Fall showed up in a roar for Week 7, drenching fields almost everywhere as 300 games played on.
Of 88 varsity football conferences in Michigan, 60 have at least one guaranteed champion with two more weeks of regular-season games to play – and those historic victories make up most of the highlights below.
Bay & Thumb
HEADLINER Frankenmuth 38, Freeland 13 Frankenmuth (6-1) secured a share of a 12th-consecutive league championship, clinching in the Tri-Valley Conference Red in this meeting of co-leaders heading into the evening. The Eagles have won 59 straight league games dating to 2014, and all five against the Falcons (6-1) since they began playing in the same division. Click for more from the Saginaw News.
Watch list Cass City 26, Elton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker 12 With the Greater Thumb Conference set to merge with the North Central Thumb League next school year, Cass City (6-1) earned the final championship in the GTC West as Laker (4-3) also was tied for first entering the evening. (Ubly defeated Sandusky 39-8 to finish a perfect run through the GTC East.)
On the move Chesaning 29, Durand 12 Chesaning (6-1) clinched a share of the Mid-Michigan Activities Conference title, defeating the 2022 champ and with seventh-place Otisville-LakeVille left on the league schedule. Ithaca 26, Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary 7 The Yellowjackets (7-0) also clinched the outright championship in the TVC White by claiming this winner-takes-all meeting with MLS (5-2). Fenton 27, Flushing 8 Fenton (6-1) finished an outright championship in the Flint Metro League Stripes, its fifth-straight league title and first outright since 2020.
HEADLINER Lake Orion 42, Clarkston 21 With its first win over Clarkston since 2019, Lake Orion clinched its first league title since those two teams shared the Oakland Activities Association Red championship in 2011. They entered this league finale tied for first, so the Dragons’ also won this time outright and improved to 7-0 while holding down the No. 3 spot in Division 1 playoff-points average. Clarkston is 4-3 but No. 15 on the list in part because of its difficult schedule playing in one of the state’s most competitive leagues. Click for more from the Oakland Press.
Check out these highlights from Lake Orion's recent win against Clarkston on October 6th, 2023 Senior running back Billy Roberson had an impressive game with 3 rushing touchdowns, leading the team to a 42-21 victory! Delivered by @hungryhowies pic.twitter.com/WuJNaTOX2n
— STATE CHAMPS! Michigan (@statechampsmich) October 7, 2023
Watch list Clinton Township Chippewa Valley 45, Romeo 12; Utica Eisenhower 31, Macomb Dakota 0 There’s no way to split these up; Chippewa Valley (5-2) and Eisenhower (6-1) clinched a shared Macomb Area Conference Red championship by winning on a night when all four contenders entered tied for first place.
On the move Walled Lake Western 28, Milford 20 Western (7-0) claimed a share of a second-straight Lakes Valley Conference title, with Milford (5-2) and Waterford Mott one game behind and the Warriors needing to defeat seventh-place Walled Lake Central in two weeks to clinch it outright. Grosse Pointe South 27, St. Clair Shores Lakeview 0 Another winner-take-all in the MAC White went to GPS (6-1), which has won all 10 of its games in this division since making the switch a year ago and handed Lakeview (5-2) its first shutout since 2021. Birmingham Seaholm 20, Auburn Hills Avondale 0 Seaholm (6-1) owns a share of the OAA Blue title and dealt this first loss to Avondale (6-1), which has clinched a share in the OAA Gold. Pontiac Notre Dame Prep 56, Gladwin 21 This was one of few meetings left of undefeated teams this fall, and Notre Dame Prep (6-0) continued its surge by posting 56 points for the third time this season and against a defense that had given up only 90 total during Gladwin’s 6-0 start.
HEADLINER Hastings 20, Parma Western 19 There are still two weeks of Interstate 8 Athletic Conference games to play, but Hastings (5-2) is a major step closer to a fourth-straight championship. The Saxons stopped Western (6-1) on a late two-point try to win and moved into first place alone with a chance to clinch this week against Jackson Northwest. See below for more from FOX 17.
— FOX 17 Blitz (@FOX17Blitz) October 7, 2023
Watch list Perry 14, Stockbridge 13 Perry is drawing close to making history. The Ramblers (5-2) are seeking their first playoff berth (not counting 2020, when almost all teams qualified because of COVID-related adjustments) and are tied for No. 15 in Division 7 playoff-point average with a matchup against Division 5 Lake Odessa Lakewood this week.
On the move Fowler 54, Frankfort 0 Fowler (6-1) sits No. 10 in Division 8 playoff-points average after handing Frankfort (6-1) its first defeat. Portland 35, Charlotte 8 Portland (7-0) will play Lansing Sexton this week for the Capital Area Activities Conference White title after turning back this challenge from the third-place Orioles (5-2). Williamston 20, Haslett 7 Williamston (5-2) sits No. 7 in Division 5 playoff-points average with its only losses to Division 3 teams and this win over the Vikings (4-3) among five over opponents from Divisions 3 or 4.
