1st & Goal: 2022 11-Player Semifinals Review

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

November 21, 2022

This season's 11-Player Football Finals field is set. And it's fair to expect phenomenal after how this weekend's Semifinals played out. 

MI Student AidBoth Division 1 games went to overtime. The Division 5 and Division 8 Semifinals produced Ford Field matchups of undefeated contenders. Three reigning champions advanced, as did two teams that won Semifinals for the first time and two more that won their first during the lifetimes of the players on their rosters this fall. 

And that's just a sample of what's to come, as we'll preview all eight matchups Wednesday. For today, we're taking a glance back at all 16 games from a snowy, stormy and mostly frigid but forever memorable Friday and Saturday. 

Division 1

SEMIFINAL Belleville 29, Detroit Cass Tech 28 (OT) Arguably the game of the weekend was played Friday night as Belleville took an early 14-0 lead, got behind 21-14, scored with 1:04 left in regulation to force overtime, then answered Cass Tech’s overtime touchdown with a score and game-winning 2-point conversion. The reigning Division 1 champion Tigers improved to 13-0, while the Technicians finished 9-4. Click for more from MLive-Detroit.

SEMIFINAL Caledonia 21, Clarkston 0 An anticipated offense back-and-forth turned into one of the most impressive defensive performances in the state this season as Caledonia shut out a Clarkston offense averaging nearly 41 points per game. The Fighting Scots (12-1) will be playing in their first Final since winning the Division 3 title in 2005. Clarkston finished 10-3. Click for more from the Grand Rapids Press.

Division 2

SEMIFINAL Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central 20, Dexter 17 (2OT) A Forest Hills Central defense that has been a big part of the story all season showed well again as the Rangers (13-0) advanced to their first Final since 1994. Quarterback Mason McDonald certainly did his part as well, and especially at crunch time, with a game-tying touchdown pass on the last play of regulation and the game-winning scoring run. Dexter finished its first Semifinal season at 12-1. Click for more from the Grand Rapids Press.

SEMIFINAL Warren De La Salle Collegiate 43, Birmingham Groves 15 The reigning champion Pilots (12-1) once again followed quarterback Brady Drogosh, who scored four touchdowns, while the defense took care of their side with a ninth-straight game of allowing 18 or fewer points. Groves finished 9-4, an excellent comeback from finishing 2-7 last season. Click for more from the Macomb Daily.

Division 3

SEMIFINAL Muskegon 49, DeWitt 21 After two seasons away, Muskegon (11-2) will return to Ford Field for the fifth time in seven years. Quarterback M’Khi Guy showed the way scoring six touchdowns on the ground and throwing for a seventh. DeWitt, last season’s Division 3 runner-up, finished 9-4. Click for more from the Muskegon Chronicle.

SEMIFINAL Detroit Martin Luther King 52, Mason 17 The reigning champion Crusaders (9-3) also are headed back to the Finals, for the sixth time in eight seasons after shutting down a Mason offense averaging 45 points per game. Dante Moore also offered a few more highlights as his career draws to a close, throwing four touchdown passes. Mason finished a second-straight Semifinal run at 12-1. Click for more from the Detroit Free Press.

Division 4

SEMIFINAL Grand Rapids South Christian 26, Edwardsburg 20 The Sailors improved to 13-0 and earned their first Finals trip since 2014 by handing Edwardsburg its first loss since the season opener. The Eddies (11-2) pulled within a score late, but South Christian held them off the rest of the way. Click for more from FOX 17.

SEMIFINAL Goodrich 51, Riverview 26 The Martians (12-1) are headed to the season’s final weekend for the first time after piling up their second-most points in a game this season and handing Riverview (12-1) its lone defeat. Jace Simerson ran for five touchdowns to lead the way. Click for more from the Flint Journal.

Division 5

SEMIFINAL Gladwin 28, Grand Rapids Catholic Central 21 Arguably the stunner of the playoffs goes to the Flying G’s, which is saying a lot since they remain undefeated at 13-0 but also ended Grand Rapids Catholic Central’s three-season Finals streak a win short of extending it to four. The Cougars (11-2) pulled within the final margin late and had the ball, but a Gladwin interception sealed the program’s first trip to the Finals. Click for more from the Bay City Times.

SEMIFINAL Frankenmuth 38, Detroit Country Day 0 The Eagles (13-0) earned their second trip to Ford Field in three seasons with arguably the finest defensive effort of a season full of them as they didn’t allow a first down while posting their fifth shutout. Aidan Hoard threw two touchdown passes and ran for a third score. Country Day finished 8-4. Click for more from the Saginaw News.

Division 6

SEMIFINAL Negaunee 13, Reed City 12 The Miners emerged from one of the snowiest Semifinals by twice coming back, the second time with the eventual game-winning touchdown run by Kai Lacar. The Negaunee (13-0) also reached its first Finals since 2002 by continuing a run of allowing no more than 15 points in a game this season, and even though Reed City (11-2) averaged 44 per game entering the day. Click for more from the Marquette Mining Journal.

SEMIFINAL Grand Rapids West Catholic 33, Clinton 14 The Falcons are headed back to the Finals for the first time since 2017 by handing Clinton its only defeat and holding the Redwolves (12-1) to their fewest points scoring this fall. Tim Kloska ran for 349 yards and five more touchdowns for West Catholic (12-1). Click for more from FOX 17.

Division 7

SEMIFINAL Traverse City St. Francis 53, New Lothrop 8 The Gladiators’ dominance seems to become more extraordinary every week as they’re 13-0 for the first time since 2009 and have now won their last two games by a combined 116-8. St. Francis led 20-0 after the first quarter in this one. New Lothrop finished 10-3. Click for more from the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

SEMIFINAL Jackson Lumen Christi 20, Napoleon 7 The Titans (10-3) earned a rematch with one of the opponents that contributed to their 0-3 start this season. Lumen Christi relied on a steady defense that held Napoleon to its fewest points scored in a game this fall. Napoleon also finished its first Semifinal season at 12-1. Click for more from the Jackson Citizen Patriot.

Division 8

SEMIFINAL Ubly 41, Iron Mountain 14 The Bearcats have equaled St. Francis’ mastery so far, with this their closest game this season. Ubly (13-0) will return to Ford Field for the second time in three seasons after holding Iron Mountain to its fewest points since a Week 1 defeat to Negaunee and scoring the most the Mountaineers (11-2) gave up this season. Click for more from the Huron Daily Tribune.

SEMIFINAL Ottawa Lake Whiteford 44, Clarkston Everest Collegiate 6 The Bobcats also are headed back to the Finals for the first time since 2017 after defeating Everest (9-4) in the playoffs for the second-straight season. Quarterback Shea Ruddy ran for four scores for Whiteford (13-0). Click for more from the Monroe News.

MHSAA.com'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 Muskegon's Jakob Price (20) finds room to run in his team's win over DeWitt. (Photo by Tim Reilly.)

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.