1st & Goal: 2023 Week 7 Preview

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

October 5, 2023

It’s league title time as we dive into the final third of the 2023 football regular season.

MI Student AidOf 45 matchups highlighted below, nearly two-thirds could lead to either a conference championship being celebrated this weekend or impact a title race to be won over the next two.

Thursday’s rain is expected to continue in some parts of our state, but if you don’t attend in person most of the games below will be viewable on MHSAA.tv – click the “Watch” links to go directly to those broadcasts. Games below are Friday unless noted, and rankings are by the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association.

Bay & Thumb

Freeland (6-0) at Frankenmuth (5-1) - WATCH

For the third-straight season, the winner of this game will earn a league championship – this time, a share of the Tri-Valley Conference Red, as both teams still will have a league game to play Week 8 as well. The Eagles did see their 24-game regular-season winning streak end in their opener against Goodrich in August, but they haven’t lost a league game since 2014 – and have strung together four straight wins over Freeland, including 21-0 a year ago. After edging Clare 29-26 in their opener, the Falcons have dazzled offensively this fall, surpassing 50 points in all five of their league games.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker (4-2) at Cass City (5-1) - WATCH, Durand (3-3) at Chesaning (5-1) - WATCH, Pontiac Notre Dame Prep (5-0) at Gladwin (6-0), Ithaca (6-0) at Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary (5-1).

Greater Detroit

Walled Lake Western (6-0) at Milford (5-1) - WATCH

Walled Lake Western is attempting to finish what would be a second-straight perfect run through the Lakes Valley Conference. The Warriors have won 17 straight league games and have two left this fall – with their most recent league loss to Milford in 2021. Waterford Mott got within 15 of Western in this year’s season opener, but no one else has been within 30 points. Milford has had closer results – a 26-23 loss to Dearborn Divine Child and three wins by eight or fewer points. But the defense has been stunning – giving up just 20 points over five league games – and it will provide an intriguing matchup with a Warriors offense averaging 50 ppg.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Lake Orion (6-0) at Clarkston (4-2) - WATCH, Romeo (3-3) at Clinton Township Chippewa Valley (4-2) - WATCH, Grosse Pointe South (5-1) at St. Clair Shores Lakeview (5-1) - WATCH, Macomb Dakota (5-1) at Utica Eisenhower (5-1) - WATCH.


Charlotte (5-1) at Portland (6-0)

The Raiders could be closing in on a seventh Capital Area Activities Conference White title over the last eight seasons – but the next two weeks should be their most challenging of this run. The circled matchup is next week with also-undefeated Lansing Sexton. But to reach that winner-take-all, Portland must be careful with Charlotte. The Orioles have continued their resurgence into a third-straight season, and their only regular-season loss a year ago was 40-13 to the Raiders. They did fall to Sexton 28-0 three weeks ago, but can mash up this league race if they can slow a Portland team that’s won all of its games by at least four touchdowns this fall.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Williamston (4-2) at Haslett (4-2), St. Johns (3-3) at Mason (6-0), New Lothrop (5-1) at Ovid-Elsie (3-3), Bath (3-3) at Saranac (4-2)

Northern Lower Peninsula

Kingsley (5-1) at Ogemaw Heights (5-1) - WATCH

The Northern Michigan Football Conference Leaders division has been mostly a two-team race the last five seasons between Kingsley and Traverse City St. Francis. But Ogemaw Heights began pushing into contention last year and tonight will play Kingsley for an outright league title. The Falcons have given up only 59 points over their last five games after a 42-28 loss to still-undefeated Gladwin in Week 1. They’ve also gone 0-5 against Kingsley since joining the NMFL, but got within 30-20 a year ago. Kingsley’s lone loss this season also was to a still-undefeated opponent, Gaylord, and that was by just three points.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Fowler (5-1) at Frankfort (6-0), Kalkaska (3-3) at Grayling (3-3) - WATCH, Oscoda (3-3) at Benzie Central (3-3) - WATCH. SATURDAY Jackson Lumen Christi (6-0) at Traverse City St. Francis (3-3) - WATCH.

Southeast & Border

Napoleon (6-0) at Michigan Center (5-1) - WATCH

Napoleon has won 16 straight regular-season games and can earn a share of the Cascades Conference East title tonight after winning the formerly one-division league last season on the way to the Division 7 Semifinals. The Pirates are 18-1 since missing the 2021 playoffs despite finishing 6-3. Michigan Center is quite a story as well. The Cardinals finished 4-5 a year ago and lost four Cascades games, but all by seven points or fewer – including by only two, 29-27, to the Pirates. Michigan Center fell to Jackson Lumen Christi to start this fall, but has not lost since and last week avenged a 2022 defeat to Grass Lake. The Cardinals too would earn a share of the East title with a win in this one. 

