By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
We’ve reached the final two weeks of another Michigan high school football season. Our field of 272 teams four weeks ago is down to only 34. And some of these key games are coming down to every last inch and minute.
Six of nine divisions this weekend saw at least one winner emerge by three or fewer points. Edwardsburg and Chelsea went to overtime. Detroit Cass Tech and Saline entered undefeated and ended only a point apart.
See below for a glance at those two games and all 32 11-player Regional Finals and both 8-player Semifinals, with links to media coverage of notable results in each division.
Detroit Cass Tech 43, Saline 42
It was hard to expect more from a matchup of undefeated Division 1 powers than what these two delivered Friday. Cass Tech (12-0) won an incredible seventh straight Regional championship in part on the running of Donovan Johnson, who gained 285 yards and scored four touchdowns on the ground – which balanced out nicely 241 yards and five running scores by Saline’s Connor Hibbard. The Hornets finished 11-1 for the second straight season after winning a third straight District title. Click for more from the Detroit News.
Other Regional Finals:
Detroit Catholic Central 28, Grandville 14 – This run has made it hard to remember that the Shamrocks (12-0) had a rare down year only two years ago, finishing 4-5; Ottawa-Kent Conference Red co-champion Grandville (10-2) was the latest playoff opponent to not come within two touchdowns of DCC, but did finish with its most wins since 1996.
Romeo 41, Clarkston 7 – The reigning Division 1 champion Bulldogs (9-3) needed a little time to really get rolling this fall, but like DCC they’ve also beaten all three playoff opponents by double digits; Clarkston (9-3) did finish two wins better than a year ago.
Utica Eisenhower 42, Southfield Arts & Technology 7 – The Eagles (12-0) have guaranteed their best record since 2003 with their first Regional title since 2011 after a second-straight five-touchdown win this postseason; Southfield Arts & Technology finished its inaugural season a strong 8-4.
Lowell 22, Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central 19
Lowell’s climb against the Rangers wasn’t as steep as when the Red Arrows came back from a 17-point deficit to win their first meeting in Week 7. But Lowell still needed to score last – on a touchdown run by quarterback David Kruse six seconds into the fourth quarter – get ahead of Forest Hills Central for good. The second straight Regional title gave Lowell (12-0) that many wins for the second straight season as well; Forest Hills Central (9-3) finished off one of the best rebound runs statewide after going 2-7 in both 2014 and 2015. Click for more from the Grand Rapids Press.
Other Regional Finals:
Walled Lake Western 61, Fenton 21 – The Warriors (11-1) scored their season high to win a second straight Regional title and end a nine-game winning streak for Flint Metro League champion Fenton (9-3).
Detroit Martin Luther King 21, Temperance Bedford 7 – The reigning Division 2 champion Crusaders (10-2) have beaten all of their playoff opponents this time by at least 14; Bedford (9-3) gave King one of its closest games and finished five wins better than a year ago.
Birmingham Groves 44, Grosse Pointe South 10 – Groves (11-1) earned its first Regional title and attained 11 wins for the first time as well, running for 428 yards led by Ernest Allen’s 157 and Collin Heard’s 101; South (8-4) improved a win from last year and doubled its total from only two years ago.
Edwardsburg 42, Chelsea 40 (OT)
The Eddies’ substantial run of success this decade now includes a second Regional title in three seasons and the first 12-win season in program history – and Edwardsburg (12-0) earned them by holding off a comeback by Chelsea and stopping a two-point conversion try in overtime. The Eddies’ last Semifinal appearance, in 2014, came in Division 4. Chelsea (11-1) was Division 3 runner-up last season and finished this two-year run a combined 23-3. Click for more from the South Bend Tribune.
Other Regional Finals:
Muskegon 62, Byron Center 7 – The O-K Black champ Big Reds (9-3) won their fourth Regional title in five seasons while ending the winningest season for O-K Green champ Byron Center (10-2) since 2000.
Orchard Lake St. Mary’s 35, DeWitt 28 – The Panthers (10-2) led into the third quarter before St. Mary’s (8-4) outscored them 21-7 in the fourth to win a third straight Regional title.
Dearborn Divine Child 28, Allen Park 21 – The Falcons (10-2) continued another of the state’s great comeback seasons, adding a 10th win and Regional title for the first time since 1985 after going 4-5 a year ago; Allen Park (11-1) finished a win better than last season and with its most since 2004 in winning a second straight District title.
