1st & Goal: 2022 Playoff Week 2 Preview

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

November 4, 2022

The MHSAA Football Playoffs are set up purposely to begin with local matchups and continue to branch out along more unfamiliar paths.

MI Student AidThis weekend’s 11-Player District Finals and 8-Player Regional Finals still include a good share of familiarity – whether they are pitting regular-season rivals for a rematch or past playoff opponents who have become more known over years of similar November meetings.

Below is a glance at a game in each division that especially pops off the page. Click here for all things football matchups – schedules, scores as they come in and next-round pairings as they’re determined – and if you can’t make it to a game live this weekend, 85 percent of those games will be streamed live on MHSAA.tv.

11-Player Division 1

Caledonia (9-1) at Rockford (10-0)

The much-hyped Week 9 game matching undefeated contenders for the outright Ottawa-Kent Conference Red title turned into a 38-15 Rockford win over the Fighting Scots. But we’ve already seen plenty of rematches going the other way this postseason, even after a big win in the first meeting. Rockford opened the playoffs with a 50-14 victory over East Kentwood, putting up its most points this season and outdoing its 41-20 win over the Falcons on Sept. 23. Caledonia did similar in its 48-26 first-round win over Grandville after previously defeating the Bulldogs 50-40 during Week 5.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Grand Ledge (8-2) at Holt (7-3), Clarkston (8-2) at Davison (9-1), Romeo (8-2) at Macomb Dakota (10-0).

11-Player Division 2

Muskegon Mona Shores (8-2) at Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central (10-0)

The Rangers have been piling up strong seasons for the last seven, and made the Division 2 Semifinals in 2017. They haven’t advanced past the District level since, but defeating Mona Shores to do so this weekend certainly would be considered a breakout performance. Forest Hills Central hasn’t given up more than 14 points in a game and is allowing only 5.7 per game this fall. That should get a strong challenge from the Sailors, who even in their defeats put up 27 and 35 points – and they’re averaging 43 per game. Mona Shores has won its last three playoff meetings with FHC (over the last four seasons) including 31-7 last fall.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY South Lyon (7-3) at Dexter (10-0), Warren De La Salle Collegiate (9-1) at Roseville (8-2), Birmingham Groves (7-3) at Birmingham Seaholm (8-2).

11-Player Division 3

Zeeland West (9-1) at St. Joseph (9-1)

The Dux are playing in their fifth District Final in six seasons but seeking to advance for the first time since their most recent championship run of 2015. St. Joseph shut West’s pursuit down quickly last year with a 29-26 District-opening victory that turned into an unexpected Semifinal run for the Bears after they’d entered the playoffs 5-4. Expectations are much higher this time as St. Joseph hasn’t lost since Week 1, and the offense especially is surging scoring 42 or more points in four of its last five games including three against playoff teams. West’s only loss was to Mona Shores in Week 6, and its 36-28 win over Lowell last weekend was especially noteworthy among Division 3 matchups.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY DeWitt (7-3) at Mount Pleasant (9-1), Trenton (9-1) at Gibraltar Carlson (9-1), Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice (4-5) at Walled Lake Western (9-1).

11-Player Division 4

Tecumseh (10-0) at Riverview (10-0)

Riverview deserves more due after completing a third-straight undefeated regular season, and a first District title since 2017 would add another highlight to arguably its most impressive run of the three. Tecumseh’s story has been told a few times in this space – the team was a combined 8-25 over the last four seasons but has reached 10-0 for the first time since 1991. Tecumseh’s offense is up to 51 points per game after going over 50 last week for the seventh time this fall. Riverview is giving up 15 points per game and has never allowed more than 28 – giving this matchup the feel of a potential back-and-forth tug-of-war.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Hudsonville Unity Christian (6-4) at Grand Rapids South Christian (10-0), Charlotte (9-1) at Hastings (9-1), Freeland (8-2) at Goodrich (9-1).

11-Player Division 5

Belding (9-1) at Muskegon Oakridge (9-1)

Only three of eight teams on this side of the Division 5 bracket won their league’s championship this fall. Belding was one of those three, its only loss to another league champion in Cadillac. The Black Knights’ offense is churning at 43 points per game but next runs into an Oakridge defense giving up just under 13. The Eagles finished second in their league, losing only to still-undefeated Whitehall – and aside from Whitehall, no other opponent has scored more than 18 points against them. Similarly, aside from Cadillac, Belding has scored at least 34 points on every other opponent and more than 40 points on seven.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Corunna (8-2) at Portland (9-1), Pontiac Notre Dame Prep (7-3) at Detroit Country Day (6-3). SATURDAY Flint Hamady (9-1) at Marine City (8-2).

