Drive for Detroit: Week 1 Preview

August 24, 2016

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Your wait is over. After nine months of anticipation, high school football will return to Michigan tonight.

And we'll quickly kick off to a great start.

Over the last four seasons, the Second Half weekly preview of the state’s top games was titled “A Game for Every Fan.” Despite a name change this fall, the goal is the same – we’ll highlight a top game in all eight of our Second Half coverage zones, plus the best in 8-player, and suggest a few more as we truly believe there’s a game close by worth watching no matter where our football fans reside.

Drive for Detroit, powered by MI Student Aid, will publish the first varsity game day (generally Fridays) each week. Games are organized regionally by host team (or the Michigan team if it’s playing out of state); this week is a little tricky with a number of games hosted by University of Michigan and Wayne State University, so the top games from those showcases are listed below in the regions where those stadiums are located. All games are Thursday unless noted.

Visit the Score Center tonight and all weekend for scores as they are reported and links to updated schedules and standings.

Bay & Thumb

Algonac (10-2) at Marine City (6-4)

Based on last season’s records alone, maybe this wouldn’t be considered the most intriguing game coming from this region. But the back stories bring these teams up front. Algonac was the story from the Thumb last season, enjoying its best finish ever after going 1-8 in 2014. The Muskrats opened by breaking a 15-game losing streak to Marine City, by the closest of margins winning 19-18, and a number of key contributors are back this fall. The Mariners did go on to extend their playoff streak to 18 straight seasons and shared the Macomb Area Conference Gold championship, but tallied their fewest wins since that last non-playoff season of 1997.

Others that caught my eye: Mount Pleasant (9-3) at Midland Dow (10-2), DeWitt (9-2) at Linden (8-3), New Lothrop (12-1) at Saginaw Nouvel (9-2), Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary (10-2) at Almont (8-3).

Greater Detroit

Chelsea (12-2) vs. River Rouge (12-2), Saturday at Wayne State

Both of these teams finished last season at Ford Field, as both made appearance at the MHSAA Finals for the first time. Chelsea fell in Division 3 to Orchard Lake St. Mary’s but returns veteran quarterback Jack Bush to lead a number of new contributors. River Rouge just missed taking down Grand Rapids West Catholic in last season’s Division 5 championship game and graduated Finals star Antoine Burgess among others who played big roles, but is a combined 40-7 over the last four seasons.

Others that caught my eye: Orchard Lake St. Mary's (12-1) at Macomb Dakota (9-3), Birmingham Groves (10-1) at West Bloomfield (9-1), Livonia Franklin (9-4) at Livonia Stevenson (6-4), Detroit Martin Luther King (14-0) vs. Southfield Arts & Technology (former schools Southfield and Lathrup combined to go 13-8 last season) on Saturday at Wayne State.


Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central (8-2) at Pewamo-Westphalia (13-1), Friday

This is arguably the best matchup of small schools anywhere in the state during opening weekend, with Pewamo-Westphalia coming off a runner-up finish in Division 7 and St. Mary coming off its 12th playoff berth in 13 seasons and only two removed from winning the Division 6 title. Most eyes will be on Pirates senior running back Jared Smith, who set the MHSAA single-season rushing record with 3,250 yards last fall and single-season rushing touchdown record with 53.

Others that caught my eye: Lansing Everett (4-5) at Howell (5-5), Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart (6-4) at Beal City (9-2) on Friday, Ithaca (14-0) at Clare (5-4) on Friday, St. Johns (8-4) at East Lansing (5-4) on Friday.

Northern Lower Peninsula

Gaylord (6-4) at Boyne City (10-2)

Rebuilt Gaylord found itself in the playoffs last season for the first time since 2007 and with its most wins since 2005 after successive seasons of 0-9, 1-8 and 5-4, respectively. The Blue Devils have replaced key players like most, but so too is Boyne City with running back Malik Smith now at Michigan State after helping the Ramblers to 22 wins against only three losses over the last two seasons. Boyne City does return quarterback Mason Gardner, however, and his presence could be good for a quicker start than many this weekend.

Others that caught my eye: Ada Forest Hills Eastern (11-2) at Petoskey (8-3), Cadillac (2-7) at Big Rapids (7-4), McBain (8-4) at Manistee (7-3), Kingsley (5-4) at Maple City Glen Lake (5-5) on Friday.