Detroit Country Day 28, Corunna 13
Country Day won its third straight Regional title and fourth in five seasons by holding the Cavaliers to 133 yards of total offense and getting some key tosses from quarterback Jalen Graham (10 of 15 passing for 123 yards and a touchdown). The Yellowjackets (12-0) jumped out to a 21-7 lead and now have their most wins in a season since 1995. Corunna (9-3) continued its climb from 2-7 two seasons ago to 8-2 last year and this fall its most wins since 2002. Click for more from the Oakland Press.
Other Regional Finals:
River Rouge 57, Adrian 20 – The Panthers (11-1) have won their playoff games by 61, 12 and now 37 points on the way to a second straight Regional title; Adrian finished its rebound season 7-5 after three straight 2-7 seasons and four straight with sub-.500 records.
Grand Rapids Catholic Central 34, Escanaba 0 – The Cougars (11-1) are in their first Semifinal since their championship season of 2010 and with their third shutout in four weeks; Escanaba (9-3) can celebrate another jump in its revival after improving from 5-5 a year ago with its most wins since 1989.
Hudsonville Unity Christian 36, Lake Odessa Lakewood 16 – The Crusaders’ first Regional title came in part on the legs of running back Alec Headley, who averaged 16.1 yards per carry gaining 177 of 424 rush yards total for Unity Christian (10-2); Lakewood’s winningest season ended at 10-2 as well.
Frankenmuth 28, Ithaca 20
Frankenmuth (11-1) won its first Regional title since 1997 by handing Ithaca (11-1) only its third loss over the team’s last 100 games and first not in an MHSAA championship game since 2009. The Eagles are 48-8 over their last five seasons but had made only one other Regional Final appearance since their last win at that level of the tournament. Three Frankenmuth runners had at least 99 yards on the ground, led by Kris Roche with 161, as the team came back from a 14-0 deficit. Click for more from the Saginaw News.
Other Regional Finals:
Menominee 40, Reed City 14 – The Maroons (11-1) won their fifth Regional title in seven seasons with a fourth straight game scoring 40 or more points; Reed City (11-1) hadn’t given up 40 in a game since its 2014 Regional Final, but did finish with its most wins in a season ever.
Grand Rapids West Catholic 40, Berrien Springs 7 – The Falcons (10-2) have survived three road games to also win a seventh straight Regional title, continuing their travels by ending a third straight playoff season for the Shamrocks (8-3).
Algonac 38, Ida 22 – Last season Ida won its first Regional title; this time Algonac (11-1) celebrated its first Regional championship by downing the Bluestreaks (10-2).
Leroy Pine River 42, Ravenna 14
The mood had to be a little low for Pine River heading into the playoffs coming off two straight losses, but you’d never be able to tell. The Bucks (9-3) – also just 4-5 last season – won their first Regional title in a big way over Ravenna (9-3), a traditional power but also a nice comeback story coming off a 3-6 finish in 2015. Click for more from the Big Rapids News.
Other Regional Finals:
Maple City Glen Lake 14, Calumet 0 – The Lakers (10-2) reached 10 wins for the first time since 2001 with their first Regional title since 1996, ending the first 10-win season ever for Calumet (10-2), which was coming off its first District title since 2006.
Millington 22, Detroit Central Collegiate 20 – The Cardinals (11-1) came back from a 20-0 halftime deficit to win their first Regional title since 2010 and third since 2009; Central Collegiate (7-5) capped a third straight playoff season with its most wins since 2010.
Jackson Lumen Christi 49, Napoleon 6 – The Titans (10-2) won their first Regional title since 2009 by ending Napoleon’s winningest season since 2002 and longest playoff run ever at 9-3.
Pewamo-Westphalia 17, Traverse City St. Francis 14
Arguably the most anticipated game statewide this side of Division 1 saw the reigning Division 7 runner-up Pirates (12-0) overcome a second straight undefeated opponent. The Gladiators (11-1) became the first team to hold P-W running back Jared Smith to fewer than 100 yards since his sophomore season two years ago, but the Pirates’ defense held St. Francis to its fewest points since last year’s Regional Final win over Boyne City. Click for more from the Traverse City Record-Eagle.
Other Regional Finals:
Ubly 22, New Lothrop 13 – Make this now the Bearcats’ best season since 2009 as they won their first Regional title and 12 games for the first time since that year; Ubly (12-0) got rushing and receiving touchdowns from Jonathan Brandel as it ended New Lothrop’s seventh straight 10-win season at 10-2.
