St. Joseph is gearing up for an undefeated foe.
The Bears (4-0 SMAC West, 6-0) – ranked No. 7 in the latest Division 3 AP football poll – will face Battle Creek Lakeview (3-0 SMAC East, 6-0) in a game featuring two of the top teams in the SMAC.
St. Joseph defeated Lakeview 20-12 in last year’s matchup. The Spartans are averaging 35.7 points on offense while giving up 13.2 points on defense.
“They’re very physical,” St. Joseph coach Andrew Pratley said. “They move the ball on offense and on defense, they fly to the football.”
Pratley and the Bears will look to get off to a fast start against the Spartans. St. Joseph has outscored opponents 64-0 in the first quarter this season.
“We’re a new offense for teams to prepare for,” Pratley said. “It’s been pretty effective so far. Our kids prepare well during the week.”
St. Joseph enters week seven averaging 38.2 points while giving up 14.2. The Bears have been able to wear down teams with their rushing attack by averaging 246 yards on the ground, led by Jeremiah Sterling’s 625 yards and nine touchdowns on 113 carries.
“Our offensive line has improved from day one,” Pratley said. “Our defensive line battles in every practice and has improved as well. These two groups have improved and made each other better.
“This game will probably come down to which team can run the best.”
Lakeshore (1-3, 2-4) has lost three games in a row for the first time since 1996. If the Lancers are going to make their 22nd consecutive postseason appearance, they must defeat the remaining teams on their schedule starting with Gull Lake on Friday.
Niles (1-3, 1-5) will try to get win No. 2 when it travels to Kalamazoo Central (1-2, 2-4) on Friday.
Winners of three straight, Benton Harbor (4-2) looks to extend its winning streak to four when it faces Mattawan (2-4). The Wildcats will have to stop Benton Harbor’s rushing attack, which tallied 282 yards against South Bend Clay last week. Ronald Roseburgh and Malachi Dezale rushed for 137 and 119 yards, respectively.
Division 5 No. 5-ranked Brandywine (6-0) earned its second straight playoff berth last week and strives to stay undefeated against Gobles (3-3) this week. The Tigers will try to contain quarterback Gabe Gouin, who threw for two touchdown passes and added two touchdown runs last week against NorthPointe Christian.
Berrien Springs (2-0, 6-0) hosts Buchanan this week as it aims to move to 7-0. The Shamrocks have outscored opponents 126-0 over the last three games thanks to a potent rushing attack led by Danny Vinson, who tallied three touchdowns in last week’s win over Parchment.
The Bucks (1-0, 2-4) are hoping to keep their first winning streak since 2016 intact.
Coloma (0-2, 1-5) faces a tough test when Schoolcraft (2-0, 6-0) comes to town this week. The Eagles have outscored opponents 264-97 through six games.
Following consecutive setbacks to Kalamazoo United and Delton Kellogg, Watervliet (0-2, 2-4) looks to get back in the win column against Constantine (1-1, 4-2).
Decatur (2-3, 3-3) aims to keep its playoff hopes alive with a win over Centreville (3-2, 4-2) this week. The Raiders lost last year’s matchup 35-14.
Hartford (2-3, 3-3) suffered a 35-14 setback to Mendon last week but hopes to get back on track against Marcellus (1-4, 2-4) on Friday.
Bloomingdale (1-4, 1-5) picked up its first win of the season last week against Eau Claire. The Cardinals will have their work cut out for them against Cassopolis (5-0, 6-0), a team that has given up just 11 points this season.
Eau Claire (0-6, 0-6) hosts White Pigeon (4-1, 5-1) on Friday. Bangor (0-5) is at Mendon (5-1, 5-1).
After losing a nailbiter to Otsego last week, Dowagiac (3-3, 3-3) aims to get back on track against Sturgis (1-5, 1-5). The Chieftains need three more wins to earn an automatic playoff berth.
South Haven (0-6, 0-6) will have a chance of earning its first win this season at Allegan (1-5, 1-5).
Southwest Michigan Eight-man Football League
Bridgman (3-1, 5-1) suffered its first loss of the season against league leader Martin (5-0, 6-0) last week and is looking to get back on track.
The Bees hope to earn win No. 6 on the road against New Buffalo (1-2, 1-4). The two teams played together as the South County Cougars last season.
The Bison will try to contain Bridgman quarterback Hunter Adams, who completed 15 of 18 passes for 162 yards and one touchdown last week.
Daiden Shaw’s four-touchdown performance led Lake Michigan Catholic (1-3, 3-3) to a 44-28 win over Bangor last week. The Lakers will try for win No. 4 against Lawrence (1-3, 1-5).
Michigan Lutheran (0-4, 1-5) looks to end a four-game losing streak against Wyoming Tri-unity Christian (3-1, 3-3).
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Game time changes
Several games have been moved forward due to concerns over Eastern Equine Encephalitis:
Mattawan at Benton Harbor, 5
Gull Lake at Lakeshore, 5:30
Niles at Kal. Central, 5
Brandywine at Gobles, 5
White Pigeon at Eau Claire, 5
Marcellus at Hartford, 5
Bloomingdale at Cassopolis, 5:30