1st & Goal: 2022 11-Player Semifinals Preview

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

November 17, 2022

Snow has blanketed the majority of the state over the last few days. But it’s nearly a guarantee that the players on the field for this weekend’s 11-player Semifinals will be the last to notice it’s gotten wetter and colder outside.

MI Student AidThey’re focused on getting to Ford Field, and a snowy mid-November game is just part of the unique path traveled by championship contenders in Michigan.

All 16 Semifinals will be viewable on MHSAA.tv with subscription, with Friday’s Belleville/Detroit Cass Tech game in Division 1 to be broadcast live on Bally Sports Detroit’s primary channel. The other 15 Semifinals will be played Saturday; click for the full schedule.

Below is a look at all 16 games that will determine this season’s Finals matchups.

Division 1

Detroit Cass Tech (9-3) vs. Belleville (12-0) at Novi – FRIDAY

Cass Tech has won eight straight games, with its last five victories as impressive a string as anyone has conquered statewide. Senior quarterback Leeshaun Mumphfield (1,712 yards/25 TDs passing) is a proven leader and has standouts like senior running back Sean Hodges (846 yards/12 TDs rushing) and freshman Corey Sadler Jr. (665 yards/8 TDs receiving) to take away some of the playmaking pressure. Belleville’s 23-game winning streak is on the line, and the reigning champion has plenty of big-game experience too with sophomore quarterback Bryce Underwood (2,479 yards/34 TDs passing) and junior running back Jeremiah Beasley (1,088 yards/23 TDs rushing) showing the way.  

Clarkston (10-2) vs. Caledonia (11-1) at DeWitt

These teams have combined to run for 7,458 yards this season, perhaps the best fit for what weather conditions might provide this weekend. Caledonia has a pair of 1,000-yard rushers – junior running back Brock Townsend (1,130/16 TDs) and senior quarterback Mason McKenzie (1,441/19), who also has thrown for 1,356 yards and 19 touchdowns. Clarkston’s top five runners all average at least seven yards per carry, but senior running back Ethan Clark is shouldering the load with 2,542 yards – at 10.1 per carry – and 30 touchdowns on the ground. Both teams have avenged a regular-season loss during the playoffs, Caledonia to Rockford and Clarkston to Davison.

Division 2

Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central (12-0) vs. Dexter (12-0) at Portage Northern

Dexter is playing for its first championship game berth, and Forest Hills Central for its first since 1994. A Rangers defense giving up only 7.9 points per game will face its strongest challenge as senior running back Cole Cabana (1,433 yards/26 TDs rushing) and senior quarterback Reeves Taylor (2,248 yards/30 TDs passing) give the Dreadnaughts a variety of options on the offensive side of the ball. Not that FHC doesn’t have the same, especially with senior quarterback Justin Osterhouse’s ability to make plays rushing (654 yards/15 TDs) and throwing (1,070 yards/13 TDs passing). Dexter’s defense has been similarly special too, giving up only 9.3 ppg.

Birmingham Groves (9-3) vs. Warren De La Salle Collegiate (11-1) at Troy Athens

Groves had rebounded off 3-6 and 2-7 seasons and accelerated after a 4-3 start to return to the Semifinals, impressing especially with last week’s 32-25 win over Livonia Franklin. Senior running back Josh Woods went over 1,000 yards rushing for the season in that victory, and Franklin was the first team in six weeks to score more than 12 points on the Falcons. Reigning champion De La Salle has put up more than 4,600 yards in total offense and will challenge Groves beginning with senior quarterback Brady Drogosh, who has thrown for 1,839 yards and 33 touchdowns and run for 1,088 yards and 13 scores. The Pilots have allowed more than 16 points just once, in their lone loss two months ago.

