The home stretch is here, and with it more of the unexpected even as we continue to learn a few new details every week about this season’s contenders.
Bay & Thumb
HEADLINER Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker 32, Bad Axe 14 The Lakers (7-0) finished an outright championship run in the Greater Thumb Conference West, defeating Bad Axe in a winner-take-all league finale. Those two and Reese had shared the championship a year ago. Bad Axe entered scoring 37 points per game, but Laker still hasn’t given up more than 15 to any opponent this fall. Click for more from the Huron Daily Tribune.
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Watch list Armada 37, North Branch 28 The top of the Blue Water Area Conference is shuffling weekly, and suddenly Armada (6-1) finds itself on top alone after knocking the Broncos (6-1) off their former solo perch.
On the move Marine City 47, Clinton Township Clintondale 8 The Mariners (6-1) haven’t lost again since falling to Armada by a point in their season opener, and they finished a Macomb Area Conference Silver outright title run. Lapeer 42, Grand Ledge 28 The Lightning (7-0) turned away another strong challenge from the Comets (5-2) with Clarkston and Davison coming up to close the regular season. Fenton 28, Linden 21 This combined with Swartz Creek’s win over Flushing ended the Flint Metro League Stripes schedule with a shared championships among the Tigers (5-2), Eagles (5-2) and Dragons (6-1).
HEADLINER Riverview 18, Carleton Airport 13 The Pirates (6-0) ran their regular-season winning streak to 26 and Huron League streak to 21 in clinching a third-straight conference championship. The Jets (5-2) entered averaging 32 points per game but were held to their second fewest this season.
Here are the highlights of the Riverview vs. Airport game that aired on Football Fridays Overtime powered by STATE CHAMPS! on @BallySportsDET
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Watch list Grosse Pointe North 50, Warren Fitzgerald 0 After going a combined 7-27 over the last four seasons, North is 7-0 and the Macomb Area Conference Green champion. The Norsemen have given up 32 points this season and allowed only six over five league wins.
On the move Grosse Pointe South 20, St. Clair Shores Lakeview 16 After two seasons in the MAC Red, South returned to the MAC White this season – and after an 0-2 nonconference start won all five league games to take back the title after previously winning the White four straight seasons from 2016-19. Redford Union 40, Melvindale 6 The Panthers (7-0) ran their Western Wayne Athletic Conference winning streak to 17 and clinched a share of a second-straight league title. Southfield Arts & Technology 35, Oak Park 12 In addition to guaranteeing its first overall winning record since its first season in 2016, A&T (6-1) clinched an outright Oakland Activities Association White title while no league opponent got closer than 14 points.
HEADLINER Durand 54, Chesaning 8 This combined with Ovid-Elsie’s 14-13 win over New Lothrop earned the Railroaders (7-0) a share of the Mid-Michigan Activities Conference title. The seven wins are the team’s most since winning seven in 2009, and tied their most since 1983 according to Michigan-football.com. Click for more from the Flint Journal.
Watch list Laingsburg 27, Fowler 14 Coming off a Week 6 win over many-season reigning champ Pewamo-Westphalia, the Eagles (6-1) looked to be control in the Central Michigan Athletic Conference. But Laingsburg, which opened its CMAC schedule with a loss to P-W, instead guaranteed itself a share of the championship with Fowler and the Pirates able to earn the same with wins this week.
On the move Ithaca 50, Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary 18 The Yellowjackets (6-1) claimed the Tri-Valley Conference West 2 title, their 14th straight league championship, while handing MLS (6-1) its only loss. Ovid-Elsie 14, New Lothrop 13 In avenging four MMAC losses to New Lothrop over the last four seasons, Ovid-Elsie (5-2) also gained an opportunity to claim a share of the league title if the Hornets (6-1) defeat Durand this week. Olivet 42, Lake Odessa Lakewood 7 The Eagles (6-1) ended their (and Lakewood’s) time in the Greater Lansing Activities Conference by clinching a sixth-straight league championship while sending the Vikings (5-2) into second place.
Northern Lower Peninsula
HEADLINER Boyne City 34, Elk Rapids 0 The Ramblers (6-0) clinched a share of the Northern Michigan Football Conference Leaders championship, with the opportunity to earn it outright this week against Tawas. The shutout was the team’s second in three games and the championship is their second straight. Elk Rapids moved to 5-2. Click for more from the Petoskey News-Review.
Watch list Cadillac 24, Belding 6 The Vikings (5-2) not only are Big North Conference champions but now own a win over another league leader as the Black Knights (6-1) sit atop the Ottawa-Kent Conference Silver standings.
On the move Tawas 44, Maple City Glen Lake 14 Tawas entered the season with 15 straight losses and added five more, but now has won two straight and this time with its best offensive performance since 2019. Traverse City St. Francis 35, Sault Ste. Marie 7 The Gladiators (7-0) finished a repeat title run in the NMFC Legends and ran their regular-season win streak to 19. Lake City 45, Roscommon 6 The Trojans (5-2) equaled their 2021 win total and with two regular-season games to play against opponents that could significantly improve their postseason possibilities as they sit No. 24 in Division 7 playoff points.
Southeast & Border
HEADLINER Tecumseh 50, Chelsea 34 The Tecumseh dream season continues and now includes the program’s first win over Chelsea since 2013 and a Southeastern Conference White championship to go with a 7-0 start. Chelsea (5-2) provided the stiffest challenge this season, but Tecumseh’s offense continued to churn going over 50 points for the fifth time this fall. Click for more from the Ann Arbor News.
