By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Whether your team's preferred final destination is Ford Field in Detroit or the Superior Dome in Marquette, the first steps will be taken this weekend during 144 MHSAA Playoff games across both peninsulas.
Someone's season is on the line in every game from here on out, and below we take a glance at a matchup in each division that is especially notable during these first rounds of the 11 and 8-player tournaments.
Don't let a little cool weather keep you out of the stands and supporting your favorite team at this most exciting time of year. But if you choose to stay in, take in one or more of the 30 games being broadcast on FOX Sports Detroit Prep Zone or MHSAA.tv. Click for listings and check back with MHSAA.com all weekend for scores and updated brackets.
"Drive for Detroit" is sponsored by MI Student Aid.
Saline (8-1) at Belleville (9-0), Saturday
This is the most power-packed opener in any division, with both teams making Division 1 Semifinals a year ago. Both have faced four playoff teams this fall, and the only loss between them was Saline’s Week 1 defeat against reigning champion Clinton Township Chippewa Valley. The Hornets are familiar with this time of year with six District titles over the last seven seasons and a Division 1 runner-up finish in 2014. But Belleville has seemed on the verge of a Ford Field run with now three straight perfect regular seasons and, like Saline, all but one of its wins this fall by double digits.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Brighton (7-2) at Holt (7-2), Davison (7-2) at Romeo (7-2), Rochester Adams (7-2) at Utica Eisenhower (7-2), Detroit Cass Tech (5-4) at Grosse Pointe South (7-2).
Muskegon Mona Shores (7-2) at Midland (8-1)
This is a rematch of a 2018 Division 2 Semifinal won by the Sailors 49-28. Both of these teams were stung late this fall but should be dangerous again with fresh starts that come with the playoffs. Mona Shores, which went on last season to finish D2 runner-up, has losses to two league champions including big to rival Muskegon High two weeks ago in a matchup that determined the Ottawa-Kent Conference Black title. Midland was defeated by a similar score last week by rival Midland Dow as the two shared the Saginaw Valley League Red title. The winner of this District opener could see Dow next week – the Chargers take on Big North Conference champion Traverse City Central on the other side of the District bracket.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY South Lyon (8-1) at Fenton (8-1), Farmington (7-1) at Oak Park (8-1), Port Huron (6-3) at Port Huron Northern (8-1). SATURDAY Detroit U-D Jesuit (6-3) at North Farmington (9-0).
DeWitt (7-2) at East Lansing (7-2)
This is one of the most highly-anticipated rematches of the first week, with these two and Holt having shared the Capital Area Activities Conference Blue title, and with the Panthers and Trojans finishing with the same playoff point average – East Lansing got the home game because of its 21-2 win over DeWitt in Week 5. Minus that performance, the Panthers averaged 39.6 points per game this fall – so expecting another all-out shutdown by the Trojans’ defense might be an unfair ask. But DeWitt’s defense also will have to deliver, as East Lansing’s offense (32.7 ppg) is scoring at its highest pace in decades.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Lowell (5-4) at East Grand Rapids (6-3), Zeeland East (5-4) at Zeeland West (8-1), St. Joseph (6-3) at Edwardsburg (9-0), Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice (6-3) at Flint Kearsley (7-2).
Sparta (8-1) at Muskegon Orchard View (9-0)
Both of these teams have enjoyed banner seasons. Orchard View posted its first winning record since 2014, earned its first playoff berth since 2008, won the Lakes 8 Conference title and finished the regular season perfect for the first time since 2005. Sparta made the playoffs for the first time since 2013, tying its most wins since 2011 with its best regular-season record since 2006. The Spartans finished second in the O-K Blue to Grand Rapids Catholic Central, which faces Allendale on the other side of this District bracket. Orchard View did beat five playoff teams on the way to the playoffs. But comparing their lone shared opponent, Sparta downed playoff qualifier Spring Lake 38-3 in Week 3 after Orchard View defeated the Lakers 22-17 on opening night.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Fowlerville (6-3) at Goodrich (7-2), North Branch (7-2) at Pontiac Notre Dame Prep (8-1), Ortonville Brandon (7-2) at St. Clair (8-1).
