By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Four of last season’s 10 MHSAA football champions began 2019 over the weekend 0-1. Ten teams that didn’t win a game last season stand 1-0 – and the two longest losing streaks in the state came to an end.
How's that for a new season and fresh start? And that's not even mentioning the storms that pushed many games to finish near or after midnight Thursday and roughly 40 to be completed later in the holiday weekend.
Below is our weekly review at some of the results that popped off the page most from every region of the state, with a little perspective on wins and losses that might mean even more as we get into late September and October.
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Bay & Thumb
HEADLINER Beaverton 16, Breckenridge 6 The Beavers are coming off two straight eight-win seasons and just missed catching Breckenridge on opening night last year, falling 20-19. This time they outpaced the Huskies, last season’s Division 8 runners-up, to take a 2-1 lead in their recent opening-night series. Click for more from the Midland Daily News and see highlights below from MI Sports Now.
— MISportsNow (@MISportsNow) August 30, 2019
Watch list Port Huron 33, Flint Carman-Ainsworth 6 Although Carman-Ainsworth is coming off a down season, expectations are always high – and Port Huron’s should be now too after avenging last season’s 38-22 defeat and as the Big Reds seek their first playoff berth since 2014.
Remember this one Montrose 16, Cass City 14 These two both could be on the way to big things; after last year’s 48-22 Montrose win, the Rams went on a Division 6 Semifinal run and Cass City won its league.
More shoutouts Freeland 27, Marshall 26 (OT) A blocked extra point and then a fumbled extra point attempt snap were part of a wild overtime that saw the Falcons defeat the Redhawks by three points or fewer for the second straight season. Davison 54, Fenton 27 The Cardinals came out best in a matchup of likely league contenders, scoring 50+ points against a Tigers program that hadn’t given up that many since 2016.
HEADLINER Detroit Catholic Central 24, Detroit Martin Luther King 22 These two met for the first time since the 2001 playoffs, and the result was the most exhilarating of an exceptional weekend of games at the Xenith Prep Kickoff Classic at Wayne State. DCC didn’t score during the second half but held off a potential King scoring drive late in the fourth quarter to edge the reigning Division 3 champion. Click for more from MLive-Detroit and see below for highlights from State Champs Sports Network.
VIDEO: Check out the highlights of the Detroit Catholic Central (@DCCfootball) vs. Detroit King (@DetKingFootball) football game from the Xenith Prep Kickoff Classic (@detpkc). @DETROITCCAD @DCCShamrocks.
— STATE CHAMPS! (@statechampsnet) September 3, 2019
Watch list Southfield Arts & Technology 28, Clarkston 14 These two will meet again in league play in Week 6, and it might be the statewide game of that week after the Warriors began their rebound from two straight sub-.500 seasons with a massive win over the reigning Division 1 runner-up.
Remember this one Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice 7, Utica Eisenhower 0 It’s “six wins and in” the playoffs for one more season, and with these teams representing two of the strongest leagues statewide – Brother Rice the Detroit Catholic League Central and Eisenhower the Macomb Area Conference Red – every win counts that much more.
More shoutouts Clinton Township Chippewa Valley 35, Saline 21 Reigning Division 1 champion Chippewa Valley graduated a ton on offense but found enough against another 2018 semifinalist in Saline. Lake Orion 17, Lapeer 7 The Dragons are 1-0 for the first time since 2013 after handing the Lightning its first regular-season loss since Week 8 of 2017.
HEADLINER Pewamo-Westphalia 14, Reading 0 The Pirates handed reigning Division 8 champion Reading its first defeat since the end of 2017, but more impressively P-W locked down an offense that a year ago posted the 10th-most points in MHSAA 11-player history. The Pirates haven’t lost a regular-season game since their 2017 opener. Click for more from the Hillsdale Daily News.
Watch list Lansing Eastern 35, Owosso 0 One win meant a million for the Quakers, who broke a 38-game losing streak – and with one more victory would equal their best finish since 2010.