Northern Lower Peninsula
HEADLINER Ogemaw Heights 35, Kingsley 12 For the first time since 2009, Ogemaw Heights (6-1) is a league champion after claiming a winner-takes-all matchup for the Northern Michigan Football League Legends title. Kingsley (5-2) had averaged 50 points per game entering the weekend, but the Falcons’ defense continued a run of success that’s seen them allow only 38 points total over the last five games. Click for more from MI Sports Now.
Watch list Benzie Central 46, Oscoda 14 Benzie remains on the rise, and by moving to 4-3 equaled its win total from a year ago – when it qualified for the playoffs at 3-6 – while holding nicely at No. 21 in Division 7 playoff-points average. Oscoda fell to 3-4 but has some opportunities to climb over the final two regular-season games.
On the move Grayling 46, Kalkaska 6 Grayling (4-3) kept its playoff hopes alive and sits No. 24 on the Division 6 playoff-points list after sending Kalkaska to 3-4 and No. 42. Maple City Glen Lake 47, Johannesburg-Lewiston 8 The Lakers (4-3) added to their playoff candidacy and sit No. 22 in Division 8 playoff-points average while Johannesburg-Lewiston (2-4) is No. 45. Cadillac 28, Richland Gull Lake 7 Cadillac (4-3) bounced back from two straight losses to get a needed boost up to No. 29 on the Division 3 playoff-points list, while Gull Lake (4-3) sits just outside the field at No. 33.
Southeast & Border
HEADLINER Napoleon 44, Michigan Center 34 Despite receiving one of its toughest challenges this fall – and trailing at halftime – Napoleon (7-0) emerged with a share of the Cascades Conference East championship and an opportunity to clinch it outright this week against sixth-place East Jackson. The Pirates have won 20 of their last 21 games and scored the most points Michigan Center (5-2) had allowed since Week 1 of 2022. Click for more from the Jackson Citizen Patriot.
Watch list Chelsea 21, Jackson 14 Chelsea (6-1) withstood its closest Southeastern Conference East matchup to finish an outright title run with Jackson (4-3) pushing for a shared championship.
On the move Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central 27, Flat Rock 18 St. Mary (3-4) was able to jump from No. 22 to No. 9 in Division 7 playoff-point average with this win, and also juggled the Huron League title race a bit by dropping Flat Rock (5-2) out of a tie for first. Addison 42, Hanover-Horton 8 Addison (7-0) completed its Cascades Conference West schedule with an outright championship, the Panthers’ fourth league title in five seasons. Saline 31, Ypsilanti Lincoln 0 Saline (7-0) is another long-running league champion back on top, clinching a share in the SEC Red after missing out a year ago.
HEADLINER Portage Central 32, Portage Northern 22 Central took back the upper hand in this annual rivalry game after losing by three points a year ago, and also took over first place alone in the Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference. Both teams are 6-1 overall, and Northern will be rooting hard for Kalamazoo Central this week and Stevensville Lakeshore next as the Huskies hope for some help to still claim a league title share. Click for more from the Kalamazoo Gazette.
Check out the highlights as Portage Central outshines rival Portage Northern with a 32-22 victory on October 6th, 2023! 🏈 Gavin Grueter's touchdown reception and incredible end zone interception stole the show! @PCMustangFB | @MHSAA pic.twitter.com/lL6vcaCc5A
— STATE CHAMPS! Michigan (@statechampsmich) October 7, 2023
Watch list Lawton 29, Schoolcraft 22 Lawton (6-1) set itself up to face undefeated Saugatuck this week for the Southwestern Athletic Conference Valley title with Schoolcraft (5-2) hanging on to hope for a shared championship with Saugatuck on its schedule for Week 9.
On the move Constantine 27, Kalamazoo United 7 Constantine (6-1) also will play for a league title this week, against South Haven, in the SAC Lakeshore and with Kalamazoo United (4-3) hoping for similar maneuvering as Schoolcraft as it gets South Haven in Week 9. Parchment 32, Allegan 14 The Panthers (4-3) just missed the playoffs last season at 5-4 but kept their hopes sparked this fall by ending a three-game losing streak and jumping from No. 35 to 28 in the Division 6 playoff-points list while sending Allegan (4-3) down to a tie for No. 32 in Division 5. St. Joseph 35, Stevensville Lakeshore 0 St. Joseph (4-3) vaulted to No. 19 in Division 3 playoff-points average in breaking a two-game losing streak, and also knocked Lakeshore (5-2) out of a tie for first in the SMAC.
HEADLINER Negaunee 47, Menominee 20 The reigning champion in the Western Peninsula Athletic Conference Copper is back in the title hunt. After starting out a step behind with a loss to Gladstone in a Week 2 league opener, Negaunee (6-1) has made it all the way back and can clinch a share of the Copper championship this week against Houghton – while Menominee (6-1) and Kingsford also will play for a guaranteed share of the title. Click for more from Upper Michigan’s Source.
