HART, Mich. (WOOD) — Every team healthy enough to do so has made the playoffs this year in Michigan. This means there are some teams competing that have never made it there before.
The West Michigan Football Conference is filled with perennial powerhouse playoff-caliber teams — Montague, Whitehall, Muskegon Oakridge and Ravenna just to name a few.
Of course, with every school making the leap to the postseason, it’s opened the door for one Oceana County school now poised to make history.
“Yes, football definitely has not the best reputation here in Hart,” senior quarterback Braeden Carskadon said. “You know we’ve had so many years of being like… down.”
For as long as there has been high school football in Hart, since 1950, there has never been a playoff-caliber team. But that trend ends now because of a pandemic, and the leadership and love from the senior quarterback.
“Town of 2,000 people, everybody knows everybody and no matter how good Hart football is like the community is always going to have their back. So, leading a team with that type of community is something special,” Carskadon said. “We’re just trying to get in everybody’s minds that it’s the playoffs. Like, nobody’s ever experienced this from Hart so hopefully, that sparks some energy.”
There’s only one problem, one big blue barricade stands in the way of the Hart Pirates.
“Yes, they play us, and you know it is what it is. It is what it is. So, they just need to have fun and enjoy their time together while they’re playing us and they should be trying to beat us,” Montage High School head football coach Pat Collins said. “Our focus is more on us honestly than it is Hart. Just in the fact that we have so much more to do to get better. We hope Hart will bring the best game they can cause that’s what they should be doing and that helps us too.”
Not overlooking the Pirates but remaining focused on their overall goal of another state championship. Collins can afford to do this, in his 17 years as head coach for the Wildcats, he’s never lost to Hart.
“Yeah, it’s been zero, never lost to them,” Collins said. “They do give their best though and I’m always impressed by their effort.”
Montague faced off against Hart earlier this season on Sept. 18. They soundly defeated them 55-0.
“It leaves a bad taste. They’ve done it to us for so long. So, I guess a lot of people look at it as normal in this town, but I think that has to stop,” Carskadon said. “Knowing what they did to us earlier this season, how good they are it’s definitely a lot of emotions.”
Montague owns a 49-19-2 record since 1950 against Hart. Carskadon says anything is possible and says a playoff win would have him and the community he represents elated.
“I would be floating. I would not know what to think. I would be speechless. It would just, I don’t know. It would probably be the best next week of our lives,” Carskadon said. “We would have more news crews here. We would have everybody talking about how we did it? It would be something special if we beat them. I hope we do.”
And just because the Pirates have lost for 70 years it doesn’t mean this year, perhaps the most unpredictable of them all.
“This is where I’m from. This is who I’m going to play for, and this is the town I’m going to play for,” Carskadon said. “We’re just enjoying it as we go because you don’t have long and no matter the wins and losses you got to look at the good times and just forget about the bad times.”
Hart travels to Montague High School for their playoff game Friday night.