By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Three reigning champions were eliminated this weekend, six undefeated teams fell, and October came to and end with the MHSAA football playoff field halved to 136 teams still alive for nine titles.
Divisions 1, 2 and 6 will have new winners this month. And a few teams that looked like contenders also are done after the first round and a series of upsets that made headlines across the state.
See below for some of the most unexpected and heaviest-hitting results from the first week in all eight 11-player divisions and the 8-player bracket.
Novi 31, West Bloomfield 28
After four straight losing seasons and an 0-3 start this fall, Novi (6-4) made the playoffs for the first time since 2008 with an at-large bid – and then dealt undefeated West Bloomfield (9-1) its only loss in arguably the biggest upset in the state this weekend. The teams combined for five touchdowns during the fourth quarter, but West Bloomfield never could completely catch up to the Wildcats. Click for more from the Oakland Press.
Rockford 24, Grandville 6 – The Rams (7-3) won the rematch of Ottawa-Kent Conference Red co-champions after also beating Grandville (6-4) in Week 4.
Romeo 28, Clarkston 14 – The Bulldogs (9-1) bounced back from a tough three-point loss to Utica Eisenhower in Week 9 to eliminate the reigning champion Wolves (7-3).
Ann Arbor Pioneer 22, Belleville 7 – Pioneer (7-3) ended a two-game losing streak by handing Belleville (8-2) its first loss since opening night.
Utica Eisenhower 23, Clinton Township Chippewa Valley 20 (2 OT) – Eisenhower (7-3) kept surging with its fourth straight win, first in the playoffs since 2012 and second in four weeks over Chippewa Valley (7-3).
Detroit East English 25, Warren DeLaSalle 21
East English (8-2) has made the playoffs all four seasons as a program after emerging from the former Detroit Crockett, which made the playoffs its final 12 seasons and the MHSAA Semifinals twice. So the Bulldogs have had their share of success – but this might be the best win of the new program’s history, as they eliminated the reigning Division 2 champion and after falling to DeLaSalle (6-4) by only seven in last year’s District Final. Click for more from MLive-Detroit.
Muskegon 40, Traverse City Central 14 – The Big Reds (8-2) took the long trip up north and handed Traverse City Central (9-1) its first and only loss, earning a rematch with rival Mona Shores this week.
Byron Center 34, Portage Central 21 – The Bulldogs (8-2) have made three straight playoffs and won two playoff games only two years ago, but it’s still fair to say they were underdogs on the road at Portage Central (8-2).
Birmingham Groves 10, Farmington Hills Harrison 0 – Groves (10-0) reached 10 wins for the first time in program history with its sixth shutout this season, ending Harrison’s at 7-3.
Jackson 42, Livonia Churchill 35 – After making the playoffs for the first time since 2009, Jackson (8-2) won its first playoff game since 1999 in ending Churchill’s season at 5-5.
East Grand Rapids 27, Grand Rapids Christian 14
After watching a 26-0 lead on Grand Rapids Christian fade in their first matchup this season, in Week 6, the Pioneers (7-3) finished this time against their O-K White rival. East Grand Rapids will play in a District Final for the first time since 2011. Grand Rapids Christian, which beat EGR 39-33 in that first game, ended at 5-5. Click for more from the Grand Rapids Press.
Vicksburg 16, Marshall 8 – The Bulldogs (8-2) quietly have built a five-game winning streak, adding to it with a road win at Marshall (7-3).
Trenton 34, New Boston Huron 21 – The Trojans (9-1) equaled their best record since 2003 by avenging last season’s District Final loss to Huron (5-5).
Coldwater 31, Parma Western 7 – Coldwater (10-0), which made the playoffs for the first time three seasons ago, earned its first playoff win by downing Western (6-4), which was playing in its first playoff game.
Redford Thurston 48, Warren Fitzgerald 14 – One of the rare at-large qualifiers with a home game, Thurston (6-4) justified it with a first-round win for the second straight season; Fitzgerald finished its second straight at 6-4.
Benton Harbor 28, Dowagiac 7
We’ve nearly run out of neat ways to crunch the numbers for the Tigers (6-4), who are enjoying their best season and whose six wins this fall are more than they won over the previous eight combined. Benton Harbor’s first playoff game resulted in its first victory – and the chance to next take on annual championship contender Zeeland West. Dowagiac isn’t to be forgotten, however; the Chieftains (6-4) bounced back from finishing 3-6 in 2014. Click for more from the Kalamazoo Gazette.
Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood 35, St. Clair Shores South Lake 14 – The Cranes (9-1) equaled their best record since 2004 and ended the best season for South Lake (8-2) since 2011; the Cavaliers improved from 2-7 a year ago.
Comstock Park 38, Saginaw Swan Valley 35 – Quarterback Pat Naughton threw four touchdown passes and Monterio Smith caught two and ran for a third score as Comstock Park (8-2) came back early and then held off the Vikings (6-4).
Detroit Denby 36, Detroit Collegiate Prep 6 – Denby (6-4) claimed its first playoff win since 2007 by handing the first loss this season to Collegiate Prep (9-1), the Detroit Public School League Division II champion.
Lake Fenton 29, Corunna 27 – Lake Fenton’s most recent loss was by seven to Corunna in Week 8, but the Blue Devils (6-4) went on the road to take the rematch from the Cavaliers (8-2).
Ida 35, Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard 23
The Bluestreaks built on their first undefeated regular season since 1971 with a second straight playoff win over Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard (5-5). Ida (10-0) also set a program record for wins despite giving up the most points in a game this season; the Bluestreaks gave up only 64 total during the first nine weeks. They scored three times during the third quarter to pull away. Click for more from the Monroe Evening News.
