Drive for Detroit: Playoff Week 1 Preview

October 25, 2018

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Everything will seem to speed up from here for 288 Michigan high school football teams beginning their playoff runs this weekend.

Temperatures dip below freezing, practices finish in the dark and urgency is at its utmost this time of year. But soon the reward will come into view – trips to Ford Field for the elite 11-player teams and Superior Dome for the best of the 8-player lineup.

All eight reigning champions and all eight 2017 runners-up are back as 11-player playoffs begin at the District level this weekend. Three of four 8-player finalists from last season, including one champion, are back as those brackets begin at the Pre-Regional level. A total of 125 games will be played tonight, with 19 more Saturday.

In addition to watching live from the stands, there are plenty of opportunity to watch playoff games all over the state either live or later this weekend. FOX Sports Detroit PLUS will bring the Division 7 opener at Kent City against Saugatuck to a live cable audience, and that game joins Haslett at East Lansing and Davison at Oxford to make up this week’s Prep Zone lineup streaming free of charge on and on the FOX Sports app. At least 13 more games will be viewable on, either live with subscription or free after 72 hours.

Below is a glance at a game of particular intrigue in each division. “Drive for Detroit” is powered by MI Student Aid

Division 1

Grosse Pointe South (8-1) at Dearborn Fordson (8-1)

These two make up one side of what might be the strongest District in Division 1 – on the other side Detroit Cass Tech (9-0) takes on Detroit Western (6-3). The Blue Devils won the Macomb Area Conference White for the third straight season and tripped up only Week 9 against Romeo – over the first eight games, they gave up 5.4 points per game. For the second straight regular season, Fordson’s only loss came to undefeated Belleville – and this time by only three points. The Tractors also are one of only four in-state teams to give the Technicians a close game over the last two years – losing by just five in last season’s District Final – but they can’t look past Grosse Pointe South toward a possible rematch.

Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Holland West Ottawa (6-3) at Hudsonville (6-3), Canton (6-3) at Detroit Catholic Central (6-3), Romeo (6-3) at Macomb Dakota (7-2). SATURDAY Brighton (7-2) at East Kentwood (8-1).

Division 2

Birmingham Groves (7-2) at Birmingham Seaholm (7-2)

This is one of those few rematches from Week 9 that crop up for the start of the playoffs every season, and Groves won this neighborly meeting 26-9 last week. But don’t think things can’t change over six days – it happens, and the Oakland Activities Association Blue champion Maples still gave up only 13 points per game during their first winning regular season since 2013. That said, Groves certainly knows how to turn it up in the playoffs. The Falcons are making their sixth straight postseason appearance and lost last year’s opener by just three to Brother Rice after making the Semifinals in 2016.

Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Portage Central (7-2) at Portage Northern (7-2), Warren DeLaSalle (7-2) at Warren Mott (7-2), Walled Lake Western (6-3) at Fenton (7-2), St. Clair Shores Lake Shore (6-3) at Port Huron Northern (8-1).

Division 3

River Rouge (8-1) at Detroit Martin Luther King (7-2)

River Rouge’s enrollment has grown by more than 350 students over the last four years, as the Panthers went from Division 5-runner-up in 2015 to making Division 4 Semifinals the last two years and now playing in Division 3. Rouge’s only loss this fall was Week 1 to Cass Tech 40-7, and King fell by nearly the same score (42-8) to the Technicians in last week’s Detroit Public School League A championship game. The Crusaders also have lots of postseason experience, winning Division 2 in 2015 and 2016 and making the Semifinals last season before losing by a point to eventual champion Warren DeLaSalle. Just as impressive this fall, King’s only other defeat was by three to reigning Division 3 champion Muskegon – which has won 23 straight games and the rest this season by an average of 42 points per.

Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY East Grand Rapids (6-3) at Muskegon (9-0), Battle Creek Central (6-3) at Middleville Thornapple Kellogg (7-2), Garden City (6-3) at Warren Woods Tower (8-1), Haslett (8-1) at East Lansing (8-1).

Division 4

Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood (6-3) at Farmington Hills Harrison (6-3), Saturday

The Harrison watch continues as John Herrington, the winningest coach in state football history, leads the Hawks into their final playoffs with the school closing next summer. After two straight losses, Harrison beat Farmington last week to earn an automatic playoff berth and slotted in Division 4 after finishing runner-up in Division 3 last season. The Cranes might not seem as dangerous as a year ago when they set a school wins record going 10-2. But they moved into the tougher Detroit Catholic League AA this fall, and all three losses this season were by seven or fewer points – and now they’re back in the familiar Division 4 bracket.

Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Paw Paw (7-2) at Three Rivers (8-1), Lake Odessa Lakewood (7-2) vs. Flint Powers Catholic (6-3) at Atwood Stadium, Croswell-Lexington (6-3) at North Branch (7-2), Wyoming Godwin Heights (6-3) at Grand Rapids South Christian (5-4).

