By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Opening week of this high school football season predictably fulfilled anticipation and expectation.
Up this week is a rematch of last season’s Division 1 championship game, which also is among a number of league openers matching conference title favorites all over Michigan. Reigning Division 3 champ Muskegon won’t be starting league play for a few more weeks, but again might be hosting the most intriguing game statewide as another Detroit-area powerhouse comes to town.
Nearly all of this week’s games will be played Thursday night in advance of the Labor Day holiday. Check out the MHSAA Score Center for the full schedule and results as games are completed, and if you’re not watching in person check out one of eight games live on MHSAA.tv.
“Drive for Detroit” previews are powered by MI Student Aid. Games below are Thursday unless noted.
Bay & Thumb
Frankenmuth (1-0) at Saginaw Swan Valley (1-0)
Big-time rivals during the 1980s (when they shared a league), Swan Valley and Frankenmuth will meet again for the first time since 2010 and this time as statewide contenders. Swan Valley is the reigning Division 5 runner-up and Frankenmuth was a Division 5 semifinalist a year ago as both fell to champion Grand Rapids West Catholic during the playoff’s final rounds. Both are coming off big wins over bigger competition last week; the Vikings downed Cedar Springs by nine, and the Eagles defeated Bay City Central by 23.
Others that caught my eye: THURSDAY Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker (1-0) at Reese (1-0), Goodrich (1-0) at Ortonville Brandon (1-0), Flint Carman-Ainsworth (1-0) vs. Midland (0-1) at Northwood, St. Clair Shores South Lake (1-0) at Marine City (1-0).
West Bloomfield (1-0) at Clarkston (1-0), Friday
This is a rematch of last season’s Division 1 championship game, when these two combined for the second-lowest scoring Final in MHSAA football history – Clarkston winning 3-2. Not telling by the score, West Bloomfield’s offense was loaded with future Division I college players – but the retooled Lakers scored 39 in a win last week over Birmingham Groves, while Clarkston’s defense looked stingy again in downing Grandville 12-9. And don’t forget: These two also both play in the Oakland Activities Association Red, and West Bloomfield won that matchup last season 37-16.
Others that caught my eye: THURSDAY Waterford Our Lady (1-0) at Sterling Heights Parkway Christian (1-0), Oak Park (1-0) at Birmingham Groves (0-1), Livonia Churchill (1-0) at Belleville (1-0), Warren Fitzgerald (1-0) at Auburn Hills Avondale (1-0).
Haslett (1-0) at Lansing Sexton (0-1)
In finishing 8-3 a year ago, Haslett posted its best record since 2006. The Vikings picked up on the same foot last week, opening with a 28-7 win over Coldwater – and they’ll now try to make it two in a row over 2017 playoff teams. Sexton just missed giving new coach Johnel Davis his first win, falling to Gaylord by 23-19. But the Big Reds would love to pick up some steam heading into a new league, the Capital Area Activities Conference White, and it’s already possible to forecast this as a key game if Sexton is to qualify for the playoffs in two months.
Others that caught my eye: THURSDAY Lincoln Alcona (0-1) at Breckenridge (1-0), Brooklyn Columbia Central (1-0) at Leslie (1-0), Walled Lake Northern (0-1) at DeWitt (1-0), Ann Arbor Huron (0-1) at Williamston (1-0).
Northern Lower Peninsula
Traverse City St. Francis (1-0) at Maple City Glen Lake (0-1)
St. Francis had a lot to enjoy about a 42-3 opening-night win over Marquette last week, while Glen Lake ran into a regular-season superpower in falling to New Lothrop. But a win over the Gladiators would certainly heal the grief of that 32-point defeat. These teams have met in both the regular season and playoffs two of the last three seasons, with St. Francis claiming last year’s regular-season meeting 35-9 – but then the District Final rematch only 13-0.
Others that caught my eye: THURSDAY Tawas (1-0) at Rogers City (1-0), Lakeview (1-0) at Lake City (1-0), Gladstone (1-0) at Gaylord (1-0), Marquette (0-1) at Traverse City Central (1-0).
Southeast & Border
Napoleon (0-1) at Addison (1-0)
Last season’s Cascades Conference race saw Addison beat Napoleon by two, Napoleon beat Michigan Center by three and Michigan Center beat Addison by 12 – and all three share the league title. It wouldn’t be shocking if this matchup played a big part in the chase again. Addison opened last week with a big win over Dearborn Heights Star International and Napoleon fell to Brooklyn Columbia Central – both repeats of 2017 results and not necessarily telling of what to expect.