Almont (9-0) at Richmond (8-1)
This is a rare occurrence; Almont defeated Richmond in Week 7 28-10 and went on to win the Blue Water Area Conference title outright while closing out its second-straight perfect regular season. However, the Blue Devils’ nonleague opponents both made the playoffs, and the bonus for playing those teams was enough to push Richmond past Almont into a home game this week. The Raiders, however, also won the first Richmond game this fall on the road, and their annually-awesome defense continues to play anywhere. Almont has given up 69 points this fall – 39 over five home games and 30 over four away. But take away the first Almont matchup, and Richmond is averaging a robust 33.5 points per game.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Central Montcalm (7-2) at Portland (7-2), Olivet (8-1) at Lansing Catholic (8-1), Reed City (6-3) at Kingsley (9-0), Kalamazoo United (5-4) at Berrien Springs (8-0).
Menominee (6-3) at Ishpeming Westwood (7-2), Saturday
Menominee is the smallest of Great Northern Conference schools and will play in Division 6 this playoffs after years in Division 4 and then Division 5. That has the Maroons matching up with many of the best from the Western Peninsula Athletic Conference, including Westwood for the first time. The Patriots finished third in the Iron, the strongest of the two West PAC divisions this fall – and they also beat Copper champion Ishpeming 38-0 in Week 4. But Menominee presents an all-new challenge, and the Maroons are on a roll after putting up 48 points last week in handing Division 5 contender Hopkins its only loss this fall.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Lake City (6-3) at Maple City Glen Lake (8-1), Ravenna (7-2) at Muskegon Catholic Central (6-2), Jonesville (6-3) at Hillsdale (9-0), Constantine (7-2) at Niles Brandywine (9-0).
Detroit Loyola (4-4) at Detroit Central (8-1)
While Cass Tech and Martin Luther King always get the bulk of attention out of the Detroit Public School League, Central has earned recognition too winning the PSL Division 3 title and 3/4 championship game. There are seven unbeaten teams in the Division 7 bracket, and they’re getting the most attention. But the Trail Blazers have won eight straight games (including a forfeit) since falling to Dearborn Heights Crestwood in Week 1. Loyola is a deceptive 4-4, considering the high level of competition it faces. A Central win in this one would further announce the Blazers will be tough to beat.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Harbor Springs (6-3) at Charlevoix (6-3), Byron (6-3) at Beaverton (9-0), Centreville (6-3) at Lawton (9-0). SATURDAY Houghton Lake (6-3) at Traverse City St. Francis (6-3).
Addison (7-2) at Sand Creek (7-2)
Both of these teams have faced and will be ready for top competition. Cascades Conference champion Addison is hitting the road to start the playoffs, seeking its first postseason win since 2007 and after closing the regular season against reigning Division 8 champion Reading. Sand Creek tied for second in the Tri-County Conference, but behind undefeated Division 7 contender Clinton and with the same TCC record as annual Division 8 challenger Ottawa Lake Whiteford. The Aggies also finished just ahead of Britton Deerfield thanks to a 50-22 Week 5 win – four weeks after B-D defeated Addison 28-16 to open the season.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Flint Beecher (5-3) at Clarkston Everest Collegiate (8-0), Mendon (7-2) at Reading (8-1), White Pigeon (7-2) at Cassopolis (9-0). SATURDAY Ottawa Lake Whiteford (5-4) at Royal Oak Shrine Catholic (7-2).
Gaylord St. Mary (4-5) at Pellston (8-1)
Pellston is one of three teams statewide making its playoff debut this weekend, boasting its first winning regular-season record since 1995. The Hornets’ only loss was the eventual Midwest Central Michigan Conference East champion Hillman, and they are riding an offense scoring just more than 46 points per game. St. Mary’s story has been well-publicized; the Snowbirds had to forfeit four wins earlier this fall but won their final two games to still make the playoffs. On the field they’ve averaged nearly 58 points per game, making this a likely offensive showdown regardless of the possible wintery weather.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Mesick (7-2) at Kingston (7-2), Bellevue (6-3) at Martin (9-0), New Haven Merritt (8-1) at Morrice (8-1).
Crystal Falls Forest Park (7-2) at Powers North Central (9-0)
One of the best Upper Peninsula rivalries of the last half-decade will play out again after the teams previously met in Week 6 – a 34-8 Jets win that helped lock up the Great Lakes Conference West title. These two have met in the playoffs as well the last three years – and combined for three straight MHSAA Finals championship from 2015-17 – and last year the Trojans avenged a 24-point regular-season loss with a 12-point win over the Jets in Pre-Regional play. The first meeting this fall, North Central contained an offense that otherwise has averaged 51.8 points per game. Not counting a forfeit win last week, the Jets had three shutouts and gave up only six points per game during this regular season.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Engadine (8-1) at Pickford (8-1), Brethren (5-4) at Climax-Scotts (7-2), Kinde North Huron (6-3) at Peck (5-4).
