The sun is setting – and lately, a ton of rain has been falling – on the 2023 football regular season.
Week 8 saw most of the rest of the remaining league championships decided, and tons of movement up and down the list of potential playoff qualifiers as 20 teams moved into (and 20 out of) the possible field of 288.
Several more teams moved up and down their respective division lists, nearly as important as projections of which teams will be going where and which will be hosting playoff games begin to fly with more frequency this week and we draw closer to Sunday's 6 p.m. "Selection Sunday Show" on Bally Sports Detroit Extra.
Below is our latest look at the most recent results that caused notable shifts in the landscape.
Bay & Thumb
HEADLINER Davison 35, Grand Blanc 21 Davison clinched a share of the Saginaw Valley League Red championship, moved to 8-0 overall this season and jumped three spots back to No. 3 on the Division 1 playoff-points average list. That’s a strong haul from a third-straight win over the Cardinals’ biggest rival, but their regular-season work isn’t done yet. Grand Blanc (5-3) still could end up with a share of the Red title if Lapeer is able to catch Davison this week. Click for more from WJRT.
Watch list Ubly 42, Cass City 8 After reaching Ford Field two of the last three season, Ubly (8-0) appears locked in for another run. The Bearcats won this matchup of Greater Thumb Conference division champions to jump to a season-best No. 3 on the Division 8 playoff-points average list. Cass City (6-2) remains firmly in the middle of the Division 7 list.
On the move Harbor Beach 18, Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker 6 Its only loss to Ubly, Harbor Beach (7-1) further set itself up for a possible playoff rematch with this win over the Division 7 hopeful Lakers (4-4). Midland 41, Lapeer 24 Midland (5-3) has been a mainstay on the Division 2 playoff-points average list but firmed up its position with its best win this season, as Lapeer also is 5-3. Saginaw Swan Valley 14, Birch Run 10 A three-game winning streak has Swan Valley (5-3) up to No. 18 on the Division 5 playoff-points average list after sitting just outside the top 32 after Week 3. Birch Run (5-3) remains No. 4 on the same list.
HEADLINER Detroit Cass Tech 24, Detroit Martin Luther King 23 Cass Tech (6-2) finished a season sweep of its rival to complete a Detroit Public School League Blue championship. Five of the last six meetings between these PSL powers have been decided by seven points or fewer, and Corey Sadler Jr. was a difference maker in several ways as the Technicians firmed up their position in the Division 1 playoff field. King (4-4), meanwhile, moved up in Division 3 as well. Click for more from the Detroit Free Press.
Check out the moments from Detroit Cass Tech's victory over King in the Detroit Public School League Blue Division Championship game on October 13th, 2023! Watch as Mr. Football candidate Corey Sadler Jr. showcases his skills with a touchdown pass and run in the nail-biting 24-23… pic.twitter.com/arhssBMuGA
— STATE CHAMPS! Michigan (@statechampsmich) October 15, 2023
Watch list Gibraltar Carlson 20, Allen Park 18 Carlson (7-1) has guaranteed itself at least a share of the Downriver League championship for the third straight season and can claim it outright for the first time during this streak this week against Lincoln Park. In handing Allen Park (7-1) its only loss, the Marauders capitalized with a five-position boost to No. 2 on the Division 2 playoff-points average list.