Others that caught my eye: THURSDAY Jackson Lumen Christi (1-0) at Parma Western (1-0), Hudson (0-1) at Morenci (0-1), Lake Fenton (1-0) at Ida (1-0) FRIDAY Grand Rapids Catholic Central (1-0) at Saline (0-1).
Saugatuck (1-0) at Watervliet (1-0)
Both saw their 2017 seasons end against eventual MHSAA champions, Watervliet in a Division 6 Regional Final to Jackson Lumen Christi and Saugatuck at Ford Field where it fell to Pewamo-Westphalia in the Division 7 Final. Watervliet scored at least 50 points in its first seven games last season, and opened this one with another 50-pointer last week against Lawton. Saugatuck actually was more of a defensive force a year ago – but started this one with a 55-pointer that’s been the expectation most other seasons this decade.
Others that caught my eye: THURSDAY Dowagiac (1-0) at Three Rivers (1-0), Portage Northern (1-0) at Stevensville Lakeshore (0-1), St. Joseph (0-1) at Niles (1-0), Kalamazoo United (1-0) at Lawton (0-1).
Iron Mountain (1-0) at Ishpeming Westwood (1-0), Friday
Iron Mountain’s one-win finish in 2017 was quite a rarity – the Mountaineers had made the playoffs 16 of the previous 18 years and not had a one-win season on the field since 1990. So it made sense that they equaled last fall’s win total last week with a 12-9 victory over Negaunee. Westwood, meanwhile, is coming off its winningest season ever at 9-2 – and started its campaign last week to show that wasn’t a one-hit wonder with a 42-0 shutout of Houghton.
Others that caught my eye: THURSDAY Negaunee (0-1) at Calumet (1-0) FRIDAY Lake Linden-Hubbell (0-1) at Ishpeming (1-0), Petoskey (0-1) at Escanaba (0-1), Iron River West Iron County (1-0) at Bark River-Harris (0-1).
Detroit Martin Luther King (1-0) at Muskegon (1-0), Friday
When Muskegon opens with back-to-back home games against Warren DeLaSalle and now Martin Luther King, it’s hard to not tout them as the biggest games of many exciting matchups from the west side of the Lower Peninsula. Quarterback Cameron Martinez showed what he’s capable of in last week’s 36-21 win over the reigning Division 2 champion, and expectations will only continue to grow. But King – which fell to DeLaSalle by a point in their Division 2 Semifinal in November – could be an even tougher test coming off a 52-38 win over Illinois powerhouse East St. Louis.
Others that caught my eye: THURSDAY Rockford (0-1) at Lowell (0-1), Lansing Catholic (1-0) at Grand Rapids West Catholic (0-1), Benton Harbor (1-0) at Grand Rapids South Christian (1-0), Holland West Ottawa (1-0) at Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central (1-0).
Eben Junction Superior Central (1-0) at Cedarville (0-1)
Superior Central stunned the 8-player community with a 46-24 win over reigning Division 2 champion Crystal Falls Forest Park last week, and the Cougars can start 2-0 for the first time since 2012 by following up against another perennial power. But Cedarville surely is eager to get back on the field as well after putting up 40 in a six-point loss to Stephenson. Don’t be surprised if this turns into an offensive display.
Others that caught my eye: THURSDAY Central Lake (0-1) at Onekama (1-0), Engadine (1-0) at Pickford (1-0), Powers North Central (0-1) at Rapid River (1-0), Bellaire (1-0) at Suttons Bay (1-0).
Second Half’s weekly “Drive for Detroit” previews and reviews are powered by MI Student Aid, a part of the Student Financial Services Bureau located within the Michigan Department of Treasury. MI Student Aid encourages students to pursue postsecondary education by providing access to student financial resources and information, including various student financial assistance programs to help make college more affordable for Michigan students. MI Student Aid administers the state’s 529 savings programs (MET/MESP) and eight additional aid programs within its Student Scholarships and Grants division. Click for more information and connect with MI Student Aid on Facebook and Twitter @mistudentaid.
PHOTO: A Flint Beecher linebacker readies for the snap during last week’s win over Flint Southwestern at Atwood Stadium. (Photo by John Johnson.)