At first glance from a mile-high view last week, Michigan’s Week 3 high school football schedule didn’t have a ton of matchups that popped off the page.
And of course, plenty found a way to grab our attention. We check in on 45 below.
Bay & Thumb
HEADLINER Croswell-Lexington 34, Armada 12 The reigning Blue Water Area Conference champion Pioneers (3-0) took a big-time step toward a possible repeat, as Armada (2-1) has received a lot of attention for its turnaround over the last two seasons including its fast start this fall. Croswell-Lexington quarterback Gavin Espinoza starred as his team ran its league winning streak to 12. Click for more from The Sports Report.
Watch list Saginaw Heritage 52, Grand Blanc 40 The Hawks are 3-0 for the first time since 2006 and have put up more than 50 points every game, with 52 the most Grand Blanc (1-2) has given up since 2019.
On the move Davison 49, Traverse City Central 14 The Cardinals (2-1) bounced back from a Week 2 loss to Detroit Catholic Central to send the reigning Division 2 runner-up to 1-2. Bay City Western 21, Traverse City West 0 The Warriors (2-1) welcomed Traverse City West (1-2) to the Saginaw Valley League, earning their first shutout since 2019. Saginaw Swan Valley 27, Essexville Garber 21 After a tough start but against two league championship contenders, Swan Valley (1-2) is on the board with this win over the Dukes (2-1). If history holds, they may see each other again in the playoffs for the fourth-straight season.
HEADLINER Clarkston 45, Rochester Adams 35 A score-fest during the first half – Clarkston led 42-28 at the break – did eventually slow down as the Wolves (2-1) handed the reigning Division 1 runner-up Highlanders their first regular-season loss since 2019. The win also gives Clarkston an important edge to start the Oakland Activities Association Red schedule, as Adams (2-1) rejoined the division after winning the OAA White a year ago. Click for more from the Oakland Press.
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Watch list Gibraltar Carlson 35, Allen Park 6 The Marauders (3-0) jumped to 9-2 last season, but with 28 and 21-point losses to Allen Park. This win was Carlson’s first in the series since 2018.
On the move Detroit Catholic Central 45, DeWitt 38 (OT) This looks great for both teams; DCC (2-1) for holding on against another of the state’s top programs, and the young but talented Panthers (2-1) for pushing a Division 1 power to overtime. Detroit Country Day 28, Warren Michigan Collegiate 20 All three of Country Day’s wins have come against 2021 playoff qualifiers, with Michigan Collegiate (2-1) last season’s Division 7 runner-up. Plymouth 16, Canton 0 After back-to-back one-win seasons, Plymouth (1-2) earned the first of this fall to avenge losing to rival Canton (1-2) by 50 a year ago.
HEADLINER Hastings 24, Jackson Lumen Christi 21 The Saxons shared last season’s Interstate 8 Athletic Conference championship, a 33-22 loss to Lumen Christi keeping Hastings from the outright title. But the Saxons held off the Titans this time for their second win in the series over the last three seasons – and sent Lumen Christi to 0-3, although those losses have come to teams that sit a combined 8-1. Click for more from The Hastings Banner.
Watch list Ithaca 48, Saginaw Nouvel 6 The Yellowjackets (2-1) started their league title 13-peat pursuit well, stopping a Panthers offense that had scored a combined 93 points over their 2-0 start. Ithaca, currently in the Tri-Valley Conference West 2, has won outright or shared its league’s championship every season beginning with 2009.
On the move Mount Pleasant 27, Cadillac 24 The Oilers (3-0) ran their regular-season winning streak to 15 with their closest victory of the run. Cadillac (1-2), notably, has two one-score defeats. Holt 14, Grand Ledge 6 The Rams’ rebound may be starting as Holt (1-2) ran its winning streak over the rival Comets (2-1) to three. New Lothrop 55, Clarkston Everest Collegiate 0 The Hornets (3-0) are among the most impressive teams in the state through the first third of the regular season, as Everest was 9-3 last fall – but is off to a 1-2 start this time after opening with three 2021 playoff teams.
Northern Lower Peninsula
HEADLINER Boyne City 34, Grayling 6 These two go back most of the last two decades as league opponents, then ended up in separate leagues the last two seasons but faced off in the playoffs, splitting those games with Boyne City winning by a point last year. They are still in different divisions of the Northern Michigan Football League, but the Ramblers (3-0) will enter Leaders play with plenty of momentum coming off their best defensive performance. Grayling will take a 1-2 record into the Legends division. Click for more from the Petoskey News-Review.