Division 5

Grand Rapids West Catholic (5-4) at Hudsonville Unity Christian (7-2)

It’s pretty well-known at this point that West Catholic has won five straight Division 5 titles and made six straight MHSAA Finals. The Falcons had to come back from a 1-3 start this fall and beat Coopersville in Week 9 to earn a shot at becoming an additional qualifier – but keep in mind they won it all in 2013 as an additional qualifier. Unity Christian has looked for a few years like a program inevitably on its way to Ford Field. The Crusaders made the Division 4 Semifinals in 2016 and lost last year’s D4 opener by just six to eventual champion Grand Rapids Catholic Central. They lost out on a share of a league title last week falling to Zeeland East, but both defeats this season came to Division 3 playoff teams – and Unity won three games over teams that made the Division 4 bracket.

Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Berrien Springs (7-2) at Hopkins (8-1), Lansing Catholic (8-1) at Olivet (8-1), Detroit Osborn (6-3) at Detroit Denby (7-2). SATURDAY Clare (8-1) at Manistee (9-0).

Division 6

Michigan Center (8-1) at Grass Lake (8-1)

The Cardinals missed locking up a second straight Cascades Conference championship by less than a touchdown, falling to eventual title winner Grass Lake 14-10 in Week 6. Michigan Center led until the final two minutes – and this rematch should be a welcome opportunity. The Warriors are coming off a 55-7 loss to Division 8 contender Reading a week ago in the Cascades/Big 8 Conference champions crossover, but before that were giving up only 8.8 points per game. It’s easy to anticipate these teams keeping the score low and close again tonight.

Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Ishpeming Westwood (7-2) at Calumet (9-0), Ecorse (7-2) vs. Warren Michigan Collegiate (8-1) at Madison Heights Bishop Foley, Constantine (6-3) at Schoolcraft (7-2), Hemlock (8-1) at Montrose (7-2).

Division 7

Saugatuck (8-1) at Kent City (8-1)

Kent City was a seven-point defeat to unbeaten Lake City from a second straight perfect regular season, and the Eagles get the chance to impress the statewide TV crowd by shutting down an Indians offense averaging nearly 51 points per game. Senior Brad Dunn leads Saugatuck with 2,189 yards and 38 touchdowns rushing, and senior Jacob Stewart (918/13) also could go over 1,000 yards for the season for the reigning Division 7 runner-up – which lost only to Schoolcraft, by a point. Kent City gives up just under 11 points per game and held Lake City to 22 below its final regular-season scoring average in that 14-7 Week 8 loss.

Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Cass City (7-2) at Sandusky (8-1). SATURDAY Harbor Springs (7-2) at Roscommon (8-1), Oscoda (8-1) at Iron Mountain (7-2), Detroit Loyola (6-3) at Madison Heights Bishop Foley (8-1).

Division 8

Pittsford (7-2) at Reading (9-0)

The Rangers have put together strong teams over the years – they’re making their 24th playoff appearance, and the 2008 team reached the Division 7 Semifinals. But it’s a good argument this is Reading’s most impressive team of the playoff era as it outscores opponents 50-4 on average and outscored five playoff-bound teams by an average of 47-7. Pittsford has reasons to be confident too heading into its fifth straight playoffs and seventh in eight seasons. The Wildcats emerged from a four-team league where all four made the playoffs this fall, and their losses both were to playoff-bound teams. Pittsford also beat Waterford Our Lady (see below) big in Week 4 and is giving up only 8.7 points per game this fall.

Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Waterford Our Lady (5-4) at Clarkston Everest Collegiate (8-1), Adrian Lenawee Christian (8-1) at Ottawa Lake Whiteford (9-0), Saginaw Nouvel (6-3) at Harbor Beach (8-1), Mendon (5-4) at White Pigeon (7-2).

8-Player Division 1

Kingston (8-1) at Deckerville (7-2)

Deckerville has played in two straight MHSAA Finals, falling just three points short of the Division 1 title a year ago. The Eagles opened their North Central Thumb League Blue title march this fall with a 36-20 win over Kingston in Week 5, and they’re 10-0 against the Cardinals since the teams began playing each other regularly again in 2010. Kingston this fall tied its most wins since 2006, and a ninth victory would tie a high since 1999 – while also breaking the streak and making the Cardinals instant Division 1 contenders.

Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Battle Creek St. Philip (6-3) at Bellevue (8-1), Genesee (5-4) at Morrice (9-0), Camden-Frontier (5-4) at Colon (8-1).

8-Player Division 2

Crystal Falls Forest Park (5-4) at Powers North Central (8-1)

North Central clinched the Great Lakes Conference West ahead of second-place Forest Park thanks to a 52-28 win Week 6, and that was just the latest meeting between the two with potential championship implications. The Jets downed the Trojans 60-50 in a Regional Final in 2016 on the way to winning the 8-player title, and the Trojans beat the Jets 20-6 in last season’s playoff opener on the way to winning the Division 2 championship. North Central, with its only loss opening night to Engadine, would seem a big favorite this time – but Forest Park is putting up 44 points per game despite giving up 34 and should be comfortable if forced to trade score for score.

Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Rapid River (6-3) at Engadine (8-1), Marion (6-3) at Onekama (7-2), SATURDAY Peck (5-4) vs. Portland St. Patrick (5-4) at Portland.

Second Half’s weekly “Drive for Detroit” previews and reviews 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: Jeremiah Lockhart and Muskegon, here against Reeths-Puffer, are among reigning champions seeking to repeat as playoffs begin this week. (Photo by Tim Reilly.)

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.