Buchanan 34, Hillsdale 31 – The Bucks' first perfect regular season since 1988 has turned into its first 10-0 start ever after its third win in a month decided by three points or fewer, this time against a Hillsdale team (6-4) in its 15th straight playoffs.
Almont 10, Marine City 3 – The Raiders (8-2) have bounced back nicely from back-to-back losses in Weeks 7 and 8, this time downing Marine City (6-4) in the playoffs for the second straight season.
Dearborn Heights Robichaud 50, Brooklyn Columbia Central 37 – Robichaud (8-2) reached 50 points for the second time this season to get its first playoff win since 2012, while Columbia Central ended at 8-2 after three straight losing seasons.
Kingsford 25, Harrison 0 – The Flivvers bounced back from a sub-.500 record last season and then a loss in Week 9 to claim a playoff win for the first time since 2012 and with their first shutout of this fall – which also was the first time Harrison (7-3) was shut out since Week 1 of 2013.
Clinton 14, Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central 10
Clinton (10-0) was one of two undefeated teams that had road games this weekend, and the Redskins responded by eliminating the reigning champion. Monroe St. Mary (8-2) had dominated most of its competition this fall, aside from a Week 9 loss to Division 5 contender Lansing Catholic. But Clinton drove 93 yards for the go-ahead score on the legs of Matt Sexton, who gained 100 yards total on the winning possession. Click for more from the Monroe Evening News.
Calumet 24, Negaunee 14 – The Copper Kings (8-2) earned their first win over Negaunee since 1955 and after five losses over the last four seasons to the Miners (7-3).
Sanford Meridian 44, Millington 38 – The Mustangs (10-0) also set a program record for wins and earned the opportunity to face another undefeated team, Ithaca, this week while ending Millington’s 12th straight playoff season at 8-2.
Laingsburg 23, Burton Bendle 15 – The Wolfpack (7-3) moved past six wins for the first time since 2009 by edging a Bendle team that went from 3-6 a year ago to 8-2 this fall.
Constantine 31, Schoolcraft 28 (OT) – In arguably the other biggest stunner of the first week of the playoffs, at-large qualifier Constantine (6-4) went on the road and downed rival Schoolcraft (9-1), handing the Eagles their first loss after falling to them 42-24 only two weeks ago.
Saugatuck 42, Hesperia 7
These two played the only playoff game between undefeated teams during the first week, with the Indians (10-0) earning their first postseason victory since the 2010 run to the Division 8 Final. Hesperia made one of the most impressive turnarounds in MHSAA football history this fall, going from 1-8 last season to 9-1 before falling Friday. Click for more from the Holland Sentinel.
McBain 34, Whittemore-Prescott 22 – Highland Conference co-champ McBain (7-3) won this battle of league winners, edging the first-place Cardinals (5-5) from the North Star League Big Dipper.
Cass City 34, Ubly 6 – The Red Hawks (8-2) have their most wins in a decade after ending the best season for Ubly (7-3) since 2011.
Flint Beecher 30, Flint Hamady 28 – The Buccaneers (7-2) took the lead for good in the fourth quarter in their first matchup with Hamady (7-3) since a District Final in 2012.
Riverview Gabriel Richard 30, Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett 27 – A 42-yard field goal by Zach Loewengruber on the game’s final play gave Gabriel Richard (7-3) its first playoff win and ended Liggett’s season at 6-4.
Climax-Scotts 8, Mendon 6
Climax Scotts (10-0) held on for its first win over Mendon (5-5) since 1977, after 30 straight losses. Climax-Scotts scored on the first possession of the game and made a two-point conversion, and stopped Mendon’s conversion attempt after its lone score. The Panthers have made the playoffs 13 straight seasons, and now will try for a second Regional Final in eight tries; Mendon had eliminated them from the playoffs the past four seasons. Click for more from the Battle Creek Enquirer.
Crystal Falls Forest Park 24, Lake Linden-Hubbell 0 – The Trojans (6-3) must have figured out a few things between falling to Lake Linden-Hubbell 34-28 only a week earlier and then handing the Lakes (9-1) their first and only loss.
Bark River-Harris 22, Munising 6 – Three weeks after falling to Munising by seven, Bark River-Harris (8-2) advanced to a District Final for the second straight season by downing the reigning Division 8 runner-up Mustangs (7-3).
Johannesburg-Lewiston 35, Hillman 8 – The Cardinals (9-1) won their ninth game for the third time in four seasons by downing North Star League Little Dipper champion Tigers (6-4), and now get another shot at Ski Valley Conference winner St. Ignace after finishing a win behind the Saints in the league standings.
Ottawa Lake Whiteford 20, Petersburg-Summerfield 14 – Revenge surely was sweet for Whiteford (8-2), which fell to Petersburg-Summerfield (7-3) by 20 in their Week 4 Tri-County Conference matchup.
Rapid River 36, Engadine 29
A Week 5 loss to Engadine started a string of three losses in four games for Rapid River (7-3), but the Rockets have avenged the first defeat and earned the opportunity to avenge a second against Powers North Central. Engadine (7-3) was held to fewer than 40 points for the first time since Week 3. Click for more from RRN Sports.
Cedarville 48, Owendale-Gagetown 28 – The reigning 8-player runner-up Trojans (8-2) have won four straight and delivered O-G (9-1) its first and only loss.
Lawrence 54, Waldron 52 – The Spartans (8-2) played the reigning champion impressively close, but Lawrence (8-2) emerged with another opportunity against rival Battle Creek St. Philip this week after falling to St. Philip two weeks ago.
PHOTO: Midland Dow, in green, faced rival Midland for the second straight week and won for the second straight as well, 42-7. (Click for 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.)