Watch list Temperance Bedford 7, Saline 0 The Kicking Mules (5-2) had given Saline (6-1) some of its closest games over the last eight years. But their first win over Saline since 2013 not only ended a personal losing streak but the Hornets’ run of 50 straight SEC Red wins since that last Bedford defeat.
On the move Napoleon 29, Michigan Center 27 Napoleon (7-0) is the Cascades Conference champion, and outright thanks to some help from Grass Lake (see below). Adrian Madison 14, Erie Mason 8 The Trojans (3-4) need to make up 12 spots to get into the Division 6 playoff field, but two straight wins is the right start especially with Mason at 5-2 this fall. Grass Lake 34, Addison 18 The Warriors (4-3) have pushed to the No. 26 spot in the Division 7 playoff field with Addison sitting No. 27 on the Division 8 list.
HEADLINER Buchanan 26, Niles Brandywine 24 The Bucks are the first football champions of the Lakeland Athletic Conference, and they earned that historic title by avenging a 2021 loss to Brandywine (4-3). The Bobcats made a run at the lead late, but Buchanan (6-1) held on and sits No. 15 in Division 5 playoff points with tough games to go against Benton Harbor and Centreville. Click for more from the St. Joseph Herald-Palladium.
Watch list Lawton 49, Schoolcraft 14 The Blue Devils (6-1) remain on a roll, with this win clinching a share of the Southwestern Athletic Conference Valley title and their fourth straight scoring at least 42 points and giving up no more than 16.
On the move Decatur 37, Delton Kellogg 22 The Raiders (5-2) guaranteed their winningest season since 2018 and against a Delton team eying a third-straight playoff appearance and sitting No. 12 in Division 7 playoff points. Niles 49, Paw Paw 8 The Vikings (3-4) had a rough stretch midseason, but with a second-straight win are sitting just one spot outside the Division 4 playoff field. St. Joseph 42, Stevensville Lakeshore 14 The Bears (6-1) continued to push toward a possible Week 9 decider in the Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference while sending Lakeshore (3-4) into a tie for third.
HEADLINER Negaunee 24, Gladstone 6 The Miners (7-0) fortified their status as the Upper Peninsula’s top team this fall, adding this win to another over Iron Mountain – the two opponents that also have been in the mix for that praise. The Braves were averaging 36 points per game entering the contest, but Negaunee brought its points-allowed average down to nine per game this season. Click for more from RRN Sports.
Watch list St. Ignace 20, East Jordan 14 The Saints (6-1) clinched a share of the NMFC Legacy championship and can claim it outright Week 9 against winless Harbor Springs. East Jordan (3-4) is hanging on to a spot in the Division 8 playoff field.
On the move Calumet 35, Houghton 12 The Copper Kings (4-3) bounced back from a Week 6 loss with a must-win against the Gremlins (5-2) and are holding onto the No. 32 spot in the Division 6 playoff field. Ishpeming Westwood 14, L’Anse 6 The Patriots (4-3) ran their winning streak to four as they prepare to finish with a pair of potential league champions in Bark River-Harris and Negaunee. Marquette 21, Menominee 6 After a 1-4 start, Marquette has won two straight including this one to avenge a 2021 loss to the Maroons (4-3).
HEADLINER North Muskegon 28, Ravenna 7 The Norsemen (6-1) drew another important win closer to a possible West Michigan Conference title with this win over second-place Ravenna (5-2) to go with an earlier victory over third-place Hart. The Bulldogs are the highest-scoring team in the Rivers division this fall, but North Muskegon held them to well below their previous average of 39 points per game. Click for more from CatchMark SportsNet.
Watch list Fruitport 28, Grand Rapids West Catholic 20 This was the stunner of the weekend, but maybe shouldn’t have been as Fruitport is enjoying its best season in a decade after finishing below .500 the last eight. West Catholic (6-1) hadn’t had an opponent come within two touchdowns since opening night.
On the move Big Rapids 27, Howard City Tri County 27 The Cardinals (5-2) shook up the Central State Activities Association Gold and ended up on top with a guaranteed share of the title with Tri County and Reed City also with one loss in league play. Reed City 52, Kent City 0 The Coyotes (6-1) won big over the CSAA Silver champ Kent City (6-1), a nice bonus to getting back into the Gold title race. Sparta 34, Hopkins 14 The Spartans are 4-1 over their last five games and back in the Ottawa-Kent Conference Silver mix after pulling the Vikings (5-2) out of a tie for the top spot.
HEADLINER Peck 46, New Haven Merritt 6 The Pirates clinched the North Central Thumb League Stripes title and haven’t lost since Week 1. Peck has won its league games by an average of 37 points per, with one more to play. Merritt (4-3) is part of a three-way tie for second place.
Watch list Au Gres-Sims 50, Alcona 34 The Wolverines (6-1) are tied for first in the North Star League Little Dipper with a Week 9 matchup against Posen likely to decide the championship, and Alcona (6-1) playing Rogers City next for the Big Dipper title.
On the move Tekonsha 62, Burr Oak 6 Tekonsha (6-1) finished a second-straight perfect run through the Southern Central Athletic Association B. Indian River Inland Lakes 36, Pellston 6 The Bulldogs (5-2) finished an outright title run in the Ski Valley Conference and have yet to lose a league game over two seasons. Brown City 64, Mesick 62 The Green Devils (6-1) went over 60 points for the second-straight week to lock up their closest win of a strong first season of 8-player.
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PHOTO A Pine River ball carrier looks for an opening during McBain’s 46-0 win Friday. (Photo by Tonya Holmes.)
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.