The champs are here – with more soon on the way.
Several more matchups shaped where league races will be heading the rest of the way. Here’s our glance at many of them.
Bay & Thumb
HEADLINER Frankenmuth 21, Freeland 0 An Eagles defense that has been difficult to break the last many seasons may have put up its most impressive performance of at least the last few. Freeland (4-1) was averaging nearly 49 points per game this fall, but Frankenmuth (5-0) now has given up 30 total this season and none over the last two weeks as it’s taken the sole lead in the Tri-Valley Conference 8. Click for more from the Saginaw News.
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Watch list Standish-Sterling 28, Millington 24 The Panthers (5-0) came back from 10 down with a quarter to play to clinch a share of the Tri-Valley Conference 10-1 and hand the Cardinals (4-1) their lone defeat. Millington had won their matchups the last two seasons.
On the move Flint Hamady 61, Flint Beecher 20 The Hawks (5-0) also clinched a share of their league title, in the Genesee Area Conference, and ran their recent streak against Beecher (2-3) to four wins over their last five meetings. Port Huron Northern 14, Port Huron 7 The Huskies (5-0) sit alone atop the Macomb Area Conference Blue after holding the rival Big Reds (4-1) scoreless over the final quarter. Grand Blanc 28, East Lansing 21 The Bobcats (3-2) have caught their stride the last two weeks, this time handing East Lansing (4-1) its lone defeat.
HEADLINER Macomb Dakota 28, Clinton Township Chippewa Valley 17 Not many seasons go by without this being one of our headlining matchups, and Dakota (5-0) now sits alone atop the MAC Red after running its winning streak over Chippewa Valley to four. The teams were tied into the final eight minutes of the game before the Big Reds (4-1) took a brief lead and the Cougars broke away for the win. Click for more from Macomb Daily.
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Watch list Rochester Adams 35, West Bloomfield 18 The Oakland Activities Association Red might be the deepest league in Michigan this season, and newcomer Adams (4-1) is back into a four-way tie for first place after handing reigning champion West Bloomfield (4-1) its lone loss.
On the move Detroit Catholic Central 21, Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice 19 The Shamrocks (4-1) are the early leaders in the Detroit Catholic League Central after stopping a fourth-quarter Rice two-point conversion attempt – and the Warriors’ opportunity to clinch a share of the conference title. Detroit Central 35, Detroit Southeastern 20 Central gave up its first points since Week 1, but also slowed down a Southeastern offense that was averaging nearly 43 points per game. The Trailblazers (5-0) moved into first alone in the Detroit Public School League Gold, with the Jungaleers (4-1) tied with two others for second. Grosse Pointe South 21, Roseville 14 South (3-2) also took over first place alone, in the MAC White, by sending Roseville (3-2) into a three-way tie for second.
HEADLINER Fowler 20, Pewamo-Westphalia 16 The Eagles broke a seven-game losing streak against the rival Pirates (3-2), and in doing so took control in the Central Michigan Athletic Conference; their matchup has eventually decided the last two league champions. A final-minute touchdown clinched it for Fowler (5-0). Click for more from the Lansing State Journal.
Watch list Mason 28, Haslett 13 The Bulldogs (5-0) are up to fourth in Division 3 playoff-point average and alone atop the Capital Area Activities Conference Red with a second-straight win over one of last season’s co-champions.
On the move Beal City 26, Evart 21 The undefeated Aggies’ drive to repeat in the Highland Conference got a major boost as they sent Evart (4-1) into a tie for second with three league games to play. Mount Pleasant 46, Bay City Western 18 The Oilers (5-0) lead the Saginaw Valley League North at the midway point after also sending Western (3-2) into a tie for second in that league. Brighton 17, Northville 14 They entered tied for first in the Kensington Lakes Activities Association West, but Brighton (5-0) ended the night alone atop the league after blocking a late field-goal attempt by the Mustangs (4-1).
