Drive for Detroit: Playoff R1 Preview

October 28, 2016

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor 

The 42nd MHSAA Football Playoffs begin tonight with most of this season’s 272 qualifiers taking the field across both peninsulas and nine divisions.

And there certainly is an air of familiarity in these first-round matchups.

This week’s Drive for Detroit preview – powered by MI Student Aid – touches on five games of intrigue in every division, including a number of rematches of meetings from earlier this season – or in the case of our top Division 1 contest, a rematch of a league title-deciding game played only a week ago.

Division 1

Rockford (6-3) at Hudsonville (8-1)

There isn’t much to say that hasn’t been over the last week. These teams met seven days ago, with Hudsonville claiming a 14-7 win to create a three-way championship in the Ottawa-Kent Conference Red between the Eagles, former lone leader Rockford and Grandville. These two also met in the playoffs the last three seasons; Rockford avenged a one-point Week 9 loss a year ago by beating Hudsonville 21-13 for a District title.

Others that caught my eye: Lapeer (7-2) at Clarkston (7-2), Canton (7-2) at Northville (7-2), Macomb Dakota (6-3) at Clinton Township Chippewa Valley (6-3), Dearborn Fordson (8-1) at Detroit Cass Tech (9-0) on Saturday.

Division 2

Traverse City West (6-3) vs. Traverse City Central (8-1) at Thirlby Field

These neighbors will meet at their shared stadium for the first time in the playoffs, and in front of a crowd that could approach 10,000. Central’s 10-8 win over West in Week 3 ended up giving the Trojans’ a one-win edge over the Titans for the Big North Conference championship. West has lost three in a row to Central, and went on this season to fall close to Benton Harbor and then to Coldwater last week. Central’s only defeat was two weeks ago in triple overtime at Birmingham Brother Rice – and this could be close again too with these teams knowing each other so well.

Others that caught my eye: Portage Northern (5-4) at Portage Central (8-1), Flint Carman-Ainsworth (6-3) at Fenton (7-2), Oak Park (6-3) vs. Detroit U-D Jesuit (6-2) at Hazel Park, Birmingham Brother Rice (6-3) at Warren Cousino (8-1).

Division 3

Battle Creek Harper Creek (7-2) 73.222 at Coldwater (7-2)

Coldwater handed Harper Creek its only loss this season in the Interstate 8 Athletic Conference – 19-7 in Week 7 – but then watched the Beavers share the league title as the Cardinals finished third. But with a schedule that included five games against teams with winning records and three wins over playoff qualifiers, Coldwater earned the right to host this week as it looks to build on last season’s Division 3 Semifinal run. Harper Creek, meanwhile, is back in the playoffs after going 3-6 a year ago and has secured its best record since 2013.

Others that caught my eye: Zeeland West (7-2) at Grand Rapids Christian (8-1), Zeeland East (6-3) at Byron Center (8-1), St. Joseph (6-3) at Stevensville Lakeshore (6-3), East Lansing (6-3) at DeWitt (8-1).

Division 4

Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood (7-2) at Detroit Country Day (9-0), Saturday

Successful in many sports, Cranbrook Kingswood hasn’t had the same kind of long-standing championship tradition in football – but has put together a 22-8 record over the last three seasons under coach Joe D’Angelo, who earned most of his 222 career wins at Detroit Country Day from 1977-97. These two met in the District Final a year ago and Country Day won 42-7. The Yellowjackets dominated most of this fall too but have had to work through close wins the last two weeks against Detroit U-D Jesuit and Temperance Bedford.

Others that caught my eye: Allendale (7-2) at Wyoming Kelloggsville (8-1), Grand Rapids South Christian (5-4) at Benton Harbor (9-0), Flint Powers Catholic (5-4) at Lake Fenton (8-1), St. Clair Shores South Lake (7-2) at Marysville (9-0).

Division 5

Grand Rapids West Catholic (7-2) at Lansing Catholic (8-1)

A rematch of a Division 5 Semifinal from last season kicks off opening night, with more familiar faces on the Falcons’ side but offensive weapons of similar skills leading both. Quarterback Gaetano Vallone and running back/previous quarterback David Fox are the recognizable names from last year’s playoff run, while Lansing Catholic quarterback Michael Lynn has stepped in this season to provide similar run/pass dual threat ability. West Catholic is coming off a tough three-point loss to Allendale last week that cost the Falcons an outright O-K Blue title, and they face the prospect of three road games to get back to the Semifinals. Lansing Catholic’s only loss was by a point in Week 4 to rival Portland, which plays on the other side of this District bracket.

