Every week of the football regular season we learn something more about who we might be watching when playoffs roll around in November.
And we should know quite a bit once we’ve reached the end of Week 3 this weekend.
League play will have begun in almost every conference across the state, and with some particularly intriguing matchups of possible state contenders today and Saturday – a few of which we detail below.
Once again, more than 150 games will be viewable live on MHSAA.tv, with Bally Sports Detroit broadcasting Friday's Detroit Cass Tech/Detroit Martin Luther King matchup on its PLUS cable channel and State Champs! Sports Network streaming live Saturday's Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood/Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes matchup. See the full schedule from the MHSAA Score Center.
Bay & Thumb
Grand Blanc (2-0) at Midland Dow (2-0)
Add next week’s Davison game as well, and only a few statewide can match the strength of Grand Blanc’s opening schedule, which has included wins over East Lansing and Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central so far. Last season’s game against Dow wasn’t played because of the late start to the regular season, but the two previous matchups were both Grand Blanc wins – but decided by a combined five points. Dow followed an impressive opening win over Fenton with a shutout of Flint Carman-Ainsworth last week, and moving to 3-0 against the Division 1 Bobcats would be put the Chargers firmly on the Division 2 radar.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Harrison (2-0) at Gladwin (2-0), Millington (2-0) at Hemlock (1-1), Ortonville Brandon (2-0) at Lake Fenton (2-0), Fraser (2-0) at Port Huron Northern (2-0).
Detroit Cass Tech (2-0) at Detroit Martin Luther King (1-1)
Simply put, this could end up as the premier game statewide this regular season. Both went to Muskegon County last weekend and came back with big wins over annual title contenders, King 40-19 over two-time reigning Division 2 champion Muskegon Mona Shores and Cass Tech 49-14 over a Muskegon program coming off its fifth straight Semifinals appearance with four consecutive Finals also during that run. High-profile talent will be everywhere, but of course many eyes will be on the quarterbacks – King’s Dante Moore and Cass Tech’s Leeshaun Mumpfield have been making plenty of headlines already. The Technicians won both meetings last season as the teams have taken turns defeating (or on those few occasions with multiple matchups sweeping) their top rival over the last seven seasons.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Belleville (2-0) at Livonia Churchill (2-0), Romeo (2-0) at Macomb Dakota (1-1), Harper Woods (2-0) at Orchard Lake St. Mary’s (2-0), Detroit Loyola (2-0) at Pontiac Notre Dame Prep (2-0).
East Lansing (1-1) at DeWitt (1-1)
This has been viewed as the premier matchup in the Lansing area going back a few seasons – although they didn’t play each other last year because of the late start – and East Lansing in Division 2 and DeWitt as reigning champion in Division 3 both have major postseason aspirations again. But first things first, and the winner tonight will take a notable step forward in what’s shaping up to be the strongest Capital Area Activities Conference Blue in a while. The Trojans lost by six in their high-scoring opener to Grand Blanc (see above) and followed with a 33-7 win last week over a Fenton team that lost only once in 2020. The Panthers are coming off a 20-17 last-minute loss at Portland – but DeWitt’s offense is capable of supercharging again like when it scored 47 against Traverse City Central in Week 1.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Hartland (2-0) at Brighton (1-1), Northville (1-1) at Howell (2-0), Williamston (1-1) at Mason (1-1), Battle Creek Central (1-1) at Lansing Everett (2-0).
Northern Lower Peninsula
Traverse City West (2-0) at Cadillac (2-0)
West vs. Traverse City Central has long been viewed as “The Game” in the Big North Conference, but Cadillac reaching last season’s Division 4 Final has certainly added an argument or two – and it will only get stronger if the Vikings can defeat the Titans tonight for the first time since 2014. Both opened with notable victories – Cadillac over Reed City and West over Midland – and followed up with good wins in Week 2. West surely won’t be looking past this week even with its annual rivalry matchup with Central coming up next, while Cadillac’s meeting with Central isn’t until Week 6. But the winner tonight will have some serious work already accomplished in the league title race when it meets the reigning champ Trojans.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Maple City Glen Lake (1-1) at Boyne City (2-0), Mancelona (2-0) at Elk Rapids (1-1), Lake City (2-0) at Manton (2-0), Oscoda (2-0) at Frankfort (1-1).