Watch list Elk Rapids 30, Tawas 14 The Elks (3-0) have now won as many games this season as over the last two combined, and have yet to allow more than two touchdowns this fall.
On the move Kingsley 30, Ogemaw Heights 20 The Stags (2-1) bounced back from a one-point Week 2 loss to Gaylord to set up this week’s matchup with rival Traverse City St. Francis. Traverse City St. Francis 49, Benzie Central 12 The Gladiators (3-0) also are riding high after moving to 2-0 in the NMFL Legends. Lake City 44, Manton 0 After losing the season opener to Cheboygan, Lake City (2-1) hasn’t allowed a point and handed Manton (2-1) its first defeat after the Rangers had topped 30 points both of their first two games.
Southeast & Border
HEADLINER Tecumseh 35, Pinckney 14 An early slate of three opponents that made the playoffs last season might have seemed a little daunting as Tecumseh was starting this season pursuing its first winning record since 2013. But Tecumseh (3-0) is setting the pace, adding this win to victories over Michigan Center and Richland Gull Lake to start the fall. Click for more from the Adrian Daily Telegram.
Watch list Carleton Airport 33, Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central 14 The Jets (3-0) are coming off back-to-back four-win seasons but have nearly equaled that victory total already, with this one also avenging a 35-26 loss to SMCC from last season.
On the move Addison 48, Hanover-Horton 39 The Panthers (2-1) bounced back from their Week 2 loss by grounding a Comets team that was coming off a big win. Clinton 18, Ida 6 The Redwolves (3-0) have added a solid Lenawee Country Athletic Association win to a big overall start, as Ida was the runner-up in the league a year ago. Napoleon 30, Manchester 25 Add the Pirates (3-0) to the list of contenders in the Cascades Conference after their most impressive win so far, as they handed Manchester (2-1) its lone defeat.
HEADLINER Portage Central 16, Battle Creek Lakeview 13 Not so fast, to anyone who had counted out Portage Central after its 0-2 start. The Mustangs began Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference play with this win over the only league team that had begun 2-0. Central (1-2) came back from a 13-0 halftime deficit to catch the Spartans (2-1). Click for more from the Battle Creek Enquirer.
Watch list Sturgis 55, Plainwell 35 The Trojans (2-1) defeated Plainwell (2-1) for first time since 2015, with Jacob Thompson scoring six touchdowns and throwing for a seventh.
On the move Constantine 47, Lawton 21 The Falcons (2-1) put Lawton’s regular-season winning streak of 12 games to an end with 33 unanswered points. Schoolcraft 33, Kalamazoo United 29 The Eagles trailed by multiple scores but went ahead during the final minutes to get to 3-0. Benton Harbor 28, Muskegon Catholic Central 20 The Tigers (2-1) broke a three-game losing streak against MCC (1-2) and equaled their win total from all of last season.
HEADLINER Gladstone 28, Menominee 6 Make that three 2021 league champions that Gladstone (3-0) has defeated to begin this fall, as the Braves look to be in control in the Great Northern Conference after defeating last season’s co-champions Kingsford and Menominee in successive weeks. Gladstone hadn’t defeated Menominee since 2018, and fell by a point in last year’s meeting. Click for more from RRN Sports.
Watch list Iron Mountain 28, Houghton 6 After a five-point loss to Negaunee in the season opener, the Mountaineers have dominated their next two opponents by a combined score of 62-6. Houghton (2-1) had given up only 18 points total over its first two games.
On the move St. Ignace 28, Frankfort 0 The Saints’ first two wins were over teams that didn’t win a game last year or yet this fall, but defeating Frankfort (2-1) brings another level of impressiveness to St. Ignace’s 3-0 start. Marquette 17, Gaylord 14 The Blue Devils (2-1) were one of the most intriguing teams in the state after two weeks, but Marquette (1-2) pushed past after losing both of its first two games by one score. Escanaba 33, Petoskey 30 After losses to a pair of tough teams to start, Escanaba (1-2) picked up its first victory and will eclipse last year’s win total with another one.
HEADLINER Grand Rapids Catholic Central 21, Cedar Springs 20 The Cougars’ now 40-game winning streak received its toughest challenge yet as GRCC (3-0) needed a late stop on a 2-point conversion attempt to open the Ottawa-Kent Conference Blue schedule with another win. It was the third one-pointer during the streak; Cedar Springs was part of another when GRCC won last year’s meeting 41-40. Click for more form FOX 17.
