1st & Goal: 11-Player Semifinals Preview

January 15, 2021

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Five months have passed since the first football practices of this season.

But 24 hours from now, 16 11-player teams will have earned tickets to the destination they’ve been dreaming about since long before those first snaps of the fall.

The last outdoor MHSAA football games of January 2021 will send 15 more teams to Ford Field for the Jan. 22-23 Finals, with Semifinals to be played all over the Lower Peninsula (and one finalist already decided as Centreville will advance after a forfeit).

Spectators remain limited this weekend, but every game will be streamed live by FOX Sports Detroit or MHSAA.com – Click for the list of broadcasts.

Visit the MHSAA Football Playoff Home for Saturday’s entire schedule and scores as they come in, and see below for a glance at the matchups that will determine this season’s championship weekend field. 

Division 1

Davison (10-0) at Rockford (8-0)

Reigning Division 1 champion Davison might be missing quarterback Brendan Sullivan, now at Northwestern, but Dion Brown Jr. stepped in mightily last week after leading the team in receiving prior to the move. Carter Cryderman (848 yards/11 TDs) paces a rushing attack averaging 215 yards per game. The Rams have succeeded with a similar style, averaging 222 yards on the ground with lead back Ethan Nash and quarterback Zak Ahern combining for 1,217 yards and 14 touchdowns rushing. Ahern also has 20 touchdowns passes.

West Bloomfield (9-1) at Belleville (10-0)

Two of the most exciting offensive stars in the state will face off among a collection of future college players taking the field in this Semifinal. West Bloomfield running back Donovan Edwards ran for four touchdowns in last week’s return-to-play Regional Final win over Romeo, while Belleville quarterback Christian Dhue-Reid threw three touchdowns passes as the Tigers handed Detroit Cass Tech its lone loss of this season.

Division 2

Traverse City Central (9-1) at Muskegon Mona Shores (10-0)

Shores quarterback Brady Rose started his star run stepping in for an injured all-stater at last year’s Final and leading the Sailors to the Division 2 title. Now he has his team one win from returning to Ford Field having run for 1,057 yards and 17 touchdowns and thrown for 949 yards and 10 scores this season. The Trojans are playing for their first Finals berth since 1988, before the old Traverse City High split into Central and West. Josh Burnham is another standout quarterback, with 903 yards and 18 TDs rushing and 1,215 yards and 16 scores through the air.

Oak Park (5-5) at Warren De La Salle Collegiate (6-4)  

Oak Park is one of the best stories so far of this playoffs, as it entered the first all-in postseason in MHSAA football history with a single victory. Running back Davion Primm is another of the top talents in the entire state and the focus of an offense that scored 25 points total over five regular-season games followed by a combined 119 over four playoff wins. The Pilots will attempt to end that dream run, in part with a defense that has given up only 23 points during the postseason. Brady Drogosh (949 yards/9 TDs passing) directs a balanced attack.

Division 3

Muskegon (9-1) vs. DeWitt (10-0) at Lansing Catholic

These two have met in the playoffs two of the last three seasons, and Muskegon won the 2019 Semifinal matchup 28-21. Senior Amari Crowley is the Big Reds’ latest standout quarterback; he’s thrown for 1,008 yards and 12 touchdowns and run for 884 yards and 13 scores. DeWitt also has a playmaking QB, with Tyler Holtz throwing for 2,109 yards and 31 scores – and equally important will be a defense that gives up only 157 total yards per game. The Panthers also must stop running back Jacarri Kitchen, who averages 11.3 yards per carry and has 1,098 total over 10 games.

River Rouge (8-1) at Chelsea (10-0)

Reigning Division 3 champion River Rouge is a win away from what would be a third championship game appearance in six seasons, and with quarterback Mareyohn Hrabowski again one of the toughest to stop in any division. Chelsea is playing in a Semifinal for the third-straight season and also hoping to make the Finals for the third time in six seasons. The Bulldogs also have enjoyed one of the state’s top game changers, receiver Joe Taylor, who has caught 14 touchdowns passes, run for two scores and returned a kickoff for one more.   

Division 4

Cadillac (7-2) at Edwardsburg (9-0)

The Eddies are running for their third championship game appearance in four seasons, and as always running for a ton with 3,098 yards in only eight games on the field (the ninth was a forfeit). They’re averaging 55 points per game with their top two rushers, Jackson Hoover and Brett Allen, both averaging at least 14 yards per carry. Cadillac is making its first appearance in the Semifinals and following the same strategy. The Vikings have run for 2,507 yards, with top rusher Aden Gurden gaining 878 on 8.4 per carry.