Southeast & Border
Hudson (2-0) at Clinton (2-0)
With wins over annual state power Ithaca and reigning Tri-County Conference champ Erie Mason, Hudson has been one of the early stories of the 2021 season. The story has a chance to get even better this week as the Tigers take on reigning Division 6 runner-up Clinton in the Lenawee County Athletic Association opener. With a combined 111 points over its first two games, Clinton’s offense quickly has found its usual high-powered stride but will have an interesting test against a Hudson defense that’s given up just 14 points, shut out Mason and was similarly tough much of last year minus its season-ending playoff defeat.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Adrian Madison (2-0) at Ottawa Lake Whiteford (2-0), Saline (2-0) at Ypsilanti Lincoln (1-1), Carleton Airport (1-1) at Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central (2-0), Union City (1-1) at Jonesville (2-0).
River Rouge (1-1) at Battle Creek Lakeview (2-0)
This is another great test for two teams that have had plenty of success the last two seasons. River Rouge goes back on the road after falling 38-29 in a late-added matchup with reigning Division 2 runner-up Warren De La Salle Collegiate. Lakeview looks early like a player in the competitive Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference, and facing the reigning Division 3 runner-up will only prepare the Spartans more. The Panthers, playing as independents, have trips to Ohio and back west to Portage Northern lined up later this regular season as they look to build for a possible third-straight trip to the Finals.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Edwardsburg (2-0) at Niles (2-0), Portage Northern (0-2) at St. Joseph (2-0), Saugatuck (1-1) at Niles Brandywine (2-2), Comstock (2-0) at Cassopolis (1-1).
Kingsley (2-0) at Sault Ste. Marie (2-0)
Sault Ste. Marie found a new home last season in the Northern Michigan Football League, playing in the Legends division and going 3-1 in league play with that lone defeat 40-6 to Kingsley. They welcome the Stags for the rematch having yet to surrender a point with shutouts of St. Ignace and Tawas so far. Kingsley similarly has given up just eight points, in its opener to McBain, before shutting out Glen Lake last week. But the key stat might be that the Stags haven’t been held under 36 points in a game since a 2019 Semifinal loss to eventual Division 5 champion Lansing Catholic.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Marquette (1-1) at Escanaba (1-1), Menominee (2-0) at Gladstone (1-1), Calumet (0-2) at Ishpeming Westwood (2-0). SATURDAY Iron Mountain (1-1) at Houghton (1-1).
Muskegon (1-1) at Zeeland West (1-0)
The Ottawa-Kent Conference reshuffled prior to the 2020 season, and the result was as predicted – the Green is now one of the strongest leagues in the state. The success last season of Muskegon High and Mona Shores is noted above, with Zeeland West winning a Finals title as recently as 2015, Zeeland East reaching the Semifinals in 2018, and among others Reeths-Puffer seemingly on the verge of taking a step the last few seasons and Grand Rapids Union off to a 2-0 start this fall. If last season was an indication though, this will always be a game that plays into the league title hunt – Muskegon won the 2020 meeting 15-14 on the way to finishing second.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Grand Rapids West Catholic (2-0) at Allendale (2-0), Grandville (1-1) at Caledonia (2-0), Hudsonville Unity Christian (2-0) at Hamilton (2-0), Ravenna (2-0) at Whitehall (1-1).
Genesee (2-0) at Deckerville (1-0)
The Eagles long ago established themselves as among the elite in 8-player statewide, and last week’s 50-26 win over Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart seems a sign that’s continuing this fall. Deckerville has won all three of its matchups with Genesee since the latter moved to 8-player in 2018, but last season’s game was a competitive 56-36 – and the Wolves are piling up points this fall with a combined 102 over a 56-52 win over Mayville and 46-40 victory over Kingston to start the season.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Mio (2-0) at Au Gres-Sims (2-0), Suttons Bay (2-0) at Merrill (1-1). SATURDAY Kinde North Huron (2-0) at Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart (1-1), Norway (1-1) at Lake Linden-Hubbell (2-0).
PHOTO: Detroit Cass Tech’s Julius Faulkner (18) breaks a tackle and prepares to take on another defender during his team’s Week 1 win against Southfield Arts & Technology. (Photo by Quintin Love Jr.)
