As anticipated, the midpoint of this football regular season provided clarity to league championship races all over the state over the weekend, setting up some massive build-up as the calendar turns to October.
(Historical information below researched in part at Michigan-football.com.)
Bay & Thumb
HEADLINER Chesaning 16, Montrose 6 Chesaning (4-1) is staring down a possible first league title since 2005 after handing the Rams (4-1) and previously New Lothrop their only losses in the Mid-Michigan Activities Conference. This also was Chesaning’s first win over Montrose since they helped form the MMAC in 2018 – and now Chesaning will turn its attention to Ovid-Elsie this week and reigning champion Durand after that with that league title possibility growing. Click for more from the Flint Journal.
— Yousef Nasser (@YousefNasserTV) September 23, 2023
Watch list Saginaw Heritage 49, Lapeer 21 The Hawks (3-2) opened Saginaw Valley League Red play with losses to Grand Blanc and Davison but are still to be feared as handing this first loss of the season to Lightning (4-1) showed. Further putting that start in perspective, all five of Heritage’s opponents so far have winning records heading into Week 6.
On the move Millington 21, Standish-Sterling 20 The Cardinals (5-0) clinched a share of the Tri-Valley Conference Blue title after losing out to Standish-Sterling (2-3) a year ago. Corunna 49, Lake Fenton 17 The Cavaliers (5-0) will play Goodrich this week to decide the Flint Metro League Stars champion for the second year in a row after taking Lake Fenton (3-2) out of the title race. Almont 13, Armada 12 Almont (5-0) and Croswell-Lexington will face off this week for first in the Blue Water Area Conference after Almont came back from down 12-0 in the third quarter to get past the reigning co-champion Tigers (2-3).
HEADLINER Clinton Township Chippewa Valley 28, Macomb Dakota 21 Four teams are in the running again in the Macomb Area Conference Red, with Chippewa Valley (3-2) helping to open the race back up with its first win over Dakota since the 2019 regular season. The Cougars (4-1) drew close with a touchdown with a minute to play, but the Big Reds secured the onside kick – and now those two and Utica Eisenhower sit a game behind Romeo in the league standings. Click for more from the Macomb Daily.
Relive the exhilarating STATE CHAMPS! Gametime Live Broadcast where Chippewa Valley (@CVBigReds) triumphed over Macomb Dakota with an 28-21 victory, reclaiming the Superintendent Trophy for the first time since 2019.
— STATE CHAMPS! Michigan (@statechampsmich) September 23, 2023
Watch list Riverview 36, Flat Rock 34 The Huron League is back to a three-team race with these two and Carleton Airport after Riverview (4-1) handed Flat Rock (4-1) its lone loss. All three have played each other, so they’ll need help to break the tie at the top.
On the move Redford Union 33, Dearborn Heights Robichaud 22 Union (4-1) sits alone atop a close Western Wayne Athletic Conference race but with wins over two of three teams tied for second, plus Robichaud (3-2) as well. Warren Michigan Collegiate 44, Detroit Edison 16 In successive weeks, Michigan Collegiate (5-0) has handed lone losses this season to Romulus Summit North and now Edison to take control of the Charter School Conference Gold race. Warren De La Salle Collegiate 14, Detroit Catholic Central 7 They both trail Toledo Central Catholic in the Catholic League Central, but both will be expected to factor heavily in the playoffs even if they miss out on a league title. DCC (3-2) entered this game No. 9 in Division 1, and De La Salle (3-2) was No. 2 in Division 2.
HEADLINER Grand Ledge 21, Lansing Everett 12 With its first-string quarterback sidelined, Grand Ledge emerged from a scoreless game at halftime to remain atop the Capital Area Activities Conference Blue while moving to 5-0 overall. The Comets’ defense was especially tough, holding back an Everett offense that had reached 40 points in two of its last three games as the Vikings (3-2) entered the night the having won three in a row. Click for more from the Lansing State Journal.
— Travis (@travis_reporter) September 23, 2023
Watch list Hastings 34, Battle Creek Harper Creek 6 The Saxons (3-2) are in the mix in the Interstate 8 Athletic Conference, having picked up some serious momentum by handing Harper Creek (4-1) its lone defeat.
