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Oscoda ready to host first playoff game in program history

For the first time in school history, the Oscoda football team will host a playoff game.

Tonight the Owls will make history when they step onto their home field and welcome McBain (5-4) for a Division 7 pre-district playoff matchup.

“Hosting a playoff game here in Oscoda has never happened and it’s a big deal for everyone,” Oscoda coach Mark Whitley said. “We’re excited. Our kids, our staff, our community, everyone is excited. Our kids want to play and it’s special for us not just to be playing a playoff game, but to be playing on our home field.”

Being able to host a playoff game is important for any team, but it’s especially important for the Owls, who been dominant on its home field over the past two seasons, losing just one game.

The Owls ran roughshod over the competition on their way to an 8-1 regular season finish and a No. 1 seed in the playoffs.

The Owls averaged 37 points per game while allowing just seven points per game. Oscoda scored 28 points or more in all but two games and held its opponents to eight points or fewer six times, including four shutout victories.

The Owls have an experienced group, led by senior quarterback Brayden Mallak who has accounted for nearly 1,000 yards of offense. Mallak has completed 36-of-69 passes for 677 yards and 12 touchdowns and 220 yards and four touchdowns on the ground.

Junior Owen Franklin is the Owls’ do-it-all player as a receiver, running back and occasionally at the quarterback position as Oscoda does a tremendous job keeping opposing defenses guessing. Andy Dault, Robert Host and Caleb Nagel provide depth in the backfield as the trio has combined for 10 rushing touchdowns. Franklin leads the Owls with 497 yards on the ground and six scores. Franklin, Dault, Host, Zach Ouilette and Gabe Kellstrom all get involved in the passing game as Oscoda likes to spread the ball around to its many talented playmakers.

On the defensive side of the ball, Dault leads the team in tackles, but the Owls get great production from Ouilette, Logan Kimmet and Anthony Ward who are all among the area leaders in tackles.

Despite a dominant regular season, Oscoda understands what it’s up against tonight.

Like the Owls, McBain is a talented team that also spreads the ball around and uses different formations offensively to keep defenses on their toes.

One of the keys for Oscoda’s success will be keeping Ramblers playmaker Gavin Sieland in check. Sieland is McBain’s version of Franklin who has spent time lined up as a running back, receiver and has the ability to play quarterback.

Despite its 5-4 regular season record and barley making the playoffs, McBain will be no pushover and has been tested throughout the year.

McBain’s schedule featured five playoff teams and the Ramblers went 1-4 against those teams. McBain’s combined opponents record this season was 45-36.

The Ramblers won four straight games late in the season, including handing Beal City its only loss of the season, a 27-0 victory for the Ramblers to become playoff eligible. The ramblers dropped their finale to 8-1 Clare in a close 32-28 defeat.

“The weather is likely going to affect both teams. Both of us like to throw the ball and there is little room for error. It might just come down to who holds onto the rock and makes the fewer mistakes,” Whitley said. “McBain is big and physical. We don’t have the size that they do, but we’re going to get after them and do our best to play error free football, limit penalties and take care of the football. They’re going to run some Wing-T and spread the field so we’re prepared for both looks.”

Oscoda played a pair of playoff teams throughout the season, going 1-1 against those opponents. The Owls beat Houghton Lake 14-12 in the season opener and suffered its only loss of the season in Week 8 to 8-1 Breckenridge, falling 35-0.

Despite hosting its first playoff game in school history, the Owls are in familiar territory when it comes to playing in the postseason.

Oscoda has made the playoffs for the third year in a row and fourth time in the last five seasons.

Not only will the Owls be hosting their first playoff game, but Oscoda is looking to win its first playoff game since 2000.

“We had different goals set when the season began. One was winning the league, we accomplished that, along with making the playoffs and hosting a playoff game. Those are also accomplished. Our next goal is to win our first playoff game,” Whitley said. “We have an experienced group that is ready to play. Our community support has been great and its so special for not just the kids and coaching staff to be able to host a playoff game, but it’s so special for our school and community. It’s a great time to be an Owl and we’re going to give everything we have.”

The winner of Friday’s game will advance to next week’s district championship game against the winner of Houghton Lake and Traverse City St. Francis.