Watch list Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central 21, Byron Center 13 The Rangers (3-0) may have taken a big step toward repeating in the O-K White, as Byron Center finished third a year ago.
On the move Hudsonville Unity Christian 28, Coopersville 27 After a pair of defeats to strong teams to start the season, Unity started off the O-K Blue schedule right by edging the Broncos (2-1). Ludington 7, Fremont 0 The Orioles (3-0) won a matchup of undefeated teams in the new West Michigan Conference Lakes, with likely favorite Muskegon Oakridge up next. Muskegon 28, Muskegon Reeths-Puffer 20 This was the closest game between these two since 2011, but the Big Reds held on to start off the O-K Green schedule.
HEADLINER Norway 40, Lake Linden-Hubbell 26 The Knights (3-0) are climbing the ladder of contenders after getting past another challenger in the Great Lakes Eight Conference West and with also-undefeated Crystal Falls Forest Park up next. Norway reached 40 points for the third time in three games to hand Lake Linden-Hubbell (2-1) its lone defeat. Click for more from the Iron Mountain Daily News.
Watch list Bridgman 56, Mendon 50 The Bees (3-0) scored 14 unanswered points during the fourth quarter to extend their winning streak to 16 and earn their second in two years over the Hornets (1-2).
On the move Lawrence 32, Wyoming Tri-unity Christian 28 The Tigers (1-2) hadn’t been close in their first two games, but found their stride in handing the Defenders (2-1) their lone defeat. Mio 46, Hillman 42 The Thunderbolts (2-1) are putting up some big offensive numbers and needed to this time again against the Tigers (1-2). New Haven Merritt 38, Bay City All Saints 30 The Mustangs (1-2) mounted a major comeback to earn their first victory.
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 LeRoy Pine River ball carrier finds an opening against Evart on Friday. (Middle) An Ithaca ball carrier works to break free from a Saginaw Nouvel tackler. (Top photo by Tonya Holmes; middle photo by High School Sports Scene.)
There were the highest-scoring Finals performances on record, and one of the closest finishes of all-time.
Greats who will immediately go down in history played their final high school games. Others continued to write their championship stories.
Four teams made repeat trips to their season’s final days. But most who earned the opportunity during these MHSAA Playoffs stepped on championship turf for the first time, and 45,000 fans watched them do it.
Another Michigan high school football season came to a close over the last two weekends, with 8-Player Finals on Nov. 19 and 11-Player Finals this past Friday and Saturday.
MHSAA.com covered all 10 championship games, with quick recaps and links (click on the game scores) to those stories below followed by notations of performances entered into the MHSAA Finals record book and a report on some of the main storylines to emerge as those championships were being decided.
Finals in Review
11-Player Division 1: Belleville 35, Caledonia 17 - Read
Belleville sophomore quarterback Bryce Underwood was awe-inspiring again in leading the Tigers to their second-straight championship to close a 14-0 season. He threw for 155 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 149 yards and a score. Caledonia led as late as the final minute of the third quarter before Belleville scored the game’s final 21 points.
11-Player Division 2: Warren De La Salle Collegiate 52, Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central 13 – Read
De La Salle repeated as Division 2 champion again following the lead of quarterback Brady Drogosh, who completed an astonishing 21 of 23 passes for 249 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 152 yards and three scores. Forest Hills Central was playing its first championship game since 1994, with this its only defeat of the season.
11-Player Division 3: Detroit Martin Luther King 56, Muskegon 27 – Read
The Crusaders made their third championship game appearance with Dante Moore as starting quarterback and repeated as Division 3 champion as he threw for 275 yards and four touchdowns, completing 21 of 26 passes. Jameel Croft Jr. returned the opening kickoff 96 yards, and King never trailed on the way to its sixth championship. Muskegon moved up the Finals appearances list and now sits tied for sixth all-time with 13.
11-Player Division 4: Grand Rapids South Christian 28, Goodrich 0 – Read
South Christian completed its first perfect season with its first Finals championship since 2014. The Sailors took a 14-0 lead during the second quarter and doubled it up in the fourth, as quarterback Jacob DeHaan was among the weekend’s stars with 266 yards and a touchdown passing and 99 yards and a touchdown rushing. Goodrich was making its first Finals appearance.
11-Player Division 5: Gladwin 10, Frankenmuth 7 – Read
Gladwin’s Treyton Siegert drilled a 21-yard field goal during the final seconds to clinch the Flying Gs’ first Finals championship and a 14-0 season. Frankenmuth also had entered undefeated and seeking its first Finals title. As anticipated, defense dominated as the teams combined for just 424 total yards and 15 first downs, plus 11 punts.