Remember this one New Lothrop 54, Lake City 7 Only a game of the P-W/Reading magnitude could bump this rematch from last season’s Division 7 Semifinals out of the headlining spot, as the reigning champion Hornets again put up 50+ points on the Trojans after winning last November 51-22.
More shoutouts DeWitt 31, Traverse City Central 26 The Panthers traveled to Thirlby Field and hung on for a nice win over an annual playoff qualifier. Central Montcalm 22, Morley Stanwood 20 After a winless 2018, Central Montcalm broke a 13-game losing streak with its first victory over Morley Stanwood since 2014.
Northern Lower Peninsula
HEADLINER Maple City Glen Lake 26, Millington 7 The Lakers’ nonleague schedule is loaded, and they almost couldn’t have hoped for better against a Millington team coming off its 15th straight playoff season. Glen Lake enjoyed three touchdown passes from Reece Hazelton in scoring all of its points during the first half. Click for more from the Traverse City Record-Eagle.
Watch list Evart 20, Frankfort 3 The Wildcats have made the playoffs once over the last five seasons and won a combined six games over the last two – but if opening night is an indication, they could match all of that this fall after downing a Frankfort team that’s made the playoffs five straight seasons and beat Evart in their last meeting 30-0 to open the 2016 playoffs.
Remember this one Grayling 22, Roscommon 6 The Vikings have made the playoffs seven times this decade, but finished only 3-6 a year ago – while Roscommon came into this season off a league title and 10-2 finish to 2018.
More shoutouts Alcona 16, Tawas 14 The Tigers went from two straight nine-win seasons to one victory in 2018, but the bounce-back has begun with this avenging of a 48-24 last-season loss. Kingsley 36, McBain 6 These teams combined to go 18-5 a year ago, and this result matched the second-best by the Stags’ defense from 2018.
Southeast & Border
HEADLINER Blissfield 33, Ottawa Lake Whiteford 14 The Royals broke a seven-game opening-night losing streak against Whiteford, in the process handing the Bobcats their first regular-season defeat since Week 9 of 2015. Whiteford also hadn’t given up 30 points in a game since the 2016 Division 8 Final. Click for more from the Toledo Blade and see highlights below from BCSN.
— BCSN (@BCSNsports) August 30, 2019
Watch list Erie Mason 58, Petersburg Summerfield 40 After four straight seasons of finishing 1-8, Erie Mason is 1-0 for the first time since 2003, the last time the Eagles made the playoffs.
Remember this one Jackson Lumen Christi 14, Kalamazoo United 12 The Titans ran their state-best winning streak to 24, but hardly with ease against a United team with some key new faces.
More shoutouts Homer 18, Michigan Center 0 The Trojans got off to the right start coming off their first sub-.500 season since 2009 by beating the reigning Cascades Conference runner-up. Ann Arbor Huron 63, Ecorse 14 The River Rats won for the first time in 40 games, putting up 63 points after scoring 98 over the entirety of 2018.
HEADLINER Berrien Springs 28, Grand Rapids West Catholic 3 The Shamrocks are riding a string of five straight playoff seasons into the fall, but it’s hard to argue they’ve had a better start during this run. West Catholic has made the playoffs 16 straight seasons and is coming off a 2018 that saw respectable defeats to two eventual MHSAA champions. Click for more from the St. Joseph Herald-Palladium.
Watch list Paw Paw 42, Three Rivers 0 Edwardsburg tends to own the Wolverine Conference, and Three Rivers has been its biggest challenger the last few seasons – but that role could fall to Paw Paw coming off this big win and an 8-3 finish last year that also included a playoff victory over Three Rivers.
Remember this one Mendon 14, Decatur 7 Two of the best in the Southwest 10 Conference and also at least regionally in Division 8 saw each other right away with the Hornets running their recent winning streak over the Raiders to three straight.
More shoutouts St. Joseph 32, Battle Creek Central 19 The Bears avenged last season’s 34-27 loss to the Bearcats, a meeting that led things off for two eventual playoff qualifiers. Coldwater 47, Haslett 30 The Cardinals also evened the score against their opening night opponent after falling to Haslett 28-7 a year ago and going on to miss the playoffs for the first time since 2012.
