League title pursuits will continue all over the state this weekend as we begin the final third of the 2022 regular season.
But for those no longer in a championship race, or interested in what else lies ahead, every week of results makes the data even stronger as we prepare to announce the field and matchups for the MHSAA Playoffs at 6 p.m. Oct. 23 on Bally Sports Detroit.
The place to track how things are shaping up for the postseason is the MHSAA’s Playoff Point Summary page, where data can be sorted by division for both 11 and 8-player formats. The calculations update in near-real time as results are reported throughout the weekend.
Below are some of the matchups that could make things jump a little more over the next three days as we continue to settle into October.
Bay & Thumb
North Branch (6-0) at Armada (5-1)
The Blue Water Area Conference race shuffled last week with Armada defeating Croswell-Lexington, sending the Pioneers out of a tie for first with North Branch and into a tie for second with the Tigers. Now North Branch gets Armada this week and Croswell-Lexington next, needing to defeat one to clinch at least a share of the title – and after losing to both last season, including 34-28 to the Tigers. Armada is scoring 31 points per game and was one of only two opponents to put up more than 30 on North Branch last season – making this likely the best test so far for a Broncos defense giving up only six points per game this fall.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Bad Axe (5-1) at Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker (6-0), Bay City Western (4-2) at Midland (5-1), Lake Fenton (3-3) at Goodrich (5-1), Fenton (4-2) at Linden (5-1).
Carleton Airport (5-1) at Riverview (6-0)
Riverview has won 25 straight regular-season games, including 20 consecutive in the Huron League – with both streaks going back to 2019. The Pirates can clinch a third-straight league title with a win in this matchup (or claim the outright championship with a win plus a New Boston Huron loss). Riverview also owns a nine-game winning streak against Airport – but with one more win this fall, Airport will tie its winningest season since 2011, and the Jets already have avenged two 2021 defeats.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Walled Lake Western (5-1) at Waterford Mott (5-1), River Rouge (4-1) at Allen Park (4-2), Detroit U-D Jesuit (3-3) at Detroit Country Day (4-1), Utica Eisenhower (5-1) at Macomb Dakota (6-0).
Lake Odessa Lakewood (5-1) at Olivet (5-1)
These two will wrap up their ninth seasons in the Greater Lansing Activities Conference with a winner-take-all championship matchup, as both are heading to the Capital Area Activities Conference next fall. Olivet owns a 6-2 edge in their GLAC matchups, and six of those meetings decided league titles. The Eagles have won five straight, with Lakewood the only other team to win the GLAC in this sport. Olivet hasn’t given up double-digit points in a game since Week 2 and got past Pewamo-Westphalia last week 20-7, while Lakewood is riding two straight shutouts.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Lapeer (6-0) at Grand Ledge (5-1), Parma Western (4-2) at Hastings (5-1), Big Rapids (4-2) at Howard City Tri County (6-0), Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary (6-0) at Ithaca (5-1).
Northern Lower Peninsula
Boyne City (6-0) at Elk Rapids (5-1)
Elk Rapids has won as many games this fall as the last three seasons combined and have an opportunity to win a league championship for the first time since claiming the Lake Michigan Conference title in 2010. The Elks are a game behind Boyne City because of a Week 4 loss to Charlevoix, but breaking a nine-game losing streak against the Ramblers would give all three a single defeat in the Northern Michigan Football Conference Leaders with a game left for Boyne City and the Rayders. That said, the Ramblers haven’t had a game closer than 15 points this season and haven’t allowed Elk Rapids to score in their last two meetings.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY St. Ignace (5-1) at East Jordan (3-3), Roscommon (3-3) at Lake City (4-2), Kingsford (4-2) at Petoskey (2-4). SATURDAY Sault Ste. Marie (4-2) at Traverse City St. Francis (6-0).