Division 3

DeWitt (9-3) vs. Muskegon (10-2) at Greenville

This will be the fourth time these two have matched up over the last six seasons and third time in Semifinals over the last four years. The Big Reds’ losses this fall were to De La Salle and Zeeland West, the latter avenged last week. Their top playmakers are all juniors – quarterback M’Khi Guy leads in rushing (1,297 yards/18 TDs) and passing (614 yards/10 TDs), while Destin Piggee (318 yards/4 TDs receiving, 713/5 rushing) and Jakob Price (863 yards/14 TDs rushing) provide plenty of options. All three of DeWitt’s losses were by seven or fewer points, and the Panthers have grown up quickly this fall after several leaders graduated from the teams that reached Finals the last two seasons. Senior Bryce Kurncz does a lot of everything, leading the team in rushing (1,395 yards/17 TDs) and receiving (727 yards/11 TDs) while also throwing for four scores, returning punts and starting on defense. A variety of others contribute too, including sophomore Abram Larner who is second on the team in rushing and receiving yardage.

Detroit Martin Luther King (8-3) vs. Mason (12-0) at Westland John Glenn

The reigning Division 3 champion King is seeking to reach the Finals for the fourth time in five seasons, which included 2019 in Division 2. Senior quarterback Dante Moore is the name everyone knows, and rightly so as he’s thrown for 1,787 yards and 24 touchdowns in his fourth season directing the offense. But senior running back Sterling Anderson Jr. is another of many to note, as he’s run for 918 yards and 12 scores and caught 36 passes including four for touchdowns. Mason is certainly less familiar statewide at this point; this will be the Bulldogs’ second Semifinal in two seasons as they seek their first Finals appearance. But they’re starting to gain plenty of attention, especially sophomore quarterback Cason Carswell (2,141 yards/33 TDs passing) and junior running back AJ Martell (1,221 yards/20 TDs rushing).

Division 4

Edwardsburg (11-1) vs. Grand Rapids South Christian (12-0) at Battle Creek Harper Creek

A season that started differently than usual for Edwardsburg with a loss is shaping up the same as the rest lately as the Eddies will play in their third straight and sixth Semifinal over the last seven seasons – and with that opening-night opponent, Grand Rapids West Catholic, still playing as well. Edwardsburg  again relies on the run game – it’s thrown 21 passes, but rushed for 4,343 yards led by senior backs Brett Allen and Andrew Colvin, who have combined for 1,957 yards and 27 scores on the ground. South Christian has followed the lead of senior quarterback Jacob DeHaan to its first Semifinal since 2014. He’s run for 949 yards and 14 touchdowns and thrown for 2,308 yards and 28 scores.

Goodrich (11-1) vs. Riverview (12-0) at Rochester

Goodrich is another team that didn’t get down after a season-opening loss, as the Martians won their next 11 games to reach the Semifinals for the first time. They have been balanced almost to the yard with just north of 1,600 rushing and 1,600 passing. Senior running back Jace Simerson has shouldered much of the load running for 1,130 yads and 15 touchdowns, with senior quarterback Gavin Hart balancing that out with 1,612 yards and 19 scores through the air. They’ll go against a Riverview team that’s won two straight games where the Pirates and their opponents have combined for 80 or more points. Jacob Shank (1,603 yards/28 TDs rushing), Anthony Bowman (1,026/11) and Max Lockhart (892/10) lead a ground game averaging 8.8 yards per carry.

Division 5

Gladwin (12-0) vs. Grand Rapids Catholic Central (11-1) at Ithaca

Grand Rapids Catholic Central has won the last two Division 5 championships and the 2019 Division 4 title before that – and while most of the star power has turned over since last year, the new playmakers have provided similar results. Junior running back Kellen Russell-Dixon is averaging nine yards per carry for 1,406 total and 17 touchdowns on the ground, while junior quarterback Connor Wolf has thrown for 2,622 yards and 30 scores. No opponent has gotten closer than 19 points since the Cougars’ 36-34 loss to South Christian in Week 6. Gladwin can turn to a defense that’s given up only 8.4 points per game and 4.1 yards per play.  The Flying G’s will also employ several options offensively, with senior Earl Esiline at 1,048 yards and 14 touchdowns rushing, senior running back Logan Kokotovich at 833 and 11, respectively, and senior quarterback Nick Wheeler having thrown 11 touchdown passes and run for 19 scores.