11-Player Division 6: Grand Rapids West Catholic 59, Negaunee 14 – Read
This was another close game at halftime – Negaunee made it 14-14 on the first kickoff return of the second half, before West Catholic scored 45 unanswered points. Running back Timmy Kloska became one of the stars of the weekend as well with 241 yards and four touchdowns rushing as his team handed the Miners their only defeat of the season.
11-Player Division 7: Jackson Lumen Christi 15, Traverse City St. Francis 12 – Read
The Titans avenged a 42-35 Week 2 loss to the Gladiators to finish off their rebound from an 0-3 start this season, earning the program’s 12th Finals championship. St. Francis took a 12-0 lead into halftime, but Lumen Christi scored the only touchdowns of the second half including the eventual game winner with 7:05 to play.
11-Player Division 8: Ottawa Lake Whiteford 26, Ubly 20 – Read
These two opened the 11-player championship weekend with a close finish, as Whiteford won the matchup of undefeated contenders with quarterback Shea Ruddy scoring the game winner with just under two minutes to play. The Bobcats opened with two first-quarter scores and led 20-6 early in the third before Ubly made its comeback.
8-Player Division 1: Martin 74, Merrill 24 – Read
Martin claimed its first Finals championship since 1987 led by quarterback JR Hildebrand, who ran for 191 yards and four touchdowns including the game’s first two scores – and whose dad Tracey played on that 1987 team. The Clippers scored the first 20 points and never led by less than 12 the rest of the way. The loss was Merrill’s only one this fall.
8-Player Division 2: Powers North Central 66, Mendon 26 – Read
The Jets extended their 8-player record winning streak to 37 games with three championships while enjoying the final game of quarterback Luke Gorzinski’s career. He’s guided all three of those championship teams and this time threw for 207 yards and four touchdowns, and ran for another score, despite playing through a knee injury.
A number of longtime powers returned to Ford Field, as seven of the 16 finalists in 11-player made at least their eighth appearance in a championship game. Jackson Lumen Christi moved up to a tie for third on that list with its 15th appearance, and as noted above Muskegon moved into a tie for sixth with its 13th title game berth. In 8-player, Powers North Central became the first to play in at least five Finals – and win at least five championships. Lumen Christi is now tied for second on the 11-player championship list with 12 titles, one back of record holder Farmington Hills Harrison.
Both the 8 and 11-Player Finals saw team scoring records. In 8-player, Martin set a record with 74 points, while its 43 in the first half ranked second for one half and its 98 combined points with Merrill ranked third for highest-scoring 8-player championship game. North Central’s 66 points were the fourth-most for one team in an 8-Player Final, with its 28 in the first quarter fourth on the single-quarter list, its 41 in the first half third for one half, and its combined 92 points with Mendon also ranking fourth for highest-scoring game. In 11-player, Grand Rapids West Catholic set the Finals record for one team with 59 points, with its 31 third-quarter points ranking third on that list and its 45 second-half points ranking second. King’s 56 total points are tied for second-most in an 11-Player Final, and De La Salle’s 52 points also made that list.
Going along with those 56 points, King’s 529 yards of total offense ranked sixth, and its 24 first downs were tied for 11th-most in an 11-Player Final. De La Salle’s 25 first downs tied for seventh on that list. Martin rushed for an 8-player championship game record eight touchdowns, while its 374 rushing yards was third on that list. Merrill’s 328 passing yards ranked third for an 8-player title game, while North Central’s five TD passes tied for third and its 23 first downs tied for second most.
A pair of eventual winners got started quickly. Jameel Croft Jr. tied the 11-player record for quickest first touchdown on a kickoff return, scoring 15 seconds into the Division 3 Final on a 96-yarder for King. Bernie Varnesdeel found Carter Perry 16 seconds into the Division 6 game on a 72-yard scoring pass to give Grand Rapids West Catholic an early lead – that was the second-fastest passing TD to start a game.
Kickers did their parts during the high-scoring weekends. King’s Terrence Moore and West Catholic’s Carson Beekman tied for the record for most extra points, both making all eight of their tries. De La Salle’s Landon Ryska sits tied for third after making all seven of his attempts. Belleville’s Brayden Lane also made the list with five extra points in five tries. In 8-player, Adrian Mercier earned the second spot on that list with six extra points for North Central.
