall and Ty Dumm, Constantine has a talented stable of running backs that will test Michigan Center’s defense unlike any team this year.

If the Cardinals’ defense can force Constantine into third-and-long situations, it will be in good shape, but holding the line against that ground game is easier said than done.

Pick: Constantine 35, Michigan Center 24

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Division 7: Schoolcraft (8-1) vs. Jackson Lumen Christi (5-4)

One of the more interesting matchups in Division 7 will kick off at Portage Central Saturday, and McCamley Field’s artificial surface plays right into the hands of Schoolcraft and its high-powered passing game.

Despite the long layoff, Schoolcraft continued licking its chops at the thought of a rematch with Lumen Christi after losing a heartbreaking 35-30 contest in the 2019 regional finals, and it would be a shock to see the Eagles lay an egg against the Titans.

But Lumen Christi does have a few attributes that put the upset in play, as the Titans will be healthier than they’ve been all season and are hoping to welcome back star running back/safety Cole Simpson, among a host of other contributors.

The Titans’ ball-control offense could also neutralize Schoolcraft’s offense by chewing up the clock and keeping star playmakers Alex Thole, Jimmy Downs, Harmon DeVries and Jett Gott off the field.

This game will come down to Schoolcraft’s defense, which is has more than held its own this season and has allowed more than 14 points to just one team — Division 3 power Chelsea. If the Eagles can consistently stop Lumen Christi’s run game, they’ll pull away for a big win, but if the Titans can string together some long drives, Schoolcraft will encounter some adversity.

Pick: Schoolcraft 30, Lumen Christi 20

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Division 8: Centreville (8-0) vs. Sand Creek (8-1)

Centreville had two days to celebrate a 32-14 win over two-time defending state champ Reading in the district finals before the state health department paused the season on Nov. 15, but that didn’t cause the Bulldogs to lose focus, and now they’re ready to take the field for a matchup with a tough Sand Creek squad.

Led by a powerful ground game, the Aggies average 50 points per contest, but they have yet to see a defense like Centreville’s, which might be the best in Division 8. The Bulldogs have pitched five shutouts, and only Reading found the end zone more than once. From Sam Todd and Tristan McElroy in the secondary to Ethan Brownridge and Jared Spencer along the defensive line, Centreville has experienced playmakers all over the field, and they’ll make things difficult for Sand Creek and its speedy quarterback Will Alexander, who has 1,655 yards and 22 touchdowns on 154 carries this season.

The Bulldogs haven’t seen a player of his caliber this season, and limiting the big plays will be imperative for a Centreville team that isn’t built for a quick comeback.

The goal for Centreville’s offense should be to keep the chains moving and the ball out of Alexander’s hands, and if the Bulldogs can accomplish that, they’ll be in good shape.

Pick: Centreville 28, Sand Creek 27

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8-player Division 1: Martin (8-1) vs. Adrian Lenawee Christian (9-0)

Lenawee Christian enters this state semifinal matchup as the top-ranked team in the state with the Player of the Year and the Coach of the Year. It would be easy to write of Martin as just another speed bump in the Cougars’ quest for a state title, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Martin has yet to lose on the field and has a few weapons of its own on offense, led by dynamic quarterback Gabe Meyers, who can beat teams with his arm or his legs. The Clippers also boast a couple powerful running backs in Brayden Eckman and Chris Tuinstra, and their ability to grind out first downs will be the key to keeping the ball away from Lenawee Christian’s 8-man Player of the Year Jameson Chesser.

The 5-foot-10, 170-pound Indiana Wesleyan commit is a dynamic runner in the open field and will require Martin’s complete attention every snap.

Lenawee Christian enters the game averaging 54 points per game, and if Martin can hold them under 35, they Clippers’ offense should be able to keep pace. But if the Cougars are running up and down the field unimpeded, Meyers and the rest of the Martin offense will be put in a tough spot trying to play catch-up.

Pick: Adrian Lenawee Christian 42, Martin 37

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