Some weeks during football season need little introduction. Week 8 this fall qualifies.
By Sunday, the majority of the state’s leagues will have their champions. By Sunday, we also will have a much clearer picture of every team’s chances of making the playoffs with one more regular-season game to go.
Below is a look at many of Friday and Saturday’s matchups that will play parts in determining both.
Bay & Thumb
Lapeer (6-1) at Grand Blanc (7-0)
The Lightning are coming off a solid 37-27 nonleague win over Midland Dow with Saginaw Valley League Red leader Grand Blanc up this week and reigning champion Davison next to finish the regular season. Lapeer likely must defeat both to clinch a third league championship over the last four seasons, but Grand Blanc already has a Davison win and a similarly close one over Dow to match – and closes with winless Saginaw United. That Week 4 win was Grand Blanc’s first over the Cardinals since joining the SVL in 2018, and another tonight would be Grand Blanc’s first victory over Lapeer during the same stretch.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker (5-2) at Bad Axe (7-0), Mount Pleasant (7-0) at Bay City Western (6-1), Essexville Garber (5-2) at Frankenmuth (7-0), Durand (5-2) at Montrose (5-2).
Detroit Martin Luther King (6-1) vs. Detroit Cass Tech (5-2) at Detroit Northwestern
These two are lined up for a second regular-season meeting for the second season in a row, this one to decide the Detroit Public School League Blue championship after King won the PSL Division 1 title. King did so thanks to winning the first matchup in Week 3, 41-34, and the Crusaders are sitting comfortably in the No. 2 spot in Division 3 playoff points. Cass Tech sits in a much more uncertain spot in Division 1, making this matchup about much more than a championship. The Technicians currently are in the playoff field, but 30th out of 32 teams in Division 1.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Croswell-Lexington (6-1) at Armada (6-1), Royal Oak Shrine (4-3) at Clarkston Everest Collegiate (6-1), Dearborn Fordson (6-1) at Dearborn (5-2), Detroit Central (7-0) vs. Detroit Pershing (5-2) at Detroit Northwestern.
Canton (5-2) at Hartland (6-1)
These two and Howell are tied for first in the Kensington Lakes Activities Association West with tonight’s games the last on the league schedule. The Eagles are relative newcomers to this level of late-season anticipation, having guaranteed their first overall winning record since 2015, and they are a one-point Week 3 loss to Brighton from being undefeated. Canton is the reigning league champ and more of a regular in these sorts of games – but also lost to Howell 41-21 in Week 2, whereas Hartland downed the Highlanders 29-7 in Week 6. Canton defeated Brighton 35-32 in Week 6. Howell plays at Brighton tonight.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Howell (6-1) at Brighton (4-3), East Lansing (4-3) at Grand Ledge (6-1), Millington (7-0) at Ithaca (5-2), Cadillac (5-2) at Portland (6-1).
Northern Lower Peninsula
Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice (5-2) at Traverse City Central (6-1)
Central again loaded up this season’s nonleague schedule, which in addition to its perfect run through the Big North Conference has the Trojans sitting in the No. 6 spot in Division 2. They also haven’t had a game closer than 32 points since falling to Division 3 top-ranked DeWitt in the season opener. Of course, Brother Rice is another formidable challenge – the Warriors are No. 10 in Division 3 with notable wins over Macomb Dakota and Orchard Lake St. Mary’s and a five-point loss to Division 2 No. 1 Warren De La Salle Collegiate. Central and Brother Rice played each other in 2016 and 2017 – both Rice wins, but by a combined 11 points.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Mancelona (5-1) at Charlevoix (6-1), McBain (4-3) at Manton (3-4), Hopkins (3-4) at Frankfort (6-1), Harbor Springs (1-6) at East Jordan (5-2).
Southeast & Border
Addison (7-0) at Napoleon (5-2)
Last week’s Michigan Center 12-7 win over Napoleon took a bit of thunder out of this matchup, but it still will have plenty of impact in multiple ways. Addison can clinch the Cascades Conference championship outright, which would be the Panthers’ third straight, but a Napoleon win would create a three-way shared title with these two and Michigan Center. As noted a few times this season, the Pirates have bounced way back after going 1-6 last year and a combined 3-13 over the last two, but they remain in a tough spot for playoff qualification at No. 37 in Division 6 with two games to play.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY St. Joseph (5-2) at Chelsea (7-0), Parma Western (5-2) at Jackson Lumen Christi (6-1), Petersburg Summerfield (5-2) at Ottawa Lake Whiteford (6-1), Dexter (5-2) at Saline (7-0).
Kalamazoo United (5-2) at Constantine (7-0)
Constantine is one of the best teams we haven’t talked about enough this season, sitting No. 3 in Division 6 and up to a combined 24-5 over the last three seasons while coming off a 2020 run to the Semifinals. The Falcons have won every game by double digits this fall, but United is likely at least the top in-state team Constantine will see this regular season. Both are undefeated in Southwestern Athletic Conference Lakeshore play, with United able to clinch the title outright and Constantine able to clinch a share with one more league game left. United sits No. 16 in Division 5, its only losses to Division 4 and 3 teams that are both 6-1.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Stevensville Lakeshore (6-1) at Battle Creek Lakeview (4-3), Reading (5-2) at Homer (5-2), Paw Paw (5-2) at Vicksburg (6-1), Portage Central (5-2) at Battle Creek Central (3-4).
