As we rumble into Week 4, the various rankings from media and the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association have begun weighing in on which contenders they view to be in the best in every division.
We include those MHSFCA rankings on our “Rankings” page, but check out as well the MHSAA’s metric for measuring success – the playoff points page – which factors wins and losses, but also strength of schedule, and with those points used to select the playoff field and seed brackets for the opening rounds of both the 11 and 8-player tournaments.
Those numbers update in real time as results are reported – and there surely will be shifts this weekend thanks to several of the matchups detailed below.
Bay & Thumb
Harbor Beach (3-0) at Ubly (3-0)
Ubly is pushing toward a decade as one of the elite small-school 11-player teams in the state, coming off last season’s Division 8 runner-up finish and led by fourth-year quarterback Evan Peruski who also the team to Ford Field to cap the 2020 season. The Bearcats have won 24 straight regular-season games and two straight over Harbor Beach, including 42-0 a year ago. Before Ubly’s recent rise, the Pirates were the team to chase both from the Greater Thumb Conference East and among Division 8 contenders from that part of the state. They meet this time after deciding the last two GTC East titles and having both opened with three wins against playoff teams from last season.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Frankenmuth (2-1) at Birch Run (3-0), Bay City Western (2-1) at Midland Dow (2-1), Almont (3-0) at North Branch (2-1), Davison (3-0) at Saginaw Heritage (2-1).
Detroit Cass Tech (1-2) at Detroit Martin Luther King (1-2)
Although West Bloomfield/Lake Orion would be the game any other week, history gives this matchup top billing at least heading into Friday. Look past the records; King’s losses are to championship contenders in Ohio and Indiana, and Cass Tech’s came to another Division 1 contender in Southfield Arts & Technology and arguably the top team from New Jersey. Throw in last year’s series – King won the first meeting 28-23 on the way to clinching a division title, and Cass four weeks later won the Detroit Public School League final 28-14 – and it matters less that many of the top contributors this fall are filling those spots for the first time.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY West Bloomfield (3-0) at Lake Orion (3-0), Warren Michigan Collegiate (3-0) at Romulus Summit Academy North (3-0), Macomb Dakota (3-0) at Sterling Heights Stevenson (2-1), Canton (2-1) at Northville (3-0).
East Lansing (1-2) at DeWitt (1-1)
East Lansing’s 36-30 win over DeWitt last season kicked off a wild ride through the Capital Area Activities Conference Blue that actually didn’t end with either of them winning or sharing the league title for the first time since 2017. But they’re expected to be back in the mix again and well-tested already this season. DeWitt didn’t have a game last week but came back to defeat Haslett in its opener and lost to arguably the Lansing area’s best in Mason in Week 2, while East Lansing came back big against Okemos last week after opening losses to Portage Central and Hudsonville.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Gladwin (3-0) at Clare (2-1), Montrose (3-0) at Ovid-Elsie (2-1), Williamston (2-1) at Mason (3-0), Charlotte (3-0) at Lansing Sexton (3-0).
Northern Lower Peninsula
Beal City (3-0) at Houghton Lake (3-0)
Beal City is pursuing a third-straight Highland Conference title and hasn’t lost a league game since 2020, and hasn’t been tested a ton this fall giving up only 21 points total with its closest call a 32-14 win over Ravenna in the season opener. Houghton Lake is climbing from a much different place; the Bobcats were 1-8 last season and 2-7 the year before, but have outscored their three opponents this fall by a combined 98-19 – those 98 points one more than they scored all 2022. Two of those wins also avenged losses from last season.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY East Jordan (3-0) at Charlevoix (2-1), Kingsley (2-1) at Boyne City (2-1), Johannesburg-Lewiston (2-1) at Frankfort (3-0), Petoskey (2-1) at Gaylord (3-0).
