Everything begins anew this weekend for Michigan’s remaining football hopefuls.
That isn’t entirely true, of course. Only 288 varsity teams are still playing based on what they accomplished during the regular season, and those teams are matched up in their Districts according to how they performed over the last nine weeks.
But at the same time, all 288 have a championship opportunity as playoffs begin Friday with District Semifinals in 11-Player and Regional Semifinals in 8-Player – click here for the full schedule for every division.
Of 144 games being played this weekend, 122 will be broadcast on MHSAA.tv, with Bally Sports Detroit broadcasting the Detroit Cass Tech/West Bloomfield Division 1 District opener at 7:30 p.m. on the BSD Extra channel.
See below for a glance at an especially notable playoff opener in every division. (Games are Friday unless noted.)
11-Player Division 1
Detroit Cass Tech (6-3) at West Bloomfield (8-1)
These continue to be two of the most high-profile programs in the state, and this will be their first meeting since the 2017 Semifinals when West Bloomfield advanced with a 9-7 victory. Both have strung together solid wins especially over the last two weeks, with the Lakers coming off victories over Southfield Arts & Technology and Utica Eisenhower and Cass Tech defeating Detroit Martin Luther King and Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice. The Technicians gave up only 14 points in both of those victories, and West Bloomfield’s offense (34 ppg) may be facing its biggest test.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Grand Ledge (7-2) at Brighton (8-1), Lapeer (7-2) at Clarkston (7-2), Clinton Township Chippewa Valley (7-2) at Romeo (7-2), Detroit Catholic Central (6-2) at Dearborn (7-2).
11-Player Division 2
South Lyon (6-3) at South Lyon East (7-2)
Just a week ago, South Lyon East broke a four-game losing streak against its rival – and now they’re meeting again on the same field. That 27-21 triumph was only the second win for the Cougars in 15 tries against the Lions since East began playing varsity football in 2008, a year after it opened with only underclassmen. But this fall under second-year coach Jacob Topp, the Cougars have posted their winningest regular season despite facing five eventual playoff teams. The Lions – who made the Semifinals last season – faced five as well and surely are driving even harder after losing the last two weeks by a combined seven points.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY East Lansing (6-3) at Battle Creek Central (7-2), Grosse Pointe South (6-3) vs. Warren De La Salle Collegiate (8-1) at Wayne State University, Traverse City Central (5-4) at Muskegon Mona Shores (7-2). SATURDAY Saginaw Heritage (7-2) at Waterford Mott (7-2).
11-Player Division 3
River Rouge (5-3) at Detroit Martin Luther King (5-3)
These are two more of the state’s most high-profile programs, but they’re plenty familiar with each other after facing off the playoffs the last two seasons with King last year’s victor and Rouge coming out on top in 2020. After both matchups, the winner eventually reached Ford Field. The Panthers are slightly more than two touchdowns from perfection this fall, having lost their games by a combined 15 points. Often recognized more for a high-powered offense, Rouge is giving up only 8.5 points per game on defense despite facing another strong schedule. That should make for an interesting matchup for King standout quarterback Dante Moore and an offense averaging 36 points per game but coming off losses to Cass Tech and Ohio powerhouse Cincinnati Moeller.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Gaylord (6-3) at Mount Pleasant (8-1), Haslett (6-3) at Linden (5-4), Lowell (6-3) at Zeeland West (8-1), Parma Western (6-3) at Jackson (5-4).
11-Player Division 4
Freeland (7-2) at North Branch (8-1)
The strengths of a pair of Saginaw/Thumb-area leagues will be tested as North Branch was a co-champion of the Blue Water Area Conference and Freeland finished second in the Tri-Valley Conference 10. Aside from its Week 7 loss to Armada, the Broncos didn’t have another game closer than 14 points – and the two do share a recent opponent with North Branch defeating Croswell-Lexington 35-21 in Week 8 and Freeland falling to the Pioneers last week 41-34. That said, the Falcons have made the Semifinals the last two seasons and have plenty of know-how when it comes to this time of year.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Big Rapids (7-2) at Whitehall (9-0), Chelsea (5-4) at Charlotte (8-1), Orchard Lake St. Mary’s (3-5) at Croswell-Lexington (7-2), Carleton Airport (7-2) at Tecumseh (9-0).
