1st & Goal: 2021 Playoff Week 3 Preview

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

November 11, 2021

The 8-player football season is down to its final six games, and the 11-player season is down to its final three weeks – and every matchup at this point in the MHSAA Playoffs has a story to tell.

MI Student AidWe preview 12 of those below, switching things up with the 8-Player Semifinals first as we join those contenders in preparing for next weekend’s trip to the Finals at Northern Michigan University’s Superior Dome.

All four 8-Player Semifinals and 31 of 36 football games total this weekend will be streamed live on MHSAA.tv, with Bally Sports Detroit broadcasting the 11-player Division 1 matchup between Rochester Adams and West Bloomfield. Click for how to watch.

8-Player Division 1

Martin (11-0) at Adrian Lenawee Christian (11-0), Friday

Lenawee Christian’s winning streak since switching to 8-player last season has reached 22 games, and they have yet to win one by only single digits – Climax-Scotts came closest this fall in a 16-point Week 6 loss. But all of that could change this week; Martin has put together two perfect regular seasons over its three in 8-player, and Mendon (in losses by eight and 19) is the only team to get within 40 points of the Clippers this season.

Rudyard (9-2) at Suttons Bay (11-0), Saturday

By defeating previously-unbeaten Indian River Inland Lakes 53-18 last week, Suttons Bay ran its record over the last three seasons to a combined 33-2, with both losses in Division 1 championship games. No one has gotten closer than 18 points to the Norseman this fall, and the last nine wins have all been by at least 30 points. Enter Rudyard, which is holding opponents to only 11 points per game and features a two-way threat on offense in senior quarterback EJ Suggitt (853 yards/17 TDs passing, 362 yards/11 TDs rushing). The Bulldogs have avenged both of their regular-season losses during the playoffs.

8-Player Division 2

Marion (10-1) at Powers North Central (11-0), Saturday

To say the Jets have been unchallenged this season is becoming an understatement – they’ve outscored their 10 opponents on the field by an average of 61-4, and they too have won 22 straight games. But Marion is enjoying historic success, reaching double-digit wins for the first time since 1992 with the only loss to Suttons Bay (see above) and no other opponent getting closer than 15 points. Junior quarterback Mason Salisbury can do it all; he’s run for 1,567 yards (11 per carry) and 30 touchdowns and thrown for another 908 yards and 12 scores.

Colon (10-1) at Au Gres-Sims (11-0), Saturday

The Wolverines have reached their previous high point, as in 2018 they also entered a Semifinal 11-0 before falling that game to Pickford. This time, Au Gres-Sims features a pair of 1,000-yard rushers in senior Mason VanSickle (1,434/21 TDS) and junior Keagan Bender (1,209/16), and VanSickle also has thrown for 2,465 yards and 40 touchdowns – nearly half to senior Evan Saunders (1,061 yards/17 TDs). They surely will test a Colon defense allowing only 12 points per game. But the Magi have seen many of the rest of the best, with the only loss to Lenawee Christian (see above) and wins the last two weeks over previous unbeatens Portland St. Patrick and Morrice.

11-Player Division 1

Dearborn Fordson (9-2) at Belleville (10-1), Saturday

Fordson’s two losses this season were by a combined five points, and the first came Week 5 against Belleville 21-19 in a game that ended up helping the Tigers finish atop the Kensington Lakes Activities Association East. The Tractors’ defense has been sound – they are giving up only 17 points per game, and those 21 tied Belleville’s second-lowest output of the season. But Fordson’s challenge of scoring more in this rematch faces a tough obstacle as well with the Tigers giving up only 13 points per game this season including a combined 19 over their last three games.  

Other Regional Finals FRIDAY West Bloomfield (10-1) at Rochester Adams (11-0), Macomb Dakota (8-3) at Sterling Heights Stevenson (9-2). SATURDAY Grand Blanc (11-0) at Rockford (11-0).

11-Player Division 2

Traverse City Central (10-1) at Caledonia (10-1), Friday

Central has followed up last season’s first Semifinal trip since 1998 with a record offensive performance. The Trojans’ 537 points are their most since at least 1950 (according to Michigan-football.com), and they’ve scored 49 or more five straight games and 42 or more in nine games total. Caledonia may not be fazed. The Fighting Scots are giving up 13 points per game, and that includes allowing only 17 to Rockford (averaging 40 per game) and 12 to Muskegon Mona Shores (44 ppg) over the last five weeks. But the comparison also cuts the other way; Central’s defense is giving up just 13 points per game as well, and Caledonia’s offense is grinding out 35.