Second Half’s weekly “Drive for Detroit” previews are powered by MI Student Aid, a part of the Office of Postsecondary Financial Planning 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. MI Student Aid administers the state’s 529 college savings programs (MET/MESP), as well as scholarship and grant programs that help make college Accessible, Affordable and Attainable for you. Connect with MI Student Aid at www.michigan.gov/mistudentaid and find more information on Facebook and Twitter @mistudentaid.
PHOTO: North Central clears a pylon for a score during a 54-0 win over Newberry on Oct. 11. (Photo by Jeff Rochefort.)
Five showdowns of undefeated teams highlight this week's Michigan high school statewide schedule as we begin our second-half buildup toward the end of the regular season.
If you're not watching in person, check out most of the matchups highlighted below, and several others, on MHSAA.tv. Check in as well with the MHSAA Scores page for all of them as they come in. (Games below are Friday unless noted.)
Bay & Thumb
Croswell-Lexington (5-0) at Almont (5-0) - Watch
Just past halfway through the Blue Water Area Conference schedule, half the teams are 3-1 or 4-0 in league play – with these the co-leaders. Croswell-Lexington hasn’t played a game closer than 19 points this fall, but did lose last year’s meeting with Almont 37-26. The Raiders, meanwhile, have won the last two weeks by seven and one point, respectively – but opened the season with three straight shutouts as the stifling defense they’ve become known for has given up only 34 points total.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Lapeer (4-1) at Grand Blanc (3-2) - Watch, Linden (4-1) at Fenton (4-1) - Watch, Birch Run (4-1) at Freeland (5-0) - Watch, Madison Heights Lamphere (4-1) at Marine City (4-1).
Westland John Glenn (5-0) at Belleville (5-0) - Watch
Belleville’s 42-3 victory over Livonia Franklin last week was the team’s 30th straight, and the Tigers now own the state’s longest active winning streak with Powers North Central’s coming to an end at 41 on the same night. Belleville’s next challenger is John Glenn, which under second-year coach Jason Mensing has as many victories this fall as the last two combined and has nearly guaranteed its first winning season since 2014. Mensing guided his former team Ottawa Lake Whiteford through several memorable moments, and this will be the Rockets’ biggest so far under his leadership.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Gibraltar Carlson (4-1) at Trenton (4-1) - Watch, Romeo (3-2) at Macomb Dakota (4-1) - Watch, Lake Orion (5-0) at Rochester Adams (3-2) - Watch, Marine City Cardinal Mooney (3-2) at Clarkston Everest Collegiate (3-2) - Watch.
Goodrich (5-0) at Corunna (5-0) - Watch
The winner of this matchup clinches a share of the Flint Metro League Stars championship, similar to last season when Goodrich won the league and Corunna was second thanks to the Martians’ 42-7 win in their Week 5 matchup. Both arguably have been even better this fall. Goodrich has handed the only losses this season to Frankenmuth and Linden, and Corunna has given up only 31 points this season and no more than 17 in a game while scoring at least 38 every time out.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Evart (4-1) at Beal City (5-0) - Watch, Grand Ledge (5-0) at DeWitt (2-2) - Watch, Fowler (5-0) at Pewamo-Westphalia (4-1) - Watch, Montrose (4-1) at New Lothrop (4-1) - Watch.
Northern Lower Peninsula
Charlevoix (4-1) at Elk Rapids (2-3)
There’s more riding here than the initial glance my indicate. Charlevoix, with a win, would clinch a share of the Northern Michigan Football Conference Leaders title – its first since 2020 and after finishing second to Boyne City both of the past two seasons. The Rayders haven’t had a game closer than 13 points since falling to Traverse City St. Francis by one in their season opener. Elk Rapids got off to a tough start but has won two straight – both in shutouts – and is looking for its first win over Charlevoix since 2018.
Southeast & Border
Jackson (4-1) at Adrian (4-1) - Watch
Jackson has a chance to set up a Week 7 winner-take-all matchup with Chelsea for the Southeastern Conference White championship – a nice jump after finishing third last season. The Vikings haven’t defeated Chelsea since 2018 but lost by a respectable 17-0 last fall. But they can’t overlook Adrian, still enjoying its best season since 2016 despite falling to Chelsea 28-18 last week. The Maples would love to hand Jackson a loss tonight and cheer for the Vikings next week with a title share possible.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Michigan Center (4-1) at Grass Lake (4-1) - Watch, Flat Rock (4-1) at Milan (3-2) - Watch, Ann Arbor Huron (3-2) at Saline (5-0) - Watch, Hudson (5-0) at Blissfield (3-2) - Watch.