11-Player Division 5
Howard City Tri County (7-2) at Belding (8-1)
Belding is enjoying its winningest season since a District title run in 2017, while Tri County is hoping to continue building on last year’s 9-2 finish that was its winningest since 2004. Both have kept the scoreboard moving. The Vikings are enjoying their best offensive season in recent memory, averaging 44 points per game, and Belding is right there too averaging nearly 42. Both are league champions but took good losses late – Tri County to Big Rapids and Muskegon Catholic Central over the last three weeks and Belding to Cadillac in Week 7.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Kingsley (7-2) at Kingsford (6-3), Olivet (7-2) at Portland (8-1), Williamston (7-2) at Corunna (7-2), Flint Hamady (8-1) at Armada (7-2).
11-Player Division 6
Calumet (6-3) at Menominee (5-4)
These two both made it count down the stretch to earn longer seasons. Calumet has won three straight, including two matchups over playoff teams, and its losses are against arguably the three best teams from the Upper Peninsula this fall. Menominee held off Kingsford 42-41 last week after losing two in a row, but its offense has been rumbling with 42 or more points both of the last two weeks – raising its season average to 31. Calumet has been on a similar ride, scoring at least 35 points over those last three games – about a touchdown above its season average of 28.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Kent City (7-2) at Muskegon Catholic Central (7-2), Buchanan (8-1) at Constantine (8-1), Ovid-Elsie (7-2) at Almont (6-3), Detroit Voyageur College Prep (7-2) at Ecorse (8-1).
11-Player Division 7
Ravenna (6-3) at North Muskegon (8-1)
This is a rematch of a Week 7 game won 28-7 by North Muskegon on its way to claiming the West Michigan Conference Rivers championship. These two annual league opponents also met in a District opener last season, won 7-6 by the Bulldogs. The Norsemen have tied their winningest season since 2006 and haven’t lost since a season-opening two-point defeat to Muskegon Catholic Central. The offense is scoring 40 points per game and the defense is giving up eight and hasn’t allowed more than seven to an opponent in a month. Ravenna bounced back from two straight losses with a big win last week over Hart.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Bath (6-3) at Pewamo-Westphalia (5-4), Bad Axe (6-3) at Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker (8-1), Union City (7-2) at Hudson (8-1), Homer (7-2) at Jackson Lumen Christi (6-3).
11-Player Division 8
Harbor Beach (8-1) at Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary (8-1)
These two are part of one of the most competitive Districts in any division, making this one of the top openers of the weekend statewide. On the other side of the bracket, Ubly (9-0) hosts Saginaw Nouvel (6-3), and whichever team advances to Regionals surely will have earned it and then some. MLS’s only loss was to Division 7 contender Ithaca, and its best win was over another Division 8 contender in Marine City Cardinal Mooney – plus MLS defeated Nouvel 55-7 in Week 6. Harbor Beach’s only defeat came to Ubly, but otherwise only Division 7 Cass City put up much of a challenge – and a 28-7 win over Division 7 Bad Axe two weeks ago was especially notable.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Bark River-Harris (7-2) at St. Ignace (7-2), Carson City-Crystal (8-1) at Fowler (8-1), White Pigeon (6-3) at Centreville (6-3), Addison (5-4) at Ottawa Lake Whiteford (9-0).
8-Player Division 1
Newberry (8-1) at Rogers City (9-0)
These two are part of a super-strong Regional – Munising (9-0) hosts Norway (6-3) on the other side. The Hurons finished their first perfect season since 1998 and really started to impress after midseason, with none of their last four opponents getting closer than 16 points as they averaged 57 points per game over the string. Newberry’s loss came all the way back in Week 2, when it was the only team this season to hang with Munising. Newberry hasn’t allowed a point in three straight games and four of its last five, taking its defensive average down to 7.4 points allowed per game.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Deckerville (6-3) at Kingston (9-0), Auburn Hills Oakland Christian (8-1) at Brown City (8-1), Fulton (7-2) at Breckenridge (7-2).
