We’re just days away from awarding our first MHSAA Football Finals championships for the 2022 season, and we’re guaranteed at least five new winners with many more hopefuls moving closer to earning that opportunity.
Our two 8-player championship games are set – we’ll have just one team returning to Superior Dome from last year’s finalists – and we’re down to 32 contenders set to play 11-player Semifinals, including just six that reached Ford Field a year ago. We’re already assured of new champions in four of those 11-player divisions.
Below is a glance at how we reached this point – headed to Marquette this weekend and then on to Detroit.
8-Player Division 1
SEMIFINAL Merrill 22, Munising 20 A big comeback sent the Vandals (12-0) to their first MHSAA championship game in this sport. Munising led by two touchdowns in the fourth quarter before Merrill came back and went ahead for good during the closing minutes. The Vandals were held 25 points below their average, but also kept Munising (11-1) well below its 51 points-per-game average heading into the weekend. Click for more from the Saginaw News.
SEMIFINAL Martin 42, Brown City 8 After falling in Semifinals in 2020 and 2021, Martin is headed to its first championship game since 1987. The Clippers (10-2) posted one of their top defensive performances of the last three seasons, stalling a Green Devils offense that was averaging 52 points per game. Brown City concluded its first season of 8-player at 10-2 after going 1-8 in 11-player in 2021. Click for more from WWMT.
8-Player Division 2
SEMIFINAL Powers North Central 36, Marion 12 North Central will play for a third-straight Division 2 championship but had to advance from its closest game of the season to earn the opportunity. The Jets (12-0) took a 22-12 lead into halftime and were able to hold Marion (11-1) off during the third quarter before pulling away for two more scores during the fourth. Click for more from the Iron Mountain Daily News.
SEMIFINAL Mendon 30, Morrice 14 Jack McCaw ran for 198 yards and three touchdowns as Mendon (10-2) reached the Finals in just its second season of 8-player after playing in 12 championship games in 11-player. The Hornets scored the first two touchdowns of the game and contained a Morrice offense that had scored 42 points per game coming into the contest. The Orioles finished 9-3. Click for more from the Sturgis Journal.
11-Player Division 1
HEADLINER Clarkston 36, Rochester Adams 33 The Highlanders (10-2) went ahead on a Parker Picot run with 3:17 to play, but the Wolves (10-2) clinched the Regional title when Desman Stephens hauled in the game-winning touchdown pass with less than a second remaining. Clarkston completed a season sweep of the Highlanders, after the Wolves’ 45-35 Week 3 win eventually decided the Oakland Activities Association Red title. Click for more from the Oakland Press.
We go back to the highlights of that exciting 4th quarter in the Division 1 Regional Final between Clarkston and Rochester Adams that aired on @BallySportsDET @ClarkstonWolves | @JeffKosin | @TheeJungle | @evstockton | @rrubick pic.twitter.com/BpFdUGGrRR
— STATE CHAMPS! Michigan (@statechampsmich) November 12, 2022
Regional Roundup Caledonia 42, Grand Ledge 14 The Flighting Scots (11-1) advanced to their first Semifinal since 2012 by taking a seven-point lead into halftime and scoring 21 unanswered points during the final two quarters. Grand Ledge finished its winningest season since 2015 at 9-3. Belleville 33, Detroit Catholic Central 10 The Tigers (12-0) ran for four of their five touchdowns in reaching the Semifinals for the fifth straight season. DCC finished 8-3 for the second straight. Detroit Cass Tech 35, Macomb Dakota 21 The Technicians (9-3) defeated a third league champion in three playoff games, this time handing Macomb Area Conference Red title winner Dakota (11-1) its lone defeat.
11-Player Division 2
HEADLINER Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central 21, East Lansing 17 The Rangers (12-0) built a two-touchdown lead and then held off a Trojans comeback attempt to earn their first Regional title since 2017. This was Forest Hills Central’s closest game, but the defense continued to shine holding East Lansing (8-4) to half its 34 ppg average heading into the weekend. Click for more from FOX 17.
