Another slate of season openers meant another fresh start for more than 600 varsity football teams across Michigan this past weekend.
Three reigning MHSAA champions and three more 2021 Finals runners-up were among those starting out 0-1 this fall, while Lansing Waverly, Armada, Allegan and Litchfield were among many who celebrated what they hope will be just the start of special seasons to come.
See below for many of the most notable results from all over Michigan as we take a glance at Week 1.
Bay & Thumb
HEADLINER Davison 28, Clarkston 21 After opening with a three-point loss to Clarkston last season and then missing the playoffs, Davison has switched lanes on the first and set itself up well in the early going for the second. The Cardinals made some big plays late to get past the Wolves this time during the Battle at the Big House at University of Michigan. Click for more from the Flint Journal.
Here's the highlights of Davison beating Clarkston 28-21 at the Battle At The Big House on Thursday.
— STATE CHAMPS! Michigan (@statechampsmich) August 26, 2022
Watch list Fenton 46, Midland Dow 7 The Tigers are coming off their first sub-.500 season since 2007, but that might be a distant memory soon if this win over the Division 2 Chargers is an indication.
On the move Montrose 27, Clarkston Everest Collegiate 0 Everest averaged 38 points per game last season but couldn’t get on track against a Rams defense that had two shutouts a year ago. Frankenmuth 27, Goodrich 2 This might be a sign that a strong Frankenmuth defense from last season will be tough to deal with again. Midland 27, Cadillac 21 The Chemics, winners of two games last season, opened with a solid one over a Cadillac program that finished 9-3 a year ago.
HEADLINER Clinton Township Chippewa Valley 20, Detroit Catholic Central 16 This is the type of titanic opening-night matchup we anticipate all offseason, and Chippewa Valley came on strong at the end after trailing by 10 at halftime. The Big Reds also had won last season’s opener between the two. Click for more from the Detroit Free Press.
— STATE CHAMPS! Michigan (@statechampsmich) August 26, 2022
Watch list Armada 28, Marine City 27 Last year’s first winning record in a decade may have just been the start as the Tigers opened by edging last season’s Division 5 runner-up.
On the move Trenton 6, Chelsea 3 The Trojans reversed last year’s 40-0 loss to the eventual Division 4 champ. Redford Union 26, Pewamo-Westphalia 6 The Panthers also avenged a 2021 defeat to an eventual champion after falling to Division 7 winner P-W 33-6 a year ago. Southfield Arts & Technology 56, Detroit Cass Tech 54 The Warriors are seeking their first winning season since 2016 and should have plenty of momentum after avenging last season’s 49-22 loss to the Technicians.
HEADLINER Lansing Waverly 18, Lansing Catholic 7 This might be Waverly’s best win since clinching a playoff spot in 2012 – or even going back to defeating Grand Ledge in 2002. The Warriors gave up 33 points a game in winning only two last season, but shut down the reigning Division 6 champion Cougars in arguably the biggest upset in the state during Week 1. Click for more from the Lansing State Journal.
Watch list DeWitt 21, Haslett 14 Rivalry restored? It may be early to say that much, but this Battle at the Big House – and first matchup of these two past rivals since 2017 – featured a shutout by the Panthers’ defense but two return touchdowns by the Vikings’ Nakai Amachree.
On the move New Lothrop 12, Jackson Lumen Christi 7 The Hornets won arguably the most anticipated small-school opener in the state, avenging last season’s 27-14 loss to the Titans – who went on to make the Division 7 Semifinals. Brighton 35, Dearborn Fordson 14 Both are likely contenders in their respective divisions of the Kensington Lakes Activities Association, Brighton especially making some noise with this win after finishing 4-5 a year ago. East Lansing 21, Portage Central 15 This was switched late from an East Lansing home game to a trip to Portage, but the Trojans made the best of it against a Mustangs team that won nine games in 2021.
Northern Lower Peninsula
HEADLINER Traverse City Central 49, St. Joseph 28 The Trojans traveled to Ferris State for their first game since finishing Division 2 runner-up last fall at Ford Field, and defeated a St. Joseph program that reached the Division 3 Semifinals last season. The win might prove especially notable with Lapeer and Davison up next and then a first-time run through the newly-configured Saginaw Valley League. Click for more from the Traverse City Record-Eagle.
Watch list Gaylord 15, Lake Fenton 14 Gaylord had won a combined five games over the last three seasons, and this story gets better with Lake Fenton coming off a nine-win campaign.
On the move Kingsley 40, McBain 0 The Stags are on an impressive four-year run and looking to make it five while opening in a big way against another regular playoff qualifier. Traverse City West 7, Marquette 0 The Titans avenged last season’s 28-17 loss in a rematch of 2021 playoff teams. Cheboygan 52, Lake City 26 The Chiefs are seeking their first winning season since 2013, and this is a strong start after the team went from zero wins in 2020 to three a year ago.