HEADLINER Iron Mountain 17, Negaunee 14 These teams have proven to be just about even over two straight openers, with the Mountaineers now winning both by three points. Last year the same result previewed an 8-3 season for Iron Mountain and a 5-4 by the Miners, who are looking to get back to the playoffs for the first time since 2016. Click for more from the Iron Mountain Daily News.
Watch List Lake Linden-Hubbell 32, Norway 14 The Lakes are coming off their first back-to-back sub-.500 seasons since the early 1970s, but they’re hoping that breaking a three-game losing streak to Norway is the start of a turnaround.
Remember this one Bark River-Harris 56, Gwinn 50 (OT) The Broncos are another team seeking a comeback after falling to 2-7 in 2018, and avenging last season’s 36-20 loss to Gwinn may have them on the way.
More shoutouts Sault Ste. Marie 22, Cheboygan 16 The Blue Devils went 5-4 last season while averaging just 15 points per game, and this week’s 22 would’ve been their second-highest total last fall. West Iron County 32, Munising 6 Beating Munising on opening night has been good to the Wykons, who made the playoffs all four previous seasons this decade after they won that matchup. West Iron missed the playoffs in 2015 after falling to the Mustangs in Week 1.
HEADLINER Muskegon 41, Warren De La Salle Collegiate 7 After closing last season with a tough defeat in the Division 3 Final, the Big Reds opened this fall with a second straight win over two-time reigning Division 2 champion De La Salle. During the first half alone, Muskegon quarterback Cameron Martinez ran 13 times for 109 yards and three scores. Click for more from the Muskegon Chronicle.
Check out the highlights of the Muskegon (@OnMuskegon) vs. De La Salle football game from tonight at the Xenith Prep Kickoff Classic (@detpkc). Brought to you by @LawrenceTechU, @MHSAA & @hungryhowies pic.twitter.com/BSm2ZDHFoZ
— STATE CHAMPS! (@statechampsnet) August 31, 2019
Watch List Grand Rapids Catholic Central 17, River Rouge 14 GRCC is coming off a third straight trip to at least the Division 4 Semifinals and is back in the swing after winning this one on a field goal with 2:15 to play.
Remember this one Hart 48, Holton 40 (2OT) Hart hasn’t had a winning season since 1997 and didn’t have a varsity at all in 2015, but started this fall with this victory over a 2018 Division 8 semifinalist.
More shoutouts Montague 42, Reed City 0 Last season’s Division 6 runner-up avenged a 34-13 loss to the Coyotes while handing them only their second regular-season defeat over the last five years. Zeeland West 28, East Grand Rapids 21 Surprisingly, this was the first meeting between these perennial Division 3 powers – so although they’d never met before, it’s not hard to anticipate them possibly meeting again in the playoffs.
HEADLINER Brimley 24, Rapid River 12 Simply put, this was the Bay’s biggest win during a decade of 8-player football. Rapid River is the reigning 8-Player Division 2 champion and had beaten Brimley 80-55 in last year’s regular-season finale. Click for more from the Escanaba Daily Press.
Watch List Pickford 48, Crystal Falls Forest Park 16 A junior-heavy Pickford team finished 8-Player Division 1 runner-up last season and opened its return by nearly doubling up on last season’s 18-point win over the always-powerful Trojans.
Remember this one Climax-Scotts 16, Wyoming Tri-unity Christian 12 The Panthers’ 8-player debut was as good as expected, and they quickly will have more chances to show what they can do with Lawrence, Bellevue and Camden-Frontier coming up over the next three weeks.
More shoutouts Powers North Central 66, Cedarville 12 The Jets lasted only a week in last season’s Division 2 playoffs, but opened this fall with a win over a 2018 semifinalist. Martin 20, Bellevue 12 The Clippers are another new 8-player team and coming off a playoff season in 11, and they should be excited after this debut against one of the state’s best in 8 over the last two seasons.
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PHOTO: Davison put 54 points on the scoreboard to win its season opener against Fenton. (Photo by Terry Lyons.)
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.)