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.)
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.