1st & Goal: 2023 Week 1 Preview

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

August 24, 2023

This Michigan high school football season is heating up in a hurry.

MI Student AidOf course, this is always one of the most highly-anticipated opening weekends on the school sports schedule – and we kick off this fall’s 14-week run with 493 teams playing 11-player football and 106 playing 8-player.

More literally concerning the heat wave affecting much of the state, the list of games changing days or kickoff times as a precaution is growing; check out the MHSAA Scores page for updates as we receive them.

More than 250 varsity games are scheduled to be broadcast this weekend on MHSAA.tv, including all 16 being played at Wayne State as part of the Xenith Prep Kickoff Classic, University of Michigan as part of the Battle at the Big House and Kettering University as part of the Vehicle City Gridiron Classic. Click the names of the events for specific broadcast landing pages for those showcases.

Here’s a look at some of the matchups with the most intrigue from all over the state, including headliners from the three events referred to above. What you see below may not represent all of the schedule changes we are receiving, but again follow the MHSAA Scores page for updated dates and times – and all weekend for scores as they’re submitted.

Xenith Prep Kickoff Classic – Wayne State University – Tom Adams Field

Belleville (14-0) vs. River Rouge (5-4), Friday

Expectations couldn’t be higher for Belleville, which has won the last two Division 1 championships and 25 straight games and returns quarterback Bryce Underwood and running back/linebacker Jeremiah Beasley among standouts, and that makes this 7 p.m. kickoff arguably the most highly-anticipated in the state. But River Rouge was much better than its record last season, losing to two eventual Finals champions over its final three games as it finished its first season under a new coach – a scenario Belleville finds itself in this fall.

More Xenith games: THURSDAY Walled Lake Western (9-2) vs. Waterford Mott (8-3), Clinton Township Chippewa Valley (7-3) vs. West Bloomfield (8-2). FRIDAY Allen Park (7-4) vs. Taylor (4-5). SATURDAY Detroit Cass Tech (9-4) vs. Southfield Arts & Technology (8-3), Detroit Martin Luther King (10-3) vs. Cincinnati St. Xavier (5-7). 

Battle at the Big House – University of Michigan – Michigan Stadium

Goodrich (12-2) vs. Frankenmuth (13-1), Friday

Both finished their 2022 seasons at Ford Field, Frankenmuth the runner-up in Division 5 after a last-second Gladwin game-winning field goal and Goodrich runner-up in Division 4 after Grand Rapids South Christian dealt the Martians their only loss since opening night. That opening night had seen Frankenmuth defeat Goodrich 27-2, and several contributors from that game will find themselves in bigger roles as this season begins on a big stage.

More Big House games: THURSDAY Lake Orion (4-6) vs. Livonia Stevenson (4-5), South Lyon East (7-3) vs. White Lake Lakeland (4-5), Lapeer (7-3) vs. Ann Arbor Huron (5-5). FRIDAY Caledonia (12-2) vs. Romeo (8-3), Clarkston (10-3) vs. Northville (8-3). 

Vehicle City Gridiron Classic – Kettering University – Atwood Stadium

Davison (9-2) vs. Warren De La Salle Collegiate (13-1), Friday

Like Belleville, De La Salle is on a two-season championship streak after claiming the last two Division 2 titles by large margins, and the Pilots’ only loss over the last two years was by a point last September to league opponent Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice. There will be new faces in key places in these lineups as well, especially after De La Salle graduated its quarterback of the last three seasons and Davison has a new starter at that position as well.  

More Vehicle City games: THURSDAY Mt. Morris (2-7) vs. Clio (2-7). FRIDAY Flint Hamady (10-2) vs. Harper Woods Chandler Park (4-5), Flint Carman-Ainsworth (2-7) vs. Flint Kearsley (3-6). 

Bay & Thumb

Mount Pleasant (9-2) at Saginaw Heritage (7-3)

After spending most of the last two decades as part of a one-division Saginaw Valley League or in the same division when the league was split, these two are heading into a second-straight season in different divisions with Mount Pleasant a reigning co-champion in the North (now Blue) and Heritage coming off finishing third in the Red. They didn’t face each other last season, but the Oilers had won this matchup nine straight times before that – although expectations are rising in Saginaw Township as the Hawks won their most games last season since 2006.

Keep an eye on these THURSDAY Clarkston Everest Collegiate (9-4) at Ubly (13-1), Saginaw Swan Valley (7-4) at Croswell-Lexington (7-3), Millington (10-2) at Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker (10-2). FRIDAY Harbor Beach (8-2) at Marine City Cardinal Mooney (8-3).