8-Player Division 2
Mendon (7-2) at Climax-Scotts (8-1)
Climax-Scotts was one of the elite small-school 11-player programs in Michigan during the first two decades of the 2000s, and although the Panthers made the 8-player Division 2 Semifinals in their first season in the format in 2019, this season feels like potentially a bigger step toward winning a championship. Climax-Scotts’ only loss was by five to undefeated Colon, and it joined Colon in handing two-time reigning Division 1 champion Adrian Lenawee Christian a defeat this fall. Mendon seems on a similar track. The Hornets dominated small-school 11-player football for years and debuted in 8-player with an 8-3 finish a year ago. But with their two losses this season by a combined eight points to teams that are a combined 16-2, Mendon may too be on the verge of something substantial.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Posen (7-2) at Marion (9-0), Central Lake (7-2) at Gaylord St. Mary (7-2), Morrice (7-2) at Peck (7-2).
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 Traverse City Central applies the pressure as Mount Pleasant gets off a pass during the Oilers’ Week 4 win over the Trojans. (Click for more from High School Sports Scene.)
On jaw-dropping moments alone, the 2023 Football Finals played over the last two weekends at Northern Michigan University’s Superior Dome and Ford Field were an unforgettable success.
The two longest active winning streaks in the state were ended by first-time champions. Perhaps the two most recognizable players in Michigan faced off in the season finale. The winningest active coach in state history led his team to a record-tying title, while two more coaches retired with their program’s first. The lone repeat champion needed every last second to score all of its points during the fourth quarter, and four reigning champions saw their repeat or three-peat bids denied.
Consider those an opening kickoff of the final “1st & Goal Review” this season.
MHSAA.com covered all 10 championship games, with quick recaps and links (click on the game scores) to those stories below followed by notations of performances entered into the MHSAA Finals record book and a report on some of the main storylines to emerge as those championships were being decided.
Finals in Review
11-Player Division 1: Southfield Arts & Technology 36, Belleville 32 – Read
The concluding game of this season’s Finals kept everyone on the edge of their seats as A&T not only claimed its first championship but ended reigning champ Belleville’s winning streak at 38 games. This matched up arguably the top quarterbacks in the state, with senior Isaiah Marshall piling up 415 total yards while running for a touchdown and throwing for two more, and Belleville junior Bryce Underwood totaling 203 total yards with a passing score as he attempted to lead the Tigers to a Division 1 title for the third-straight season.
11-Player Division 2: Muskegon 33, Warren De La Salle Collegiate 21 – Read
Muskegon also ended a two-year title streak, as De La Salle was the reigning champion and making its fourth-straight Finals appearance. The Big Reds had finished Division 3 runner-up in 2022, but followed senior quarterback M’Khi Guy, who piled up 374 total yards, ran for a pair of touchdowns and threw for two more.
11-Player Division 3: Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central 27, Mason 10 – Read
Both were playing for a first championship, and Forest Hills Central after finishing Division 2 runner-up last season. Several top contributors from the 2022 Rangers team were back, and they limited a Mason offense that had averaged 41 points per game entering the finale. In doing so, FHC sent retiring coach Tim Rogers out with the ultimate win.
11-Player Division 4: Harper Woods 33, Grand Rapids South Christian 27 – Read
Harper Woods was another first-time champion, carrying a 14-0 lead into the second quarter and extending it to as many as 20 before South Christian made a late run behind the record-setting passing of junior quarterback Carson Vis. Harper Woods lost junior lead back Colby Bailey on the second play, but junior Donald Adams stepped in and averaged 10 yards per carry with 174 total.
11-Player Division 5: Grand Rapids Catholic Central 21, Corunna 7 – Read
After missing out on a Ford Field trip last fall, Grand Rapids Catholic Central claimed its third Division 5 title over the last four seasons. Senior quarterback Connor Wolf ran for all three touchdowns and senior running back Kellen Russell-Dixon powered the attack with 133 yards on the ground. Corunna was making its first Finals appearance and gave the Cougars one of their closest games, as all but three wins had come by at least 32 points.
11-Player Division 6: Kingsley 38, Almont 24 – Read
Kingsley claimed its first Finals championship since 2005 led by another record-setting performance. Senior running back Eli Graves tied the Finals record scoring 30 points, the last of his four touchdowns with 2:19 to play and after Almont had pulled within six points of the lead. The Stags controlled the ball for more than 33 minutes – or nearly 70 percent of the game.