On the move East Lansing 35, Grand Blanc 7 East Lansing’s 0-2 start keeps gaining context as those early opponents keep winning and the Trojans (3-2) do the same against league title contenders like the Saginaw Valley League Blue’s Bobcats (3-2). Mason 35, Haslett 20 The Bulldogs (5-0) can clinch a share of the CAAC Red this week after holding off Haslett (3-2) for their closest win, with the defense coming up big late as the Vikings were driving to attempt to tie the score. Portland 52, Lansing Catholic 14 The Raiders (5-0) ran their winning streak over the rival Cougars (2-3) to two as they look to repeat as CAAC White champions – and with Week 8 against Lansing Sexton looking more and more like a potential decider.
Northern Lower Peninsula
HEADLINER Gaylord 35, Cadillac 14 The Blue Devils are only halfway through the Big North Conference schedule but may be impossible to catch. Gaylord sits atop the standings and has handed the lone league loss to the three teams in second or tied for third, including the Vikings (3-2). The Blue Devils scored 21 unanswered fourth-quarter points this time to get to 5-0 for the first time since 2003. Click for more from the Petoskey News-Review.
Watch list Traverse City West 24, Midland Dow 21 The Titans (2-3) started 0-2 and have played three games decided by a touchdown or less, including this one to keep them as one of two teams undefeated in SVL Red play.
On the move Charlevoix 29, Benzie Central 12 The Rayders (4-1) can clinch a share of the Northern Michigan Football Conference Leaders title this week after sending Benzie Central (2-3) into second place. Kingsley 44, Traverse City St. Francis 21 The Stags (4-1) had lost to the rival Gladiators (2-3) the last two seasons, including 49-12 a year ago, but this time kept pace with Ogemaw Heights atop the NMFC Legends. East Jordan 26, Maple City Glen Lake 3 Coming off a Week 4 loss, the Red Devils remain in the NMFC Legacy title hunt after a solid bounce-back against the Lakers (3-2).
Southeast & Border
HEADLINER Chelsea 28, Adrian 18 The Southeastern Conference White is looking like it will come down to Chelsea and Jackson after the Bulldogs sent Adrian (4-1) into second place. Since falling to Grand Rapids Northview in Week 1, Chelsea (4-1) has won its next four games all by double digits. Click for more from the Chelsea Sun Times News.
Watch list Dexter 55, Ann Arbor Huron 29 The Dreadnaughts (3-2) are picking up fast after an 0-2 start, with this win dropping Huron (3-2) out of a tie for first in the SEC Red. Dexter has gone over 50 points two straight weeks.
On the move Clinton 50, Blissfield 0 The Redwolves (4-1) also have won four straight after an opening loss and sit tied with Hudson for first in the Lenawee County Athletic Association, while Blissfield (3-2) fell into third. Napoleon 35, Grass Lake 26 For the second-straight week, Napoleon handed the first loss this season to a league opponent – and the Pirates now sit atop the Cascades Conference East with Michigan Center. Erie Mason 40, Petersburg Summerfield 16 Coming off three straight losses, the Eagles (2-3) were in need of a rebound – and got it by handing Summerfield (4-1) its lone defeat.
HEADLINER Dowagiac 27, Benton Harbor 26 A one-point Week 1 loss to South Haven is all that’s kept Dowagiac from a perfect start, and the Chieftains (4-1) with this win guaranteed their best finish since at least 2019. Dowagiac trailed 18-13 at halftime, then held off the Tigers (2-3) late to open the Lakeland Conference schedule on the right foot. Click for more from the Niles Daily Star.
Watch list South Haven 45, Allegan 17 The Rams (3-2) won just two games a year ago, but opened with the above-mentioned win over Dowagiac, added a second win over Delton Kellogg two weeks ago, and this time scored their season high to hand Allegan (4-1) its only loss.
On the move Kalamazoo United 30, Parchment 28 (OT) Parchment (3-2) nearly pushed this to another overtime, but the Titans (3-2) held on in another Southwestern Athletic Conference Lakeshore opener to join South Haven and Constantine among early leaders. Portage Central 35, St. Joseph 18 The Mustangs (4-1) equaled last season’s win total and kept pace atop the Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference standings while sending the Bears (3-2) a game back. White Pigeon 24, Centreville 8 The Southwest 10 Conference race may come down to the Chiefs (5-0) and Cassopolis in Week 8, although Centreville (2-3) can still be part of the mix if it gets past Cassopolis this week.