Other Regional Finals FRIDAY Portage Central (9-2) at South Lyon (11-0), Livonia Franklin (6-5) at Waterford Mott (7-4). SATURDAY Roseville (7-4) at Warren De La Salle Collegiate (10-0).

11-Player Division 3

Cedar Springs (9-2) at DeWitt (10-1), Saturday (at Grand Ledge)

Cedar Springs’ 21-14 win over Muskegon last week may have resulted in some double takes – the Big Reds had won nine straight District titles – but the result definitely falls in with the Red Hawks’ body of work this season. Grand Rapids Catholic Central puts up a strong argument as one of the best teams in Michigan regardless of division, the Cedar Springs fell to the Cougars by just a point in Week 8. The other loss came to Rockford. The question this time will revolve around how much the Red Hawks’ defense can match DeWitt’s offense, which averages 48 ppg. Muskegon averaged 46 before last week’s meeting, but the Panthers put up 50 on previously-undefeated Mount Pleasant in their District Final.

Other Regional Finals FRIDAY Parma Western (8-3) at St. Joseph (7-4), Mason (9-2) at Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice (8-3) (at Lawrence Tech), Allen Park (9-2) at Detroit Martin Luther King (10-1).

11-Player Division 4

Detroit Country Day (7-3) at Chelsea (11-0), Friday

Country Day’s record really is irrelevant at this point; the Yellowjackets’ losses were to Division 2 South Lyon and Division 3 Brother Rice and Harper Woods, and South Lyon and Brother Rice are still playing. More telling might be how Country Day has played over the last five weeks – the reigning Division 4 champion is 4-1 giving up 13 points per game and having scored a combined 84 over its first two playoff contests. It’s a good match for how Chelsea has been looking consistently all season; the Bulldogs are giving up 12 points per game and scoring 43, and that’s with only one game under 40 this fall.

Other Regional Finals FRIDAY Cadillac (9-2) at Hudsonville Unity Christian (11-0) (at Jenison), Grand Rapids South Christian (8-3) at Edwardsburg (11-0), Croswell-Lexington (10-1) at Freeland (10-1).

11-Player Division 5

Kingsley (10-1) at Frankenmuth (11-0), Saturday

A rematch of last season Division 5 Final with Grand Rapids Catholic Central is a possibility for next week, but the Eagles cannot overlook a Kingsley team that has reached at least Regional Finals three of the last four seasons and is eight points from also being undefeated this fall. The Stags lone loss was 38-30 to Division 7 contender Traverse City St. Francis, and minus that game Kingsley is giving up only 7.8 points per contest. Frankenmuth’s defense should be ready to match – the Eagles are giving up only 9.3 points per game – but must be ready for a close game that could resemble their wins over New Lothrop, Freeland and Goodrich.

Other Regional Finals FRIDAY Muskegon Oakridge (9-2) at Grand Rapids Catholic Central (11-0), Kalamazoo United (8-3) at Portland (9-2), Corunna (7-4) at Marine City (11-0).

11-Player Division 6

Montague (8-3) at Lansing Catholic (10-1), Saturday

Reigning champion Montague has worked its way back to this point, and a broader look at the Wildcats’ season shows they’ve really been in the mix all along. Montague earned a share of the West Michigan Conference title, which is never a small feat, and the losses came to teams in Division 4 (Edwardsburg, Whitehall) and Division 5 (Portland) that all are still playing after winning District titles. The Cougars impressed in a big way with last week’s 28-8 win over previously-undefeated Millington, and an offense averaging 34 points per game may need to be the difference this time. Both teams are giving up only 14 points per game.

Other Regional Finals FRIDAY Michigan Center (10-1) at Clinton (9-2). SATURDAY Calumet (9-2) at Standish-Sterling (9-2), Ecorse (8-3) at Warren Michigan Collegiate (9-2).