Detroit Country Day (7-2) vs. Williamston (9-1) at Okemos

Reigning Division 4 runner-up Country Day is playing to reach its third championship game in five seasons. The Yellowjackets were able to get only four games in during the regular season but have played the same number during the playoffs and downed unbeaten North Branch last week. Jacob Yarberry is a playmaker to watch on both sides of the field. The Hornets have been on the verge as well with this their second Semifinal in three seasons. Williamston’s attack is tough on both fronts; quarterback Luke Mahaney guides an offense that has nearly equal yardage and touchdowns rushing and passing.

Division 5

Freeland (9-1) at Grand Rapids Catholic Central (9-0)

The Cougars claimed the Division 4 title last season, their third in four years, and are riding a 21-game winning streak. They returned last week with their highest-scoring performance since 2018, a 58-7 win over Muskegon Oakridge. Freeland’s 14th-straight winning season has landed the Falcons in their first Semifinal since 1998. Four players have scored at least six touchdowns;  leading rusher Jacob Kundinger (519 yards) is one of three with a team-best eight touchdowns.

Lansing Catholic (8-2) at Frankenmuth (10-0)

The Eagles are attempting to reach the Finals for the first time, but standing in the way is reigning Division 5 champion Lansing Catholic. Junior Alex Watters stepped in at quarterback last week and finished with 153 yards rushing with a touchdown and 73 yards and a score passing. Frankenmuth will be playing in its third Semifinal in five seasons, this time paced by a running attack averaging 286 yards per game. Cole Lindow is the top ground gainer with 907 yards, plus 12 scores, with quarterback Davin Reif adding more than 800 yards rushing and throwing.

Division 6

Grayling (7-3) at Montague (10-0)

After winning Division 6 in 2018, the Wildcats missed a return trip to the Finals by a one-point Semifinal loss last fall. Quarterback Drew Collins is leading the return attempt, topping the team in rushing with 638 yards (with 16 touchdowns) while passing for 1,640 yards and 20 scores. After two straight 3-6 seasons, Grayling has reached its first Semifinal with a six-game winning streak. David Millikin is averaging 10.1 yards per carry and 151 per game, with 29 rushing touchdowns total.

Constantine (9-1) at Clinton (9-1)

Clinton will be playing in its first Semifinal since 2015 after winning its last two playoff games, over unbeaten opponents, by a combined four points. Constantine has reached nine wins and the Semifinals both for the first time since 2012. The Falcons are averaging an obliterating 524 yards and 7.5 touchdowns on the ground per game.

Division 7

Traverse City St. Francis (8-2) at Cass City (10-0)

Cass City earned home field for its Semifinal with a road win last week over undefeated Ithaca. This will be the second-straight appearance in this round for the Red Hawks, who average 339 rushing yards per game behind backs Alex Perry (897 yards/13 TDs) and Jordan Mester (847/11 TDs). St. Francis also dominates in the ground game, averaging 215 rush yards per game led by Owen Mueller (523 yards/5 TDs) among a large group of contributing backs.

Schoolcraft (9-1) at New Lothrop (9-0)

The Hornets will be playing in their third Semifinal in six seasons and are looking to win their second Division 7 title in three seasons. No opponent has scored more than 16 points against them, which works well with an offense scoring 50 points per game. Quarterback Cam Orr (1,721 yards/24 TDs passing, 569 yards/16 TDs rushing) is among standouts. Schoolcraft turned its third-straight Regional Finals run into its first Semifinal since 2001. Alex Thole has thrown for 2,288 yards and 32 touchdowns. The Eagles downed reigning Division 7 runner-up Jackson Lumen Christi 29-22 last week and handed Division 6 semifinalist Constantine its only loss, in the season opener.

Division 8

Ubly (8-2) at Johannesburg-Lewiston (10-0)

Johannesburg-Lewiston also earned a home Semifinal after a Regional Final road trip, edging Iron Mountain 7-6 last week at the Superior Dome. Sheldon Huff paces another dominating running attack, averaging 9.3 yards per carry for 1,295 total and 16 touchdowns on the ground. This will be the Cardinals’ first Semifinal since 1998, but Ubly’s second straight and third in four seasons. The Bearcats missed Ford Field in 2019 with a one-point loss to Beal City.

NOTE: Centreville (10-0) advanced to the Division 8 Final after Clarkston Everest Collegiate had to withdraw from the playoffs this week.