Southeast & Border
Tecumseh (6-0) at Chelsea (5-1)
Chelsea has won 22 straight Southeastern Conference White games, going back to 2018 and including the last three league titles with this matchup providing the opportunity to add a fourth outright. The defense has been outstanding again, giving up just under 10 points per game, and the reloaded offense has averaged 40 points per game over its last three. Tecumseh is another team enjoying long-awaited success, with all of its wins by at least 23 points and its victory total already its highest since 2013. That’s also the last season Tecumseh defeated the Bulldogs.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Dundee (5-1) at Hillsdale (3-3), Temperance Bedford (4-2) at Saline (6-0), Addison (4-2) at Grass Lake (3-3), Michigan Center (2-4) at Napoleon (6-0).
Lawton (5-1) at Schoolcraft (4-2)
Big points totals the last three weeks have Lawton averaging 40 per game for the season just in time for what might end up the deciding game in the Southwestern Athletic Conference Valley. A win would clinch a share of the title for the Blue Devils, while Schoolcraft has played only one league game but would be in position to accomplish at least the same. The Eagles are continuing their bounce-back from their three-win 2021 campaign, and the defense was especially impressive in holding Centreville to two points in Week 2 and Muskegon Catholic Central to only 16 a week ago.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY St. Joseph (5-1) at Stevensville Lakeshore (3-3), Buchanan (5-1) at Niles Brandywine (4-2), Three Rivers (4-2) at Sturgis (4-2), Decatur (4-2) at Delton Kellogg (4-2).
Negaunee (6-0) at Gladstone (5-1)
Last week’s Gladstone loss to Durand, 28-24, took only a bit of the luster off this matchup of the top two teams in the Upper Peninsula this season (with Iron Mountain a strong honorable mention on that list). The Braves have clinched a share of the Great Northern Conference title and their best record since at least 2017, but even while finishing 4-6 last year they gave Negaunee a challenge before falling 31-30 during the regular season and 42-28 in a playoff rematch. The Miners have a tougher road ahead as they look to wrap up the Western Peninsula Athletic Conference Copper title, but there are plenty of signs they too have improved on a team that went 8-3 in 2021. They are scoring more and giving up about the same number of points as at this point last season, with this their toughest test since defeating the Mountaineers 19-14 in their season opener.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Ishpeming Westwood (3-3) at L'Anse (3-3), Houghton (5-1) at Calumet (3-3), Marquette (2-4) at Menominee (4-2), Tomahawk, Wis. (3-4) at Ishpeming (3-3).
Ravenna (5-1) at North Muskegon (5-1)
With the expansion and split of the West Michigan Conference, these two are the contenders for the first Rivers division championship. Both are undefeated in league play, with Ravenna a win ahead at 4-0 and able to clinch a share of the title with another victory tonight. Ravenna gave challenges to annual favorites Muskegon Oakridge and Montague during their time together in the previously one-division WMC. This is newer ground but also a deserved opportunity for North Muskegon, which despite finishing in the middle of the former WMC has made the playoffs five straight years thanks to the added bonus of that tough competition.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Kent City (6-0) at Reed City (5-1), Ludington (5-1) at Whitehall (6-0), Muskegon Reeths-Puffer (5-1) at Zeeland West (5-1), Grand Rapids West Catholic (6-0) at Fruitport (4-2).
Au Gres-Sims (5-1) at Alcona (6-0)
Alcona and Rogers City are both undefeated and lined up to face each other in Week 8 for the North Star League Big Dipper title. But Au Gres-Sims, tied for first in the Little Dipper, can muddy things up if it can continue a high-scoring surge that began after a Week 2 loss to the Hurons. The Wolverines have scored at least 50 points in all four games since, and put up 72 in a 40-point win over Alcona last year. But this is a much-improved Tigers team, and only two opponents have scored more than 14 points against them this fall.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Concord (4-2) at Marcellus (4-2), Cedarville (5-1) at Rudyard (4-2). SATURDAY Mesick (5-1) at Brown City (5-1), New Haven Merritt Academy (4-2) at Peck (5-1).
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PHOTO A Muskegon Catholic Central defender makes a stop during last week's 16-12 win over Schoolcraft. (Photo by Tim Reilly.)
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.)