HEADLINER Marquette 28, Sault Ste. Marie 7 These two hadn’t met since 2020 but moved together to the Big North Conference for football this fall. Marquette didn’t have an opponent for Week 4 and came back off the break with a big-time defensive effort to even its record at 2-2 and deal the Blue Devils (3-2) their second defeat. Click for more from the Marquette Mining Journal.
Watch list Ishpeming 46, Bark River-Harris 8 The Hematites (2-3) had lost two straight to Bark River-Harris (2-3), but got a needed rebound after defeats the previous two weeks. They could be in for more success with their last next four opponents a combined 2-17.
On the move Manistique 44, L’Anse 0 The Emeralds (3-2) have posted three straight shutouts and sit one more win from what would be their best finish since 2012. Menominee 56, Houghton 0 Make that four shutouts in five games for the Maroons as they prepare to take on the rest of the contenders in the Western Peninsula Athletic Conference Copper over the next three weeks. Kingsford 41, Calumet 0 Coming off their lone loss, the Flivvers (4-1) posted their third shutout of the season and remain in the Copper mix.
HEADLINER Byron Center 15, Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central 14 The Ottawa-Kent Conference White continues to look like one of the most competitive leagues in the state this fall, and Byron Center (5-0) remains tied for first with East Grand Rapids thanks to a two-point conversion after a last-minute go-ahead score. FHC (4-1) entered the game ranked No. 1 in Division 3, and Byron Center was No. 4 in Division 2.
Byron Center sneaks past FHC with late TD and 2-point conversion
"I'm so proud of our guys right now," @BlakeOttow23 said, "it's unbelievable."
— FOX 17 Blitz (@FOX17Blitz) September 23, 2023
Watch list Grandville 44, Hudsonville 37 These teams traded leads all game, but Grandville (4-1) scored last to earn a spot atop the O-K Red, tied with Rockford. The Bulldogs have defeated the Eagles (4-1) in four straight.
On the move East Grand Rapids 14, Grand Rapids Northview 10 As noted above, EGR (5-0) kept pace atop the O-K White – thanks to a late go-ahead score that sent Northview to 3-2. Zeeland West 36, Zeeland East 13 The Dux (5-0) ran their streak over the Chix (4-1) to five straight wins and in doing so remained tied with Muskegon for first in the O-K Green. Whitehall 35, Manistee 0 The Mariners (5-0) are alone atop the West Michigan Conference Lakes after blanking a Manistee offense that averaged 40 points per game during its 4-0 start.
HEADLINER Lake Linden-Hubbell 28, Powers North Central 25 The longest winning streak in Michigan 8-player football history is over. Lake Linden-Hubbell handed the three-time reigning champion Jets their first loss since the 2019 Regional Finals and after a stretch of 41 consecutive wins, pulling ahead with a long touchdown pass during the final minutes. Click for more from the Houghton Daily Mining Gazette.
Watch list Climax-Scotts 53, Bellevue 22 Climax-Scotts keeps climbing and got to 5-0 for the second year in a row with their fourth showing of 50 points or better, this time to send Bellevue to 3-2.
On the move Indian River Inland Lakes 26, Munising 24 The Bulldogs (4-1) played their second two-point game in a row, but this time came out on the winning side after falling to St. Ignace by two in Week 4. Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian 20, Gobles 17 (2OT) The Mustangs (3-2) ended another undefeated start, edging the Tigers (4-1) while holding them 42 points below their average this season. Marion 42, Rudyard 8 The Eagles may have given up their first points this fall, but impressed again against arguably their toughest opponent so far in Rudyard (3-2).
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PHOTOS (Top) Davison applies a pass rush as Saginaw United takes to the air during the Cardinals' 63-0 win Friday. (Middle) Marquette quarterback Jaxon Jurmu (2) keeps the ball and gains several yards before being tackled by Sault Ste. Marie's Owen Horrigan (52). (Photos by Terry Lyons and Cara Kamps, respectively.)
