We don’t keep track of losing streaks at the MHSAA. But we’re plenty glad to celebrate teams after those streaks have been broken.
Holland West Ottawa and Litchfield surely are enjoying these first few weeks, as both have started the fall 2-0 after multiple seasons without a victory.
Theirs are among several potential turnaround stories beginning to be told, and we highlight more below as we review Week 2 across Michigan.
Bay & Thumb
HEADLINER Lapeer 56, Traverse City Central 42 The Lightning (2-0) scored first and impressively on the road against last season’s Division 2 runner-up. Quarterback Zak Olejniczak ran for a touchdown and threw for seven more, including four scoring passes to Connor Brown. Although Central (1-1) went over 40 points for the second week in a row, Lapeer’s defense was the difference during the fourth quarter with two interceptions and a fumble recovery. Click for more from the Traverse City Record-Eagle.
Watch list Swartz Creek 36, Lake Fenton 14 The Dragons are 2-0 for the first time since 2018 and after starting 1-3 a year ago but still eventually making the playoffs. This win avenged a 13-0 loss to Lake Fenton (0-2) from last fall.
On the move Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker 39, Cass City 12 The Lakers (2-0) have opened with two commanding wins as they head into Greater Thumb Conference West play, while Cass City is 1-1 heading into GTC East action. Standish-Sterling 31, Ithaca 27 The Panthers (2-0) trailed throughout the first half before making their move during the second to earn a one-score win over Ithaca (1-1) for the second-straight season. Marlette 38, Unionville-Sebewaing 12 Marlette (2-0) last played USA in a 2020 playoff opener, and the Red Raiders hadn’t come within 40 of the Patriots (0-2) two of the three times they’d faced each other over the last seven seasons.
HEADLINER Clarkston 62, Southfield Arts & Technology 56 Southfield A&T (1-1) is becoming must-see football this fall – and that’s a strong vote of confidence for Clarkston after the Wolves held on to move to 1-1. Warriors quarterback Isaiah Marshall is up to nine touchdowns passing and five rushing over two games, but Clarkston running back Ethan Clark ran for four scores as the Wolves put up the game’s last points during the final minute to prevail. Click for more from the Oakland Press.
Clarkston senior Mike Hein with the go-ahead touchdown with 25 seconds to go in the 4th quarter as the Wolves beat Southfield A&T 62-56 on Thursday.
— STATE CHAMPS! Michigan (@statechampsmich) September 2, 2022
Watch list Birmingham Seaholm 21, Detroit U-D Jesuit 20 (OT) The Maples won one game a year ago, but are up to 2-0 after edging the Division 2 No. 6-ranked Cubs (1-1).
On the move Oxford 17, Birmingham Groves 14 On an emotion-filled night at Oxford, the Wildcats (1-1) opened their home schedule by defeating the No. 10 team in Division 2, sending the Falcons to 1-1. Detroit Catholic Central 44, Davison 34 The early hierarchy in Division 1 should see movement as Davison (1-1) was ranked No. 6 and DCC (1-1) was unranked before defeating the Cardinals for the second-straight season. Warren De La Salle Collegiate 49, Muskegon 16 These two have a combined seven appearances in MHSAA Finals over the last five seasons, which on its own to explains the heaviness of this matchup and significance of this win for the Pilots (2-0) over the Big Reds (1-1)
HEADLINER DeWitt 39, Portland 34 This has become one of the best games every fall in the Lansing area – this time DeWitt entered No. 2 in Division 3 and Portland was No. 4 in Division 5 – and the 2022 chapter was another classic. The Panthers (2-0) won for the first time in three recent matchups with the Raiders (1-1) as Elliott Larner took a handoff and found Bryce Kurncz on a 22-yard halfback pass for the game-winning score with 14 seconds to play. Click for more from the Lansing State Journal.
Watch list Durand 56, Montrose 52 The Railroaders have strung together three straight playoff seasons but have something extra to be excited about so far this fall. Durand (2-0) defeated Montrose (1-1) for the first time since 2009, perhaps the best win since the program’s turnaround got rolling after an 0-9 finish in 2017.
