1st & Goal: 2022 Playoff Week 1 Review

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

October 31, 2022

The first week of the MHSAA Football Playoffs features 144 games across the state – and again this weekend, we enjoyed plenty of the intriguing and unexpected.

MI Student AidOf those 144 games, 31 were won by teams playing on the road.

Five undefeated teams lost for the only time this season.

Three teams that entered the postseason at 3-6 or 3-5 were victorious, as were three more teams that entered 4-5.

And to help finish things off Saturday, Waterford Mott defeated Saginaw Heritage 77-63 – with those combined 140 points the second-most ever scored in an MHSAA 11-player game, six off the record set by Climax-Scotts and Fulton in 2017 when Climax-Scotts won 84-62.

There are stories behind all of this weekend’s scores, and we glance at several of them below.  

11-Player Division 1

HEADLINER Detroit Cass Tech 38, West Bloomfield 13 Although both are among the most highly-regarded programs in Michigan, this certainly qualified as an upset as West Bloomfield (8-2) was ranked No. 4 in Division 1 in the state coaches poll while Cass Tech (7-3) was unranked. With big-time athletes all over the field for both teams, the Technicians’ speed stood out as running back Sean Hodges was among stars. Click for more from the Detroit News.

District Digest Grand Ledge 38, Brighton 3 Any other week this would be the “headliner” above as unranked Grand Ledge (8-2) continued to impress in advancing to a District Final for the first time since 2015. No. 10 (tie) Brighton finished 8-2, its only two losses coming in its final two games. Clarkston 62, Lapeer 41 These two met for the second time in three weeks, with No. 7 Clarkston (8-2) adding to its 48-13 win over the Lightning (7-3) the first time. Rochester 21, Rochester Hills Stoney Creek 20 Just two weeks earlier, Stoney Creek (5-5) won the regular-season matchup 43-22. But the Falcons (6-4) not only avenged that loss but four straight to this rival.

11-Player Division 2

HEADLINER South Lyon 30, South Lyon East 27 (2 OT) Just a week after falling to East 27-21, South Lyon avenged with this double-overtime win over its neighbor. The Cougars (7-3) seemed on their way to another victory leading into the fourth quarter before the game went to overtime and the Lions (7-3) eventually prevailed. Click for more from Hometown Life.

District Digest East Lansing 24, Battle Creek Central 0 The Trojans went on the road coming off two straight losses that sunk their league title chances, but posted their third shutout of the fall to end Battle Creek Central’s first winning season since 2018 at 7-4. Portage Northern 44, Byron Center 22 The Huskies quietly have been bouncing back impressively from last season’s 3-6 finish, and they moved to 7-3 with this upset of No. 8 Byron Center (7-3). St. Clair Shores Lakeview 33, Port Huron Northern 27 Lakeview (7-3) also enjoyed a road upset in leaving No. 10 PHN with a berth in the District Finals for the first time since 2019.

11-Player Division 3

HEADLINER Detroit Martin Luther King 41, River Rouge 28 Crusaders standout quarterback Dante Moore started his final playoffs with four touchdown passes against a Rouge defense that was giving up only 8.5 points per game in entering the postseason 5-3. The Panthers’ offense elevated as well against a King defense that was allowing just 15 points per game, but couldn’t keep up as the Crusaders (6-3) improved to 13-2 in the playoffs during Moore’s four seasons. King entered the postseason ranked No. 1 in Division 3, while Rouge was No. 4. Click for more from the Detroit Free Press.

District Digest Coopersville 28, Cedar Springs 0 The Broncos (7-3) reached seven wins for the first time since 2008 after shutting out a Cedar Springs attack that had averaged 42 points per game during a five-game winning streak that had gotten the Red Hawks into the playoffs at 5-4. Jackson 32, Parma Western 25 The Vikings (6-4) guaranteed their winningest season since 2018 with their first playoff victory since 2015, while ending Western’s season at 6-4. Zeeland West 36, Lowell 28 The Red Arrows (6-4) came back from a double-digit deficit to tie things up in the fourth quarter, but the No. 6 Dux (9-1) scored one more time with just more than eight minutes to play and held off Lowell the rest of the way.

