Many Michigan football league play right through the end of the regular season, although often league championships are decided by power-packed matchups in Weeks 6, 7 or 8.
A number of eventual conference champions could be decided tonight – some surely by the eight matchups of teams entering the weekend both 5-0.
Bay & Thumb
Saginaw Nouvel (4-1) at Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary (5-0)
MLS quietly has been dominating this season, with its 233 points only 24 shy of the team’s total over nine games last season. While three wins have come against teams that remain without a victory, a fourth was 43-32 over Marine City Cardinal Mooney, which leads the Detroit Catholic League Intersectional 2. MLS’s next two games – this one against Nouvel and next week against Ithaca – should be similarly tough and will decide if the Cardinals will claim the Tri-Valley Conference 10-2 title, which would be their first league championship since their most recent overall winning season in 2019. Nouvel’s only loss was to Ithaca in Week 3.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Almont (3-2) at Croswell-Lexington (5-0), Grand Blanc (3-2) at Lapeer (5-0), Linden (4-1) at Swartz Creek (5-0), New Lothrop (5-0) at Montrose (3-2).
Warren De La Salle Collegiate (4-1) at Detroit Catholic Central (4-1), Sunday
Every season this game means something, and this season it’s likely to again determine the Detroit Catholic League Central title. DCC went undefeated in Central play to win the league championship in 2020, but relinquished it to the Pilots last season as De La Salle downed the Shamrocks 17-7 in what ended up the title decider. Both teams have done serious work over the first five weeks this fall. DCC came back from a season-opening loss to Clinton Township Chippewa Valley with wins over Davison, DeWitt, Detroit U-D Jesuit and Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice by two points. De La Salle’s only loss was by a point to Rice, and the Pilots own wins over Detroit Renaissance, Muskegon, Jesuit and Orchard Lake St. Mary’s.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Davison (4-1) at Walled Lake Western (5-0), Detroit Central (5-0) at Detroit Northwestern (4-1), Marine City (4-1) at Madison Heights Lamphere (4-1), Macomb Dakota (5-0) at Romeo (4-1).
Portland (4-1) at Charlotte (5-0)
This could be Charlotte’s biggest game since 2008, when it shared the Capital Area Activities Conference Gold title with DeWitt and Haslett. A win over the Raiders would give the Orioles a share of the CAAC White championship – a nice jump after going 2-3 in league play last season. Charlotte has had only four overall winning seasons since 2008 but has all but guaranteed one this fall. Portland, meanwhile, is a five-point Week 2 loss from being undefeated and looking to take back the White after seeing a league title streak end at six last season.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Marshall (4-1) at Hastings (4-1), Gladstone (5-0) at Durand (5-0), DeWitt (3-2) at Grand Ledge (4-1), Olivet (4-1) at Pewamo-Westphalia (3-2).
Northern Lower Peninsula
Charlevoix (5-0) at Boyne City (5-0)
Boyne City’s last league loss was to eventual champion Charlevoix in 2020. Charlevoix’s only league loss since 2019 was last year to eventual champion Boyne City. And that makes for a pretty solid rivalry as this matchup could again decide the Northern Michigan Football Conference Leaders title. Charlevoix hasn’t given up a point since opening night – with a 48-0 shutout of third-place Elk Rapids among the four straight. Boyne City won by forfeit last week but is barreling along at 46 points per game – making the Ramblers’ offense vs. the Rayders’ defense the matchup of the night.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY East Jordan (3-2) at Frankfort (4-1), Sault Ste. Marie (4-1) at Kingsley (3-2), Cadillac (3-2) at Petoskey (2-3), Evart (4-1) at McBain (2-3).
Southeast & Border
Clinton (5-0) at Dundee (5-0)
Dundee football re-arrived on the scene in 2019 with its first playoff appearance since 2013, and the Vikings took it a step farther last season making the District Finals for the first time since 2011. A win this week would be another giant step, as Clinton has won nine or more games the last three seasons and continues to be a major contender in the Lenawee County Athletic Association. Clinton has won its first three league games this fall by a combined 137-13, and Dundee has given up only 20 points over its first three including against two of the same opponents.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Union City (4-1) at Addison (4-1), Ann Arbor Huron (3-2) at Dexter (5-0), Napoleon (5-0) at Grass Lake (3-2), Tecumseh (5-0) at Jackson (3-2).
Berrien Springs (5-0) at Buchanan (4-1)
These two are part of the inaugural Lakeland Conference, with Benton Harbor, Dowagiac and Niles Brandywine, and a win tonight would put Berrien Springs one away from earning the first league title (while a win combined with a Brandywine loss to Benton Harbor would give the Shamrocks a share of the championship). These two also are rivals from the former Berrien-Cass-St. Joseph Conference, and Berrien Springs has won six of the last seven meetings – but Buchanan already has more wins this fall than all of last season.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Edwardsburg (4-1) at Paw Paw (3-2), Portage Northern (3-2) at St. Joseph (4-1), Allegan (3-2) at Constantine (4-1), Battle Creek Central (4-1) at Portage Central (2-3).
Calumet (3-2) at Iron Mountain (4-1)
Iron Mountain is up to No. 3 in Division 8 playoff-point average, ahead of four undefeated teams thanks to that lone loss coming to unbeaten Division 6 Negaunee. But Calumet has been a bit of a thorn during a strong five-year run by the Mountaineers, winning two of three meetings on the field since Iron Mountain joined the Western Peninsula Athletic Conference in 2018. The Copper Kings won last year’s matchup 21-6 and have picked up three straight wins (one a forfeit) this fall since opening the season with losses to Negaunee and Gladstone – arguably the two best teams in the Upper Peninsula.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Negaunee (5-0) vs. L'Anse (3-2), Maple City Glen Lake (3-2) at St. Ignace (4-1), Bark River-Harris (3-2) at Manistique (2-3). SATURDAY Detroit Old Redford (3-2) at Kingsford (3-2).
Grand Rapids Catholic Central (5-0) at Grand Rapids South Christian (5-0)
Grand Rapids Catholic Central’s 41-game winning streak may face one of its toughest challenges yet – and that’s saying something as the Cougars defeated South Christian by only a point in 2020 and have won three straight Division 4 or 5 Finals. GRCC already has outlasted Ada Forest Hills Eastern and held on against Cedar Springs to defeat the latter by a point. But the Sailors have yet to play a game closer than 22 points – that one a 28-6 win over Cedar Springs – and have given up only 33 points on the year.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Whitehall (5-0) at Muskegon Oakridge (5-0), Lowell (4-1) at Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central (5-0), Grandville (4-1) at Rockford (5-0), Muskegon Mona Shores (4-1) at Zeeland West (5-0).
Morrice (5-0) at Merrill (5-0)
This almost assuredly will end up deciding the Central Michigan 8-Man Football Conference championship, as these two sit atop the standings and two games ahead of four more teams tied for third. Merrill is ranked No. 4 in Division 1, and Morrice is No. 6 in Division 2, and neither has faced a massive challenge yet – the closest game for both was a 22-point win over Breckenridge. Morrice has been among standard-setters in 8-player, with a combined 46-4 record over the last five seasons. But Merrill appears on the verge of joining the elite coming off its first win over annual power Portland St. Patrick since moving to 8-player in 2020.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Brown City (4-1) at Britton Deerfield (3-2), Climax-Scotts (5-0) at Colon (5-0), Pickford (4-1) at Munising (5-0), Martin (5-0) at Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian (5-0).
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PHOTO Caledonia, on defense, faces Holt during a season opener. (Click for more from High School Sports Scene.)
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.)