On the move Detroit Denby 29, Detroit Central 28 Denby (8-0) played by far its closest game of an otherwise dominating run to earn the PSL Blue championship. Central (4-4), which also lost to Denby 38-24 in Week 4, is one of only two opponents to score on Denby this fall. Northville 28, Novi 14 The winner-take-all for the Kensington Lakes Activities Association East title went to Northville (8-0), which continued its ascension after finishing second in the league a year ago and 3-6 in 2021. Novi (6-2), similarly, has guaranteed its best finish since 2016. West Bloomfield 31, Southfield Arts & Technology 20 In handing the Warriors (7-1) their only loss, West Bloomfield was able to nearly switch spots with A&T on the Division 1 playoff-points average list – the Lakers moved from No. 11 to 7, and Southfield moved from No. 4 to 11.\
HEADLINER Mason 30, Walled Lake Western 7 Walled Lake Western was top-ranked and Mason tied with Zeeland West for No. 2 in last week’s Division 3 coaches poll, but Mason (8-0) didn’t allow a point after the first quarter while its offensive stars found their footing including senior running back AJ Martel a week after setting the school’s career rushing record. Walled Lake Western (7-1) remains No. 1 on the Division 3 playoff-points average list, with Mason No. 4 but with another chance to gain this week against Fenton. Click for more from WILX.
Check out the highlights from Mason High School's 30-7 victory over Walled Lake Western! Mr. Football contender had two rushing touchdowns and a blocked FG. Not to be outdone, Cason Carswell and Kaleb Parrish delivered a spectacular duo with two touchdown connections. Delivered… pic.twitter.com/BKoVGgd3AL
— STATE CHAMPS! Michigan (@statechampsmich) October 14, 2023
Watch list Corunna 57, Fenton 7 In commanding fashion, Corunna (8-0) won the Flint Metro League championship game and put itself in position to play for a first perfect regular season since 2002. Fenton (6-2), as noted above, will face another undefeated team in its regular-season finale in Mason.
On the move Portland 41, Lansing Sexton 0 In another dominating performance, Portland (8-0) won this winner-take-all for the Capital Area Activities Conference White championship, stopping Sexton (7-1) and an offense that was averaging 37 points per game. Mount Pleasant 42, Midland Dow 7 After a big Week 1 loss to Saginaw Heritage, Mount Pleasant may have faded from the championship focus a bit – but the Oilers are back in a big way, having clinched the SVL Blue title outright and sitting in the No. 3 spot on the Division 3 playoff-points average list for the second-straight week after putting Dow (4-4) back outside the field at No. 34 in Division 2. Hastings 51, Jackson Northwest 14 Despite a 1-2 start in nonleague play, Hastings (6-2) also has bounced back in a big way and with this win clinched the Interstate 8 Athletic Conference title while moving to No. 8 on the Division 4 playoff-points average list.
Northern Lower Peninsula
HEADLINER Gaylord 24, Jackson Lumen Christi 21 During a stunning season for Gaylord (8-0), and a weekend with plenty of stunners statewide, the Blue Devils made another headline by remaining undefeated while handing Lumen Christi (7-1) its only loss. The reigning Division 7 champion Titans had won 18 straight games going back to September 2022. Click for more from the Petoskey News-Review.
Watch list East Jordan 38, Frankfort 36 This was similarly massive among the small schools up north, as East Jordan (7-1) scored during the closing seconds to take a winner-take-all and its second Northern Michigan Football Conference Legacy title over the last three seasons. Frankfort (6-2) finished second for the third consecutive season.
On the move Benzie Central 28, Maple City Glen Lake 14 A third-straight win sent Benzie (5-3) up six spots on the Division 7 playoff-points average list to No. 15 and Glen Lake (4-4) down seven spots to No. 29 in Division 8. Petoskey 27, Sault Ste. Marie 7 With another tough opponent in Clare this week, there was some added urgency in this matchup for Petoskey – and the Northmen (5-3) jumped eight spots on the Division 3 playoff-points average list to No. 24 while Sault Ste. Marie (5-3) fell six spots in Division 4 to No. 32. Boyne City 28, Oscoda 0 Despite still falling one spot on the Division 6 list to No. 27, Boyne City (4-4) also connected on a must-win as it seeks to reach the playoffs for the 10th time in 12 seasons.