11-Player Division 4

HEADLINER Livonia Clarenceville 48, Redford Union 46 (OT) The Trojans (6-4) entered the playoffs coming off two straight losses during which they’d scored a combined 102 points but lost by six and then one. This opener played out similarly, but this time Clarenceville hung on for the win after putting up its points on a Union defense that had given up only 50 total during a 9-0 regular season that saw the Panthers enter the playoffs ranked No. 4 in the coaches poll. Click for photos from Hometown Life.

District Digest Charlotte 27, Chelsea 15 The Orioles (9-1) added to their best season since 2004 this win over last season’s Division 4 champion. This was Chelsea’s earliest season conclusion since not making the playoffs in 2013; the Bulldogs finished 5-5. Freeland 61, North Branch 41 The No. 6 Falcons (8-2) bumped their average scoring per game to 41 points with a season high against the Blue Water Area Conference co-champion Broncos (8-2). Niles 56, Three Rivers 32 The Vikings (6-4) have won five straight games, and this avenged a 27-21 Week 3 loss to the Wildcats (5-5).

11-Player Division 5

HEADLINER Flint Hamady 36, Armada 35 The Hawks earned their best win of an outstanding season, edging the other Blue Water Area Conference co-champion (see North Branch above) despite trailing by a touchdown heading into the fourth quarter. Hamady (9-1) is heading to the District Finals for the first time since 2018. The 36 points were the most allowed by Armada (7-3) this season. Click for more from the Macomb Daily.

District Digest Kingsford 34, Kingsley 30 The Flivvers (7-3) scored with 23 seconds to play to earn their first District Final trip since 2017. Kingsley finished 7-3, with two of its three losses decided by a combined five points. Corunna 34, Williamston 27 The No. 10-ranked Cavaliers (8-2) edged the No. 9 Hornets (7-3) to earn their third-straight trip to a District Final. All three Williamston losses this season were by eight points or fewer. Flat Rock 27, Dundee 22 The Rams (7-3) earned their first playoff win since their Class C championship season of 1976 – and after going a combined 9-25 over the last four years. Dundee finished 6-4.

11-Player Division 6

HEADLINER Lansing Catholic 28, Durand 21 It’s tough to say if this was the most stunning of two Division 6 wins over teams that finished the regular season undefeated. Lansing Catholic entered 4-5, but also is the reigning Division 6 champion – and the Cougars have come on strong with three straight wins and despite opening this season 0-3. No. 7 Durand had won four games decided by a touchdown or less on the way to its 9-0 start, but couldn’t hold onto an early lead this time. Click for more from the Lansing State Journal.

District Digest Manistee 28, Boyne City 27 This was the other win over an undefeated opponent, as Manistee (7-3) earned its first trip to the District Finals after hitting the road to deal Boyne City (9-1) its only loss in also the No. 6 Ramblers’ only game decided by fewer than 15 points. Standish-Sterling 30, Clare 29 (OT) The No. 10 (tied) Panthers (8-1) saw their potential perfect regular season stopped short in Week 9, but extended their playoffs with an overtime 2-point conversion to edge the Pioneers (5-5). Constantine 54, Buchanan 12 The Falcons’ continued to dominate on both sides of the ball, besting their points for and points against averages in stopping the Bucks (8-2) and improving to 9-1. Menominee 44, Calumet 39 In running 38 times for 330 yards and five touchdowns, Brayden Nelson broke or tied three Calumet school records. But Landon Bardowski scored with less than a minute left to put the Maroons (6-4) ahead for good. Calumet finished 6-4.

11-Player Division 7

HEADLINER Ravenna 10, North Muskegon 7 Three weeks after falling to North Muskegon 28-7 in the game that eventually decided the West Michigan Conference Rivers title, Ravenna (7-3) is headed back to the District Finals for the third time in four seasons after one of its strongest defensive performances of the fall. North Muskegon ended 8-2, its best record since 2006. Click for more from CatchMark SportsNet.

