TRAVERSE CITY — The playoff road likely goes south.
Traverse City West coach Tim Wooer said he expects the Titans will head to either Rockford or Grand Haven for the first round of the football playoffs.
The Titans (6-3) clinched a playoff berth with Friday's 51-42 victory over Traverse City Central.
The Trojans will find out for sure in tonight's Selection Sunday Show at 7 p.m. on Fox Sports Detroit if they can get into the playoff field with five wins for the second time in three years.
"I think (it's a possibility)," Central coach Tom Passinault said. "We've got a shot."
West coach Tim Wooer said the ability to run the ball — which was what propelled the Titans to Friday's victory — will be a key in the playoffs. The Titans will find out for sure who they play in the first round in today's selection show.
"To win playoff games in November, you're going to have to be able to run the football," West coach Tim Wooer said. "You're going to have a snowy day or winds coming off the lake, and you're going to have to be able to pound the ball. It was a night where we went to the spread and they were all over, but we were able to pound the football. If there was a key to this game, that was it."
BROAD SHOULDERS: In what could be his last high school game, Central senior running back Ben Broad scored three touchdowns.
He struck on runs of 16 and 2 yards and caught a 61-yard screen pass that he ran in for a score in the second half.
For the night, he amassed 77 rushing yards and 67 more receiving.
His regular season ended with 556 rushing yards and 151 more on receptions.
DUDLEY DO RIGHT: In last year's TC Central victory, West's starting all-conference guard David Dudley was a spectator.
Dudley was one of many Titan players who either missed the game with the flu or played while ill.
"It was pretty heartbreaking to watch my team struggle," Dudley said. "But this year, I just tried to do my part and we got the victory.
"It's great to see the team coming together this well. We're peaking at the right time."
LINE IN THE SAND: In the victory, the Titans' offensive line paved the way to victory.
TC West ran for 345 yards in the win, thanks in large part to the guys in the trenches.
"The offensive line stepped it up," quarterback Brett Kenny said. "They did what they had to do. Our seniors played like seniors. It's a great win. Great win."
Ronnie Saunders led the way with 110 yards, with Cody Scheuerman pounding out 83, Zac Shafer 62, Kenny 38, Morgan Tolle 27 and Dee Kirksey 25.
"Ronnie Saunders and the O-line really pounded it," linebacker Collin Richards said.
West's starting offensive line consists of left tackle Jordan Strope, left guard Steven Town, center Sean Buttars, Dudley at right guard and right tackle Marcus Matthews, as well as tight ends Jake Fisher, Connor Kostrzewa and Nick Richardson.
"We kept focused on running the ball," fullback Cody Scheuerman said. "The offensive line tore it up. It all starts with the offensive line."
The Titans' 345 yards on the ground came on 62 carries for an average of 5.6 yards per rush.
"The great thing about athletics is you have to decide it on the field," Central coach Tom Passinault said. "And overall, West is just so very physical on their offensive line. That was our biggest fear coming in was stopping their runnings game — and we didn't come close."
"The line was clicking," Dudley said. "The running backs were running hard and hitting the holes. We had a great push. Everything just started to go our way."
TRICK OR TREAT: While West mainly kept the game plan simple and pounded the ball against Central, the Trojans dug deep into the playbook.
Central ran three on-side kicks — including on the game's opening kickoff — had a fake kneel-down at the end of the second quarter that resulted in a 59-yard touchdown pass to Joe Prokes, ran two reverses, called a double pass and mixed in a few option plays.
"It's a play that we've had in," Passinault said of the fake kneel. "It's the first time we've used it. We've practiced it quite a bit. We just had the perfect opportunity to run it. I thought it was a big momentum boost for us."
The on-side kicks were particularly a problem. West managed to recover all three, but each was close. And the fake kneel-down resulted in seven points that gave Central a 28-21 halftime lead.
"That was really tough to overcome mentally," Wooer said. "We took the big shot up top with 1:23 left in the half to tie it up. Then with 15 (seconds) left, they did the gimmick take a knee and then threw it up. They could have thrown it to the other side and it would have been a touchdown, too, because our kids were asleep."
SECONDARY-TO-NONE: TC West's defensive backs and linebackers stepped it up in the second half, helping to limit Central's potent passing attack that allowed Trojan QB Mack Sovereign to complete 10-of-15 passes for 216 yards in the first half.
"What we were told at halftime, was for our defense to trust ourselves athletically," Scheuerman said. "They told us to not allow so much of a cushion and trust yourself."
In the second half, Sovereign was 4-for-10 for 79 yards a TD.
"They knew Jack Stevens was our biggest threat catching the ball all season, so they put a couple guys over him on every snap," Sovereign said. "Our others guys — Joe Prokes, Ryan Verschuren, Dylan Roe — all stepped up and made some big plays."
Stevens — who had racked up 666 yards and seven TDs through the air in the first eight games of the season — was held to two catches overall and zero yards in the second half.
"If you would have told me before the game that Jack Stevens would have two catches, I'd be very happy," West defensive coordinator Jason Morrow said.
CLUBBIN': West linebacker Collin Richards has been playing for several weeks with a cast over his broken right hand sustained against Dearborn Edsel Ford.
The senior — who was often matched up against a wide receiver in Central's three-wide sets — ended the game with seven tackles.
"It's not that different," Richards said of playing with essentially a club hand. "You just can't hang onto people. You have to go through them."
PICK OF THE LITTER: One difference in the game was that West was able to convert Central turnovers into points, whereas the Trojans didn't.
West's Brett Kenny had two interceptions and the Titans fumbled twice in the second half, but only one of those four extra possession was cashed into points by Central.
Central, on the other hand, also had four turnovers — including the first two interceptions of the season for Sovereign. West turned two of those opportunities into points.
The first interception came from defensive end Jake Fisher, who plucked a line-drive throw from Sovereign intended for Ryan Verschuren early in the second quarter to stall a Central drive at West's 31.
"I saw Mack pulling back, and he was kind of throwing low with his first couple throws," Fisher said. "I saw he was rolling out and I punched and got the interception."
FLAG FOOTBALL: TC West — which had been penalty prone earlier in the season — committed just three infractions on Friday for 25 yards, whereas Central was flagged five times for 40 yards.
TRAVERSE CITY — The playoff road likely goes south.
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