Watch list Marquette 21, Petoskey 20 Marquette (4-2) opened this season 1-2, then didn’t have a Week 4 game, but is 3-0 since with a chance at a share of the Big North Conference title (if Sault Ste. Marie defeats leader Gaylord in Week 9) and the No. 24 spot on the Division 3 playoff-points average list – while Petoskey (4-3) is holding on at No. 32.
On the move Gladstone 31, Houghton 8 Gladstone (5-2) is officially out of the Copper title hunt, but steady at No. 9 on the Division 6 playoff-points average list with opportunities to climb. Sault Ste. Marie 21, Alpena 6 After missing the playoffs last season at 6-3, Sault Ste. Marie (5-2) is sitting at No. 26 on the Division 4 playoff-points list and with two substantial chances to move up. Manistique 19, Lakeview 8 Manistique (4-3) moved up from No. 38 to 36 on the Division 7 playoff-points list but will work to reach the top 32 with two more playoff hopefuls on the schedule to finish the regular season.
HEADLINER Big Rapids 35, Howard City Tri County 6 After forcing a three-team shared championship in the Central State Activities Association last season, Big Rapids (6-1) will reign alone this fall thanks to this win that secured an outright title. The Cardinals won their six league games this season by an average of 24 ppg. Tri County is 6-1 and still can equal last season’s win total with one more. Click for more from the Big Rapids Pioneer.
WATCH: The Big Rapids Cardinals are CSAA Gold champions after a dominating second half tonight. They beat Tri County 35-6, as the defending national champion Ferris State Bulldogs watched from the stands!@brcardinals @TCHSATHLETICS @VennixRiley @FerrisFootball pic.twitter.com/UparPP4qCM
— Matt Gard (@mgard_wzzm13) October 7, 2023
Watch list Grandville 38, Caledonia 34 Grandville (6-1) will play Rockford this week for a share of the Ottawa-Kent Conference Red title after quarterback Cash Ruff put the Bulldogs on his shoulders (and legs) during the fourth quarter. He ran for the winning points during the final seconds as Grandville avenged two losses last season to the Fighting Scots (5-2).
On the move Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern 23, Lowell 20 In an O-K White filled with contenders, FHN (5-2) quietly has joined them and with this win guaranteed its best record since 2018 with a chance to break up the title race even more after taking the Red Arrows (5-2) out of a four-way tie for first. Muskegon 22, Zeeland West 16 The O-K Green is down to just one leader at the top as the Big Reds (5-2) have a game on West (6-1) and Muskegon Mona Shores and only sixth-place Grand Rapids Union and seventh-place Wyoming left on the schedule. Grand Rapids West Catholic 56, Allendale 6 West Catholic (7-0) claimed a share of the O-K Blue title with two games to play as Allendale (5-2), Coopersville and Spring Lake all are tied for second at 3-2 in league play.
HEADLINER Climax-Scotts 58, Mendon 28 After two runner-up league finishes over the last four seasons, including last fall, Climax-Scotts is a champion with this win clinching a share of the Southern Central Athletic Association West title. Mendon (5-2) led by as many as 12 points into the final minute of the first half, but the Panthers (7-0) scored the final six touchdowns to come back and pull away. Click for more from the Kalamazoo Gazette.
— FOX 17 Blitz (@FOX17Blitz) October 7, 2023
Watch list Morrice 44, Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart 13 With one league game left for six of its seven teams, the Mid-State Activities Conference Red has three in first place – Morrice (5-2) creating the jam by handing Sacred Heart (6-1) this defeat. The Orioles, Irish and Portland St. Patrick all are 4-1 in the division, and all play teams in the bottom three of the standings this week.
On the move Alcona 42, Au Gres-Sims 12 Alcona (6-1) plays Rogers City this week for the North Star League Big Dipper title and should have plenty of momentum after handing a first loss to Little Dipper leader Au Gres (6-1). Marcellus 52, Grandville Calvin Christian 0 Marcellus (6-1) dominated the Southwest Michigan 8-Man Football League Red, opening with a 51-18 win over Lawrence, getting a forfeit from Bloomingdale and then defeating second-place Bangor and third-place Calvin Christian (4-3) by a combined 99-0 over the last two weeks. Carson City-Crystal 26, Blanchard Montabella 22 In its first year as part of an 8-player league, Carson City-Crystal (7-0) is a champion with this clinching a share of the MSAC Blue title as Montabella (4-3) moved into a tie for third.
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PHOTOS (Top) Grand Rapids Catholic Central breaks away for a 49-14 win over Ada Forest Hills Eastern. (Middle) Marquette's Jacob MacPhee (1) catches a pass from quarterback Jaxon Jurmu. (Top photo by Michigan Sports Photo. Middle photo by Cara Kamps.)
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.)