By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Another MHSAA football season began this weekend. Where do we begin ...
The two longest active winning streaks in Michigan came to an end. Three Detroit Public School League teams beat opponents that finished 2014 playing at Ford Field. And that's just the start.
See below for five of the most significant results to come from each of eight regions around the state, plus three 8-player games that could mean much as the season unfolds.
Bay & Thumb
Bad Axe 20, Harbor Beach 6
Bad Axe last beat Harbor Beach in 2009 – and then lost the last five season openers to the Pirates by a combined score of 242-0. But the Hatchets made the playoffs last season for the first time since 2001, and now can claim giving Harbor Beach only its second regular-season loss since the start of the 2011 season. Click for more from the Huron Daily Tribune.
Algonac 19, Marine City 18 – The Muskrats had one win a year ago and had dropped 15 straight to Marine City, which finished its typical 10-1 in 2014.
Davison 29, Fenton 26 – The Cardinals opened 1-0 for the first time since 2012 and after falling to Fenton 35-0 only a year ago.
Ortonville-Brandon 11, Goodrich 10 – Zach Clements’ 37-yard field goal with two seconds left avenged last season’s 33-7 opening-night loss to the Martians.
Richmond 20, Marysville 12 – The Blue Devils ran their streak to three straight wins over Marysville, last season’s District Final opponent; this time they were inspired by co-coach John Kocher, who is undergoing treatment for cancer.
Macomb Dakota 35, Clarkston 10
Over two weeks, the three longest winning streaks in Michigan football have ended. Ithaca (69) and Ishpeming (33) saw theirs come to a close at last season’s MHSAA Finals, and Clarkston’s 27-game streak was stopped by a Dakota team that nearly broke it last season before it really got rolling when the Wolves won by three on opening night. Running back Kaiser Carleton ran for 207 yards and three touchdowns for the Cougars, who are playing this season for a 15th-straight playoff berth. Click for more from the Macomb Daily.
Detroit Catholic Central 15, Muskegon 12 – Last season’s 4-5 finish became a little more of a distant memory as the Shamrocks edged the reigning Division 3 runner-up.
Detroit Martin Luther King 12, Warren DeLaSalle 10 – The Crusaders opened a season filled with high expectations by beginning to meet them in downing last fall’s Division 2 champion.
Detroit Renaissance 22, Lansing Sexton 14 – The Phoenix earned its first opening-night win since 2008 against the rebuilt but still reigning Division 4 runners-up Big Reds.
Walled Lake Western 42, Lowell 40 – Western’s massive road win came down to the final minutes and made the Red Arrows 0-1 for the first time since 1993.
Pewamo-Westphalia 26, Madison Heights Madison 25 (OT)
These two combined for a 19-6 record, two District titles and a Regional championship a year ago, when Madison opened with an 18-6 win over the Pirates. But this one went to P-W when it chose to go for two points instead of one after an overtime touchdown and standout running back Jared Smith finished the game with a conversion. Click for more from the Ionia Sentinel-Standard.
Jackson Lumen Christi 22, Grand Rapids West Catholic 21 – Two squads met after graduating their stars from a year ago and played to a classic that resulted in the end of West Catholic’s 23-game winning streak.
Charlotte 38, Ionia 35 – Another last-second field goal gave the Orioles revenge for last season’s 28-0 first-game loss to the Bulldogs.
Ithaca 42, Clare 14 – The Yellowjackets started a new winning streak by making it two straight on opening night over the reigning Jack Pine Conference champ.
Beal City 28, Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart 6 – This was much closer than the final score for most of the game, and much closer than 36 and 61-point wins for Beal City over the Irish the last two seasons.
Northern Lower Peninsula
Boyne City 38, Mendon 14
Boyne City 38, Mendon 14
Coming off its first MHSAA Semifinal run since 2001, Boyne City faced the test of replacing a number of top contributors and opening against another small-school program that annually reloads. So far, so good as the Ramblers ran for more than 300 yards and scored 38 of the game’s final 45 points after giving up the game’s first score. Click for more from the Petoskey News.
Big Rapids 17, Cadillac 14 (2 OT) – The Cardinals couldn’t have picked a tougher opponent than Cadillac (20-2 the last two seasons) to begin a bounce-back from its 4-14 finish over the last two years.
Lake City 33, Harrison 32 (OT) – The Trojans enjoyed a dramatic finish coming off their first losing season since 2008 and a 28-0 loss to Harrison in last year’s opener.
Rogers City 14, AuGres-Sims 8 – The Hurons have improved their win total each of the last three seasons and took a nice step toward continuing by avenging last season’s 28-14 loss to the Wolverines.
