It’s not over yet.
Don’t look too far ahead to Sunday’s playoff selection when there’s plenty to behold during this weekend’s football regular-season finales.
A handful of league titles are still to be decided – including two by those matchups of unbeaten opponents.
And if last season’s first run using the enhanced strength-of-schedule format for playoff selection ends up the norm, we could see 15 changes in the playoff field between Thursday and the end of Saturday night. Last season, teams ranked Nos. 39 and 38 in playoff-point average heading into Week 9 were among those able to make the top 32 in their 11-player divisions, while 8-player saw teams sitting Nos. 18 and 17 move up into the top 16.
Don’t forget: We’ll unveil the full playoff field and all brackets during the “Sunday Selection Show” at 6 p.m. Sunday on Bally Sports Detroit.
Bay & Thumb
Davison (7-1) at Lapeer (7-1)
For the third time in five seasons but first since 2019, a Saginaw Valley League championship is coming down to these two – this time in the SVL South, as the winner takes the title outright. These two share an intriguing mutual opponent; Davison defeated Clarkston in its season opener, and the Lightning fell to the Wolves last week. But much can change over two months, and the key point instead may be how Davison’s offense – averaging 47 points per game – does against a Lapeer defense giving up 26 per contest. Lapeer scores just over 39 points per game as well, so this one could see a lot of scores put on the board – not too different from the Lightning’s 38-35 win over the Cardinals last season.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Freeland (7-1) at Croswell-Lexington (6-2), Millington (7-1) at Flint Beecher (4-3), Gladwin (8-0) at Standish Sterling (7-0), Romeo (6-2) at Grand Blanc (4-4).
Brownstown Woodhaven (6-2) at Gibraltar Carlson (7-1)
These two and Trenton are tied for the Downriver League lead, with the winner of this matchup guaranteed a share of the title and the Trojans needing to defeat Wyandotte Roosevelt for another share. It’s a similar situation to last year, when Woodhaven entered the Week 9 matchup undefeated but Carlson was able to force a shared title (also with Allen Park) thanks to a 28-14 win. The Warriors haven’t given up more than 26 points to anyone this season, so something will have to give as the Marauders have scored at least 27 in every game.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Detroit Cass Tech (5-3) at Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice (3-4), River Rouge (5-2) at Southfield Arts & Technology (6-2), Grosse Pointe South (5-3) at Grosse Pointe North (8-0). SATURDAY Madison Heights Bishop Foley (8-0) vs. Marine City Cardinal Mooney (7-1) at Ford Field.
Belleville (8-0) at Brighton (8-0), Saturday
After turning back undefeated Livonia Franklin last week to clinch the Kensington Lakes Activities Association East title, Belleville will put its 19-game winning streak on the line against another unbeaten for the overall KLAA championship. This will be these teams’ first meeting since Brighton won a 2019 Semifinal matchup. Their strengths this time match up well. The Tigers are averaging 53 points per game despite scoring only 49 and 42 the last two weeks, respectively. Brighton has allowed only 81 points all season. Belleville is No. 1 in Division 1 playoff-point average, and Brighton is tied for No. 3.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Hopkins (5-3) at Belding (7-1), Marine City (7-1) at Durand (8-0), Grand Ledge (6-2) at East Lansing (6-2), Ithaca (7-1) at Shepherd (6-2).
Northern Lower Peninsula
Detroit Country Day (5-2) at Traverse City St. Francis (8-0)
The Gladiators should have a really great idea what they do best heading into the playoffs after dominating Lawton last week and facing Division 5 contender Country Day this week. St. Francis sits atop Division 7 in playoff-point average heading into the weekend, guaranteeing three home playoff games, and will still get a nice bonus win or lose. Country Day will be seeking a bounce back after a Week 8 loss to Brother Rice, and is seeking a third win over a league champion after previously downing Detroit U-D Jesuit and Warren Michigan Collegiate.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Elk Rapids (6-2) at Frankfort (7-1), Ogemaw Heights (6-2) at Lake City (5-3), Traverse City West (2-6) at Traverse City Central (4-4), Charlevoix (7-1) at Maple City Glen Lake (3-5).