District Digest Benzie Central 21, Charlevoix 14 This was right up there with the biggest stunners of the weekend as Benzie (4-6) entered 3-6 but edged the No. 9-ranked Rayders (8-2). Manchester 22, Grass Lake 19 Two weeks after falling to Grass Lake 35-19, Manchester avenged to move to 6-4 and guarantee its winningest season since 2015. Grass Lake ended 5-5. Hudson 50, Union City 13 The No. 3 Tigers (8-1) fell short in their league title bid this season, but defeated a league champion in Union City (7-3) to reach the District Finals.

11-Player Division 8

HEADLINER Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary 34, Harbor Beach 20 As noted in Friday’s preview, these two made up half of one of the strongest Districts in any division, and No. 5 MLS (9-1) will now meet undefeated and top-ranked Ubly after holding on against the No. 6 Pirates (8-2). Harbor Beach had given up more than 16 points in only one other game – against Ubly – and MLS continued a marvelous turnaround after going a combined 5-11 over the last two seasons. Click for more from the Saginaw News.

District Digest Detroit Community 38, Mount Clemens 28 The Battling Bathers (7-3) had won the Week 8 matchup for the Charter School Conference East title, 44-24, but Community (6-4) avenged with its first playoff win in 12 years as a program. East Jordan 6, Frankfort 0 (OT) The Red Devils (6-4) secured their first playoff win since 1999 by earning their first shutout of the season and scoring the game’s only points after regulation. Frankfort (8-2) had won their Week 6 meeting 20-14. Bark River-Harris 44, St. Ignace 20 This matchup of league champions went to the Broncos (8-2), who will see Iron Mountain in a District Final for the second time in three seasons. St. Ignace finished 7-3, its best since 2016 and after going a combined 3-13 over the last two seasons.

8-Player Division 1

HEADLINER Deckerville 14, Kingston 8 The No. 5-ranked Cardinals’ run to their first perfect regular season since 1999 included a 56-20 Week 6 win over Deckerville, their first victory over the Eagles over the last 13 seasons of playing them annually. But Deckerville (7-3) hasn’t lost since, and this actually was the Eagles’ third-straight victory by eight points or fewer. It was also the only single-digit game this fall for Kingston (9-1). Click for more from the Huron Daily Tribune.

Regional Roundup Newberry 54, Rogers City 6 What seemed heading in as arguably the top matchup of the weekend in Division 1 didn’t end up that way as No. 6 Newberry allowed single-digit scoring for the sixth-straight game and with No. 4 Rogers City (9-1) averaging 46 points per game entering the contest. Breckenridge 36, Fulton 32 After Breckenridge (8-2) won their Week 1 meeting 40-36, the Huskies similarly edged the Pirates (7-3) in their first 8-player playoff game. Brown City 66, Auburn Hills Oakland Christian 38 The No. 9 Green Devils (9-1), also in their first season of 8-player, earned their first playoff win since 1997. No. 7 Oakland Christian (8-2), in its second season of 8-player, also was making its first playoff appearance in its new format.

8-Player Division 2

HEADLINER Mendon 44, Climax-Scotts 18 The No. 7 Hornets opened with a strong move, defeating No. 3 Climax-Scotts to reach the Regional Finals for the second time in two seasons of 8-player. Climax-Scotts (8-2) was averaging 42 points per game entering the weekend, but couldn’t find that stride against a defense that hasn’t given up more than 17 points in a game since Week 3. Mendon (8-2) is now a combined 16-5 over its two 8-player seasons. See below for more from FOX 17.

Regional Roundup Lake Linden-Hubbell 44, Crystal Falls Forest Park 12 The No. 5 Trojans (7-3) had won these teams’ Week 6 meeting 22-14. With this win, the Lakes (7-3) earned another rematch – against top-ranked Powers North Central. Morrice 62, Peck 6 Two regular-season losses took No. 9 Morrice out of its league’s title mix, but the Orioles opened the playoffs with this win over the No. 8 Pirates (7-3), winners of the North Central Thumb League Stripes. Gaylord St. Mary 47, Central Lake 6 The No. 10 Snowbirds (8-2) have won six straight and by an average margin of 45 points during the run. St. Mary also won the first meeting with Central Lake (7-3) in Week 2, 48-36.

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PHOTO A Swartz Creek ball carrier looks for an opening during Friday’s playoff game against Midland. (Photo by Melody Cook.)

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.