Parma Western (5-0) at Battle Creek Harper Creek (4-1)
We’re halfway through the Interstate 8 Athletic Conference schedule, and this has emerged as an important matchup with Parma Western tied with Hastings for first and Harper Creek only a game back after falling to the Saxons 34-6 last week. The Beavers struggled to 3-6 a year ago but already have avenged 2022 losses to Battle Creek Lakeview, Battle Creek Central and Marshall – and Western defeated them 34-0 last season before Harper Creek went 2-1 to finish the fall. Western’s defense is a notable strength again, giving up only 37 points total this season despite taking on Dearborn Divine Child and Detroit Country Day over the first two weeks.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Paw Paw (5-0) at Edwardsburg (3-2) - Watch, Constantine (4-1) at Allegan (4-1) - Watch, St. Joseph (3-2) at Portage Northern (5-0) - Watch, Muskegon Catholic Central (3-2) at Schoolcraft (4-1) - Watch.
Gladstone (4-1) at Menominee (5-0)
This is the first of three games that will tell a lot about Menominee’s season as the Maroons enter this stretch alone atop the Western Peninsula Athletic Conference Copper at 4-0 but with Gladstone, Week 7 opponent Negaunee and Week 8 opponent Kingsford all 3-1 in league play. While this is a new conference for the Maroons this season, they have plenty of history with Gladstone as both came from the Great Northern Conference – and Menominee had won three straight in the series before Gladstone’s 28-6 victory last fall. Gladstone’s lone defeat this year came Week 3 to Kingsford, 35-12.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Maple City Glen Lake (3-2) at Sault Ste. Marie (3-2) - Watch, Manistique (3-2) at Iron Mountain (5-0) - Watch, Marquette (2-2) at Escanaba (1-4) - Watch, Houghton (2-3) at Calumet (1-4) - Watch.
Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central (4-1) at East Grand Rapids (5-0)
We’ve been watching East Grand Rapids’ rejuvenation this fall with this among games circled for special attention, and Forest Hills Central’s 15-14 loss to Byron Center last week hardly lessens the intrigue. The Rangers are still among favorites statewide in Division 3, ranked No. 2, and East Grand Rapids is right behind them this week at No. 3 (while Byron Center is No. 2 in Division 2). The Ottawa-Kent Conference White title won’t be decided with this matchup, but it surely will be impacted – and the Rangers have defeated EGR all three times they’ve met since the Pioneers rejoined the division in 2020.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Allendale (5-0) at Spring Lake (4-1), Lowell (4-1) at Byron Center (5-0), Caledonia (4-1) at Hudsonville (4-1) - Watch, Zeeland East (4-1) at Muskegon (3-2).
Mendon (5-0) at Adrian Lenawee Christian (5-0) - Watch
Movement on the overall 8-player enrollment list have made this a matchup we’ll see just this once this fall, as Mendon – last year’s Division 2 runner-up – has moved to Division 1 and is ranked No. 2, while Lenawee Christian is top-ranked in Division 2 after winning Division 1 titles in 2020 and 2021 and reaching a Regional Final last year. Still, many 8-player eyes will be watching. The Cougars have given up just 32 points this season and no more than 12 in a game, and that defense should be part of the key matchup within the matchup because Mendon is scoring 52 per contest and coming off an 80-point performance.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Carson City-Crystal (5-0) at Coleman (4-1) - Watch, Brown City (5-0) at Mayville (5-0) - Watch, St. Ignace (5-0) at Newberry (4-1), Norway (4-1) at Ontonagon (4-1) - Watch.
Second Half’s weekly “1st & Goal” previews and reviews are powered by MI Student Aid, a part of the Office of Postsecondary Financial Planning 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. MI Student Aid administers the state’s 529 college savings programs (MET/MESP), as well as scholarship and grant programs that help make college Accessible, Affordable and Attainable for you. Connect with MI Student Aid at www.michigan.gov/mistudentaid and find more information on Facebook and X (Twitter) @mistudentaid.
PHOTO Muskegon Catholic Central and Orchard View players reach to get a hand on the ball during their meeting this season. (Photo by Tim Reilly.)