Detroit Country Day (8-3) vs. Frankenmuth (12-0) at Lapeer

After falling in the Regional Final to eventual Division 4 champion Chelsea last season, Country Day will play in its third Semifinal in four seasons and coming off both its highest-scoring game of this fall and lowest-scoring defensive effort last week in a 44-7 win over Flat Rock. Junior fullback Gabe Winowich (833 yards/11 TDs) has run for nearly half the team’s rush yards, and senior Gabe Zeldes is another intriguing playmaker – he’s caught nine touchdowns passes, returning three of his five interceptions for scores and also found the end zone on a kickoff return. They’ll try to get past a Frankenmuth defense giving up just 5.3 points per game – and not more than seven since Week 3. The Eagles have allowed only eight offensive touchdowns this season. They also spread things around on offense, as junior Griffin Barker, senior Sam Barger and senior quarterback Aidan Hoard all have run for at least 10 touchdowns. Hoard also has thrown for 16 scores.

Division 6

Negaunee (12-0) vs. Reed City (11-1) at Gaylord

Negaunee enters its first Semifinal since 2003 following just its second single-digit game this season, and Gladstone last week also was the first opponent in five weeks to score on a Miners defense giving up only 6.3 points per game. A pair of 1,000-yard rushers set the pace offensively – senior Nico Lukkarinen (1,124 yards/18 TDs) and junior Kai Lacar (1,082/16 TDs). Reed City most recently played a Semifinal in 2017 and is seeking its first championship game berth. A high-producing offense churns with three rushers with at least 900 yards led by senior running back Bryson Hughes (1,215 yards/15 TDs rushing.)

Clinton (12-0) vs. Grand Rapids West Catholic (11-1) at Coldwater

Clinton is playing in its second Semifinal in three seasons after last week’s 31-30 win over 2021 runner-up Warren Michigan Collegiate. The Redwolves have capitalized on 29 turnovers by opponents this fall, and also feature a strong running attack with senior back Bradyn Lehman leading with 1,005 yards and 16 TDs rushing plus five receiving scores. West Catholic is headed back to the Semifinals for the first time since 2017 after winning the first three games of these playoffs by an average of 33 points per. Senior running back Timmy Kloska has piled up 1,852 yards and 30 touchdowns on the ground.

Division 7

New Lothrop (10-2) vs. Traverse City St. Francis (12-0) at Clare

This is a rematch of the 2020 Final, won by New Lothrop 42-35. The Gladiators have won their games this fall by an average of 33 points per after suffering their lone 2021 loss in the Semifinals by seven points to eventual champion Pewamo-Westphalia. Senior quarterback Wyatt Nausadis is just one of several talented playmakers; he’s run for 984 yards and 10 touchdowns and thrown for 1,192 and 17. New Lothrop’s losses were by a combined three points to a pair of Division 6 league opponents. Junior quarterback Jack Kulhanek provides similar run-pass options, having thrown for 1,682 yards and 25 touchdowns and run for 1,342 yards and 17 scores. 

Napoleon (12-0) vs. Jackson Lumen Christi (9-3) at Chelsea

Both have great stories. Napoleon was 1-8 two years ago, missed the playoffs last season after improving to 6-3, and followed up with this perfect run that has included four wins by eight points or fewer including last week’s over Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central. Lumen Christi is a frequent visitor to the Semifinals but started this fall 0-3 and hasn’t lost since, edging Lawton 7-6 last week to advance. Senior running back Bart Laretz is the key cog for the Pirates’ offense with 1,973 yards and 15 touchdowns rushing. Senior quarterback Joe Lathers (678 yards/15 TDs rushing) and senior running back Derrick Walker (968/15) key another powerful Titans running attack. 