Southeast & Border
Manchester (3-0) at Napoleon (3-0)
Manchester is coming off its best season since 2015 and has continued the surge with all three wins this fall over opponents that finished 6-3 or better in 2022. Next comes an even bigger test, as Napoleon won the Cascades Conference last season and defeated the Flying Dutchmen 30-25 in league play and 42-13 in a Division 7 District Final. The Cascades split into two divisions beginning this fall, and these two are in the East as this opens the league schedule for both.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Grass Lake (3-0) at East Jackson (2-1), Tecumseh (1-2) at Adrian (3-0), Detroit U-D Jesuit (3-0) at Jackson Lumen Christi (3-0), Richland Gull Lake (2-1) at Parma Western (3-0).
Schoolcraft (3-0) at Constantine (2-1)
After these longtime rivals had to cancel their 2021 game, the series restarted last fall with Constantine emerging 56-22 to break a seven-game Eagles winning streak in the matchup. The Falcons have to be riding high as well after last week’s 22-10 win over Lawton. But Schoolcraft should provide another challenge, especially defensively, as the Eagles have given up only 34 points so far and all of those to 2022 playoff teams Centreville and Kalamazoo United in double-digit victories over the last two weeks.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Saugatuck (3-0) at Union City (3-0), South Haven (2-1) at Lawton (2-1), Dowagiac (2-1) at Parchment (3-0), Portage Northern (3-0) at Kalamazoo Central (1-1).
Kingsford (3-0) at Negaunee (2-1)
A top performance would add another big night to the impressive start of the season for Kingsford – but the Flivvers surely are being cautious despite their early success. They’re rivaling Iron Mountain as the top story in U.P. 11-player football after last week’s 35-12 win over Gladstone – which had defeated Negaunee in Week 2. But the Miners did bounce back last week to get past Calumet, and they likely need a win to keep repeat hopes alive in the Western Peninsula Athletic Conference Copper as Kingsford and Menominee have moved to the top of the standings early.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Menominee (3-0) at Calumet (1-2), Escanaba (1-2) at Sault Ste. Marie (2-1), Hancock (1-2) at Gladstone (2-1), Iron Mountain (3-0) at Gwinn (1-2).
Caledonia (3-0) at Rockford (3-0)
This has been one of the state’s most anticipated matchups after one of the most memorable series of 2022. Rockford defeated Caledonia 38-15 in Week 9 to clinch the Ottawa-Kent Conference Red title outright, while handing the Fighting Scots their first loss. Caledonia won the rematch in a Division 1 District Final two weeks later, 14-13, handing the Rams their only loss while taking a massive step on a run that ended with a runner-up finish at Ford Field. The teams are in different playoff divisions this time – Caledonia will play in Division 2 – but the league title may be up for grabs and some of the most important contributors from last season are again leading the way.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Muskegon (1-2) at Muskegon Mona Shores (2-1), Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central (3-0) at Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern (2-1), Hamilton (3-0) at Allendale (3-0), Whitehall (3-0) at Montague (2-1).
St. Ignace (3-0) at Indian River Inland Lakes (3-0)
St. Ignace’s 7-3 finish in 11-player football last fall was its best since 2016, and the Saints have carried that momentum into this season and a new format, topping 40 points all three games and giving up a combined 36 points. After gaining a forfeit Week 1, Inland Lakes has defeated two teams that won seven games last season – Lake Linden-Hubbell and Central Lake – and will provide St. Ignace another test, especially defensively, on a schedule filled with them. The Bulldogs scored 54 and 44 points, respectively, in those wins.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Ontonagon (3-0) at Powers North Central (3-0), Martin (2-1) at Gobles (3-0), Carson City-Crystal (3-0) at Merrill (3-0), Rudyard (3-0) at Pickford (3-0).
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 A Rockford receiver attempts to pull in a pass while covered closely during the Rams' opening-night win over Muskegon. (Photo by Tim Reilly.)
Jhace 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
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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
(Top photo by Mike Kolleth. Headshot provided by the Gladwin football program.)