11-Player Division 7: Jackson Lumen Christi 34, Menominee 30 – Read
The Titans and longtime coach Herb Brogan tied the MHSAA record with their 13th Finals championship as they scored the game-winning points with 4:04 to play to complete this repeat title run. Junior running back Kadale Williams ran for 276 yards, the fifth-most in Finals history, and scored his first two touchdowns during the second quarter to bring Lumen back from an early 14-0 deficit.
11-Player Division 8: Ubly 21, Ottawa Lake Whiteford 6 – Read
The rematch of the 2022 Division 8 Final – won by Whiteford – this time went Ubly’s way as the Bearcats also ended the Bobcats’ 27-game winning streak in coach Eric Sweeney's final game. Ubly had finished Finals runner-up three times, but concluded its first championship season 14-0. The teams played a scoreless first quarter and Whiteford scored first in the second before the Bearcats stacked three scoring drives of at least 5 minutes, 30 seconds apiece.
8-Player Division 1: Martin 30, Indian River Inland Lakes 26 – Read
Martin scored all 30 of its points during the final 10:17 to repeat as Division 1 champion in unimaginable fashion. Junior quarterback Gavin Meyers’ 21-yard run with five seconds to play put the Clippers ahead for good, and he finished with 358 total yards and also threw a touchdown pass with 33 seconds left to pull Martin within four points of the lead. Inland Lakes was playing its first Final.
8-Player Division 2: Adrian Lenawee Christin 36, Marion 18 – Read
Lenawee Christian clinched its third Finals championship over the last four seasons and after falling short a year ago. Senior quarterback Sam Lutz piled up one more massive statistical performance, throwing for 350 yards and three touchdowns on near-perfect passing, while also running for two scores. Marion was making its first Finals appearance since 1990.
As noted above, Jackson Lumen Christi tied the MHSAA football record by winning its 13th Finals championship. The Titans share that top spot with now-closed Farmington Hills Harrison, and Grand Rapids Catholic Central and Muskegon also moved up that list with their eighth and seventh titles, respectively. Lumen Christi also played in its 16th championship game – third-most and two short of Harrison’s record in that category, while Muskegon played in its 14th, GRCC in its 10th and Grand Rapids South Christian and Warren De La Salle Collegiate both in their ninth Final.
Kingsley senior Eli Graves became one of five to score a record 30 points in an 11-Player Final, doing so with four rushing touchdowns and three 2-point conversions. His four touchdowns tied for fifth-most TDs in a Final and tied for third-most rushing scores. Graves also made the single-game rushing yards list with 210 yards on 33 carries.
Jackson Lumen Christi junior Kadale Williams finished his season with more than 1,900 yards rushing after reaching the single-game Finals rushing list with 276 on 27 carries. Muskegon senior quarterback M’Khi Guy joined Williams and Graves with 215 rushing yards on 25 carries.
Although Harper Woods and Grand Rapids South Christian combined to score just 60 points, they combined for 1,030 total yards, second-most on the list for both teams combined, and South Christian’s 533 total yards alone tied for fourth-most by a single team. Sailors junior quarterback Carson Vis set 11-Player Finals records with 441 passing yards, 30 completions and 513 total yards, and his 44 pass attempts rank second. His senior receiver Jake Vermaas made lists with 10 receptions and 176 yards. Not surprisingly, Vis’ passing yards also make the most by one team in an 11-Player Final.
Southfield A&T senior Isaiah Marshall also made the total yardage list with 415, ranking fourth, and his 281 passing yards and 20 completions also earned entries. Guy made the total yardage list with 374 and also the longest pass list with a 94-yarder to senior Destin Piggee for a score. De La Salle junior Sante Gasperoni made the single-game passing yardage list with 249, and Harper Woods sophomore Nate Rocheleau also made the longest throw list with a 90-yard scoring toss to senior Ramonty Houze. Mason junior Cason Carswell made the attempts and completions lists connecting on 22 of 40 passes.
Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central senior Alex Moeller made the single-game field goals list in 11-player with two, from 35 and 27 yards out. Lumen Christi junior Andrew Salazar made the single-game extra points list with five in five tries.