11-Player Division 6

Warren Michigan Collegiate (9-1) at Madison Heights Bishop Foley (10-0)

Last season’s Division 6 runner-up Michigan Collegiate is an eight-point loss to Detroit Country Day from being undefeated, and statistically has been even better on both sides of the ball so far than during last year’s run to Ford Field. Likewise, Bishop Foley is having its best season, reaching 10 wins for the first time thanks in part to a defense that matches Michigan Collegiate’s in giving up only 11 points per game. This will be the Ventures’ second District Final in three seasons as they seek to reach the Regional for the first time.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Standish-Sterling (8-1) at Millington (9-1), Ecorse (9-1) at Clinton (10-0). SATURDAY Constantine (9-1) at Grand Rapids West Catholic (9-1).

11-Player Division 7

Hudson (9-1) at Jackson Lumen Christi (7-3)

This might be one of the most telling games in the entire Division 7 bracket this month. The teams have traveled much different paths to end up looking like strong title contenders. Lumen Christi opened this season 0-3 with losses to two more Division 7 powers – New Lothrop and Traverse City St. Francis – and then a three-point loss to Division 5 Hastings, the eventual champion in the Interstate 8 Athletic Conference. All three of those defeats were by seven points or fewer, and the Titans haven’t lost again. Enter Hudson, last season’s Division 8 champion, with its only loss to undefeated Division 6 contender Clinton but an impressive early-season win over another Division 6 contender in Constantine.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Schoolcraft (7-3) at Lawton (8-2), Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker (9-1) at Montrose (7-3). SATURDAY Ravenna (7-3) at Ithaca (9-1).

11-Player Division 8

Fowler (9-1) at Beal City (10-0)

Beal City is one of three undefeated teams left in Division 8, and a regular at this point in the season having finished Division 8 runner-up last year and in 2019. This time, however, the Aggies are 10-0 for the first time since 2013. Fowler is making its fourth-straight trip to a District Final as well. The Eagles handed Carson City-Crystal both of its losses and got past rival Pewamo-Westphalia for the first time since 2014. Fowler is giving up only 9.1 points per game and aside from a loss to Division 6 Laingsburg hasn’t allowed more than 16. Beal City has been similarly up to the task defensively, but also is scoring 42 points per game after putting up 63 in its playoff opener.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary (9-1) at Ubly (10-0), Bark River-Harris (8-2) at Iron Mountain (9-1), Clarkston Everest Collegiate (7-3) at Marine City Cardinal Mooney (8-2).

8-Player Division 1

Newberry (9-1) at Munising (10-0)

One of the very few non-blowouts these teams played was against each other in Week 2, when Munising won 14-0 on the way to eventually claiming the Great Lakes Eight Conference East championship. Newberry is averaging 43 points per game despite that shutout and put up 54 last week on previously-unbeaten Rogers City to earn this rematch. Munising scores 52 points per game, so it’s anyone’s guess if this will be another low-scoring matchup or one that will keep the scoreboard moving. Both defenses have five shutouts this fall as well.

Other Regional Finals FRIDAY Breckenridge (8-2) at Merrill (10-0), Deckerville (7-3) at Brown City (9-1). SATURDAY Adrian Lenawee Christian (8-2) at Martin (8-2).

8-Player Division 2

Mendon (8-2) at Colon (10-0)

These neighbors met three times in the 11-player playoffs and will meet for the first time in 8-player with Mendon having made the format switch last year. Mendon has given up 49 points total over its seven-game winning streak (one victory was a forfeit). But the Hornets are facing a Magi team that also is enjoying a superlative season, which really seemed to take off with a Week 4 win over Adrian Lenawee Christian and included a 25-20 Week 6 victory over Climax-Scotts – which Mendon defeated 44-18 in its playoff opener last week. Colon has put up 60+ points in four straight games – although two of them were against the same team – and averages 55 per game despite playing half its games against playoff teams.

Other Regional Finals FRIDAY Lake Linden-Hubbell (7-3) at Powers North Central (10-0), Gaylord St. Mary (8-2) at Marion (10-0). SATURDAY Morrice (8-2) at Au Gres-Sims (9-1).

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PHOTO A Holt ball carrier works to find an opening during a District Semifinal win over Hartland. (Photo by Michele Hoffman.)

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.