Southeast & Border
Clinton (8-0) at Hudson (8-0)
Clinton is in its third season since returning to the Lenawee County Athletic Association and finds itself with a golden opportunity in addition to the chance to claim its first title since coming back from the Tri-County Conference. Hudson is riding a 22-game winning streak – the longest active streak in the state – and sits No. 3 in Division 7 playoff-point average after winning Division 8 a year ago. By the numbers, the Redwolves have scored about two points more and given up a little more than two points fewer against the other six teams in the league this fall. Hudson won last year’s meeting 36-28.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Dexter (8-0) at Chelsea (5-3), Addison (4-4) at Jonesville (4-4), Manchester (5-3) at Reading (6-2), Battle Creek Harper Creek (3-5) at Jackson Lumen Christi (5-3).
St. Joseph (7-1) at Battle Creek Central (7-1)
This has been lining up as the potential deciding game in the Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference for a few weeks, and both teams made good on their ends to make it happen. St. Joseph has won the last two meetings, but this is Central’s best team since at least 2018, and with another win will tie its most in a season since 2004. Neither team has lost since Week 1. The Bearcats are 3-1 in games decided by one score, so they will be ready if crunch time presents itself again. But St. Joseph also won its only similarly close game and has an impressive victory over Hudsonville Unity Christian to bolster its SMAC run.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Portland (7-1) at Berrien Springs (6-1), Centreville (6-2) at Buchanan (7-1), Napoleon (8-0) at Union City (7-1), Sturgis (5-3) at Edwardsburg (7-1).
Benzie Central (3-5) at Sault Ste. Marie (5-3)
Sault Ste. Marie is one of four teams with a 5-3 record sitting outside the Division 3 playoff field heading into this weekend. The Blue Devils broke a three-game losing streak last week and will need those three opponents to continue harvesting bonus points while they look to take care of what they can control against the Huskies. Benzie has bounced back since starting the season 0-3 and sits No. 25 in Division 7 playoff-point average thanks in part to losses to some of the same powerhouse teams as Sault Ste. Marie has faced.
Keep an eye on these THURSDAY Bark River-Harris 28, Ishpeming 20; Negaunee 44, Ishpeming Westwood 0. FRIDAY Menominee (4-4) at Kingsford (6-2), Calumet (5-3) at L’Anse (4-4).
Rockford (8-0) at Caledonia (8-0)
This is a dream Week 9 showdown, with the top two teams in the most prominent league on the west side of the state facing off with a perfect regular season and Ottawa-Kent Conference Red outright title on the line. Rockford’s 17-14 win in Week 7 of last year ended up being the title decider. Don’t expect Caledonia’s fifth shutout of this season tonight, but the Fighting Scots’ defense has given up more than 14 points only once. Rockford will counter with an offense scoring 40 points per game that put up 31 against a similarly-strong Muskegon Mona Shores defense in a Week 2 win.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Muskegon Mona Shores (7-1) at Muskegon (6-2), Grand Rapids South Christian (8-0) at Ada Forest Hills Eastern (6-2), Hudsonville Unity Christian (5-3) at Grand Rapids West Catholic (7-1), Byron Center (6-2) at Grand Rapids Christian (3-5).
Crystal Falls Forest Park (7-1) Powers North Central (8-0)
The Jets have won a record 32 straight 8-player games, and 40 straight during the regular season. But prior to the streak, Forest Park was one of few to have success against North Central, and the Trojans will try to find some again against a team that has outscored its seven opponents (one win was a forfeit) by a combined 448-17. Forest Park’s only loss was by two to Norway, which fell to North Central last week by a much more significant margin.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Tekonsha (7-1) at Colon (8-0), Peck (7-1) at Deckerville (5-3), Farwell (7-1) at Marion (8-0), Au Gres-Sims (7-1) at Posen (7-1).
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PHOTO Davison, on offense, and Grand Blanc match up last week; the Cardinals won 49-14. (Photo by Terry Lyons.)
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.