Quarterbacks again made big statements, especially a pair of stars in their final high school games. King’s Dante Moore made Finals lists with 275 passing yards, four passing touchdowns and 304 total yards, plus his 21 completions tied for seventh-most and his .808 completion percentage ranked sixth for 11-player title games. De La Salle’s Brady Drogosh also completed 21 passes, and his .913 completion percentage is second on that last. His 401 total yards ranked seventh, and he also made the passing yards list with 249. South Christian’s Jacob DeHaan made the passing yards list with 266 and total yards list with 365, and Belleville’s Bryce Underwood also made the total yards list with 304.
In 8-player, Martin quarterback JR Hildebrand scored 28 points, tied for fourth most, with his four touchdowns tied for third on the overall and rushing TD lists. Merrill quarterback Joe Tack’s 328 passing yards rank third, and his 347 total yards are eighth.
West Catholic running back Timmy Kloska earned statewide interest as his 241 rushing yards made that record list. He also tied for eighth in 11-player scoring with 24 points, tied for fifth with four touchdowns, tied the record for most rushing touchdowns in a quarter with three, and with his four rushing TDs for the game tied for third on that list.
King’s Sterling Anderson Jr. also made the 11-player single-game rushing yards list with 207, and Mendon’s Jack McCaw made the list in 8-player with 211. Merrill’s Kaleb Walker made the 8-player receiving yards list with 213, which ranks second, and Martin’s Gavin Meyers became the first 8-player entry for interceptions in a championship game after snagging three.
Special teams had its share of highlights, with four returns making Finals record book lists. Negaunee’s Phil Nelson brought a kickoff return back 98 yards, ranking third on that list, and Croft’s return noted above is tied for fifth-longest in 11-player. North Central’s Elijah Gorzinski ran back the longest kickoff return in 8-player, 85 yards, for also the fastest score off an opening kickoff in 11 seconds. Martin’s Taegan Harris earned the first 8-player punt return entry with his 94-yarder.
West Catholic and De La Salle became the 30th and 31st teams to not punt in an 11-Player Final.
Last, but certainly not least: The Whiteford vs. Ubly Division 8 Final became the first 11-player championship game to see zero penalties, and of course zero penalty yards. Previously, five games had seen 10 or fewer penalty yards by both participants combined.
Stories Behind the Scores
Up to the Challenge: For the first time, coaches at 11-player championship games were allowed to challenge officials’ calls on a series of pre-determined situations including if a pass was complete or incomplete, if a runner or receiver was in or out of bounds, etc. Two challenges were made over the eight games at Ford Field – including one challenge that didn’t need to be made as it came on a scoring play, and all scoring plays are automatically reviewable. The other challenge confirmed the officials’ original call.
Glad-WIN: Six teams came to Finals seeking a first championship, and Gladwin prevailed with its 10-7 victory over Frankenmuth, another team seeking a first title. Coach Mark Jarstfer took over the program in 2019, with the Flying Gs riding a four-season sub-.500 streak. They finished 1-8 his first year, improved to 4-4 in 2020, then 9-1 last fall on the way to a perfect 14-0 this season. We highlighted some kickers above who made big impacts over the last two weekends, but the biggest kick surely belonged to Treyton Siegert as he drilled the history-making field goal Gladwin people will be talking about for generations.
Legends of the Finals: As noted above, De La Salle’s Brady Drogosh, King’s Dante Moore and North Central’s Luke Gorzinski capped careers that saw all three quarterback their teams to three Finals. Drogosh was 2-1 in championship matchups, completing 40 of 53 passes for 230 yards and five touchdowns and running for 339 yards and five scores over those three games. A four-year starter, Moore was 2-1 in championship games. He completed a combined 54 of 72 passes for 712 yards and five touchdowns in Finals. Gorzinski won all three of his championship games, completing a combined 25 of 48 passes for 447 yards and nine touchdowns. Despite being limited to just one carry because of injury two weeks ago, Gorzinski also ran for 425 yards and six scores in championship deciders.
MHSAA.com'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) Our collage includes photos from all 10 MHSAA Football Finals. (2) Lumen Christi’s Kadale Williams looks for an opening upfield against Traverse City St. Francis. (3) Drake Buell (7) leads Martin onto the field for the 8-Player Division 1 Final. (4) Gladwin kicker Treyton Siegert connects on the game-winning field goal in 11-player Division 5. (11-Player Finals photos by Hockey Weekly Action Photos. 8-Player Finals photos by Cara Kamps.)