Southeast & Border
HEADLINER Reading 33, White Pigeon 14 Expectations are high for both of these teams as Reading entered the season ranked No. 5 in Division 8 with White Pigeon right there at No. 7. The Rangers posted notable showings on both sides of the ball in this one after averaging 26 points per game and giving up 16 per game last year. Click for more from the Hillsdale Daily News.
Watch list Hillsdale 35, Jonesville 12 The Hornets have tough tasks with Berrien Springs and Hudson up next but should enjoy some added spark after breaking Jonesville’s 13-game regular-season winning streak.
On the move Carleton Airport 35, Ida 32 The Jets avenged last season’s season-opening 43-26 loss as they seek a first winning record since 2019. Manchester 20, Whitmore Lake 6 The Flying Dutchmen are seeking their first winning season since 2015, and opened this one by defeating a 2021 playoff qualifier. Ottawa Lake Whiteford 36, Blissfield 20 It’s a new era but familiar start at Whiteford, as the Bobcats earned first-year head coach and former assistant Todd Thieken his first varsity win with the program.
HEADLINER Battle Creek Lakeview 28, Battle Creek Harper Creek 6 The Spartans ran their winning streak over Harper Creek to three with their best defensive showing in two years. That’s especially significant with one of the tougher Septembers in the state coming up – River Rouge next followed by four of the usual contenders in the Southwest Michigan Athletic Conference. Click for more from the Battle Creek Enquirer.
Watch list Centreville 20, Union City 14 The Bulldogs have been one of the state’s top small-school programs the last five seasons and opened with a win over a playoff qualifier from last fall.
On the move Portage Northern 41, Vicksburg 27 This should benefit both as Northern is a Division 2 team looking to bounce back this fall and Vicksburg in Division 4 won eight games a year ago. Buchanan 46, Saugatuck 20 The Bucks fell back in 2021 but could be bouncing back after defeating a Saugatuck program coming off a playoff berth. Plainwell 21, Otsego 7 The Trojans improved to 71-44-6 all-time against Otsego in a rivalry that goes back to 1896.
HEADLINER Houghton 14, Ishpeming Westwood 12 The Gremlins’ first win over Westwood since 2016 also avenged a 52-8 loss to the Patriots from a year ago and may have reshuffled the Western Peninsula Athletic Conference Copper race right at the start. Houghton also is coming off its best season since 2013, while Westwood made the Regional Finals in Division 7 a year ago. Click for more from the Houghton Daily Mining Gazette.
Watch list Negaunee 19, Iron Mountain 14 The Miners avenged a 2021 loss to another West PAC Copper contender, adding another wrinkle as that conference gets rolling.
On the move St. Ignace 26, Tawas 6 The Saints are 1-0 for the first time since 2016 and after winning a combined three games over the last two seasons. Gladstone 42, Calumet 13 Gladstone ran its winning streak over Calumet to two, even more impressive this time as the Copper Kings are coming off a 9-3 campaign. Menominee 40, Marinette (Wis.) 6 The 116th game of this rivalry upped Menominee’s overall record against Marinette to 58-51-7.
HEADLINER Whitehall 54, Hudsonville Unity Christian 26 The Vikings have posted some impressive wins over the last two seasons as they’ve rejoined the elite in the West Michigan Conference. But from a statewide point of view, this victory is right up there with their best work. Unity Christian was last season’s Division 4 runner-up, and also averaged 57 points per game – making this another notable performance for a Whitehall defense that has given up only 13.6 points per game over the last two seasons. Click for more from the Muskegon Chronicle.
Watch list Grand Rapids West Catholic 28, Edwardsburg 20 The Falcons ended the Eddies’ 35-game regular-season winning streak by slowing an offense that averaged 49 points per game a year ago.
On the move Grandville 49, Grand Blanc 25 The Bulldogs should be contenders again in the Ottawa-Kent Conference Red after this win over a 2021 Division 1 semifinalist. Allegan 55, Cassopolis 0 The Tigers haven’t won more than two games in a season since 2011 – but opened with a sizable victory over a program with eight straight playoff appearances (and nine counting 2020 when everyone made it). Grand Rapids South Christian 42, Grand Rapids Christian 7 The Sailors made it two opening-week wins over the Eagles in two seasons as they seek to contend again in the O-K Gold.
HEADLINER Martin 30, Mendon 28 The Clippers were down 20-8 at halftime of a game that despite being played Week 1 could decide a league title. But they came all the way back to earn their third victory over the Hornets in three tries over the last two seasons. Click for more from the Sturgis Journal.