Others that caught my eye: Clare (8-1) at Remus Chippewa Hills (8-1), Saginaw Swan Valley (6-3) at Freeland (9-0), Buchanan (5-3) 56.069 at Dowagiac (6-3), Algonac (8-1) 81.667 at Detroit Denby (8-1).

Division 6

Watervliet (7-2) at Jackson Lumen Christi (7-2)

Watervliet has scored at a school record-setting pace the last two seasons, averaging 52 points per game in 2015 and 55 this fall – with 30 and 58 in its losses. The Panthers will get the chance to see how that prowess transfers against an opponent that’s seen and contained its share of strong offenses. The Titans have given up just fewer than 17 points per game against a schedule that’s included four playoff teams and a couple more that contended for bids.

Others that caught my eye: Montague (7-2) at Kent City (7-2), Montrose (6-3) at Laingsburg (8-1), Constantine (6-3) at Schoolcraft (9-0), Boyne City (6-3) at Calumet (8-1) on Saturday.

Division 7

Madison Heights Madison (6-3) vs. Detroit Loyola (7-2), Saturday at Hazel Park

Neither of these teams would be a surprise finalist at Ford Field next month; Loyola is a regular on championship weekend and claimed a Detroit Catholic League AA title this fall, while Madison shared the Macomb Area Conference Silver title with teams playing in the Division 3 and Division 4 brackets. The Bulldogs have reached the Semifinals each of the last four seasons, while Madison is seeking its first run that deep since 2007 – but has played in Division 5 and 6 over the last decade. 

Others that caught my eye: Gwinn (6-3) at Iron Mountain (7-2), Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker (7-2) at Ubly (9-0), Springport (7-2) at Concord (7-2), Clinton (6-3) at Sand Creek (8-1).

Division 8

Saginaw Nouvel (6-3) at Breckenridge (9-0)

Breckenridge already has achieved the most incredible turnaround in MHSAA playoff-era history, becoming the first team to from 0-9 (in 2015) to 9-0. The Huskies have accomplished this following a sophomore quarterback who should keep the program rolling forward. Nouvel, meanwhile, has played itself into a sixth playoff berth over the last seven seasons, with a big win over Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart in Week 9 getting the Panthers back in the hunt. The Irish are the only common opponent between the two; Nouvel won 35-7, while Breckenridge won 40-32 but way back in Week 3 as it was just starting to catch stride.

Others that caught my eye: Mendon (7-2) vs. St. Joseph Lake Michigan Catholic (8-1) at Bridgman, Pittsford (6-3) at Morenci (6-3), Iron River West Iron County (6-3) at Norway (7-2), Clarkston Everest Collegiate (7-2) at Waterford Our Lady (6-3) on Saturday.


Lawrence (8-1) at Wyoming Tri-unity Christian (9-0) at Wyoming Lee

Tri-unity Christian is welcomed to its first playoffs tonight by having to face 2014 champion Lawrence – but should feel pretty good about that match-up after downing the Tigers 53-14 in Week 7. That was Lawrence’s only loss, and it’s beaten two other playoff teams over the last four weeks. But the Tigers must score; their 14 points against the Defenders were the most given up this season by Tri-unity, which is allowing only 4.7 points per game.

Others that caught my eye: Cedarville (6-3) at Engadine (9-0). Owendale-Gagetown (8-1) at New Haven Merritt (9-0).

Second Half’s weekly “Drive for Detroit” previews are powered by MI Student Aid, a part of the Student Financial Services Bureau located within the Michigan Department of Treasury. MI Student Aid encourages students to pursue postsecondary education by providing access to student financial resources and information, including various student financial assistance programs to help make college more affordable for Michigan students. MI Student Aid administers the state’s 529 savings programs (MET/MESP) and eight additional aid programs within its Student Scholarships and Grants division. Click for more information and connect with MI Student Aid on Facebook and Twitter @mistudentaid. 

PHOTO: St. Joseph will kick off its ninth playoff appearance over the last 11 seasons tonight against Stevensville Lakeshore, which beat the Bears 31-12 in Week 4. (Click to see more from

Ubly Offense, Kicker Pile Up Record Book Listings During Championship Run

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

April 12, 2024

Ubly finished a combined 27-1 over the last two seasons, following up a Division 8 runner-up run in 2022 with its first MHSAA Finals championship this past November. And the Bearcats stacked plenty of record book performances along the way.

Individually, senior Brett Mueller made the single-season extra point list again this past season with 76 in 81 tries, and he set the MHSAA career record with 220 extra points over 232 attempts, 40 games and three seasons. He has signed with Saginaw Valley State.