11-Player Division 7

Lawton (11-0) at Muskegon Catholic Central (10-1), Friday

The Blue Devils put together their second perfect regular season in three years this fall, and a win this weekend would plant a major exclamation mark on that recent work. Lawton is seeking its first Regional title and rolling, especially on the defensive side of the ball where its giving up only 8.5 points per game. This will be MCC’s seventh-straight game against a playoff team, which makes its 34 points scored and 14 points allowed per game even more impressive. The Crusaders are seeking their first Regional title since 2016’s undefeated Division 8 run.  

Other Regional Finals SATURDAY Ishpeming Westwood (10-1) at Traverse City St. Francis (11-0), Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker (9-2) at Pewamo-Westphalia (11-0), Detroit Loyola (6-4) at Jackson Lumen Christi (10-1).

11-Player Division 8

Clarkston Everest Collegiate (9-2) at Ottawa Lake Whiteford (10-1), Saturday

While not this group of players, Whiteford as a program has familiarity with this level of the tournament having made consecutive Finals in 2016 and 2017 and winning Division 8 to cap the latter run (when the Bobcats also defeated Everest in a Regional Final). But this will be Whiteford’s first playoff game this season against a team from outside its league. Everest has that bit of unfamiliarity on its side, and has been on its game outscoring its first two playoff opponents by a combined 88-0. The Mountaineers reached the Semifinals last season but were unable to play that round – so surely there’s some added motivation to return.

Other Regional Finals FRIDAY Carson City-Crystal (10-1) at Beal City (10-1), Breckenridge (9-2) at Ubly (11-0), White Pigeon (10-1) at Hudson (11-0).

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PHOTO Marion quarterback Mason Salisbury (7) works to get to the edge during a Week 8 win over Vestaburg. (Click for more from High School Sports Scene.) 

MHSAA, MHSFCA to Provide Spring Evaluation Camps for College Football Hopefuls

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

March 27, 2023

The Michigan High School Athletic Association, in partnership with the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association (MHSFCA), will be hosting first-ever Spring Evaluation Camps to provide athletes with aspirations of playing college football opportunities to show their skills and abilities to college coaches at one of five locations.

The one-day camps will take place between May 15-18 at Jenison High School, DeWitt High School, Jackson High School, Brighton High School and Detroit Country Day High School. The MHSAA’s involvement will allow for the opportunity for Division I college coaches to attend, and representatives from college football programs at all levels are expected.

Athletes who will be juniors or seniors in Fall 2023 may register to participate via a link on the Football page.

“This is an attempt by the MHSAA to help our athletes get exposure during the spring evaluation period in a way that does not intrude on spring sports,” said Brad Bush, an MHSAA assistant director and past high school and college football coach. “We are working with the MHSFCA to help put together a first-class experience for the athletes and college coaches.”

Cost is $20 per player, and each registrant will receive a shirt to wear based on the athlete’s graduation year and registration number so college coaches in attendance can monitor their camp performance. College coaches also will receive registration information for each athlete in attendance.

All athletes must have a coach from the athlete’s school staff present at the camp, and that coach must be a member of the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association.

MHSFCA executive director Andrew Pratley called the Spring Evaluation Camps a tremendous opportunity for high school athletes in Michigan.

“We are very excited with the partnership with the MHSAA that allows our kids the opportunity to wear a helmet and do drills in front of college coaches in the spring at a minimal cost,” Pratley said. “College coaches are thrilled, and it's a unique opportunity to have the rules waived by the MHSAA at these events only in order to showcase the tremendous talent all over the great state of Michigan.”

The Michigan High School Football Coaches Association (MHSFCA) has been devoted to the promotion of high school football since its inception in March 1972. The MHSFCA has more than 2,500 members and provides several educational and development opportunities for members and their athletes, including an annual coaching clinic, an annual leadership conference for coaches and potential team captains, and the annual summer East-West All-Star Game for graduated seniors. Additionally, the MHSFCA’s Leadership Development Alliance is in its third year of training coaches and offering veteran members of the association as mentors.

The MHSAA is a private, not-for-profit corporation of voluntary membership by more than 1,500 public and private senior high schools and junior high/middle schools which exists to develop common rules for athletic eligibility and competition. No government funds or tax dollars support the MHSAA, which was the first such association nationally to not accept membership dues or tournament entry fees from schools. Member schools which enforce these rules are permitted to participate in MHSAA tournaments, which attract more than 1.3 million spectators each year.