By BURT ANGELI
KINGSFORD - Here we go again.
Kingsford turned back Grayling and quarterback Jake Swander 36-14 in last year's Division 5 state football playoffs. The two teams are back at it Saturday when the Vikings (8-1) host the Flivvers (7-2) at noon (Central time).
In the other half of the district, Houghton (6-3) visits unbeaten Menominee (9-0) on Saturday.
Kingsford pressured Swander into four interceptions last season. But the quarterback did throw for 269 yards while completing 27 of 51 passes.
"He's the real deal and a good quarterback," Flivver coach Chris Hofer said of Swander. "He does what they want him to do. He's a handful and definitely in control of what they're doing."
The Flivver coach has been aware of Swander for three seasons. The Grayling quarterback also aired it out in a 2011 playoff loss to Menominee.
"I've seen him play for three years," Hofer said. "He's running the ball more.
"But it's pretty much the same crew as last year with a couple different backs."
Grayling's only loss came at hands of Traverse City St. Francis (34-14), which meets West Iron County in a Division 7 pre-district tonight. The Vikings locked up the Lake Michigan Conference title and home playoff slot with a 51-13 win over Boyne City.
Swander connected on eight of 12 passes for 172 yards and three scores against Boyne City. Tyler McClanahan was on the receiving end of six passes for 155 yards including the three scores.
In last year's playoff game, McClanahan caught seven passes for 48 yards and one score.
"We're excited to be able to host a game," Grayling Coach Tim Sanchez told the Traverse City Record Eagle. "We're excited to get a rematch from last year. We have a ton of respect for coach Hofer and his staff. They always have their kids well prepared and he's a good guy."
Kingsford turned back Escanaba 28-21 to complete the regular season. The Flivvers are working on a three-game winning streak after losing to Marquette 24-0.
"We had a pretty good regular season other than one game," Hofer said. "I didn't think we came to play against Marquette and I don't remember the last time I can say that.
"We usually come ready to play and I just don't think we did that against Marquette."
The Flivvers "just didn't have the spark for that game," Hofer said.
"Granted, maybe we needed a score to get us going or maybe I needed to do something different to get us going," Hofer said. "I didn't find the answer, obviously.
"I'm not saying we always play well. But at least we have the spark. We didn't have it that game."
The Flivver offense has certainly perked up from there with quarterback Joe Hofer throwing to a variety of targets while Brody Sundquist, Tyler Roberts and Alex Patterson trigger the ground game.
"Offensively, we've turned the corner after Marquette," said the Flivver coach, noting two games without a punt. "Our overall offensive execution has been better since the Marquette game."
Prior to Marquette, the offense put up 179 points in the first four games.
"Even in those early games we were winning by big scores, I didn't think our execution was very good," Hofer said. "We were just winning and scoring points. As far as getting on and staying on, I didn't necessarily think we did that good until later in the year."
NOTES: Kingsford posted a "turnover margin" of plus 10 during the regular season. "Not bad," Hofer noted ... Kingsford left today for Grayling ... In the win over Escanaba, linebackers Jake Allen and Alex Patterson posted 18 and 15 tackles, respectively. Allen tallied 24 defensive points according to the Flivver scale, followed by Patterson, 21; Tyler Roberts, 13, and Ed Sexton, 12.