Southeast & Border

Grand Rapids West Catholic (12-2) at Jackson Lumen Christi (8-4), Friday

West Catholic will play its first game in a decade without coach Dan Rohn, who stepped down after last season’s fourth MHSAA championship in six seasons. Still, offensive stars Gaetano Vallone and David Fox should give the Falcons a good head start. Lumen Christi was among an impressive group of teams taken down last season during Clinton’s run to the Division 6 Final; the Titans were eliminated in the Regional Final. But they’re looking to add to an 18-season playoff streak – and add a second straight win in this series after downing West Catholic 22-21 on opening night a year ago.

Others that caught my eye: Manchester (9-2) at Clinton (13-1) on Friday, Coldwater (12-1) at Jackson (8-3) on Friday, Clarkston (7-3) at Lapeer (10-1) on Friday at University of Michigan, Muskegon (9-3) at Ann Arbor Pioneer (7-4) on Saturday at University of Michigan.

Southwest Corridor

Marshall (7-3) at Benton Harbor (6-5), Friday

Last season was one of dreams coming true for Benton Harbor, which gained national acclaim and made the playoffs for the first time (and won a playoff game too) after two straight 0-9 seasons and eight straight total with one or zero wins. This is a new season, but there should be plenty of enthusiasm as it kicks off immediately against a tough opponent. Marshall rebounded off two straight sub-.500 seasons last fall to finish a two-point loss shy of an undefeated run in the Interstate 8 Athletic Conference.  

Others that caught my eye: Saugatuck (10-1) at Constantine (7-5), Vicksburg (8-3) at Dowagiac (6-4), Portage Central (8-2) at Mattawan (5-4) on Friday, Battle Creek Central (4-5) at Stevensville Lakeshore (6-4) on Friday.

West Michigan

East Grand Rapids (9-4) at Grand Rapids Catholic Central (9-2), Friday

Grand Rapids Catholic Central will host the first varsity football game at Cougar Stadium against the first of a slate of tough opponents again this season. East Grand Rapids has beaten the Cougars in three straight openers, last season 28-14, and is coming off its best season since also winning nine games in 2011 – the Pioneers were eight points from getting past eventual Division 3 champion Orchard Lake St. Mary’s in last season’s Semifinal. After last season’s loss, GRCC didn’t fall again until its Division 4 District Final.

Others that caught my eye: Grand Ledge (12-1) at Hudsonville (7-4), Muskegon Oakridge (7-3) at Muskegon Catholic Central (11-2), Warren DeLaSalle (6-4) at Lowell (12-2) on Friday, Saline (10-1) at Rockford (7-4) on Friday.

Upper Peninsula

Ishpeming (13-0) at Iron Mountain (7-4), Friday

Ishpeming is coming off its third MHSAA championship in four seasons after downing P-W in last fall’s Division 7 Final and defeated rival Iron Mountain twice in 2015 – 14-7 on opening night and then 24-14 in their District Final. The Hematites will try to extend a regular-season winning streak that goes back to Week 8 of 2012, as Iron Mountain seeks to beat them for the first time since 2011.

Others that caught my eye: Munising (7-3) at Iron River West Iron County (3-6), Houghton (4-5) at L'Anse (5-4) on Friday, Traverse City St. Francis (12-1) at Marquette (3-5) on Friday, Menominee (11-1) at Marinette, Wis. (2-7) on Saturday.


Crystal Falls Forest Park (7-4 as 11-player) at Rapid River (7-4), Friday

One of the Upper Peninsula’s best rivalries in a number of sports will enjoy a new chapter with Forest Park’s move to 8-player football this fall. As an 11-player team, the Trojans enjoyed a string of 19 straight playoff appearances through last fall. The Forest Park and Rapid River football programs haven’t faced off since 1983, and the Rockets have built one of the top 8-player programs in Michigan since making the switch in 2011.

Others that caught my eye: Lawrence (8-3) at Mayville (5-4 as 11-player), Battle Creek St. Philip (12-1) at Kingston (5-4) on Friday.

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: Ithaca players enter the field during a game last season. (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.