Dexter 42, Midland 7 Reeves Taylor threw for 300 yards and five touchdowns to lead Dexter (12-0) to its first Regional championship. Midland finished 10-2, its best since 2013 and a major improvement from 2-7 in 2021. Birmingham Groves 32, Livonia Franklin 25 The Falcons (9-3) are another team making a great comeback this fall, after two straight sub-.500 seasons; they’re headed back to the Semifinals for the first time since 2018. Franklin finished 10-2, its winningest run since 2017. Warren De La Salle Collegiate 55, Harrison Township L’Anse Creuse 7 The Pilots (11-1) scored just a point short of their season high and lowered their points allowed average to 12.3 per game in winning a third-straight Regional title. L’Anse Creuse finished 7-5 after winning its first District title two weekends ago.
11-Player Division 3
HEADLINER Muskegon 27, Zeeland West 20 This matchup came down to one score again after West had won the Week 5 meeting 38-36. Big Reds quarterback M’Khi Guy – a member of the MHSAA Student Advisory Council – ran for three touchdowns including the eventual game winner. Click for more from the Muskegon Chronicle.
— STATE CHAMPS! Michigan (@statechampsmich) November 14, 2022
Regional Report DeWitt 29, Linden 16 The Panthers (9-3) are headed to the Semifinals for the fifth-straight season after becoming only the second team this fall to hold Linden (7-5) under 21 points. Mason 49, Trenton 30 The Bulldogs (12-0) clinched their second-straight Regional title with quarterback Cason Carswell tossing six touchdown passes to keep his team a step ahead of the Trojans (10-2), who finished their first double-digit win season since 1998. Detroit Martin Luther King 22, Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice 12 The Crusaders (8-3) are headed to their seventh Semifinal in eight seasons with quarterback Dante Moore rushing for two second-half touchdowns after Rice (5-6) led at halftime.
11-Player Division 4
HEADLINER Grand Rapids South Christian 28, Whitehall 21 A back-and-forth matchup of undefeated teams ended with South Christian claiming its first Regional title since 2014 and after falling short in Regional Finals the last two seasons. The Sailors (12-0) put up the last two scores for the final margin. Whitehall finished its winningest season at 11-1. Click for more from the Grand Rapids Press.
— STATE CHAMPS! Michigan (@statechampsmich) November 12, 2022
Regional Report Edwardsburg 24, Hastings 14 The Eddies (11-1) won their third-straight Regional title and seventh over the last nine seasons with another lockdown defensive performance as Hastings entered averaging 41 points per game. The Saxons (10-2) completed their first double-digit win season. Goodrich 40, Orchard Lake St. Mary’s 20 The Martians are first-time Regional champions after scoring first and following quarterback Gavin Hart to their third 40-point scoring performance over the last four games. The Eaglets finished 5-6. Riverview 45, Dearborn Divine Child 35 The Pirates (12-0) won their first Regional title since 2017 as Jacob Shank ran for 251 yards and five scores, the last after Divine Child (9-3) had pulled within three points of the lead.
11-Player Division 5
HEADLINER Gladwin 26, Muskegon Oakridge 8 After trailing by two points at the break, Gladwin (12-0) scored 20 unanswered during the second half to win its first Regional title since 1998 and extend its winningest season. Only Whitehall had held the Eagles (10-2) to single digits this season as they reached 10 wins for the second time in four years and first since 2019. Click for more from the Midland Daily News.
Here are the highlights of the Gladwin vs. Muskegon Oakridge - Division 5 @MHSAA Regional Final from Saturday.
