October 6, 2010

Dallas Jackson is the Senior Analyst for RivalsHigh. Email him your question, comment or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.

The decade of dominance is likely to continue in Michigan this year.

The Ottawa-Kent White Conference figures to go to either the No. 64 Lowell (Mich.) High Red Arrows or the No. 65 East Grand Rapids (Mich.) High Pioneers. It has every season since 1999.

And that figures to be determined Friday night, when two of the top teams in Michigan meet in the RivalsHigh Game of the Week.

"This is a classic high school football game," East Grand Rapids coach Peter Stuursma said. "Both teams have mutual respect for the other and it is a tremendous rivalry."

Their annual game is highly anticipated.

"The game puts a lot of focus on both programs," Stuursma said. "The kids are smart at both schools. They see the rankings, they hear the talk, they know there will be 12,000 people at the game. It's big."

East Grand Rapids entered the season as the top team in-state with Lowell lurking inside the top ten. But as the season has played out, Lowell has overtaken East.

Coach Stuursma understands the decision, but knows that the polls do not decide winners.

"We have yet to put together a complete game," he said. "They certainly did last week. Offensively, on defense and special teams they were dominant. We are working to get to that point."

His team will need to come close this week if it is to end one more unique trend in this rivalry.

The home team has won each game played since 2001. This year's game is at Lowell.

"We are heading over there this year," Stuursma said. "Apparently that gives them the advantage. But we have to get ready to play them, not the past results."

To play the Red Arrows and its veer offense means stopping the Lowell quarterback, Gabe Dean.

Dean is the nephew of Lowell coach Noel Dean and has been very explosive this season.

Last week, in the team's 55-7 win over East Grand Rapids (Mich.) Christian, Dean tallied more than 400 total yards. He carried the ball 24 times for 244 yards and completed 8-of-10 passes for another 157.

Containing the quarterback will be paramount for East.

"Stopping the quarterback in the veer is not a newsflash to us," Stuursma said. "Just like stopping Denard Robinson is the key to stopping Michigan. Everyone knows it. Figuring out how to do it is the key."

Last year, the Pioneers were able to figure out how to slow the veer in the 27-6 loss.

"It really was the first time we felt like we stopped them," Stuursma said.

The key to the defense will again be Trent Voss, the 6-foot-3 linebacker for East.

"Trent did a fantastic job last year," Stuursma said. "And we will need him to be fantastic again."

Not only will the defense need to come to play with Lowell averaging nearly 50 points per game, the offense will have to find a way to get into the end zone. The Red Arrows have only given up two touchdowns all season - while having four shutouts.

The Pioneers pro-style offense will need to continue to be efficient, and that lands the pressure directly on the shoulders of starting quarterback, Ryan Elble.

"Statistically, Ryan has been the best we have ever had here," Stuursma said. "He is a good kid and will need to play well for us."

Elble has completed 44-of-67 passes for 783 yards and thrown 13 touchdowns and zero interceptions on the season.

While the winner of the game figures to take the conference, the loser will not necessarily end the season without a title. Both teams won state championships last year as East Grand Rapids earned the Division 3 crown and Lowell the Division 2 title.

That's for down the line. This week, the only thoughts are on their rivalry.

"This is the biggest game of the year for both of us," Stuursma said. "Both teams will need to be ready."

National GOTW
No. 64 Lowell vs. No. 65 East
RIVALS HIGH KEY PLAYERS
EAST GRAND RAPIDS
LB Trent Voss (6-3/211, Sr.)
QB Ryan Elble (6-1/180, Sr.)
RB David Drummond (5-10/170, Jr.)
LOWELL
QB Gabe Dean (5-10/174, Jr.)
WR Matt Houston (6-1/170, Sr.)
WHEN: Friday 10/8, 7 p.m.
LAST MEETING: 10/16/09: East Grand rapids won, 27-6.
STANDINGS: East Grand Rapids (6-0), No. 3 in Michigan
Lowell (6-0), No. 2 in Michigan

LOWELL WINS IF: Its offense gets on a roll early. The veer offense is frustrating to defend and if the Red Arrows can get an early lead and keep piling on, it could get ugly in a hurry. The team has been able to jump out on plenty of teams and has the talent to make a statement win.

EAST GRAND RAPIDS WINS IF: It can figure a way to move the ball on offense. The pro style is much easier to defend than the veer, but that doesn't mean it can not be effective or put up plenty of points. Between Elble and junior running back David Drummond, there is talent on the field. If East puts up 24 points or more on the board, it will have a solid chance to win.

PREDICTION: It's unusual that both teams will be relying on the offense to win, but both like to grind the football and control the clock, Whichever is more successful likely wins. Lowell has been more explosive on the season but East has a defense that could contain it. This is the best competition either will see until late November. It won't be a track meet, but this could come down to who has the ball last.
- Lowell 24, East 20.

Game of the Week Predictions: 4-3 (10-5 in '09)




 

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