Cassopolis 51, Concord 14 – The Rangers (11-1) set a program record for wins with their first Regional title by scoring the most points Concord (9-3) had given up since Week 8 of 2014; the Yellowjackets did finish this season with their most wins since 2001.
Detroit Loyola 36, Hudson 13 – The Bulldogs (10-2) attained a sixth straight 10-win season by beating a third league champion in three playoff games; Hudson (10-2) had won a share of the Lenawee County Activities Association title and was making its first Regional Final appearance since 2011.
St. Ignace 14, Norway 12
The Saints (11-1) have had only two other close games this season, but secured their second straight Regional title relying on a defense that has given up only 131 points this season and only 38 over three playoff games. Norway, playing for its first Regional title since 2006, also shined defensively holding down a St. Ignace offense averaging 42 points per game heading into the day. The Knights finished 9-3, making a significant jump from 2-7 a year ago. Click for more from the Sault Ste. Marie Evening News.
Other Regional Finals:
Muskegon Catholic Central 35, Frankfort 0 – The reigning Division 8 champion Crusaders (12-2) earned their second straight shutout of the playoffs by holding Frankfort (11-1) scoreless for the first time since 2013.
Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary 28, Royal Oak Shrine 7 – The Cardinals (10-2) clinched a third-straight 10-win season and second Regional title in three seasons; Shrine (9-3) did accomplish a nice bounce-back from 4-5 last season to win its first District title since 2008.
Ottawa Lake Whiteford 38, Climax-Scotts 18 – These two have met two straight postseasons as undefeated teams, and Whiteford (12-0) has won both meetings; the Bobcats made up for three turnovers by getting 100-plus yards rushing from both Logan Murphy and Jesse Kiefer and holding Climax-Scotts (11-1) to its fewest points since the teams met in the same round a year ago.
Powers North Central 62, Pickford 22
The reigning champion Jets (12-0) earned their return to the MHSAA Final with 40 first-half points and 506 total yards while possessing the ball only 14 minutes. Running back Bobby Kleiman gained 123 yards on only eight carries, scoring three time on the ground, and also caught three passes for 98 yards and a score. The Panthers did finish their winningest season since 1991 at 10-2. Click for more from the Iron Mountain Daily News.
Deckerville 36, Wyoming Tri-unity Christian 6
The Eagles won a matchup of undefeated teams to set up another this weekend, handing Tri-unity Christian (11-1) its first and only loss of the fall. Deckerville (11-0) was held to its fewest points since Week 1, but still hasn’t allowed an opponent to score more than 12 this season. The Eagles had fallen in Semifinals the last two seasons. Click for more from the Huron Daily Tribune.
PHOTO: Pewamo-Westphalia running back Jared Smith breaks into an opening as Traverse City St. Francis defenders converge. (Click to see more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)
DETROIT – Isaiah Marshall took a second Sunday night to think about the interception he’d just thrown that led to Belleville taking a late lead in the Division 1 Football Final.
But just a second.
When Marshall and his Southfield Arts & Technology teammates took the field down four points with 4 minutes, 47 seconds remaining at Ford Field, the interception wasn’t on his mind. Neither was the raucous Belleville crowd that had awoken on the home side of the stadium.
He wasn’t thinking about stopping a three-peat or snapping a 38-game Belleville win streak. He wasn’t thinking about the talk he’d heard during the week leading up to the game, that his team was on its way to getting blown out like so many of those previous 38 opponents.
All Marshall was focused on was doing his job.
“As soon as I threw the pick, I knew what I had to do differently,” Marshall said. “I just wasn’t thinking about that last play. As soon as I threw the pick, I just thought about it on the bench, then as soon as I came out, it wasn’t on my mind at all. I just knew I had to go down the field and score.”
Like he had all night, Marshall came through when the Warriors needed him most, leading his team on a 69-yard scoring drive, finishing the final 11 with his legs for the go-ahead score in Southfield A&T’s 36-32 victory against Belleville.
His defense finished the rest, as Dorian Freeman intercepted a pass during the final seconds, sealing the first Finals title for Southfield.
“It’s special,” A&T coach Aaron Marshall said. “It’s special for the community. It’s a long time coming. All week I’ve been getting calls from guys I’ve never met just congratulating the boys on making it. We had never even made it to the championship game, let alone won one. It’s real big for the community. I’m really proud.”