Northern Lower Peninsula
HEADLINER Cadillac 19, Gaylord 9 The Vikings (3-2) clinched a share of the Big North Conference championship with their first single-digit defensive showing of another solid run on that side of the ball this season. The defense was a difference-maker for the offense as well, as all three Cadillac touchdowns were set up by turnovers. Click for more from the Cadillac News.
Watch list East Jordan 35, Maple City Glen Lake 9 After opening with two nonleague losses, the Red Devils (3-2) have won their first three games in the Northern Michigan Football League Legacy, including this one to move into a tie for first place and send the Lakers (3-2) out of the top spot.
On the move Lake City 36, McBain 30 (OT) The Trojans (3-2) remain alive in the Highland Conference race thanks to an unforgettable comeback from a 30-0 deficit to get past the Ramblers (2-3). Petoskey 24, Alpena 20 This gave the Northmen (2-3) a chance to win a share of the BNC title this week against Cadillac. Ogemaw Heights 7, Sault St. Marie 6 The Falcons (3-2) tied their win totals of both of the last two seasons but this time with four games to play, and handed the Blue Devils (4-1) their lone loss in the process.
Southeast & Border
HEADLINER Dundee 9, Brooklyn Columbia Central 7 Brayden Ratliff’s leg was a decider in a defensive battle, as he kicked three field goals including the game-winner with eight seconds to play. Dundee is 5-0 for the first time since 1992, per Michigan-football.com, with a chance to shape the race in the Lenawee County Athletic Association with undefeated Clinton and Hudson coming up over the next three weeks. Click for more from the Monroe News.
Watch list Erie Mason 20, Sand Creek 14 Halfway through the Tri-County Conference schedule, Erie Mason (5-0) is tied for first after avenging a 48-6 loss to Sand Creek from a year ago.
On the move Ottawa Lake Whiteford 54, Petersburg Summerfield 6 The Bobcats also are tied for first in the TCC; they face Erie Mason in Week 8. Napoleon 35, Hanover-Horton 7 The Pirates (5-0) sit alone atop the Cascades Conference thanks to a second-straight win over Hanover-Horton (2-3). Grass Lake 36, Michigan Center 29 The Warriors (3-2) are one of three teams in the Cascades with one league loss, with this win putting a little more on the line for the showdown with Napoleon this week.
HEADLINER St. Joseph 13, Portage Central 12 The Bears (4-1) took a major step in the Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference by edging and avenging a 2021 loss to the reigning champion Mustangs (2-3), sending them a game back in the league standings. St. Joseph’s next two games are against opponents also a game back – Portage Northern and Stevensville Lakeshore – but an especially intriguing Week 9 is brewing as Battle Creek Central is the other SMAC co-leader. Click for more from the St. Joseph Herald-Palladium.
Watch list Edwardsburg 25, Plainwell 21 A major comeback pushed the Eddies’ Wolverine Conference winning streak to 36 as they received but handled a tough challenge for a second-straight one-score victory.
On the move Union City 20, Homer 14 The Chargers (4-1) sit alone atop the Big 8 Conference after a third-straight one-score win over a team now sitting in second, third or fourth place. Homer (3-2) is that second-place team hoping for a slip up, but Union City needs to win only one of its final two league games to clinch a share of the title. Berrien Springs 20, Benton Harbor 14 Three of five teams in the first-year Lakeland Conference are 4-1 or better, and Berrien Springs (5-0) sits alone in first after handing Benton Harbor (2-3) its second-straight one-score defeat. Centreville 40, White Pigeon 28 The Bulldogs (4-1) are in first halfway through the Southwest 10 Conference schedule, with White Pigeon (2-3) looking to finish strong after losing three games to teams that are a combined 11-4.