Southeast & Border
HEADLINER Dundee 22, Hudson 16 (OT) After losing to Hudson the last three years by 14, 28 and then 29 points last fall, respectively, Dundee took its opportunity to impact this week’s Lenawee County Athletic Association championship decider between Hudson and Clinton, with Hudson (7-1) now needing a win to share the title instead of winning it outright. More importantly, the Vikings (5-3) also jumped two spots into No. 32 on the Division 5 playoff-points average list. Click for more from the Monroe News.
Watch list Ann Arbor Pioneer 40, Ann Arbor Huron 38 Pioneer, 5-3 this fall after going a combined 2-22 over the last three seasons, had lost three straight to Huron (4-4) including 57-0 a year ago. Thanks to this win, Pioneer also jumped five spots to No. 20 on the Division 1 playoff-points average list.
On the move Chelsea 17, Trenton 14 (OT) Myles Bieber made three field goals for Chelsea (7-1), including one to tie the score with 34 seconds left in regulation and then the game-winner in overtime after Trenton (4-4) threw an interception. Michigan Center 42, Manchester 27 After its league title chances all but ended with a Week 7 loss to Napoleon, Michigan Center (6-2) bounced back to secure second place and move to No. 17 on the Division 6 playoff-points average list while Manchester (6-2) is No. 12 in Division 7. Ottawa Lake Whiteford 45, Union City 7 Whiteford (8-0) won a matchup of league champions and maintained its top spot on the Division 8 playoff-points average list while Union City (6-2) fell to No. 15 on the Division 7 tracker.
HEADLINER Lawton 21, Saugatuck 0 By handing Schoolcraft and Saugatuck (7-1) their only league losses over the last two weeks, Lawton (7-1) secured the Southwestern Athletic Conference Valley championship for the third straight season. Caleb Mallory had two of the Lawton scores, and the Blue Devils stopped a Saugatuck offense averaging 37.3 points per game. See below for more from WZZM.
Watch list Constantine 20, South Haven 0 Constantine (7-1) pushed its SAC Lakeshore winning streak to 20 and its championship streak to five straight with its second shutout in four league games. The Falcons earned a share and can clinch the title outright this week against Parchment, with South Haven (5-3) and Kalamazoo United a game back and hoping for an upset while they also face off.
On the move Berrien Springs 38, Benton Harbor 14 After finishing runner-up last season, Berrien Springs finished an outright championship in the Lakeland Conference and moved up four spots to No. 23 on the Division 5 playoff-points average list. Edwardsburg 34, Vicksburg 20 The Eddies bounced back from two straight losses to keep their playoff hopes alive as they attempt to extend their streak to 14 straight postseasons. After falling out of the top 32 on the Division 4 playoff-points average list in Week 7, the Eddies moved back to No. 30 while Vicksburg fell from No. 30 to 35. Portage Northern 38, Stevensville Lakeshore 17 Coming off a tough loss to rival Portage Central, Northern (7-1) climbed back up the Division 2 playoff-points average list to No. 9, while Lakeshore fell to No. 16 on the Division 3 tracker.
HEADLINER Kingsford 41, Menominee 32 Trailing at halftime, Kingsford (7-1) turned to powerful back Elizin Rouse and followed his historic performance to a share of the Western Peninsula Athletic Conference Copper title in the first season in the league for both teams after previously playing football in the Great Northern Conference. Kingsford is the No. 16 team on the Division 6 playoff-points average list, and Menominee (6-2) fell only to No. 7 in Division 7. Click for more from the Iron Mountain Daily News.
Watch list Bark River-Harris 56, Manistique 14 After falling back as far as No. 38 on the Division 8 playoff-points average list, Bark River-Harris (5-3) has won three straight and is back to No. 26, with Manistique (4-4) still on the bubble in Division 7 at No. 36.
On the move Negaunee 13, Houghton 6 Negaunee (7-1) also secured a share of the Copper title while holding off a potential spoiler in Houghton (2-6). Marquette 28, Cadillac 13 The bounce-back season continued as Marquette (5-2) secured at least second in the Big North Conference with a chance at a league title share if Sault Ste. Marie can catch Gaylord this week. Cadillac (4-4) remains in the postseason running in Division 3 at No. 30 on that playoff-points average list, while Marquette moved up to No. 20. Gladstone 28, Calumet 21 Gladstone (6-2) is back to No. 7 on the Division 6 playoff-points average list, while Calumet (3-5) sits No. 36.