Gaylord 49, Cheboygan 0 – The Blue Devils finished 5-4 a year ago after going 1-4 over their final five games; consider this another start on their pursuit of a first playoff berth since 2005.
Battle Creek Lakeview 12, Portage Northern 6
The stakes weren’t as high this time after the teams met for a District championship last season – when Lakeview was victorious as well, 21-0. But the Spartans were able to further venge a 28-24 loss to Portage Northern on opening night of 2014, stopping the Huskies as they drove to tie the score midway through the fourth quarter. Click for more from the Battle Creek Enquirer.
Stevensville Lakeshore 34, Battle Creek Central 26 – The result was the same, and the game still close, although not decided in as intriguing a way as Lakeshore’s 2-0 win over Central on a safety a year ago.
Cassopolis 35, Niles Brandywine 8 – They’re in different divisions of the Berrien-Cass-St. Joseph Conference this season, but the Rangers still no doubt enjoyed avenging last season’s 27-26 loss.
Plainwell 32, Three Rivers 21 – It ended a lot closer than last season’s 34-0 Plainwell win, but remained an important victory over another playoff team from a year ago.
South Haven 30, Sturgis 25 – The Rams are 1-0 after opening night for the first time since 2007.
Southeast & Border
Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central 62, Tecumseh 39
The reigning Division 6 champion Falcons opened coach Adam Kipf’s era with a dominating performance reminiscent of predecessor Jack Giarmo’s hard-running teams. SMCC rushed for more than 450 yards to down Tecumseh, a Division 3 playoff qualifier in 2014. Click to read more from the Monroe Evening News.
Jackson 40, Ann Arbor Huron 7 – The Vikings’ equaled last season’s win total with its most points in a game since Week 8 of 2013 and after scoring only 122 total in 2014.
Saline 37, Rockford 24 – Reigning Division 1 runner-up Saline may indeed be the state’s best team, and this only furthered that argument.
Clinton 20, Manchester 19 – The Redskins made it 28 straight regular-season wins by just edging a Manchester team that finished 8-2 a year ago.
Howell 28, Monroe 14 – The Highlanders haven’t made the playoffs since 2012 but got off to the right start avenging last season’s 21-14 loss to Monroe, a playoff team three of the last four years.
Bark River-Harris 14, Crystal Falls Forest Park 13
The Broncos burst back into the Upper Peninsula’s elite going 8-3 last season and making the playoffs for the first time since 2009, but two of those losses were to Forest Park – including 36-12 in the District Final. Any time these days that the Trojans lose short of Ford Field, it sends a little shockwave through the U.P. – and they haven’t started a season 0-1 since 2004, although they finished that season in the Division 8 championship game. Click for more from the Escanaba Daily Press.
Munising 12, Iron River West Iron County 6 – These teams combined to go 21-3 last season, but this round goes to Munising after West Iron beat the Mustangs in the last two openers.
L’Anse 8, Houghton 6 – The Purple Hornets took a step back last season after two straight playoff appearances, but hope a second-straight two-point win over Houghton points them back in the winning direction.
Ishpeming 14, Iron Mountain 7 – This annual opening-night battle returned to its usual level of competitiveness after Ishpeming had shut out the Mountaineers 106-0 over the last three seasons.
Menominee 49, Marinette, Wis. 21 – Chapter 109 of Michigan’s longest interstate rivalry went to the Maroons, who lead the series 52-50-7.
Muskegon Oakridge 45, Muskegon Catholic Central 26
Oakridge is coming off a 10th-straight playoff appearance, so its ending of MCC’s 26-game winning streak doesn’t seem like a complete shocker. But the Eagles still should receive plenty of credit for loading up the nonleague slate like perhaps no team in MHSAA history, with two straight games against reigning champions – MCC won Division 8 a year ago and Detroit Loyola, next week’s opponent, won Division 7. Click for more from the Muskegon Chronicle.
East Grand Rapids 28, Grand Rapids Catholic Central 14 – The Pioneers made it three wins in four seasons in one of the state’s most anticipated openers between previous year’s playoff teams.
Saugatuck 43, Constantine 40 – After just missing the playoffs last season at 5-4, Saugatuck started this fall by edging a powerhouse that hasn’t missed the postseason since 1990.
East Kentwood 35, Farmington Hills Harrison 28 – There’s little better to start the season than an opener between cross-state contenders like this one between teams that went a combined 21-5 last fall, and this result tells plenty of reason why.
Grand Rapids Christian 32, Grand Rapids South Christian 28 – The Eagles survived their closest of a six-game opening night winning streak against the Sailors.