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Jackson (4-2) at Chelsea (5-1) - WATCH, Union City (5-1) at Petersburg Summerfield (4-2) - WATCH, Grass Lake (4-2) at Manchester (5-1) - WATCH, Hastings (4-2) at Parma Western (6-0).

Southwest Corridor

Portage Northern (6-0) at Portage Central (5-1) - WATCH

This annual rivalry game will mean as much as ever with these two entering both undefeated in Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference play at this late of a date for the first time in decades. The lone loss this season between them was Central’s to Division 3 No. 3 Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central in Week 2, and the Mustangs do own a win over Division 2 No. 10 East Lansing. Northern has won four of the last five of these matchups, however, including 25-22 a year ago.  

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Battle Creek Pennfield (3-3) at Battle Creek Harper Creek (4-2), Schoolcraft (5-1) at Lawton (5-1) - WATCH, Cassopolis (3-3) at White Pigeon (6-0) - WATCH. SATURDAY Kalamazoo United (4-2) at Constantine (5-1).

Upper Peninsula

Negaunee (5-1) at Menominee (6-0)

Menominee passed its first major Western Peninsula Athletic Conference Copper test last week, getting by Gladstone 44-26. Next up is the reigning champion, and the Miners’ lone defeat this fall was to Gladstone 42-14 in Week 2. Although the Maroons were still playing in the Great Northern Conference last season, these two did face off, with Negaunee a 44-0 Division 6 District Final winner on the way to Ford Field. The Miners’ defense has strengthened substantially since that Gladstone loss at the start of September – they’ve allowed just 35 points over their last four games – but the challenge will be on as Menominee is averaging 50 points per game in league play and had given up just six total before last week.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Petoskey (4-2) at Marquette (3-2) - WATCH, Houghton (2-4) at Gladstone (4-2) - WATCH. SATURDAY Lakeview (2-4) at Manistique (3-3) - WATCH, Bark River-Harris (3-3) at West Iron County (1-4) - WATCH.

West Michigan

Howard City Tri County (6-0) at Big Rapids (5-1) - WATCH

While the Ottawa-Kent Conference divisions are still sorting themselves out a bit more with some major matchups this weekend (see below), the Central State Activities Association Gold will be decided at least in part tonight with these two undefeated in league play and this Big Rapids’ league finale. This matchup helped decide the Gold title last year as well; Big Rapids’ 27-26 win resulted in a three-way shared championship between these two and Reed City. This meeting could be close again and similarly low-scoring – Big Rapids is giving up 12 per game in league play, and Tri County is allowing just less than 13.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Grand Rapids Catholic Central (5-1) at Ada Forest Hills Eastern (5-1) - WATCH, Grand Rapids West Catholic (6-0) at Allendale (5-1), Grandville (5-1) at Caledonia (5-1), Muskegon (4-2) at Zeeland West (6-0) - WATCH.


Climax-Scotts (6-0) at Mendon (5-1) - WATCH

Mendon has had little time to rebound from last week’s 73-20 loss to Adrian Lenawee Christian, with the Southern Central Athletic Association West title to be decided at least in part tonight as the winner of this matchup locks up a share of the league title. Climax-Scotts is seeking its first conference championship in 8-player and has finished a runner-up twice over four seasons. This will also be the first time these two are facing off in league play in this format, although the Hornets won a Division 2 playoff matchup 44-18 last October.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Alcona (5-1) at Au Gres-Sims (6-0) - WATCH, Gobles (5-1) at Bridgman (6-0), Grandville Calvin Christian (4-2) at Marcellus (5-1) - WATCH, Pickford (6-0) at Norway (5-1) - WATCH.

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PHOTO Ada Forest Hills Eastern, on defense, takes on Grand Rapids Catholic Central this week coming off a 28-14 win over Wayland. (Photo by Michigan Sports Photo.)

Football Title Reflects Kingsley's Current Success, Recalls Loved Ones Passed

By Tom Spencer
Special for MHSAA.com

December 1, 2023

Kingsley football fans have become pretty familiar with VIP parking for home games over the last couple of seasons.

Northern Lower PeninsulaThey 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.

Stags assistant coach Conner Schueller watches from the sideline during an Almont run back.“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. 

Kingsley coach Tim Wooer, in red, prepares to present the championship trophy to his team including Schueller, far right.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.’

Trina’s Touchdown Club welcomes members to the VIP lot adjacent to the Kingsley stadium. “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 SpencerTom 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.)