Kingsley football fans have become pretty familiar with VIP parking for home games over the last couple of seasons.
They may just start looking for a Kingsley VIP lot at Ford Field. The Stags just captured the MHSAA Division 6 championship trophy with a 38-24 victory over Almont, their second Finals championship and first since 2005.
The road to the Finals started with Kingsley hosting two playoff games, allowing great use of the VIP Parking of Trina’s Touchdown Club. The lot is adjacent to the school’s Rodes Field and provided in loving memory of Katrina “Trina” Kay Schueller, who passed away Oct. 21, 2021, at Munson Medical Center.
Those playoff games filling Trina’s Touchdown Club’s parking lot featured wins over Mason County Central 61-12 and Manistee 37-18, and 51-27 over Gladstone in the Regional Final. Kingsley then traveled down the road and defeated Reed City 37-7 in the Semifinal.
There may not have been designated VIP parking in Cadillac and Ford Field for the Stags’ followers, but there were a lot of VIPs at both stadiums with Schueller on their minds. Pretty much everyone with an affiliation with the highly-successful program or familiarity with the community’s struggles have become VIPs to the Kingsley coaching staff and many others.
Most certainly among the VIPs are head coach Tim Wooer, assistant coach Conner Schueller, his brother Carter Schueller, and his father Mike Schueller.
Conner was set to play the biggest regular-season game of his career the day after his mom passed. It was the regular-season finale against rival Traverse City St. Francis.
Wooer vividly remembers the moments leading up to that matchup, noting how difficult it was for Conner. But his then-fullback and now-assistant coach demonstrated amazing strength and maturity he stills exhibits today.
“He’s in his senior football season, and his mom is in the hospital for four weeks — he’s balancing that playing football and going to school,” Wooer recalled. “And then she passes, and he has the strength to come back to school and deliver the news to our team.
“I am sobbing watching this kid, and I’m just amazed,” Wooer continued. “The next night is Parents Night, and he’s on the field with his dad and brother without his mom.”
Conner still played, making a 4th-down goal line tackle to prevent a St. Francis touchdown. The Gladiators won the game, but Conner won the day, conquering much just to dress for the game.
The Stags went on to playoff wins over Kingsford 28-10 and Clare 32-6. They bowed out with a 33-18 Regional loss to Frankenmuth.
Conner’s junior year of 2020 had been cut short as the Kingsley was forced to forfeit its District Final to Reed City because several players and coaching staff tested positive for COVID-19. The Stags had Ford Field in their minds that season too after playoff wins over 38-13 Standish-Sterling 38-13 and Gladwin 63-16.
Conner, who celebrated his 20th birthday at Saturday’s Final, remembers his playing days and the challenges presented him.
“At the time it was ‘she’s not there,’ especially my senior year she wasn’t there to watch me and finish it out, but I know she’s watching above,” he said. “We were about to go play Reed City my junior year for Regionals, and everyone got sick and it ended our season unfortunately.”
Those challenges were on his mind at Ford Field, and running through his mind when he saw his brother and father in the stands. Carter, now a senior at Kingsley, had been unable to play football due to injuries.
“I thought about my brother – he unfortunately didn’t play this year due to his injuries, and I don’t really blame him for that,” Conner said. “I thought about him as well because it was just me and my dad and my brother now.
“It was very emotional,” Conner continued. “I got a glimpse of him in the strands.”
Carter also was filled with gratitude for the coaching staff for welcoming and mentoring him. He had become keenly aware of the amount of time coaches spend away from family at practices and going through film.
In addition to his family, Conner was thinking about many others in the Kingsley community – and other senior classes like his that didn’t get the chance to celebrate a championship.
He also was thinking about Justin Hansen, a 2003 graduate of Kingsley. Hansen was a captain on the 2002 conference championship team. He went on to become a special-operations Marine sergeant and was killed in action July 24, 2012, while deployed in Afghanistan. Hansen was on patrol as part of an operation in search of a high-value target when his team was hit with small arms fire.
On Saturday, Wooer was wearing a red T-shirt with the letters “USA” on the front and the name “Hansen” on the back. It also featured the number 54, Hansen’s in high school.