Kinde-North Huron 54, Carsonville-Port Sanilac 14
Kinde-North Huron fell back to 2-7 last season after two playoff seasons including a run to the MHSAA Semifinals in 2013, and scored only 122 points total in 2014. But this win could be the sign of better times this fall; the Warriors were 1-3 overall against CPS since moving to 8-player, and lost 13-12 to the Tigers a year ago. Click for more from the Huron Daily Tribune.
Rapid River 26, Onaway 12 – Onaway, playing its first game after switching from 11-player, gave the Rockets a rare close regular-season game.
Webberville 40, Dryden 38 – The Spartans scored eight fewer points than against Dryden a year ago, but gave up 48 fewer than in the 2014 86-48 opening-night loss.
PHOTO: Mason opened with a 56-30 win over Okemos after falling to the rival Chieftains 28-14 a year ago.
Kingsley football fans have become pretty familiar with VIP parking for home games over the last couple of seasons.
They may just start looking for a Kingsley VIP lot at Ford Field. The Stags just captured the MHSAA Division 6 championship trophy with a 38-24 victory over Almont, their second Finals championship and first since 2005.
The road to the Finals started with Kingsley hosting two playoff games, allowing great use of the VIP Parking of Trina’s Touchdown Club. The lot is adjacent to the school’s Rodes Field and provided in loving memory of Katrina “Trina” Kay Schueller, who passed away Oct. 21, 2021, at Munson Medical Center.
Those playoff games filling Trina’s Touchdown Club’s parking lot featured wins over Mason County Central 61-12 and Manistee 37-18, and 51-27 over Gladstone in the Regional Final. Kingsley then traveled down the road and defeated Reed City 37-7 in the Semifinal.
There may not have been designated VIP parking in Cadillac and Ford Field for the Stags’ followers, but there were a lot of VIPs at both stadiums with Schueller on their minds. Pretty much everyone with an affiliation with the highly-successful program or familiarity with the community’s struggles have become VIPs to the Kingsley coaching staff and many others.
Most certainly among the VIPs are head coach Tim Wooer, assistant coach Conner Schueller, his brother Carter Schueller, and his father Mike Schueller.
Conner was set to play the biggest regular-season game of his career the day after his mom passed. It was the regular-season finale against rival Traverse City St. Francis.
Wooer vividly remembers the moments leading up to that matchup, noting how difficult it was for Conner. But his then-fullback and now-assistant coach demonstrated amazing strength and maturity he stills exhibits today.
“He’s in his senior football season, and his mom is in the hospital for four weeks — he’s balancing that playing football and going to school,” Wooer recalled. “And then she passes, and he has the strength to come back to school and deliver the news to our team.
“I am sobbing watching this kid, and I’m just amazed,” Wooer continued. “The next night is Parents Night, and he’s on the field with his dad and brother without his mom.”
Conner still played, making a 4th-down goal line tackle to prevent a St. Francis touchdown. The Gladiators won the game, but Conner won the day, conquering much just to dress for the game.
The Stags went on to playoff wins over Kingsford 28-10 and Clare 32-6. They bowed out with a 33-18 Regional loss to Frankenmuth.
Conner’s junior year of 2020 had been cut short as the Kingsley was forced to forfeit its District Final to Reed City because several players and coaching staff tested positive for COVID-19. The Stags had Ford Field in their minds that season too after playoff wins over 38-13 Standish-Sterling 38-13 and Gladwin 63-16.
Conner, who celebrated his 20th birthday at Saturday’s Final, remembers his playing days and the challenges presented him.
“At the time it was ‘she’s not there,’ especially my senior year she wasn’t there to watch me and finish it out, but I know she’s watching above,” he said. “We were about to go play Reed City my junior year for Regionals, and everyone got sick and it ended our season unfortunately.”
Those challenges were on his mind at Ford Field, and running through his mind when he saw his brother and father in the stands. Carter, now a senior at Kingsley, had been unable to play football due to injuries.
“I thought about my brother – he unfortunately didn’t play this year due to his injuries, and I don’t really blame him for that,” Conner said. “I thought about him as well because it was just me and my dad and my brother now.
“It was very emotional,” Conner continued. “I got a glimpse of him in the strands.”
Carter also was filled with gratitude for the coaching staff for welcoming and mentoring him. He had become keenly aware of the amount of time coaches spend away from family at practices and going through film.
In addition to his family, Conner was thinking about many others in the Kingsley community – and other senior classes like his that didn’t get the chance to celebrate a championship.