On the move East Lansing 28, Fenton 14 The Trojans (2-0) have loaded their nonleague slate again, and after posting one of Week 1’s most impressive debuts doubled up a Tigers team that also had opened in a big way. Mount Pleasant 51, Midland 29 The Oilers’ immediate schedule gets no easier with Cadillac and Traverse City Central over the next two weeks, but Mount Pleasant (2-0) has started as impressively as anyone in the Saginaw Valley League North as Midland (1-1) also was among the Week 1 high achievers. Williamston 22, Lansing Catholic 0 Although the Cougars (0-2) are off to a rough start, this remains a win over a reigning Finals champion for the Hornets (2-0).
Northern Lower Peninsula
HEADLINER Gaylord 17, Kingsley 16 If Gaylord’s Week 1 one-point win over Lake Fenton turned a few heads, the encore against Kingsley (1-1) should have all of northern Michigan taking notice. At 2-0, Gaylord already has won as many games as it did any of the last three seasons – but getting the second victory this fall over a Stags team that had six losses total over the last four seasons gives this story some statewide spark. Click for more from the Petoskey News-Review.
Watch list Traverse City St. Francis 42, Jackson Lumen Christi 35 A matchup of 2021 Division 7 semifinalists played out like one, with the Gladiators winning the fourth quarter to move to 2-0 while sending Lumen Christi to 0-2, but with those losses to the Nos. 1 and 2 teams in the statewide rankings.
On the move Alpena 18, Marquette 16 The Wildcats (1-1) were 2-14 over their last two seasons but could be in for some major improvement after avenging last season’s 49-14 loss to Marquette (0-2). Maple City Glen Lake 34, Oscoda 28 The Lakers (1-1) bounced back from a disappointing opener to win a game that could come into play as the Northern Michigan Football League Legacy standings sort out. The Owls (1-1) should still have a part to play too over the next six weeks. Elk Rapids 20, East Jordan 13 The Elks (2-0) had won a high of two games over the past three seasons, and they’ve equaled that already with this one over a Red Devils program that’s 0-2 but went 6-3 a year ago.
Southeast & Border
HEADLINER Hudson 22, Constantine 20 The Tigers (2-0) ran their overall winning streak to 16 with one of the best regular-season victories of the run. Hudson trailed by 20 points late in the third quarter before coming all the way back against a Constantine program that had won 15 straight regular-season games and remains ranked No. 6 in Division 6. Hudson, last season’s Division 8 champion, is No. 3 in Division 7. Click for more from the Adrian Daily Telegram.
Watch list Grosse Ile 21, Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central 14 The Red Devils (2-0) won just two games a year ago, and hadn’t defeated the Falcons (0-2) since 2018.
On the move Manchester 29, Addison 26 The Flying Dutchmen (2-0) followed up a solid win over Whitmore Lake in the opener by defeating three-time reigning Cascades Conference champion Addison (1-1) for the first time since 2016. Saline 35, Ann Arbor Huron 24 This matchup ended up deciding last season’s Southeastern Conference Red championship, and Saline (2-0) is off to the right start as it looks to repeat while Huron (0-2) is coming off losses against two potential Division 1 contenders. Hanover-Horton 27, Michigan Center 20 The Comets (1-1) have had a tough run over most of the last decade, but started Cascades play by defeating a Michigan Center team that’s 0-2 but made the Division 6 Semifinals last year.
HEADLINER St. Joseph 41, Hudsonville Unity Christian 28 The Bears loaded their nonleague schedule with two opponents that finished the 2021 season at Ford Field. They opened by falling to last year’s Division 2 runner-up Traverse City Central, but came back from a double-digit deficit to claim this win over the reigning Division 4 runner-up. St. Joseph may be the favorite and is certain among the few entering Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference play, while Unity (0-2) should still contend as well in the Ottawa-Kent Conference Blue after opening with a pair of losses to top competition. Click for more from the St. Joseph Herald-Palladium.
Watch list Kalamazoo Loy Norrix 8, Kalamazoo Central 7 The Knights (1-1) have struggled more than most over the last 10 seasons, but this was their first win since 2019 and first over rival Central since 2017.
On the move Kalamazoo United 33, Stevensville Lakeshore 27 The Titans (1-1) reversed last season’s 41-19 loss to Lakeshore (0-2) as it bounced back from a season-opening defeat to Berrien Springs. Niles 28, Buchanan 18 The Vikings (1-1) also bounced back from a season-opening loss to hand the Bucks (1-1) their first defeat. Schoolcraft 22, Centreville 2 It’s fair to say defense reigned but both should score some playoff points as these two go on to successful seasons. Schoolcraft improved to 2-0, and Centreville is 1-1.