Kingsley football fans have become pretty familiar with VIP parking for home games over the last couple of seasons.
They may just start looking for a Kingsley VIP lot at Ford Field. The Stags just captured the MHSAA Division 6 championship trophy with a 38-24 victory over Almont, their second Finals championship and first since 2005.
The road to the Finals started with Kingsley hosting two playoff games, allowing great use of the VIP Parking of Trina’s Touchdown Club. The lot is adjacent to the school’s Rodes Field and provided in loving memory of Katrina “Trina” Kay Schueller, who passed away Oct. 21, 2021, at Munson Medical Center.
Those playoff games filling Trina’s Touchdown Club’s parking lot featured wins over Mason County Central 61-12 and Manistee 37-18, and 51-27 over Gladstone in the Regional Final. Kingsley then traveled down the road and defeated Reed City 37-7 in the Semifinal.
There may not have been designated VIP parking in Cadillac and Ford Field for the Stags’ followers, but there were a lot of VIPs at both stadiums with Schueller on their minds. Pretty much everyone with an affiliation with the highly-successful program or familiarity with the community’s struggles have become VIPs to the Kingsley coaching staff and many others.
Most certainly among the VIPs are head coach Tim Wooer, assistant coach Conner Schueller, his brother Carter Schueller, and his father Mike Schueller.
Conner was set to play the biggest regular-season game of his career the day after his mom passed. It was the regular-season finale against rival Traverse City St. Francis.
Wooer vividly remembers the moments leading up to that matchup, noting how difficult it was for Conner. But his then-fullback and now-assistant coach demonstrated amazing strength and maturity he stills exhibits today.
“He’s in his senior football season, and his mom is in the hospital for four weeks — he’s balancing that playing football and going to school,” Wooer recalled. “And then she passes, and he has the strength to come back to school and deliver the news to our team.
“I am sobbing watching this kid, and I’m just amazed,” Wooer continued. “The next night is Parents Night, and he’s on the field with his dad and brother without his mom.”
Conner still played, making a 4th-down goal line tackle to prevent a St. Francis touchdown. The Gladiators won the game, but Conner won the day, conquering much just to dress for the game.
The Stags went on to playoff wins over Kingsford 28-10 and Clare 32-6. They bowed out with a 33-18 Regional loss to Frankenmuth.
Conner’s junior year of 2020 had been cut short as the Kingsley was forced to forfeit its District Final to Reed City because several players and coaching staff tested positive for COVID-19. The Stags had Ford Field in their minds that season too after playoff wins over 38-13 Standish-Sterling 38-13 and Gladwin 63-16.
Conner, who celebrated his 20th birthday at Saturday’s Final, remembers his playing days and the challenges presented him.
“At the time it was ‘she’s not there,’ especially my senior year she wasn’t there to watch me and finish it out, but I know she’s watching above,” he said. “We were about to go play Reed City my junior year for Regionals, and everyone got sick and it ended our season unfortunately.”
Those challenges were on his mind at Ford Field, and running through his mind when he saw his brother and father in the stands. Carter, now a senior at Kingsley, had been unable to play football due to injuries.
“I thought about my brother – he unfortunately didn’t play this year due to his injuries, and I don’t really blame him for that,” Conner said. “I thought about him as well because it was just me and my dad and my brother now.
“It was very emotional,” Conner continued. “I got a glimpse of him in the strands.”
Carter also was filled with gratitude for the coaching staff for welcoming and mentoring him. He had become keenly aware of the amount of time coaches spend away from family at practices and going through film.
In addition to his family, Conner was thinking about many others in the Kingsley community – and other senior classes like his that didn’t get the chance to celebrate a championship.
He also was thinking about Justin Hansen, a 2003 graduate of Kingsley. Hansen was a captain on the 2002 conference championship team. He went on to become a special-operations Marine sergeant and was killed in action July 24, 2012, while deployed in Afghanistan. Hansen was on patrol as part of an operation in search of a high-value target when his team was hit with small arms fire.
On Saturday, Wooer was wearing a red T-shirt with the letters “USA” on the front and the name “Hansen” on the back. It also featured the number 54, Hansen’s in high school.
