1st & Goal: 2022 Playoff Week 3 Review

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

November 14, 2022

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.

MI Student AidOur 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.

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.

Regional Roundup

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.

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.

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.

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.

Grand Rapids Catholic Central's Kellen Russell-Dixon (23) holds off a Portland defender during his team's Division 5 Regional Final win.

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.)

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.