To do it, the Warriors needed to overcome the team that has dominated Division 1 for the past three seasons in Belleville (13-1). The Tigers had won the past two Division 1 Finals, and hadn’t dropped a game since Sept. 10, 2021.
They entered Sunday having outscored opponents this fall by an average of 49-7. They also featured the nation’s No. 1 recruit in the Class of 2025 in quarterback Bryce Underwood.
But Sunday, none of that mattered to Marshall and the Warriors (13-1). Well, except maybe the last part.
“Just a little bit,” Marshall said when asked if he was out to prove he was the state’s top quarterback. “I do think I’m the best player in the state. Me proving that tonight, and showing what I can do on the big stage shows that, I think.”
He finished the night completing 20 of 31 passes for 281 yards with two touchdowns, as well as two interceptions. He also rushed for 134 yards and the go-ahead score, as well as the two-point conversion that put his team up four.
“He came out there and played like I thought he was going to play,” said Belleville star linebacker and running back Jeremiah Beasley, who has committed to Michigan. “He’s a real tough player. Since we were little, he’s always been tough. He came out there and played with all his heart, and they came out on top.”
Underwood certainly had his moments, finishing 11 for 24 for 164 yards and a touchdown to go along with one interception. He also had five rushes for 39 yards.
And A&T was certainly cognizant of what Underwood could do, especially when he got the ball back with 47 seconds to play and a chance to take the lead. But by playing coverage, they didn’t allow the Tigers to push the ball down the field, and eventually pressure from senior defensive tackle Reggie Gardner forced the throw that Freeman intercepted to clinch the game.
“My coaches just told me to spy the quarterback, and whatever he did, I would go,” Freeman said. “Then it was just right in my zone.”
A&T led for most of the game, getting a pair of rushing touchdowns from Mathias Davis during the first half, the second score giving them a 12-7 lead.
After a 31-yard field goal from Belleville’s Brayden Lane made the score 12-10, Marshall engineered an 80-yard drive over the final three minutes of the second quarter to give his team a 10-point lead at the half. He accounted for 79 of the 80 yards with either his legs or his arm, finishing it off with a 13-yard TD pass to Tashi Braceful with 13 seconds remaining in the half. Braceful finished the night with 10 catches for 152 yards.
The Warriors nearly added to that halftime lead, as well, recovering a squib kick at the Belleville 43. Marshall hit Tyjuan Esper for a 38-yard gain on the next play, but he was tackled as the first-half clock expired.
Early in the third quarter, Marshall and the Warriors did stretch their lead when he threw a 19-yard TD pass to Xavi Bowman on a 4th-and-14. DaMario Quarles’ conversion run put them up 28-10 with 3:39 to play in the third quarter.
Of course, Belleville didn’t go away.
The Tigers responded immediately with a 45-yard TD pass from Underwood to Jalen Johnson. And after stopping Marshall on a 4th-and-2 run near midfield, they needed just three plays and 30 seconds to pull within three points of the lead as Beasley scored on a 15-yard run.
On the next A&T possession, Marquis Peoples put Belleville right back in business with an interception that he returned to the 35-yard line. Beasley again cashed in three plays later, with a 22-yard TD run that gave Belleville a 33-27 lead with 4:47 remaining.
Beasley finished the night with 106 yards and the two touchdowns on the ground.
“He’s a senior ball player; he did exactly what he was supposed to do,” Belleville coach Calvin Norman said of Beasley. “He came through in the clutch. When he ran the ball, he did his thing. I have nothing but love for the young man.”
Belleville cornerback Adrian Walker made one of the more remarkable plays of the weekend late in the first quarter, intercepting a Marshall pass deep in A&T territory.
Walker got both hands on the pass, deflecting it up and toward himself as he was spinning up the field. The ball went over his head and Walker reached behind his back to make the catch at the A&T 26.
Four plays later, Belleville was on the board with a 16-yard Colbey Reed touchdown run, and the Tigers led 7-6.
PHOTOS (Top) Southfield A&T quarterback Isaiah Marshall stretches for the game-winning touchdown during Sunday’s Division 1 Final. (Middle) The Warriors ended the night by raising their first championship trophy. (Below) Belleville’s Adrian Walker (2) makes a stunning behind-the-back interception. (Photos by Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)