HEADLINER Rockford 34, Grandville 13 Make that five straight Ottawa-Kent Conference Red championships for the Rams (8-0), who clinched a share and can finish an outright title this week against Hudsonville. Grandville (6-2) did give the Rams their closest league game so far, but quarterback Drake Irwin continued to shine with two rushing and two passing touchdowns for Rockford. Click for more from the Grand Rapids Press.
Check out the performance by Rockford as they beat Grandville 34-13 on October 13th, 2023! Mr. Football candidate Drake Irwin scored 4 touchdowns (2 rushing and 2 passing). Delivered by @hungryhowies
Cast your vote for Drake Irwin in the Mr. Football Award Contest at… pic.twitter.com/3H16hMnKe6
— STATE CHAMPS! Michigan (@statechampsmich) October 14, 2023
Watch list Grand Rapids Catholic Central 21, Grand Rapids South Christian 12 A year ago it was South Christian (6-2) winning this matchup and eventually the O-K Gold title, but this time GRCC (7-1) took it back and needs only to defeat winless Ottawa Hills this week to finish an outright championship run.
On the move Byron Center 9, East Grand Rapids 0 Six of eight teams in the O-K White remain .500 or better overall, but Byron Center (7-1) is tied at the top with Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central with one league game left for both and East Grand Rapids (6-2) now tied for third. Muskegon Mona Shore 14, Zeeland West 6 Both are left chasing Muskegon in the O-K Green after both falling to the Big Reds, but from a playoffs point of view this was huge as Mona Shores (6-2) moved up six spots to No. 13 on the Division 2 list and Zeeland West (6-2) fell back only three to No. 13 in Division 3. Montague 24, Manistee 22 Montague (4-4) got a big boost as it bounces back from a 2-4 start, as this win vaulted the Wildcats five spots on the Division 6 list for the second week in a row, this time to No. 16. Manistee fell back only three spots to No. 5 with a possible rematch ahead.
HEADLINER Adrian Lenawee Christian 41, Pittsford 0 It’s been this kind of season for Lenawee Christian (8-0), which for the second time in three weeks handed the first loss to a highly-ranked opponent. Pittsford (7-1) had given up only 54 points total over its seven victories, but the Cougars got to 35-0 by halftime of this Southern Central Athletic Association East clincher. Click for more from the Adrian Daily Telegram.
Watch list Bay City All Saints 47, Akron-Fairgrove 6 The winner would claim the North Central Thumb League Stripes title outright, and All Saints did so – with the championship its first since sharing the Greater Thumb Conference West title in 2003. These two flip-flopped on the Division 2 playoff-points average list, with All Saints (7-1) moving to No. 8 and Akron-Fairgrove (6-2) at No. 13.
On the move Norway 32, Powers North Central 26 The Knights (6-2) clinched a share of the Great Lakes Eight Conference West title with this win over the reigning champion Jets (6-2). Pickford 60, Newberry 52 Tommy Storey made the record book multiple times in leading Pickford to this outright clincher in the GLEC East, as Newberry (6-2) fell to third. Alcona 66, Rogers City 0 Alcona (7-1) claimed the North Star League Big Dipper title outright after losing by 16 to finish second to Rogers City (4-4) a year ago.
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PHOTOS (Top) Detroit Cass Tech celebrates during its PSL Gold championship win at Ford Field. (Middle) Davison defenders swarm during their win over Grand Blanc. (Below) An Otsego rusher charges into the line during a rainy 47-6 win by Paw Paw. (Top photo by Olivia B. Photography, middle photo by Terry Lyons, below photo by Gary Shook.)
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.)