Wooer, who turned 54 in July, wore the shirt in Hansen’s memory knowing Hansen would be on the veteran coach’s mind and symbolizing Hansen’s presence with the team at Ford Field.
Wooer wants to make sure Hanson is never forgotten and reminds the soldier’s family the entire community remains behind them.
“I believe it is part of our job as a community to show our love to this family and help in any way possible to help them get through this process,” Wooers said. “After the funeral, we all went about life.
“We certainly still think about Justin and feel the pain,” he continued. “But nothing like a family does.”
Hansen’s tragic passing led to the creation of the annual Patriot Game in Traverse City in 2012 while Wooer was coaching Traverse City West. The game features crosstown rivals West and Traverse City Central every year and strives to honor veterans, first responders, active duty military, and area heroes who died while serving their country.
Saturday’s win over Almont left Wooer emotionally exhausted after all the preparations to do it right for the senior class, the school, the Kingsley community, the Schueller family and Hansen. Collectively, they’ve really become more like a family to the Stags coaching staff and many, many others.
“In terms of emotions, there is no doubt Justin was on my mind throughout the game,” Wooer said. “Trina and Conner have been – those are two huge pieces.
“And, a lot of my thoughts are with the seniors,” he continued. “You want to win the game, but also it is your last time with them.”
Wooer has learned a lot from his former players and coaches over the years. He’s become close friends with many of them, going back to his early days of coaching as a student-teacher at Elk Rapids. He also coached at Farewell and Traverse City West, the latter from 2008-2017 after a first tenure at Kingsley. He returned to Kingsley in 2018.
Schueller is among several former players and coaches who have been on Wooer’s coaching staffs over the years. Several continue today.
“I could give you lots of other stories about kids I have had,” Wooer said. “There comes this transition where they turn into such amazing men, you catch yourself every once in a while saying, ‘I want to be like him.’
“You get this huge smile on your face because you’re so proud of them, just like a mother or father would,” Wooer continued. “A coach always looks at his players like they’re part of his family.”
In addition to Conner, current assistants with long-term relationships with Wooer are Tom Kaleita, Kyle Smith, Ryan Zenner, Dan Goethals, Josh Merchant, Jordan Bradford, Steve Klinge, Connor Schueller, Mike Arlt, Larry Mikowski, Bobby Howell, Rob Whims and Jason Morrow.
This year’s seniors were Jon Pearson, Eli Graves, Skylar Workman, Gavyn Merchant, Max Goethals, Evan Trafford, Bode Bielas, Grant Kolbusz, James Person, Caleb Bott, Trenton Peacock, Noah Scribner and Gavin Dear. They and the coaching staff will be the center of attention as the community celebrates the football team at 7 p.m. this evening in the high school gymnasium.
The seniors probably won’t need VIP parking tonight. But if it would help, Conner would surely make arrangements to utilize Trina’s Touchdown Club. He’d have to add a shuttle though as Rodes Field is about a mile away from the school.
“It feels amazing — I don’t think it really hit any one yet, but I am sure it will,” Conner said. “After we won, it is truly something – it is something else I can’t explain.
“The seniors finally won it the way they were supposed to,” he continued. “It was a good class of seniors.”
Tom Spencer is a longtime MHSAA-registered basketball and soccer official, and former softball and baseball official, and he also has coached in the northern Lower Peninsula area. He previously has written for the Saginaw News, Bay County Sports Page and Midland Daily News. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Manistee, Wexford, Missaukee, Roscommon, Ogemaw, Iosco, Alcona, Oscoda, Crawford, Kalkaska, Grand Traverse, Benzie, Leelanau, Antrim, Otsego, Montmorency, Alpena, Presque Isle, Cheboygan, Charlevoix and Emmet counties.
PHOTOS (Top) Kingsley students support their classmates during Saturday’s Division 6 Final at Ford Field. (2) Stags assistant coach Conner Schueller watches from the sideline during an Almont run back. (3) Kingsley coach Tim Wooer, in red, prepares to present the championship trophy to his team including Schueller, far right. (4) Trina’s Touchdown Club welcomes members to the VIP lot adjacent to the Kingsley stadium. (Ford Field photos by Hockey Weekly Action Photos; touchdown club photo courtesy of the Kingsley football program.)