By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
The final stretch of this season's Drive for Detroit has begun.
And if Friday and Saturday's MHSAA Finals are like the Semifinals this past weekend, we should be in for an incredible season-ending series at Ford Field.
Six Semifinals were decided by seven points or fewer as the final 16 11-player teams earned their spots in championship games.
Below is just a little on all 16 Semifinals, with links to media coverage. Check back Wednesday for game-by-game previews of all eight Finals, and then full coverage of each throughout the weekend.
Clarkston 35, East Kentwood 13
The first quarter wasn’t over Saturday and reigning champion Clarkston (13-0) had already built a three-touchdown lead East Kentwood wouldn’t threaten. The Wolves earned the opportunity to repeat and extend their 26-game winning streak, while the Falcons (11-2) can still celebrate their best finish since 2003. Click for more from The Oakland Press.
Saline 30, Detroit Cass Tech 15
The Hornets (12-1) earned their first MHSAA Finals berth by holding a potent Cass Tech offense to its fewest points since last season’s Semifinal loss to Detroit Catholic Central. Saline allowed Technicians standout running back Mike Weber 135 yards on the ground, but kept an offense averaging 34 points per game out of the end zone for most of the afternoon. Cass Tech did finish 12-1 and is 59-8 over the last five seasons. Click for more from AnnArbor.com.
Muskegon Mona Shores 25, Farmington Hills Harrison 24
The good news: Mona Shores defeated 13-time Finals champion Harrison after a late two-point conversion. The bad news: Mona Shores (12-1) did so without star quarterback Tyree Jackson, who was sidelined with a knee injury. The other good news: That the Sailors still pulled off this historic win said plenty about the team’s strength as a whole, in addition to its most well-known player. Harrison (10-3) finished with at least 10 wins for the fourth season in five. Click for more from the Muskegon Chronicle.
Warren DeLaSalle 31, Southfield 7
With Detroit Catholic Central, Birmingham Brother Rice and Orchard Lake St. Mary’s in the same Detroit Catholic League Central, DeLaSalle (10-3) can end up in the background of the football conversation at times. But the Pilots earned their third MHSAA Finals trip in nine seasons by holding a Southfield squad (9-4) filled with college prospects to its fewest points since Week 2 of 2012. Click for more from the Macomb Daily.
Muskegon 20, Zeeland West 0
The Big Reds (12-1) will return to the Finals for the third straight season, this time in Division 3 after solving reigning champion West’s offense like no opponent in that school's history. The Dux (12-1), in existence for 10 years, had never been shut out and hadn’t been held to single digits since Week 4 in 2010 – they entered Saturday averaging 50 points per game this season. Click for more from the Muskegon Chronicle.
Orchard Lake St. Mary’s 51, New Boston Huron 3
Huron (11-2) took a lot of steps as a program this fall, winning five more games than in any season in more than 60 years and six more than a year ago. But St. Mary’s (11-2) has played in 11 MHSAA championship games and surely has had extra motivation this fall after a rare playoff miss in 2013. Click for more from MLive Detroit.
Grand Rapids South Christian 50, Edwardsburg 48
The Sailors (11-2) are headed to Ford Field for the third straight season, but it was hardly that simple. Edwardsburg (11-2) came back from two touchdowns down in the second quarter and a 22-point deficit in the third as it fell one win shy of the Finals for the second time in five seasons. Click for more from the Grand Rapids Press.
Lansing Sexton 28, Detroit Country Day 14
The Big Reds (13-0) advanced to the MHSAA Finals for the first time after coming up just a touchdown shy in 2013. Sexton will be the first Lansing public school to play in a championship game, thanks in part to a group of seniors who scored all of the team’s touchdowns Saturday and helped it rise from 5-4 only two seasons ago. Country Day (8-5) finished with all of its losses to teams that advanced to at least Regional Finals. Click for more from the Lansing State Journal.
Grand Rapids West Catholic 42, Menominee 24
These two have seen each other in the playoffs every season beginning in 2010. This rematch of last season’s Division 5 Final went similarly, with West Catholic winning by 18 after doing so 27-14 in 2013. The Maroons (12-1) hadn’t been held to fewer than 28 points since West Catholic in that game at Ford Field – and hadn’t given up more than 25 since West Catholic (13-0) defeated them 55-34 in a 2011 Regional Final. Click for more from the Grand Rapids Press.
Lansing Catholic 21, Almont 14
High-powered Lansing Catholic will return to Ford Field for the second time in four seasons after escaping one of the toughest defenses it had seen this fall. Almont held the Cougars (13-0) to a season low points total. But Lansing Catholic’s unheralded defense did the same to the Raiders (12-1), who were averaging 50 per game entering Saturday and set a team record for wins this fall. Click for more from the Lansing State Journal.
Ithaca 20, Boyne City 16
The Yellowjackets (13-0) extended their winning streak to 69 – but for the second straight week, not without a dramatic fourth quarter. Boyne City (12-1) reached the 3-yard line with 13 seconds to play, but was stopped by an Ithaca defense that isn’t often noted but gives up only 8.4 points per game. Click for more from the Mount Pleasant Morning Sun.
Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central 28, Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian 0
The Falcons (12-1) earned their first Finals appearance since 2010 and a rematch with Ithaca after falling by 10 to the Yellowjackets in that previous championship matchup. St. Mary gained this weekend's opportunity with its fifth shutout of the season, against a NorthPointe Christian (11-2) team in its seventh of existence and first topping eight wins. Click for more from the Monroe Evening News.
Ishpeming 22, Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary 18
These are not the Hematites of the last two seasons; most of the standouts who carried the program to two straight MHSAA titles graduated. But this group has been similarly strong and is now a win from just as good after its closest win since Week 7 of 2013. Ishpeming (12-0) made it 33 straight victories by pulling away midway through the fourth quarter. Click for more from the Marquette Mining Journal.
Detroit Loyola 41, Pewamo-Westphalia 21
Pewamo-Westphalia (10-3) made it harder on Loyola than any playoff opponent aside from Ishpeming since 2010, but still couldn’t completely slow the Bulldogs’ running back duo of Marvin Campbell and Mideyin Wilson. The ran for four touchdowns together and nearly 270 yards to put Loyola (13-0) back in the championship game for the third straight season. Click for more from MLive Detroit.
Munising 10, Beal City 7
Munising’s best season since 1980 continued with perhaps its most stunning win of an incredible run as it edged the two-time reigning runner-up Aggies (10-3) on a 33-yard field goal in the fourth quarter. An interesting tie-in: Munising coach Jeff Seaberg was on that 1980 team that won the Class C title but hadn’t won more than seven games in a season since. The Mustangs are 12-1. Click for more from the Iron Mountain Daily News.
Muskegon Catholic Central 42, Harbor Beach 6
The Crusaders’ run continued to roll as impressively as expected – their playoff wins were 56-8 over Fulton, 42-0 over Fowler and 48-7 over Mendon before handing 2012 champion Harbor Beach its lone loss this fall. The Pirates (12-1) hadn’t been held to single-digit scoring since their 2011 Division 7 Regional loss to Saginaw Nouvel. MCC (13-0) has won 25 straight. Click for more from the Muskegon Chronicle.
PHOTO: Ithaca (white with yellow) edged Boyne City in their Division 6 Semfinal to extend its winning streak to 69. (Click to see more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)