Division 8

Ubly (12-0) vs. Iron Mountain (11-1) at Petoskey

This will be Ubly’s fourth Semifinal in four years as the Bearcats seek their first championship, and last year’s five-point Semifinal loss was their only defeat over the last two seasons. They’ve defeated their opponents this season 49-6 on average, stacking up 4,400 rushing yards led by senior Mark Heilig (1,151 yards/26 TDs rushing) and junior Evan Peruski (1,158/20). Iron Mountain last played in a Semifinal in 2018, and got past Evart 34-33 last week in its first close game since a Week 1 five-point loss to Negaunee. Senior quarterback Joe Colavecchi directs a balanced attack and has thrown for 1,590 yards and 20 scores, and junior Luke Wolfe is the leading rusher and also has five interceptions. 

Clarkston Everest Collegiate (9-3) vs. Ottawa Lake Whiteford (12-0) at Brownstown Woodhaven

Everest Collegiate is back at a Semifinal for the second time in three seasons after winning eight of its last nine games – and avenging the lone defeat of that string. An offense that’s run for more than 2,100 yards and thrown for more than 1,500 has posted three of its four highest-scoring games over the last month. Whiteford got through its closest matchup of the season last week, 38-26 against White Pigeon, and has won its games by an average score of 50-13. Whiteford boasts two 1,000-yard rushers plus has enjoyed school record-setting performances from senior quarterback Shea Ruddy (19 TD passes) and junior linebacker Jake Iott.  

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PHOTO Ottawa Lake Whiteford's Hunter DeBarr gets up the sideline against Petersburg Summerfield. (Photo by Natalie McCormack.)

Moore Finishes Legendary King Career by Leading Crusaders to D3 Repeat

By Scott DeCamp
Special for MHSAA.com

November 27, 2022

DETROIT – Dante Moore had no tears left to cry Saturday night, even happy tears, after he played his final high school football game for Detroit Martin Luther King at Ford Field.

“Everybody sees I’m not crying – I really cried before I got here to the game. Before I walked to the gate, I was crying and I cried last night,” Moore said.

King’s four-year starting quarterback cemented his legacy, leading the Crusaders to their second-straight MHSAA Division 3 championship with a 56-27 victory over Muskegon.

The Oregon commit finished 21-of-26 passing for 275 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions to power King (10-3) to its sixth Finals title overall and fifth in eight years.

Before Moore even took the field for his first offensive series against Muskegon (11-3), junior Jameel Croft Jr. staked King to an immediate lead with an electrifying 96-yard return of the game’s opening kickoff.

The Crusaders never looked back.

“I wasn’t expecting that. I just followed my blocks. Guys were blocking for me and the coaches set it up perfectly for me, for real,” Croft said. “It gave us a lot of momentum in the beginning of the game. It helped us out a lot.”

Crusaders quarterback Dante Moore rolls out looking for a receiver. Muskegon pulled within 14-7 midway through the first quarter and 21-14 three minutes into the second, but Moore & Co. always seemed to have an answer.

Croft scored the game’s first two TDs, as he added a 13-yard scoring catch from Moore to make it 14-0 with 6:28 left in the first quarter.

“We started out chasing. We gave up that opening kickoff for a touchdown and we just got ourselves chasing and kind of things went from there,” said Muskegon coach Shane Fairfield, whose team trailed 35-14 at halftime and pulled within 14 with five minutes left in the third but got no closer.

Croft was Moore’s top pass-catcher, finishing with six receptions for 64 yards and two TDs. Senior Sterling Anderson Jr. was a blur as King’s top rusher, totaling 207 yards on only 13 carries, highlighted by his 80-yard scoring sprint that gave the Crusaders a 49-27 lead with 10:55 remaining.