Greater Detroit

Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice (5-6) at Roseville (8-3)

Roseville has posted its winningest two seasons over the last two years and rolled through the second half of 2022 before running into eventual Division 2 champion De La Salle in a District Final. A win over Rice in this season opener would be considered another serious step, as the Warriors were much better than their record last year may have seemed to indicate. Rice, as noted above, is the only team to defeat De La Salle over the last two seasons.

Keep an eye on these THURSDAY Parma Western (6-4) at Dearborn Divine Child (9-3). FRIDAY Rochester Adams (10-2) at Orchard Lake St. Mary’s (5-6).


Haslett (6-4) at DeWitt (9-4)

The rivalry got some juice again last season at Michigan Stadium, as the Panthers hung on for a 21-14 victory. Two sets of siblings will be the main focus as this one kicks off. Haslett will pursue its first win in the series since 2005 paced by dynamic playmaker Nakai Amachree, who returned a kick and a punt for touchdowns in last year’s meeting, and younger brother Kory will be tough to stop as well. Junior twins Elliott and Abram Larner, meanwhile, shined as sophomores on a DeWitt team that reached the Division 3 Semifinals in November.

Keep an eye on these THURSDAY Saline (8-3) at Brighton (8-2), Holt (7-4) at Mason (12-1), Portland (10-2) at Ovid-Elsie (8-3).

Northern Lower Peninsula

Midland (10-2) at Cadillac (5-5)

These two were league champions last season, Midland sharing in the SVL North and Cadillac winning the Big North Conference while also playing one of the most crushing nonleague schedules in the state – five of the Vikings’ opponents finished the regular season 8-1. Midland won last year’s matchup, 27-21 at home, but this time must make the trip west.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Traverse City St. Francis (13-1) at Charlevoix (8-2), Standish-Sterling (8-2) at Boyne City (9-1), Traverse City West (2-7) at Gaylord (6-4).

Southeast & Border

Livonia Franklin (10-2) at Dexter (12-1), Friday

Dexter graduated serious star power from the group that produced the program’s longest playoff run and just missed making the Division 2 Final. But long forgotten are the days when the Dreadnaughts were among the last teams seeking to make the playoffs for the first time – and after five straight postseason appearances, this fall will provide another chance to show how far the program has come. Franklin has made the playoffs eight straight seasons and also is coming off one of its best as it reached double-digit wins last fall for the fourth time – making this one of the most intriguing season openers statewide outside of the three weekend showcases.

Keep an eye on these THURSDAY Warren Michigan Collegiate (10-2) at Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central (6-6), Whitmore Lake (6-3) at Manchester (6-5). FRIDAY Tecumseh (10-1) at Jackson Northwest (5-4).

Southwest Corridor

Grand Rapids West Catholic (13-1) at Edwardsburg (11-2), Friday

This is another one many have had circled, especially after West Catholic last season won the matchup 28-20 – handing Edwardsburg its first regular-season defeat since 2017. The Falcons went on to win the Division 6 championship, while the Eddies reached the Division 4 Semifinals and were a touchdown from returning to Ford Field as well. West Catholic graduated much of its offensive firepower but returns important leaders on defense, and they’ll be tested right away by an Edwardsburg offense that has topped 4,000 yards rushing eight of the last nine seasons (with COVID-shortened 2020 the only exception during that time.)

Keep an eye on these THURSDAY Lawton (9-3) at Benton Harbor (4-5), East Lansing (8-4) at Portage Central (4-5). FRIDAY Portage Northern (7-4) at Vicksburg (5-5).

Upper Peninsula 

Houghton (6-4) at Iron Mountain (11-2)

These two are playing a nonleague game this time after finishing fourth and second, respectively, in the Western Peninsula Athletic Conference Copper in 2022. Iron Mountain reached the Division 8 Semifinals last fall and has moved into the Iron division of the league this season as the West-PAC has added three teams to the Copper from the Great Northern Conference. Houghton remains in the Copper and will be looking to avenge last season’s 28-6 loss to the Mountaineers, which was followed by the Gremlins’ best finish since 2013.

Keep an eye on these THURSDAY Ishpeming (4-6) at Negaunee (13-1). FRIDAY Bark River-Harris (8-3) at Ishpeming Westwood (4-5), Marquette (3-6) at Gladstone (9-3).