As a team, Ubly was added to the record book 13 times for achievements over the last two years, most notably in the rushing game. The Bearcats topped 5,200 total yards both seasons, and also made the rush yardage list twice including with a sixth-best 5,148 in 2022. Their 90 touchdowns in 2022 rank seventh all-time, and their 85 this past fall tied for 13th, and they tied the record with 10 rushing touchdowns in a 2022 win over Reese and set another record with 84 rushing touchdowns total that season.

See below for more recent record book additions in 11-player football, and click the heading to see the record book in full:

11-Player Football

Dundee’s Ben Miller has a pair of basketball record book entries, and he’s also been added in football for scoring seven touchdowns in his team’s 72-36 win over Erie Mason on Oct. 20, 2017. A senior that season, he ran for five scores and caught two touchdowns passes.

Nearly four decades later, Howard City Tri County’s Mike Wagoner has reached the record book for his work on defense in 1985. A junior that season, Wagoner returned three interceptions for touchdowns – 65, 55 and 35 yards – which would have been second on the list at the time and remains tied for third-most for one season.

Jaxon Lippert tops the list of 21 who have returned kickoffs 99 yards. Lippert, now a senior at Walled Lake Western, joined the list against Davison during his junior season.

A handful of records from Warren De La Salle Collegiate’s recent run of Ford Field teams and also one from decades ago were added. Jake Badalamenti was added three times for kickoff returns between 96-99 yards, one as a junior in 2016 and two as a senior the following fall, and Marty Wyzlic was added for his 95-yarder in 1976. Mason Muragin is the new leader for tackles for loss in a career with 71 over three seasons, and he also was added to the single-season list with 31 as a junior in 2021, as was Will Beasley for 38 as a junior in 2020. Wayne Wright was added for his 16 sacks over nine games as a senior in 1984, and Josh Cox was added for his 100-yard interception return as a senior in 2012. Muragin plays at Illinois, Beesley plays at Princeton, Cox played at Central Michigan, and Badalamenti played baseball at Wayne State.

Pinckney junior Nolan Carruthers caught 16 passes during a 13-7 loss to Jackson on Sept. 15, good to tie for ninth-most in one game and breaking the Livingston County record of 14 by Hartland’s Greg Matthyssen in 2007 – a listing that also was added.

Ethan Wissner did some major lifting, or rather carrying, during Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker’s 28-14 District Final win over Montrose in 2022. The then-senior ran 42 times to make the record book, for 289 yards and three touchdowns. He’s continuing at Siena Heights.

Senior quarterback Andrew Schuster and junior receiver DeShaun Lanier formed a game-changing pass-catch combo this past season for Clinton Township Chippewa Valley, with Schuster finishing his career with nine record book listings and Lanier totaling six with a season to play. Schuster most notably was added for 212 completions on 301 attempts for 2,766 yards and 28 touchdowns this season, and 321 completions and 4,199 career yards over two years and 22 games. Lanier was added in part for 73 receptions for 1,132 yards and 15 TDs this fall. Junior kicker Juliano Haddad also earned impressive mentions with 10 field goals and 50 extra points – and he’ll carry a streak of 35 straight extra points into next fall. Schuster has committed to Grand Valley State.

Fulton’s Evan Barton has been added to the single-game touchdowns list after catching four scoring passes Sept. 8, 2017, against Potterville. He was a senior that season.

Saginaw Heritage’s Braylon Isom completed his career this past fall as arguably the most accomplished receiver in MHSAA history. His name is listed in the record book eight times, with career records of 3,837 receiving yards and 52 touchdowns over 34 games and four seasons, and with a single-season record 26 touchdowns this past fall over 12 games. His 91 career receptions rank fifth, and he’s also listed for 82 catches and 1,617 yards (seventh-most) as a senior and 1,428 yards and 18 touchdowns as a junior. He will continue at Miami (Ohio).

Evart’s 24-8 run over the last three seasons has been its most successful of the MHSAA playoff era, and senior quarterback Preston Wallace has played an enormous part. He finished his 33-game career in the fall – he came up for one game as a freshman – on record book lists twice for single-season passing yards and touchdowns and on career lists for 662 attempts, 421 completions, 6,955 yards and 88 passing touchdowns over those 32 games and three seasons. The yardage ranks 15th all-time, and the touchdowns are tied for sixth-most for one career.  

The 2005 Midland Bullock Creek team was added for scoring 547 points over 12 games. The Lancers finished 11-1, their only loss in a Division 5 Regional Final.

PHOTO Ubly's Seth Maurer (30) carries the ball during the Division 8 championship win over Ottawa Lake Whiteford in November.