Seniors Samuel Washington and Tim Ruffin paced King defensively with nine and eight tackles, respectively. For Muskegon, senior Julian Neely registered a team-high seven stops, while junior Stanley Cunningham recorded two sacks among his six tackles.

Muskegon junior quarterback M’Khi Guy ran 20 times for 135 yards with two TDs, including a 60-yard breakaway to pull the Big Reds within 14-7 midway through the first quarter. He also completed 2-of-4 passes for 97 yards, including a 71-yard scoring strike to junior Destin Piggee.

Muskegon junior Jakob Price added 93 rushing yards and a TD on 17 carries, but the night belonged to King and Moore.

“There’s no excuse: That kid is amazing. He threw balls that we haven’t seen probably in my career,” said Fairfield, whose program was seeking its first Finals title since 2017. His Big Reds teams have been to the Finals to finish eight of his 13 seasons at the helm.

“Only one other guy threw touchdown passes like (Moore) and passes and balls like that in my career here, and that was (Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice’s) Alex Malzone – went to Michigan. Seems like we always see the (Dequan) Finns and the Dantes and Malzones and stuff when we get here, but you know, we’re here,” added Fairfield, whose 2018 squad lost to Finn and King, 41-25, in the Division 3 championship game.

King coach Tyrone Spencer said that his team overcame a lot of adversity this season. The Crusaders could not practice on their field because it’s undergoing a makeover, so they bussed to practice. They lost their season opener to Warren Central (Ind.), 44-26, and dropped the final two games of the regular season to Detroit Cass Tech (28-14) and Cincinnati Moeller (30-14).

King’s Sterling Anderson Jr. (3) follows his blockers through a sizable opening.The Crusaders got it going in the playoffs, however. They threatened the Finals record for points by one team, established Friday night by Grand Rapids West Catholic with 59.

“(The season) was up and down, but the kids, I mean, they trust us and we got it back going,” Spencer said. “They’re a resilient group of kids. It speaks to their character.”

Moore mentioned the “championship culture” at King, how one expects to be a champion once he puts on that jersey.

It’s also about giving back and respecting the game, too, which has been a custom of Moore’s since his freshman year when King lost to Muskegon Mona Shores in the Division 2 Final, 35-26.

“My freshman year, me playing against Brady Rose and Muskegon Mona Shores, I remember Brady Rose pulled me to the side and that’s where I really got it from – him taking me to the side, telling me things I can work on, and me congratulating him for what he’s done and being one of the best players to come through Michigan to be honest and leading his team on his back,” Moore recalled.

“I just knew that I had to carry that on through this past year and really pull the (opposing) quarterbacks to the side, especially (those) younger than me. Me being a senior, I’ve been through a lot. I just want to give them the keys and terms to help them be the best they can be in high school.”

Croft called the 6-foot-2, 210-pound Moore a “great leader,” who is “so poised” and one who will leave “a great legacy right here for sure.”

“Special, man,” is how Spencer reflected on Moore’s four-year run.

“You know, he’ll be the one that they’ll talk about maybe the greatest we’ve ever had here,” Spencer said. “Just really proud of him and the person that he is. He deserves it. He works hard for it, and I just couldn’t be more pleased. It couldn’t happen to a better person.”

Meanwhile, Muskegon got off to a bit of a slow start this season by Big Reds standards. They lost two of their first five games, including a 49-16 road defeat to eventual Division 2 champion Warren De La Salle Collegiate, but got healthy and played their best football at the right time leading up to Saturday night.

Fairfield said the Big Reds battled and left it all on the field.

“They played 14 and when you play 14 games, of course this is going to hurt more because it’s the very last one and now you’ve got 364 days to get back,” he said.

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS (Top) Detroit King’s Samuel Washington (10) wraps up Muskegon’s M’Khi Guy during Saturday’s night’s Division 3 Final. (Middle) Crusaders quarterback Dante Moore rolls out looking for a receiver. (Below) King’s Sterling Anderson Jr. (3) follows his blockers through a sizable opening.