He also was thinking about Justin Hansen, a 2003 graduate of Kingsley. Hansen was a captain on the 2002 conference championship team. He went on to become a special-operations Marine sergeant and was killed in action July 24, 2012, while deployed in Afghanistan. Hansen was on patrol as part of an operation in search of a high-value target when his team was hit with small arms fire.
On Saturday, Wooer was wearing a red T-shirt with the letters “USA” on the front and the name “Hansen” on the back. It also featured the number 54, Hansen’s in high school.
Wooer, who turned 54 in July, wore the shirt in Hansen’s memory knowing Hansen would be on the veteran coach’s mind and symbolizing Hansen’s presence with the team at Ford Field.
Wooer wants to make sure Hanson is never forgotten and reminds the soldier’s family the entire community remains behind them.
“I believe it is part of our job as a community to show our love to this family and help in any way possible to help them get through this process,” Wooers said. “After the funeral, we all went about life.
“We certainly still think about Justin and feel the pain,” he continued. “But nothing like a family does.”
Hansen’s tragic passing led to the creation of the annual Patriot Game in Traverse City in 2012 while Wooer was coaching Traverse City West. The game features crosstown rivals West and Traverse City Central every year and strives to honor veterans, first responders, active duty military, and area heroes who died while serving their country.
Saturday’s win over Almont left Wooer emotionally exhausted after all the preparations to do it right for the senior class, the school, the Kingsley community, the Schueller family and Hansen. Collectively, they’ve really become more like a family to the Stags coaching staff and many, many others.
“In terms of emotions, there is no doubt Justin was on my mind throughout the game,” Wooer said. “Trina and Conner have been – those are two huge pieces.
“And, a lot of my thoughts are with the seniors,” he continued. “You want to win the game, but also it is your last time with them.”
Wooer has learned a lot from his former players and coaches over the years. He’s become close friends with many of them, going back to his early days of coaching as a student-teacher at Elk Rapids. He also coached at Farewell and Traverse City West, the latter from 2008-2017 after a first tenure at Kingsley. He returned to Kingsley in 2018.
Schueller is among several former players and coaches who have been on Wooer’s coaching staffs over the years. Several continue today.
“I could give you lots of other stories about kids I have had,” Wooer said. “There comes this transition where they turn into such amazing men, you catch yourself every once in a while saying, ‘I want to be like him.’
“You get this huge smile on your face because you’re so proud of them, just like a mother or father would,” Wooer continued. “A coach always looks at his players like they’re part of his family.”
In addition to Conner, current assistants with long-term relationships with Wooer are Tom Kaleita, Kyle Smith, Ryan Zenner, Dan Goethals, Josh Merchant, Jordan Bradford, Steve Klinge, Connor Schueller, Mike Arlt, Larry Mikowski, Bobby Howell, Rob Whims and Jason Morrow.
This year’s seniors were Jon Pearson, Eli Graves, Skylar Workman, Gavyn Merchant, Max Goethals, Evan Trafford, Bode Bielas, Grant Kolbusz, James Person, Caleb Bott, Trenton Peacock, Noah Scribner and Gavin Dear. They and the coaching staff will be the center of attention as the community celebrates the football team at 7 p.m. this evening in the high school gymnasium.
The seniors probably won’t need VIP parking tonight. But if it would help, Conner would surely make arrangements to utilize Trina’s Touchdown Club. He’d have to add a shuttle though as Rodes Field is about a mile away from the school.
“It feels amazing — I don’t think it really hit any one yet, but I am sure it will,” Conner said. “After we won, it is truly something – it is something else I can’t explain.
“The seniors finally won it the way they were supposed to,” he continued. “It was a good class of seniors.”
Tom Spencer is a longtime MHSAA-registered basketball and soccer official, and former softball and baseball official, and he also has coached in the northern Lower Peninsula area. He previously has written for the Saginaw News, Bay County Sports Page and Midland Daily News. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Manistee, Wexford, Missaukee, Roscommon, Ogemaw, Iosco, Alcona, Oscoda, Crawford, Kalkaska, Grand Traverse, Benzie, Leelanau, Antrim, Otsego, Montmorency, Alpena, Presque Isle, Cheboygan, Charlevoix and Emmet counties.
PHOTOS (Top) Kingsley students support their classmates during Saturday’s Division 6 Final at Ford Field. (2) Stags assistant coach Conner Schueller watches from the sideline during an Almont run back. (3) Kingsley coach Tim Wooer, in red, prepares to present the championship trophy to his team including Schueller, far right. (4) Trina’s Touchdown Club welcomes members to the VIP lot adjacent to the Kingsley stadium. (Ford Field photos by Hockey Weekly Action Photos; touchdown club photo courtesy of the Kingsley football program.)