PHOTO: Williamston, here during a 45-7 win over Ionia in Week 7, is back in the Semifinals this weekend for the second time in three seasons. (Click to see more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)  

1st & Goal: 2023 Week 6 Preview

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

September 28, 2023

Five showdowns of undefeated teams highlight this week's Michigan high school statewide schedule as we begin our second-half buildup toward the end of the regular season. 

MI Student AidFour shoud heavily impact league championship races, and the fifth merely will tell us how two more of the top 8-player teams in the entire state stack up among the elite.

If you're not watching in person, check out most of the matchups highlighted below, and several others, on MHSAA.tv. Check in as well with the MHSAA Scores page for all of them as they come in. (Games below are Friday unless noted.)

Bay & Thumb

Croswell-Lexington (5-0) at Almont (5-0) - Watch

Just past halfway through the Blue Water Area Conference schedule, half the teams are 3-1 or 4-0 in league play – with these the co-leaders. Croswell-Lexington hasn’t played a game closer than 19 points this fall, but did lose last year’s meeting with Almont 37-26. The Raiders, meanwhile, have won the last two weeks by seven and one point, respectively – but opened the season with three straight shutouts as the stifling defense they’ve become known for has given up only 34 points total.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Lapeer (4-1) at Grand Blanc (3-2) - Watch, Linden (4-1) at Fenton (4-1) - Watch, Birch Run (4-1) at Freeland (5-0) - Watch, Madison Heights Lamphere (4-1) at Marine City (4-1).

Greater Detroit

Westland John Glenn (5-0) at Belleville (5-0) - Watch

Belleville’s 42-3 victory over Livonia Franklin last week was the team’s 30th straight, and the Tigers now own the state’s longest active winning streak with Powers North Central’s coming to an end at 41 on the same night. Belleville’s next challenger is John Glenn, which under second-year coach Jason Mensing has as many victories this fall as the last two combined and has nearly guaranteed its first winning season since 2014. Mensing guided his former team Ottawa Lake Whiteford through several memorable moments, and this will be the Rockets’ biggest so far under his leadership.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Gibraltar Carlson (4-1) at Trenton (4-1) - Watch, Romeo (3-2) at Macomb Dakota (4-1) - Watch, Lake Orion (5-0) at Rochester Adams (3-2) - Watch, Marine City Cardinal Mooney (3-2) at Clarkston Everest Collegiate (3-2) - Watch.


Goodrich (5-0) at Corunna (5-0) - Watch

The winner of this matchup clinches a share of the Flint Metro League Stars championship, similar to last season when Goodrich won the league and Corunna was second thanks to the Martians’ 42-7 win in their Week 5 matchup. Both arguably have been even better this fall. Goodrich has handed the only losses this season to Frankenmuth and Linden, and Corunna has given up only 31 points this season and no more than 17 in a game while scoring at least 38 every time out.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Evart (4-1) at Beal City (5-0) - Watch, Grand Ledge (5-0) at DeWitt (2-2) - Watch, Fowler (5-0) at Pewamo-Westphalia (4-1) - Watch, Montrose (4-1) at New Lothrop (4-1) - Watch.

Northern Lower Peninsula

Charlevoix (4-1) at Elk Rapids (2-3)

There’s more riding here than the initial glance my indicate. Charlevoix, with a win, would clinch a share of the Northern Michigan Football Conference Leaders title – its first since 2020 and after finishing second to Boyne City both of the past two seasons. The Rayders haven’t had a game closer than 13 points since falling to Traverse City St. Francis by one in their season opener. Elk Rapids got off to a tough start but has won two straight – both in shutouts – and is looking for its first win over Charlevoix since 2018.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Grayling (3-2) at Kingsley (4-1) - Watch, McBain (4-1) at Lake City (3-2), Ludington (3-2) at Manistee (4-1) - Watch, Cadillac (3-2) at Petoskey (3-2) - Watch.

Southeast & Border

Jackson (4-1) at Adrian (4-1) - Watch

Jackson has a chance to set up a Week 7 winner-take-all matchup with Chelsea for the Southeastern Conference White championship – a nice jump after finishing third last season. The Vikings haven’t defeated Chelsea since 2018 but lost by a respectable 17-0 last fall. But they can’t overlook Adrian, still enjoying its best season since 2016 despite falling to Chelsea 28-18 last week. The Maples would love to hand Jackson a loss tonight and cheer for the Vikings next week with a title share possible.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Michigan Center (4-1) at Grass Lake (4-1) - Watch, Flat Rock (4-1) at Milan (3-2) - Watch, Ann Arbor Huron (3-2) at Saline (5-0) - Watch, Hudson (5-0) at Blissfield (3-2) - Watch.