West Michigan

Rockford (10-1) at Muskegon (11-3), Friday

A few others listed above are in contention, but this has to be the most highly-anticipated opening-weekend matchup outside of the showcase events. League opponents most recently in 2011, these west-side powers haven’t faced each other since 2013. Muskegon returned to Ford Field last season, finishing Division 3 runner-up, and returns the majority of its offensive playmakers from that lineup including quarterback M’Khi Guy and running back Jakob Price. Rockford’s only loss last fall was by a point in a District Final to eventual Division 1 runner-up Caledonia, and the Rams also return a major player on both sides of the ball in senior Ryan Ahern.  

Keep an eye on these THURSDAY Hudsonville Unity Christian (6-5) at Whitehall (11-1), New Lothrop (10-3) at Muskegon Catholic Central (8-3), Cedar Springs (5-5) at East Grand Rapids (4-6). FRIDAY Kingsley (7-3) at Reed City (11-2).


Martin (11-2) at Colon (10-1), Friday

These have become two of the strongest programs in 8-player football, but they head into this fall with some unfamiliarity. Martin is 40-6 in 8-player football and the reigning Division 1 champion, but graduated much of its nucleus from that title-winning team. Colon is 51-7 in 8-player but enters with a new coach for the first time since making the format switch in 2018. The Magi’s only loss last season came by two points in a Regional Final to eventual Division 2 runner-up Mendon.

Keep an eye on these THURSDAY Brown City (10-2) at Peck (7-3), Gaylord St. Mary (8-3) at Pickford (6-3). FRIDAY Morrice (9-3) at Breckenridge (8-3), Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian (8-0) at Climax-Scotts (8-2), Rudyard (6-3) at Munising (11-1).

Second Half’s weekly “1st & Goal” previews and reviews are powered by MI Student Aid, a part of the Office of Postsecondary Financial Planning located within the Michigan Department of Treasury. MI Student Aid encourages students to pursue postsecondary education by providing access to student financial resources and information. MI Student Aid administers the state’s 529 college savings programs (MET/MESP), as well as scholarship and grant programs that help make college Accessible, Affordable and Attainable for you. Connect with MI Student Aid at www.michigan.gov/mistudentaid and find more information on Facebook and X (Twitter) @mistudentaid.

PHOTO Mount Pleasant takes the field during the 2022 season. (Click for more from High School Sports Scene.)

Performance of the Week: Gladwin's Jhace Massey

September 22, 2023

Jhace MasseyJhace Massey ♦ Gladwin
Senior ♦ Football

Massey, a 6-foot-4, 195-pound starting receiver for the reigning Division 5 champion, moved to quarterback after the team’s starter and top backup were injured against rival Clare on Friday. He went on to run 18 times for 183 yards and three touchdowns, throw for 61 yards and two scores and snag a fourth-quarter interception to help land the Flying Gs a 44-28 victory after they’d trailed 21-3.

The win put Gladwin in first place alone in the Jack Pine Conference halfway through the league schedule. The Flying Gs entered the game ranked No. 4 in Division 5 by the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association, and Clare was ranked No. 8 in Division 6. Although football has become his favorite sport, Massey also is a top contributor on the basketball team and ran primarily the 100 and 200 meters and on relays during track season in the spring.

@mhsaasports POW: Jhace Massey #football #quarterback #gladwin #letsgo #touchdown #interception #part1 #highschoolsports #tiktalk #interview #performanceoftheweek #mistudentaid #fyp #MHSAA ♬ original sound - MHSAA

@mhsaasports 🏈 POW: Jhace Massey #tiktalk #questiontime #part2 #mcdonalds #gymclass #stephcurry30 #tacotuesday #thumbsup #performanceoftheweek #mistudentaid #fyp #MHSAA ♬ original sound - MHSAA

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MHSAA.com's "Performance of the Week" features are powered by MI Student Aid, a part of the Office of Postsecondary Financial Planning located within the Michigan Department of Treasury. MI Student Aid encourages students to pursue postsecondary education by providing access to student financial resources and information. MI Student Aid administers the state’s 529 college savings programs (MET/MESP), as well as scholarship and grant programs that help make college Accessible, Affordable and Attainable for you. Connect with MI Student Aid at www.michigan.gov/mistudentaid and find more information on Facebook and Twitter @mistudentaid.

Past 2023-24 Honorees

Sept. 15: Kaylee Draper, Sturgis swimming - Report
Sept. 8:
Owen Jackson, Traverse City St. Francis tennis - Report
Sept. 1:
Rachel Forsyth, Ann Arbor Pioneer cross country - Report

(Top photo by Mike Kolleth. Headshot provided by the Gladwin football program.)