Wooer, who turned 54 in July, wore the shirt in Hansen’s memory knowing Hansen would be on the veteran coach’s mind and symbolizing Hansen’s presence with the team at Ford Field.
Wooer wants to make sure Hanson is never forgotten and reminds the soldier’s family the entire community remains behind them.
“I believe it is part of our job as a community to show our love to this family and help in any way possible to help them get through this process,” Wooers said. “After the funeral, we all went about life.
“We certainly still think about Justin and feel the pain,” he continued. “But nothing like a family does.”
Hansen’s tragic passing led to the creation of the annual Patriot Game in Traverse City in 2012 while Wooer was coaching Traverse City West. The game features crosstown rivals West and Traverse City Central every year and strives to honor veterans, first responders, active duty military, and area heroes who died while serving their country.
Saturday’s win over Almont left Wooer emotionally exhausted after all the preparations to do it right for the senior class, the school, the Kingsley community, the Schueller family and Hansen. Collectively, they’ve really become more like a family to the Stags coaching staff and many, many others.
“In terms of emotions, there is no doubt Justin was on my mind throughout the game,” Wooer said. “Trina and Conner have been – those are two huge pieces.
“And, a lot of my thoughts are with the seniors,” he continued. “You want to win the game, but also it is your last time with them.”
Wooer has learned a lot from his former players and coaches over the years. He’s become close friends with many of them, going back to his early days of coaching as a student-teacher at Elk Rapids. He also coached at Farewell and Traverse City West, the latter from 2008-2017 after a first tenure at Kingsley. He returned to Kingsley in 2018.
Schueller is among several former players and coaches who have been on Wooer’s coaching staffs over the years. Several continue today.
“I could give you lots of other stories about kids I have had,” Wooer said. “There comes this transition where they turn into such amazing men, you catch yourself every once in a while saying, ‘I want to be like him.’
“You get this huge smile on your face because you’re so proud of them, just like a mother or father would,” Wooer continued. “A coach always looks at his players like they’re part of his family.”
In addition to Conner, current assistants with long-term relationships with Wooer are Tom Kaleita, Kyle Smith, Ryan Zenner, Dan Goethals, Josh Merchant, Jordan Bradford, Steve Klinge, Connor Schueller, Mike Arlt, Larry Mikowski, Bobby Howell, Rob Whims and Jason Morrow.
This year’s seniors were Jon Pearson, Eli Graves, Skylar Workman, Gavyn Merchant, Max Goethals, Evan Trafford, Bode Bielas, Grant Kolbusz, James Person, Caleb Bott, Trenton Peacock, Noah Scribner and Gavin Dear. They and the coaching staff will be the center of attention as the community celebrates the football team at 7 p.m. this evening in the high school gymnasium.
The seniors probably won’t need VIP parking tonight. But if it would help, Conner would surely make arrangements to utilize Trina’s Touchdown Club. He’d have to add a shuttle though as Rodes Field is about a mile away from the school.
“It feels amazing — I don’t think it really hit any one yet, but I am sure it will,” Conner said. “After we won, it is truly something – it is something else I can’t explain.
“The seniors finally won it the way they were supposed to,” he continued. “It was a good class of seniors.”
Tom Spencer is a longtime MHSAA-registered basketball and soccer official, and former softball and baseball official, and he also has coached in the northern Lower Peninsula area. He previously has written for the Saginaw News, Bay County Sports Page and Midland Daily News. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Manistee, Wexford, Missaukee, Roscommon, Ogemaw, Iosco, Alcona, Oscoda, Crawford, Kalkaska, Grand Traverse, Benzie, Leelanau, Antrim, Otsego, Montmorency, Alpena, Presque Isle, Cheboygan, Charlevoix and Emmet counties.
PHOTOS (Top) Kingsley students support their classmates during Saturday’s Division 6 Final at Ford Field. (2) Stags assistant coach Conner Schueller watches from the sideline during an Almont run back. (3) Kingsley coach Tim Wooer, in red, prepares to present the championship trophy to his team including Schueller, far right. (4) Trina’s Touchdown Club welcomes members to the VIP lot adjacent to the Kingsley stadium. (Ford Field photos by Hockey Weekly Action Photos; touchdown club photo courtesy of the Kingsley football program.)