Southwest Corridor

Parma Western (5-0) at Battle Creek Harper Creek (4-1)

We’re halfway through the Interstate 8 Athletic Conference schedule, and this has emerged as an important matchup with Parma Western tied with Hastings for first and Harper Creek only a game back after falling to the Saxons 34-6 last week. The Beavers struggled to 3-6 a year ago but already have avenged 2022 losses to Battle Creek Lakeview, Battle Creek Central and Marshall – and Western defeated them 34-0 last season before Harper Creek went 2-1 to finish the fall. Western’s defense is a notable strength again, giving up only 37 points total this season despite taking on Dearborn Divine Child and Detroit Country Day over the first two weeks.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Paw Paw (5-0) at Edwardsburg (3-2) - Watch, Constantine (4-1) at Allegan (4-1) - Watch, St. Joseph (3-2) at Portage Northern (5-0) - Watch, Muskegon Catholic Central (3-2) at Schoolcraft (4-1) - Watch.

Upper Peninsula

Gladstone (4-1) at Menominee (5-0)

This is the first of three games that will tell a lot about Menominee’s season as the Maroons enter this stretch alone atop the Western Peninsula Athletic Conference Copper at 4-0 but with Gladstone, Week 7 opponent Negaunee and Week 8 opponent Kingsford all 3-1 in league play. While this is a new conference for the Maroons this season, they have plenty of history with Gladstone as both came from the Great Northern Conference – and Menominee had won three straight in the series before Gladstone’s 28-6 victory last fall. Gladstone’s lone defeat this year came Week 3 to Kingsford, 35-12.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Maple City Glen Lake (3-2) at Sault Ste. Marie (3-2) - Watch, Manistique (3-2) at Iron Mountain (5-0) - Watch, Marquette (2-2) at Escanaba (1-4) - Watch, Houghton (2-3) at Calumet (1-4) - Watch.

West Michigan

Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central (4-1) at East Grand Rapids (5-0)

We’ve been watching East Grand Rapids’ rejuvenation this fall with this among games circled for special attention, and Forest Hills Central’s 15-14 loss to Byron Center last week hardly lessens the intrigue. The Rangers are still among favorites statewide in Division 3, ranked No. 2, and East Grand Rapids is right behind them this week at No. 3 (while Byron Center is No. 2 in Division 2). The Ottawa-Kent Conference White title won’t be decided with this matchup, but it surely will be impacted – and the Rangers have defeated EGR all three times they’ve met since the Pioneers rejoined the division in 2020.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Allendale (5-0) at Spring Lake (4-1), Lowell (4-1) at Byron Center (5-0), Caledonia (4-1) at Hudsonville (4-1) - Watch, Zeeland East (4-1) at Muskegon (3-2).


Mendon (5-0) at Adrian Lenawee Christian (5-0) - Watch

Movement on the overall 8-player enrollment list have made this a matchup we’ll see just this once this fall, as Mendon – last year’s Division 2 runner-up – has moved to Division 1 and is ranked No. 2, while Lenawee Christian is top-ranked in Division 2 after winning Division 1 titles in 2020 and 2021 and reaching a Regional Final last year. Still, many 8-player eyes will be watching. The Cougars have given up just 32 points this season and no more than 12 in a game, and that defense should be part of the key matchup within the matchup because Mendon is scoring 52 per contest and coming off an 80-point performance.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Carson City-Crystal (5-0) at Coleman (4-1) - Watch, Brown City (5-0) at Mayville (5-0) - Watch, St. Ignace (5-0) at Newberry (4-1), Norway (4-1) at Ontonagon (4-1) - Watch.

Second Half’s weekly “1st & Goal” previews and reviews are powered by MI Student Aid, a part of the Office of Postsecondary Financial Planning 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. MI Student Aid administers the state’s 529 college savings programs (MET/MESP), as well as scholarship and grant programs that help make college Accessible, Affordable and Attainable for you. Connect with MI Student Aid at www.michigan.gov/mistudentaid and find more information on Facebook and X (Twitter) @mistudentaid.

PHOTO Muskegon Catholic Central and Orchard View players reach to get a hand on the ball during their meeting this season. (Photo by Tim Reilly.)