— STATE CHAMPS! Michigan (@statechampsmich) November 14, 2022
Regional Roundup Grand Rapids Catholic Central 42, Portland 19 Quarterback Connor Wolf and running back Kellen Russell-Dixon provided much of the offense’s firepower as GRCC (11-1) won its seventh-straight Regional title. The Cougars also held Portland (10-2) to its fewest points in a game this fall. Frankenmuth 49, Flint Hamady 7 Griffin Barker ran for 114 yards and two touchdowns and caught a third as the Eagles (12-0) won their third-straight Regional championship. Hamady’s two winningest seasons have come over the last five, as this year’s 10-2 finish joined the 2018 team’s 11-1 at the top of the list. Detroit Country Day 44, Flat Rock 7 After just missing last season, Country Day (8-3) is headed back to the Semifinals for the third time in four seasons and coming off its highest-scoring showing this fall. The Yellowjackets also held Flat Rock to its season low. The Rams did finish with plenty to celebrate, as their 8-4 record came after four straight sub-.500 seasons.
11-Player Division 6
HEADLINER Clinton 31, Warren Michigan Collegiate 30 The Redwolves (12-0) came back from a double-digit deficit to edge last season’s Division 6 runner-up and move on to the Semifinals for the second time in three seasons. A pair of late scores put Clinton over the top, including the eventual game-winner with 1:29 to play. Michigan Collegiate finished 10-2 and stands 21-5 over the last two seasons. Click for more from the Adrian Daily Telegram.
Regional Roundup Negaunee 18, Gladstone 12 The Braves made this rematch closer than Negaunee’s 24-6 win in Week 7, but the Miners (12-0) won their first Regional title since 2003 by holding on for only their second single-digit win – and first since opening night – of a stellar season. Gladstone finished 9-3, its winningest run since 2008. Reed City 6, Millington 0 Both defenses were stellar as Reed City entered averaging 47 points per game and Millington 44. But the Coyotes got all the points their needed on a third-quarter score to reach the Semifinals for the first time since 2017. Millington finished 10-2, their second-straight season with 10 wins. Grand Rapids West Catholic 37, Lansing Catholic 7 The Falcons (11-1) continue to climb as they reached 11 wins and won their first Regional title both since 2017. Lansing Catholic finished 6-6 after winning four straight entering the weekend.
11-Player Division 7
HEADLINER Napoleon 14, Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central 7 The Pirates are headed to the Semifinals for the first time, continuing a memorable rise that saw Napoleon go 1-6 two seasons ago and just miss the playoffs last year at 6-3. The Pirates (12-0) have given up just 20 points over their last four games – the Big 8/Cascades champions crossover and three playoff matchups. Monroe St. Mary finished 6-6 after winning four straight entering the weekend. Click for more from the Jackson Citizen Patriot.
Regional Roundup Traverse City St. Francis 63, Ithaca 0 Of many impressive wins this season, this one might top the list as St. Francis (12-0) posted its first shutout and scored its season high against an Ithaca team that was averaging nearly 44 points per game. The Yellowjackets finished 10-2, their winningest season since 2017. New Lothrop 29, Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker 20 The Hornets (10-2) are headed back to the Semifinals for the second time in three seasons, thanks in part to a defense that held Laker to half its 41-ppg scoring average entering the game. Laker’s 10-2 finish was its best since posting the same record in 2017. Jackson Lumen Christi 7, Lawton 6 After Lawton (9-3) won last year’s Semifinal matchup 21-20, Lumen Christi (9-3) will move on this time after a second-half touchdown and extra point – and after blocking Lawton’s extra-point attempt after a first-half score.
11-Player Division 8
HEADLINER Iron Mountain 34, Evart 33 The Mountaineers (11-1) came back from a double-digit deficit to edge Evart and earn their second Regional title in four seasons. Iron Mountain hadn’t given up more than 19 points in a game this season, but Evart built a three-touchdown lead before the Mountaineers got rolling – their 34 points were the most Evart had given up this fall as well. The Wildcats finished 10-2, their first season reaching double-digit victories. Click for more from the Iron Mountain Daily News.
Regional Roundup Ubly 49, Fowler 7 The Bearcats’ only loss the last two seasons was in last year’s Semifinal, and they’ll get to return to that round this weekend after halting a Fowler offense that was scoring 32 points per game entering the weekend. Ubly is 12-0, and the Eagles finished 10-2. Ottawa Lake Whiteford 38, White Pigeon 26 The Bobcats (12-0) repeated as Regional champions in winning their closest game this fall, ending White Pigeon’s run at 8-4 after the latter had opened 2-3 but won six straight to reach this point. Clarkston Everest Collegiate 30, Sterling Heights Parkway Christian 6 These Mountaineers (9-3) earned a rematch with Whiteford after losing to the Bobcats in last season’s Regional Final. Parkway finished 6-6, a solid jump from 3-6 a year ago – and after starting the season 1-5.
