Over the next 72 hours, endings will be followed by new beginnings for just about every high school football team in Michigan.
Today and Saturday, the great majority will kick off for the final time this shortened regular season. On Sunday, for the first time, nearly all will be able to begin preparing for the start of this fall's MHSAA Playoffs.
Pairings in 11 and 8-player will be posted to the MHSAA Website during early afternoon Sunday. In the meantime, more than 270 games will be played to help determine those postseason matchups, with more than 60 available to watch on MHSAA.tv; click the link for listings
Below are some of the games you may want to check out in your corner of the state. Find the full schedule and then results this weekend as they’re reported via the MHSAA Score Center.
Bay & Thumb
Midland Dow (4-1) at Midland (5-0)
Dow’s loss last week to Mount Pleasant rubbed some of the luster off this week’s neighborly meet-up with the Chemics. But this could still significantly impact the Saginaw Valley League Blue championship, as Midland is the only team without a league loss – but a Dow win would leave three one-loss teams (along with the Oilers) at the top of the standings. Dow won this matchup 42-7 last season, breaking a three-game losing streak to its rival.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Ortonville Brandon (5-0) at Fenton (5-0), Saline (5-0) at Grand Blanc (4-1), Davison (5-0) at Lapeer (3-2), Clare (5-0) at Sanford Meridian (4-1).
Detroit Loyola (5-0) at Detroit Catholic Central (5-0), Saturday
These teams both have won MHSAA Finals championship over the last 11 seasons, but this Detroit Catholic League Bishop Championship game will pit them against each other for the first time. This is likely a matter of significant difference in enrollment size – the Shamrocks are a Division 1 playoff team, and the Bulldogs will play in Division 7. But they are undefeated champions of the two divisions of largest schools in the league, DCC in the Central and Loyola in the AA, and their past successes no doubt will make this a much-anticipated matchup.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Livonia Churchill (4-1) at Belleville (5-0), Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice (4-1) at Detroit Country Day (3-1), Marine City (5-0) at Pontiac Notre Dame Prep (4-1). SATURDAY Clarkston Everest Collegiate (5-0) vs. Riverview Gabriel Richard (5-0) at Detroit Catholic Central.
Mason (5-0) at Williamston (5-0)
The Bulldogs are attempting to finish a second-straight perfect run through the Capital Area Activities Conference Red. But they’re up against a Williamston team off to its best start since 2014, which is saying something extra given the Hornets’ annual success. This will match strength on strength; Williamston has given up 45 points total (nine per game), while Mason is averaging nearly 38 per contest. The Bulldogs won last year’s meeting 20-9.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Stevensville Lakeshore (4-1) at DeWitt (5-0), Pewamo-Westphalia (5-0) at Lansing Catholic (3-2), Holt (2-2) at Grand Ledge (3-2), Stockbridge (2-3) at Olivet (4-1).
Northern Lower Peninsula
Charlevoix (5-0) at Maple City Glen Lake (4-1)
The Northern Michigan Football Conference Leaders and Legacy championships are up for grabs this weekend, and we’ll focus on the Leaders as the only loss between these two contenders was Glen Lake’s by five to unbeaten Clarkston Everest Collegiate. Glen Lake has won 12 straight league games and three straight championships, and defeated the Red Rayders 42-18 last season when they also met with the title on the line. But a dominant Charlevoix defense could give Glen Lake trouble this time; the Rayders haven’t given up a point over their last two games and only 42 total this fall.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Johannesburg-Lewiston (5-0) at Harbor Springs (3-2), Oscoda (5-0) at Houghton Lake (4-1), East Jordan (3-2) at Frankfort (2-3). SATURDAY Jackson Lumen Christi (2-3) at Traverse City St. Francis (3-2).
Southeast & Border
Addison (5-0) at Grass Lake (4-1)
The Panthers quietly have put themselves in position to clinch a second-straight Cascades Conference championship, outscoring their three league opponents so far by a combined 169-28. Grass Lake trails Addison by a game, thanks to a Week 7 loss to Michigan Center, and also will be looking to avenge last season’s 20-16 defeat that decided the Cascades title.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Chelsea (5-0) at Monroe (4-1), Clinton (4-1) at Hillsdale (4-1), Homer (4-1) and Jonesville (4-1), Brownstown Woodhaven (4-1) at Temperance Bedford (3-2).
Paw Paw (4-1) at Edwardsburg (5-0)
The Wolverine Conference isn’t awarding a championship this season because of the abbreviated schedule, but if it was the title would be coming down to these two again. Paw Paw’s only loss was last week to Detroit Country Day; otherwise the Wolves have again dominated, outscoring their four Wolverine opponents by an average of 48-9. The Eddies, who defeated Paw Paw to claim the league title last year, have yet to be held under 52 points or allow more than 16.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY St. Joseph (4-1) at Battle Creek Lakeview (4-1), Schoolcraft (4-1) at Delton Kellogg (3-2), Saugatuck (3-2) at Lawton (4-1), Portage Northern (4-1) a Kalamazoo Central (2-3).
Marquette (4-1) at Calumet (2-2)
At the end of an unpredictable six weeks in the Upper Peninsula, this could be a much more intriguing game than the records might indicate. These teams recently have been among the best above the Bridge, but in substantially different playoff brackets – Marquette will play in Division 3 and Calumet in Division 6 next weekend. The Copper Kings have played only three games on the field, winning two and losing the third to Kingsford by just a point. Marquette defeated Kingsford 10-0 and also has just one close loss, early to Sault Ste. Marie.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Escanaba (0-2) at Gladstone (2-2), Bark River-Harris (2-2) at L'Anse (1-4), Iron Mountain (5-0) at Manistique (1-3), Gwinn (2-3) at Bessemer (0-4).
Grand Rapids Catholic Central (5-0) at Grand Rapids South Christian (5-0)
These two were frequent league or playoff foes until 2016, when GRCC moved for a few seasons into the Ottawa-Kent Conference Blue. This fall the Cougars moved back into the Gold, and they’ll face the Sailors with the championship on the line. Most notably, both have wins over Cedar Springs, and defensively they’ve given up nearly the same number of points – although GRCC is scoring eight more per game, on average.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Grandville (5-0) at Rockford (3-0), Hudsonville Unity Christian (5-0) at Allendale (3-2), Whitehall (4-1) at Muskegon Oakridge (4-1). SATURDAY Detroit Martin Luther King (3-2) at Muskegon Mona Shores (5-0).
Portland St. Patrick (5-0) at Burr Oak (5-0)
Shortened schedule or not, Burr Oak has a lot to celebrate. The Bobcats have guaranteed a winning season, their second straight and something of a rarity for many year before that. Burr Oak has won all of its games by at least 32 points. But defeating annual power St. Patrick – and by doing so avenging last year's playoff loss – would be the best victory yet.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Morrice (5-0) at Deckerville (4-1), Mayville (5-0) at Kinde North Huron (5-0), Cedarville (4-1) at Rudyard (3-2). SATURDAY Indian River Inland Lakes (5-0) at Merrill (4-1).
PHOTO: Midland pulled away from Saginaw Heritage for a 42-20 win on Sept. 25. (Click to see more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)
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.)