Senior Tashi Braceful was on the other end of some of Marshall’s record work making the 11-player receptions list with 10 catches, for 152 yards.
Conversely, two teams made the list for fewest passing attempts in an 11-player championship game – Almont, which completed one pass on two attempts, and Ubly, which attempted three passes and completed two.
South Christian earned one more entry from the Division 4 game, tying for third-most first downs with 28. Kingsley also made that list, ranking sixth with 27.
Kingsley and Ubly also made the list for fewest punts in an 11-Player Final, as neither punted last weekend.
Marion senior Gavin Prielipp set the 8-Player Finals record for the fastest touchdown scored on an opening kickoff, bringing it back in Division 2 76 yards for a score over the game’s first nine seconds.
Lenawee Christian sophomore Max Stamats made the records for longest field goal also in that game, drilling a 42-yarder.
Cougars senior quarterback Sam Lutz is all over the record book. His 396 total yards in the Division 2 Final rank fifth on that list, while his 350 passing yards are third and .870 percentage throwing the ball (20 for 23) is the first entry in that category. The 350 passing yards also represent the third-most on the team list for 8-Player Finals.
Senior teammate Easton Boggs also made his marks in Division 2, with his 210 receiving yards ranking third and his three touchdown receptions tying for second-most in an 8-Player title game.
Both Division 1 quarterbacks also made the 8-Player Finals list for total offense, Martin junior Gavin Meyers with 358 yards and Inland Lakes junior Aidan Fenstermaker with 323.
Martin as a team ranked second on the 8-player list for most points scored in a quarter, with its 30 during the fourth, and also made the first downs list with 27. Neither Martin nor Inland Lakes punted in that Division 1 game, placing those teams on the lists for fewest punts by one team and fewest between both teams in one game.
Stories Behind the Scores
Legendary Lineup: From a competitiveness point of view, this was as strong a set of Football Finals as we’ve enjoyed in recent memory. Over the last five seasons alone, only 12 championship games – out of 50 – had been decided by seven points or fewer, and only 24 had margins of 14 or fewer points, including only three of 10 games in 2022. But the last two weekends saw four games decided by seven points or fewer, three more by 8-14 points, and the remaining three by 15, 17 and 18.
Some Old, Some New: Of 10 champions this season, four earned football titles for the first time – and only two were repeat winners from 2022. While nine teams played in Finals for at least the second season in a row, five played in a championship game in this sport for the first time. More than 45,000 fans attended the 11-Player Finals, up 2,000 from a year ago and thanks in part to notable crowds from first-time finalists Mason, Corunna and A&T.
Scheduling Notes: Due to Michigan State playing Penn State on Friday at Ford Field, the MHSAA 11-Player Finals were moved to Saturday and Sunday, and Sunday’s games also started at 9:30 a.m. instead of the traditional 10 kickoff time. The schedule adjustment also allowed for experimentation with the order of games, with the largest schools each day – Division 2 on Saturday and Division 1 on Sunday – moved to the final time slots those evenings.
Dazzling Finishes: The Division 1 games – both in 11-player and 8-player – provided last-minute game-winning touchdowns to cap storybook seasons. In 11-player, Isaiah Marshall’s 11-yard scoring run with 47 seconds to play pushed Southfield Arts & Technology past Belleville 36-32 after the Tigers previously had come back from an 18-point deficit. In 8-Player Division 1, Martin scored all of its 30 points during the fourth quarter – the last 16 over the final 33 seconds – and with quarterback Gavin Meyers scrambling 21 yards for the winning score with five seconds to play. The Martin win kicked off the championship weekends, while the Southfield A&T victory ended the season.
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 X (Twitter) @mistudentaid.
PHOTOS (Top) Our collage includes photos from all 10 MHSAA Football Finals. (2) Muskegon’s Da'Carion Taylor holds up the ball after his touchdown catch during the 11-Player Division 2 game. (3) Inland Lakes’ Jacob Willey (4) and Avery Enos celebrate Willey’s second touchdown of the 8-Player Division 1 Final. (4) Southfield A&T’s DeMario Quarles enjoys a moment after his team’s 11-Player Division 1 victory. (11-Player Finals photos by Hockey Weekly Action Photos. 8-Player Finals photos by Cara Kamps.)