HEADLINER Gladstone 48, Marquette 21 The Braves (5-0) clinched a share of the Great Northern Conference championship, with the opportunity to win it outright coming up Week 9 against Escanaba (unless Kingsford or Menominee loses a league game before then). This was another one that was never really in question as Gladstone has now won all of its games by at least two touchdowns. Click for more from RRN Sports.
Watch list Iron Mountain 45, Bark River-Harris 8 Since falling to Negaunee by five in Week 1, the Mountaineers (4-1) have been nearly unstoppable giving up a combined 14 points over the last four games – and with Bark River-Harris (3-2) the Western Peninsula Athletic Conference Iron leader.
On the move Ishpeming Westwood 22, Manistique 6 After opening 0-3 with two two-point losses, Westwood (2-3) is on the rise with a defense that’s giving up only 17 points per game. Negaunee 49, Ishpeming 14 Both are possible champions in their respective divisions of the West PAC, but this solidifies Copper leader Negaunee as another of the best teams overall in all of the Upper Peninsula. The Miners play Gladstone in Week 7. Houghton 42, Hancock 0 The Gremlins avenged last season’s loss and earned their first win in this rivalry since 2018.
HEADLINER Zeeland West 38, Muskegon 36 This rollercoaster ride came to a stop with Zeeland West tied with Muskegon Mona Shores atop the Ottawa-Kent Conference Green and Muskegon and Reeths-Puffer just a game back in the standings. The Dux led by double digits, then trailed late before scoring during the final minute to move to 5-0. The Big Reds are 3-2, but with those losses to teams that are a combined 9-1. Click for more from the Grand Rapids Press.
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Watch list Caledonia 50, Grandville 40 After things sorted out in the O-K Red on Friday, Caledonia finds itself tied for first with Grandville a game back thanks in part to quarterback Mason McKenzie’s standout performance.
On the move Grand Rapids Catholic Central 49, Ada Forest Hills Eastern 21 This stayed close for most of three quarters before GRCC (5-0) broke away to remain tied for first in the O-K Gold and send FHE (4-1) into third. Rockford 41, East Kentwood 20 The Rams (5-0) joined Caledonia in first in the O-K Red, while East Kentwood (3-2) joined Grandville one game back. East Grand Rapids 42, Grand Rapids Christian 14 The Pioneers’ offense found its footing and in doing so gave the team some hope for the final month as it looks to bounce back from a 1-3 start during which all three losses came to opponents still undefeated.
HEADLINER Powers North Central 50, Lake Linden-Hubbell 0 The Jets (5-0) broke their previous MHSAA 8-player consecutive wins record with their 28th in a row – with their third of four wins on the field this season while not giving up a point. The Lakes (3-2) had been averaging nearly 34 points per game. Click for more from the Escanaba Daily Press.
Watch list Auburn Hills Oakland Christian 52, Deckerville 44 After falling in its North Central Thumb League Stars debut three weeks earlier, Oakland Christian (4-1) showed how smoothly it has adjusted to its new conference with this significant win over an annual favorite.
On the move Mendon 36, Gobles 6 The Hornets (3-2) have moved up from 23rd to tied for 11th in Division 2 playoff-point average over the last two weeks, this time in part because of the early success by the Tigers (3-2) – who are in the midst of what could be their most successful season since 2016. Posen 56, Mio 48 After winning just once a year ago, Posen is up to 4-1 with three wins over 2021 playoff teams including the Thunderbolts (3-2). Morrice 42, Breckenridge 20 We’ve been following Breckenridge’s rise in its first season of 8-player, and Morrice (5-0) stood strong against a tough challenge with a possible league title decider against Merrill up next.
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PHOTOS (Top) Negaunee's Kai Lacer (22) leaps over an Ishpeming defender during a touchdown run Friday. (Middle) A Zeeland West passer lofts a throw against Muskegon. (Below) Powers North Central celebrates its record-setting win. (Top and middle photos by Cara Kamps and Tim Reilly, respectively. Bottom photo courtesy of the North Central athletic department.)
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.”
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).
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.
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.