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PHOTOS (Top) A Dexter ball carrier works to break free from a Midland tackler during their Division 2 Regional Final. (Middle) Grand Rapids Catholic Central's Kellen Russell-Dixon (23) holds off a Portland defender during his team's Division 5 Regional Final win. (Top photo courtesy of Midland High's athletic department. Middle photo by High School Sports Scene.)
SOUTHFIELD — Normally, having students come up and say they won’t be in school the next day might have a school administrator seething and ready to reserve seats in the detention room.
But if there ever was a time to allow it, this was the moment.
Following a 36-32 upset of Belleville that stunned many around the state in the MHSAA Division 1 Football Final on Nov. 26, Southfield Arts & Technology senior quarterback Isaiah Marshall said he and other players made it known, “Don’t expect us in school on Monday.”
After all, the game was played and ended late on a Sunday night, the team achieved something nobody else in the community had done, and there were celebrations that needed to begin.
And for the record, the players were back in school Tuesday.
Whether it’s been in school or outside the halls of Southfield A&T, it’s been a week of historic celebrations and congratulations after the Warriors captured the first MHSAA Finals championship in school history.
Marshall said that remained the case when he attended the Big Ten Championship game in Indianapolis on Saturday.
“Everywhere I go, there is someone congratulating me,” he said.
Over their final decades before the schools merged in 2016, Southfield High School and Southfield-Lathrup High School had plenty of talented teams with numerous players who went on to play big-time college football and even in the NFL.
But none of those good teams was able to advance to a state championship game, let alone win it all.
“There was a lot of people that texted me and talked to me and said they graduated from the 1980s,” said Marshall, pointing out that one former player who reached out was Nic Jones, currently a member of the Kansas City Chiefs who graduated from Southfield High. “There were a lot of older people that used to go to Southfield that told me that they couldn’t do the job. They were proud of us that we could do it for them.”
Marshall said that after the game was over Sunday, he and other teammates congregated at his house at 3 a.m. to watch a replay of the game.
It was only the first time this week the replay was watched.
“We watched it that day and the day after,” Marshall said. “I think we’ve been watching it the whole week.”
A parade Saturday will start at noon at the building that housed the old Southfield-Lathrup and finish at the current school, which was the home of Southfield High before the merger. A&T then will host a celebration in the school gymnasium from 1:15-2:30 p.m.
Players will certainly soak it all in while they can, because it won’t be long before they split up.
Marshall will soon sign to play in college for Kansas and will be enrolling early there. He plans to take his last final exams at Southfield A&T next week and head to Lawrence the first week of January.
Teammate Jalen Todd will do the same as he is also committed to Kansas, while Tashi Braceful will enroll early at Toledo.
But long after this year, it’s a group that won’t be forgotten in the community, or the state after it pulled off the upset of a Belleville team that was riding a 38-game winning streak and was two-time reigning Division 1 champion.
No doubt, future reunions should be memorable and festive.
Even Marshall admitted his still rubs his eyes in amazement over what his team did.
“Yes, I still do,” he said.
Keith Dunlap has served in Detroit-area sports media for more than two decades, including as a sportswriter at the Oakland Press from 2001-16 primarily covering high school sports but also college and professional teams. His bylines also have appeared in USA Today, the Washington Post, the Detroit Free Press, the Houston Chronicle and the Boston Globe. He served as the administrator for the Oakland Activities Association’s website from 2017-2020. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties
PHOTOS (Top) Southfield A&T players enjoy the first moments after their Division 1 championship win at Ford Field. (Middle) The A&T band plays during a break in the action. (Below) Fans celebrate in the stands during the victory over Belleville. (Photos by Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)