Watch list Pickford 28, Gaylord St. Mary 16 The Panthers won their second opener in a row over the Snowbirds and after both made the playoffs last season.
On the move Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian 65, Suttons Bay 19 The Mustangs handed Suttons Bay its first regular-season loss since 2018, also avenging a 30-12 defeat from last fall. Litchfield 34, Bellevue 24 The Terriers put an end to their 20-game winless streak that went back to 2019. Alcona 82, Mio 52 These two wasted no time putting together one of the highest-scoring 8-player games in MHSAA history.
Second Half’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.
PHOTOS (Top) A Livonia Churchill defender wraps up a Plymouth ball carrier during Churchill’s 32-14 win over Plymouth at University of Michigan. (Middle) An Otsego ball carrier looks for an opening against Plainwell. (Top photo by Douglas Bargerstock; middle photo by Gary Shook.)
Kingsley football fans have become pretty familiar with VIP parking for home games over the last couple of seasons.
They may just start looking for a Kingsley VIP lot at Ford Field. The Stags just captured the MHSAA Division 6 championship trophy with a 38-24 victory over Almont, their second Finals championship and first since 2005.
The road to the Finals started with Kingsley hosting two playoff games, allowing great use of the VIP Parking of Trina’s Touchdown Club. The lot is adjacent to the school’s Rodes Field and provided in loving memory of Katrina “Trina” Kay Schueller, who passed away Oct. 21, 2021, at Munson Medical Center.
Those playoff games filling Trina’s Touchdown Club’s parking lot featured wins over Mason County Central 61-12 and Manistee 37-18, and 51-27 over Gladstone in the Regional Final. Kingsley then traveled down the road and defeated Reed City 37-7 in the Semifinal.
There may not have been designated VIP parking in Cadillac and Ford Field for the Stags’ followers, but there were a lot of VIPs at both stadiums with Schueller on their minds. Pretty much everyone with an affiliation with the highly-successful program or familiarity with the community’s struggles have become VIPs to the Kingsley coaching staff and many others.
Most certainly among the VIPs are head coach Tim Wooer, assistant coach Conner Schueller, his brother Carter Schueller, and his father Mike Schueller.
Conner was set to play the biggest regular-season game of his career the day after his mom passed. It was the regular-season finale against rival Traverse City St. Francis.
Wooer vividly remembers the moments leading up to that matchup, noting how difficult it was for Conner. But his then-fullback and now-assistant coach demonstrated amazing strength and maturity he stills exhibits today.
“He’s in his senior football season, and his mom is in the hospital for four weeks — he’s balancing that playing football and going to school,” Wooer recalled. “And then she passes, and he has the strength to come back to school and deliver the news to our team.
“I am sobbing watching this kid, and I’m just amazed,” Wooer continued. “The next night is Parents Night, and he’s on the field with his dad and brother without his mom.”
Conner still played, making a 4th-down goal line tackle to prevent a St. Francis touchdown. The Gladiators won the game, but Conner won the day, conquering much just to dress for the game.
The Stags went on to playoff wins over Kingsford 28-10 and Clare 32-6. They bowed out with a 33-18 Regional loss to Frankenmuth.
Conner’s junior year of 2020 had been cut short as the Kingsley was forced to forfeit its District Final to Reed City because several players and coaching staff tested positive for COVID-19. The Stags had Ford Field in their minds that season too after playoff wins over 38-13 Standish-Sterling 38-13 and Gladwin 63-16.
Conner, who celebrated his 20th birthday at Saturday’s Final, remembers his playing days and the challenges presented him.
“At the time it was ‘she’s not there,’ especially my senior year she wasn’t there to watch me and finish it out, but I know she’s watching above,” he said. “We were about to go play Reed City my junior year for Regionals, and everyone got sick and it ended our season unfortunately.”
Those challenges were on his mind at Ford Field, and running through his mind when he saw his brother and father in the stands. Carter, now a senior at Kingsley, had been unable to play football due to injuries.
“I thought about my brother – he unfortunately didn’t play this year due to his injuries, and I don’t really blame him for that,” Conner said. “I thought about him as well because it was just me and my dad and my brother now.
“It was very emotional,” Conner continued. “I got a glimpse of him in the strands.”
Carter also was filled with gratitude for the coaching staff for welcoming and mentoring him. He had become keenly aware of the amount of time coaches spend away from family at practices and going through film.
In addition to his family, Conner was thinking about many others in the Kingsley community – and other senior classes like his that didn’t get the chance to celebrate a championship.