HEADLINER Negaunee 40, Calumet 15 The Western Peninsula Athletic Conference Copper sent four teams to the playoffs last season. Negaunee was one and now has defeated two more, with Calumet also the reigning league co-champion. The victory over the Copper Kings (0-2) actually was the Miners’ second straight, and they don’t face the other co-champion Ishpeming Westwood until Week 9 – although Week 8 opponent Houghton also is making some noise at 2-0 and becoming one to watch in that league. Click for more from the Marquette Mining Journal.
Watch list St. Ignace 48, Johannesburg-Lewiston 0 The Saints (2-0) have worked through some tough seasons of late as well, winning a combined three games over the last two years. But they’re riding some momentum this time as the schedule begins getting tougher this week.
On the move Gladstone 34, Kingsford 20 The Braves (2-0) have simply impressed over their first two wins, this one over the reigning co-champion of the Great Northern Conference. Iron Mountain 34, Ishpeming Westwood 0 As noted above, Westwood (0-2) was a Copper co-champion last season, and Iron Mountain bounced back after falling Week 1 to Negaunee. Sault Ste. Marie 16, Grayling 7 The Blue Devils (2-0) had fallen 36-32 last season in their first NMFL Legends meeting with Grayling (1-0).
HEADLINER Rockford 31, Muskegon Mona Shores 27 The Rams (2-0) – No. 6 in Division 1 – came all the way back after trailing 20-0 late in the second quarter, as quarterback Mac VandenHout threw three touchdown passes including the go-ahead score 59 yards to Brody Thompson with 4:07 to play. Mona Shores, No. 4 in Division 2, moved to 1-1. Click for more from FOX 17.
Watch list East Kentwood 19, Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice 17 The Falcons (1-1) are playing for their first winning season since 2019 and looking strong after also opening with a close defeat against Muskegon. East Kentwood had lost to Brother Rice (0-2) last season 33-0.
On the move Grandville 45, Byron Center 27 That’s two weeks and two notable wins from the Bulldogs (2-0), who followed up a season-opening victory over Grand Blanc by defeating another 2021 playoff team in Byron Center (1-1). Holland West Ottawa 21, Portage Northern 10 The Panthers are 2-0 after bringing a 26-game losing streak into this season. Grand Rapids Christian 41, Fruitport 34 The Eagles (1-1) trailed by 27 points late in the first half before scoring the final 34 points of the game to get past the Trojans (1-1).
HEADLINER Litchfield 36, Burr Oak 14 The Terriers (2-0) are one of the best stories of the early going this season, opening with a pair of victories after losing 20 straight games from 2019-21. Litchfield hadn’t defeated Burr Oak (0-2) since 2011 and lost their matchup last season 44-22. Click for more from the Hillsdale Daily News.
Watch list Merrill 36, Breckenridge 14 This could end up developing into a great rivalry game, and Merrill (2-0) now owns a 1-0 lead in the 8-player series after Breckenridge (1-1) won their last four meetings as 11-player teams.
On the move Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian 51, Indian River Inland Lakes 18 The Mustangs (2-0) are another team that has been especially impressive over the first two weeks, this time adding 51 points to the 65 they put up against Suttons Bay in the season opener. Inland Lakes (1-1) gave up that many only twice in going 10-1 last season. Pittsford 28, Camden-Frontier 6 The Wildcats (2-0) could quickly become contenders with their switch to 8-player, and they’ve looked good so far outscoring their first two opponents by a combined 78-6. Munising 14, Newberry 0 The Mustangs’ defense deserves plenty of praise after stopping a Newberry offense that scored 58 points last week and averaged 36 points per game a year ago.
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PHOTOS (Top) A Mount Pleasant ball carrier works to pull away from a Midland defender during the Oilers' Week 2 win. (2) An official readies for a play during Sanford Meridian's 14-0 win over Shepherd. (3) Paw Paw runs the ball on the way to its first victory, 33-27 over Otsego. (4) A Morrice ball carrier pulls away during a 68-14 win over Vestaburg. (Top and photos 2 and 4 by High School Sports Scene; photo 3 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.)