Ishpeming Westwood (6-1) at Bark River-Harris (5-2)
Bark River-Harris will face Ishpeming in a Week 9 winner-take-all matchup for the Western Peninsula Athletic Conference Iron title, but first will meet the West-PAC Copper-leading Patriots in a game that won’t impact league standings but may impact if the Broncos continue into the postseason. They’re currently in at No. 28 in Division 8, and the Division 7 Patriots are the strongest opponent they’ll have seen so far. Westwood is ranked No. 10 in its division and has clinched a share of the Copper title with a chance to win it outright against Negaunee in Week 9.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Hancock (4-3) at Calumet (5-2), Ishpeming (3-3) at Iron Mountain (4-3), Traverse City West (6-1) at Marquette (5-2), Houghton (4-3) at Negaunee (6-1).
Grand Rapids Catholic Central (7-0) at Cedar Springs (6-1)
These two are tied for first in the Ottawa-Kent Conference Gold with two games to play and the winner tonight clinching a share of the league title. Grand Rapids Catholic Central would be earning a seventh-straight league championship, and the Division 5 top-ranked Cougars also are carrying a 30-game winning streak. But Cedar Springs also has done its work well to get here, sitting No. 11 in Division 3 with its only loss to Division 1 top-ranked Rockford. GRCC won last season’s meeting 42-28.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Byron Center (6-1) at Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central (6-1), Montague (6-1) at Whitehall (6-1), Coopersville (5-2) at Hudsonville Unity Christian (7-0), Centreville (6-1) at Muskegon Catholic Central (6-1).
Peck (5-2) at Kinde North Huron (7-0)
North Huron earned a share of the North Central Thumb League Stripes championship last week and can lock up a repeat outright title. But Peck will be loaded with motivation stretching past a possible championship share. One more win this season will guarantee the Pirates’ best record since 2015 and would break a streak of eight straight losses to the Warriors, who defeated Peck during both the regular season and playoffs the last two years.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Rogers City (7-0) at Mio (6-1), Marion (6-1) at Vestaburg (5-2), Colon (6-1) at Climax-Scotts (5-2). SATURDAY Crystal Falls Forest Park (7-0) at Lake Linden-Hubbell (5-2).
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 Twitter @mistudentaid.
PHOTO Mount Pleasant, here on defense against Holland West Ottawa during a Week 2 win, is among teams that can clinch a league championship this weekend. (Click for more from High School Sports Scene.)
SOUTHFIELD — Normally, having students come up and say they won’t be in school the next day might have a school administrator seething and ready to reserve seats in the detention room.
But if there ever was a time to allow it, this was the moment.
Following a 36-32 upset of Belleville that stunned many around the state in the MHSAA Division 1 Football Final on Nov. 26, Southfield Arts & Technology senior quarterback Isaiah Marshall said he and other players made it known, “Don’t expect us in school on Monday.”
After all, the game was played and ended late on a Sunday night, the team achieved something nobody else in the community had done, and there were celebrations that needed to begin.
And for the record, the players were back in school Tuesday.
Whether it’s been in school or outside the halls of Southfield A&T, it’s been a week of historic celebrations and congratulations after the Warriors captured the first MHSAA Finals championship in school history.
Marshall said that remained the case when he attended the Big Ten Championship game in Indianapolis on Saturday.
“Everywhere I go, there is someone congratulating me,” he said.
Over their final decades before the schools merged in 2016, Southfield High School and Southfield-Lathrup High School had plenty of talented teams with numerous players who went on to play big-time college football and even in the NFL.
But none of those good teams was able to advance to a state championship game, let alone win it all.
“There was a lot of people that texted me and talked to me and said they graduated from the 1980s,” said Marshall, pointing out that one former player who reached out was Nic Jones, currently a member of the Kansas City Chiefs who graduated from Southfield High. “There were a lot of older people that used to go to Southfield that told me that they couldn’t do the job. They were proud of us that we could do it for them.”
Marshall said that after the game was over Sunday, he and other teammates congregated at his house at 3 a.m. to watch a replay of the game.
It was only the first time this week the replay was watched.
“We watched it that day and the day after,” Marshall said. “I think we’ve been watching it the whole week.”
A parade Saturday will start at noon at the building that housed the old Southfield-Lathrup and finish at the current school, which was the home of Southfield High before the merger. A&T then will host a celebration in the school gymnasium from 1:15-2:30 p.m.
Players will certainly soak it all in while they can, because it won’t be long before they split up.
Marshall will soon sign to play in college for Kansas and will be enrolling early there. He plans to take his last final exams at Southfield A&T next week and head to Lawrence the first week of January.
Teammate Jalen Todd will do the same as he is also committed to Kansas, while Tashi Braceful will enroll early at Toledo.
But long after this year, it’s a group that won’t be forgotten in the community, or the state after it pulled off the upset of a Belleville team that was riding a 38-game winning streak and was two-time reigning Division 1 champion.
No doubt, future reunions should be memorable and festive.
Even Marshall admitted his still rubs his eyes in amazement over what his team did.
“Yes, I still do,” he said.
Keith Dunlap has served in Detroit-area sports media for more than two decades, including as a sportswriter at the Oakland Press from 2001-16 primarily covering high school sports but also college and professional teams. His bylines also have appeared in USA Today, the Washington Post, the Detroit Free Press, the Houston Chronicle and the Boston Globe. He served as the administrator for the Oakland Activities Association’s website from 2017-2020. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties
PHOTOS (Top) Southfield A&T players enjoy the first moments after their Division 1 championship win at Ford Field. (Middle) The A&T band plays during a break in the action. (Below) Fans celebrate in the stands during the victory over Belleville. (Photos by Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)