He also was thinking about Justin Hansen, a 2003 graduate of Kingsley. Hansen was a captain on the 2002 conference championship team. He went on to become a special-operations Marine sergeant and was killed in action July 24, 2012, while deployed in Afghanistan. Hansen was on patrol as part of an operation in search of a high-value target when his team was hit with small arms fire.
On Saturday, Wooer was wearing a red T-shirt with the letters “USA” on the front and the name “Hansen” on the back. It also featured the number 54, Hansen’s in high school.
Wooer, who turned 54 in July, wore the shirt in Hansen’s memory knowing Hansen would be on the veteran coach’s mind and symbolizing Hansen’s presence with the team at Ford Field.
Wooer wants to make sure Hanson is never forgotten and reminds the soldier’s family the entire community remains behind them.
“I believe it is part of our job as a community to show our love to this family and help in any way possible to help them get through this process,” Wooers said. “After the funeral, we all went about life.
“We certainly still think about Justin and feel the pain,” he continued. “But nothing like a family does.”
Hansen’s tragic passing led to the creation of the annual Patriot Game in Traverse City in 2012 while Wooer was coaching Traverse City West. The game features crosstown rivals West and Traverse City Central every year and strives to honor veterans, first responders, active duty military, and area heroes who died while serving their country.
Saturday’s win over Almont left Wooer emotionally exhausted after all the preparations to do it right for the senior class, the school, the Kingsley community, the Schueller family and Hansen. Collectively, they’ve really become more like a family to the Stags coaching staff and many, many others.
“In terms of emotions, there is no doubt Justin was on my mind throughout the game,” Wooer said. “Trina and Conner have been – those are two huge pieces.
“And, a lot of my thoughts are with the seniors,” he continued. “You want to win the game, but also it is your last time with them.”
Wooer has learned a lot from his former players and coaches over the years. He’s become close friends with many of them, going back to his early days of coaching as a student-teacher at Elk Rapids. He also coached at Farewell and Traverse City West, the latter from 2008-2017 after a first tenure at Kingsley. He returned to Kingsley in 2018.
Schueller is among several former players and coaches who have been on Wooer’s coaching staffs over the years. Several continue today.
“I could give you lots of other stories about kids I have had,” Wooer said. “There comes this transition where they turn into such amazing men, you catch yourself every once in a while saying, ‘I want to be like him.’
“You get this huge smile on your face because you’re so proud of them, just like a mother or father would,” Wooer continued. “A coach always looks at his players like they’re part of his family.”
In addition to Conner, current assistants with long-term relationships with Wooer are Tom Kaleita, Kyle Smith, Ryan Zenner, Dan Goethals, Josh Merchant, Jordan Bradford, Steve Klinge, Connor Schueller, Mike Arlt, Larry Mikowski, Bobby Howell, Rob Whims and Jason Morrow.
This year’s seniors were Jon Pearson, Eli Graves, Skylar Workman, Gavyn Merchant, Max Goethals, Evan Trafford, Bode Bielas, Grant Kolbusz, James Person, Caleb Bott, Trenton Peacock, Noah Scribner and Gavin Dear. They and the coaching staff will be the center of attention as the community celebrates the football team at 7 p.m. this evening in the high school gymnasium.
The seniors probably won’t need VIP parking tonight. But if it would help, Conner would surely make arrangements to utilize Trina’s Touchdown Club. He’d have to add a shuttle though as Rodes Field is about a mile away from the school.
“It feels amazing — I don’t think it really hit any one yet, but I am sure it will,” Conner said. “After we won, it is truly something – it is something else I can’t explain.
“The seniors finally won it the way they were supposed to,” he continued. “It was a good class of seniors.”
Tom Spencer is a longtime MHSAA-registered basketball and soccer official, and former softball and baseball official, and he also has coached in the northern Lower Peninsula area. He previously has written for the Saginaw News, Bay County Sports Page and Midland Daily News. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Manistee, Wexford, Missaukee, Roscommon, Ogemaw, Iosco, Alcona, Oscoda, Crawford, Kalkaska, Grand Traverse, Benzie, Leelanau, Antrim, Otsego, Montmorency, Alpena, Presque Isle, Cheboygan, Charlevoix and Emmet counties.
PHOTOS (Top) Kingsley students support their classmates during Saturday’s Division 6 Final at Ford Field. (2) Stags assistant coach Conner Schueller watches from the sideline during an Almont run back. (3) Kingsley coach Tim Wooer, in red, prepares to present the championship trophy to his team including Schueller, far right. (4) Trina’s Touchdown Club welcomes members to the VIP lot adjacent to the Kingsley stadium. (Ford Field photos by Hockey Weekly Action Photos; touchdown club photo courtesy of the Kingsley football program.)