By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
The break was short for many teams heading into Week 2 of this football season.
While last week’s openers were mostly split between Thursday and Friday, nearly all of Michigan’s teams will play this week’s games tonight in advance of the Labor Day holiday and start of school for many next Tuesday.
Below is our weekly look – powered by MI Student Aid – at some of the games to see no matter your neighborhood (relatively and regionally speaking) and includes games that will be played on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
Remember, check out the MHSAA Score Center for the full schedule plus scores all three nights as they games are completed. A number of games also will be broadcast again this weekend, live, on MHSAA.tv.
Bay & Thumb
Almont (1-0) at Algonac (0-1), Thursday
After a couple of seasons at or near the top of Port Huron-area football, Algonac opened last week with a 42-6 loss to Marine City – its first non-Richmond regular-season defeat since 2014. Up next is Blue Water Area Conference rival Almont, no doubt aching to win big as well after taking four losses (two in the playoffs) from the Muskrats over the last two seasons. The Raiders are coming off a big win over 2016 playoff team Grosse Ile.
Others that caught my eye: THURSDAY Freeland (1-0) at Chesaning (1-0), Saginaw Heritage (1-0) at Flint Powers Catholic (1-0), Beaverton (1-0) at Harbor Beach (1-0), Lake Fenton (0-1) at Montrose (1-0).
Southfield Arts & Technology (0-1) at Clarkston (1-0), Friday
Southfield A&T came out on the losing end of arguably the most exciting game of opening weekend. But if its 56-54 triple-overtime defeat to powerful Davison told us anything, it’s that last year’s 8-4 finish could be just a start for the second-year program built from the former Southfield and Southfield-Lathrup. The Warriors beat Clarkston 24-18 a year ago, actually, but the Wolves appear in form already as well coming off a 42-7 win over Lapeer (27-5 over the last three seasons with two of those losses to Clarkston).
Others that caught my eye: THURSDAY Romeo (1-0) at Clinton Township Chippewa Valley (1-0), FRIDAY Toledo Whitmer, Ohio (1-0) at Detroit Catholic Central (1-0), East Kentwood (1-0) at Orchard Lake St. Mary's (0-1), Macomb Dakota (1-0) at Utica Eisenhower (1-0).
Grand Ledge (1-0) at DeWitt (0-1), Thursday
The is the second year in a row the Lansing area’s most successful programs of the last decade have matched up (and the series will continue with DeWitt moving into the Capital Area Activities Conference Blue with Grand Ledge next fall). The Comets won last year’s meeting 28-21. Senior-dominated Grand Ledge impressed last week with a 41-14 win over Hudsonville, but a DeWitt team that put a number of new starters on the field last week also impressed coming back to nearly catch Grand Rapids Christian, on the road, before falling 38-30.
Others that caught my eye: THURSDAY Dearborn Divine Child (1-0) at East Lansing (1-0), Portland (1-0) at Lansing Sexton (1-0), Fulton (1-0) at Laingsburg (0-1), FRIDAY Beal City (1-0) at Clare (0-1).
Northern Lower Peninsula
Muskegon Catholic Central (0-0) at Frankfort (1-0), Friday
The anticipation for this one has been boiling over. Muskegon Catholic Central handed Frankfort its first and only loss last season, 35-0 in a Division 8 Regional Final at MCC on the way to winning a fourth straight MHSAA championship. The Panthers also got within 22-12 of MCC in a 2015 Regional Final, so there’s a nice build-up of history behind this meeting of small-school contenders. The Crusaders couldn’t lock down a Week 1 game this fall, so this is their season opener and the sophomore debut for heavily-followed quarterback Cameron Martinez. Frankfort did have a game in Week 1 and put up 70 points – its most in a game since 2004 – to down Manton by 30.
Others that caught my eye: THURSDAY St. Johns (0-1) at Cadillac (1-0), FRIDAY Newberry (1-0) at Gaylord St. Mary (1-0), Traverse City St. Francis (1-0) at Maple City Glen Lake (1-0), Escanaba (1-0) at Petoskey (0-1).
Southeast & Border
Pinckney (1-0) at Chelsea (1-0), Friday
Chelsea is 32-6 over its last three seasons and won all of its Southeastern Conference White games last season by at least 22 points. The Bulldogs will welcome Pinckney to the league Friday after the Pirates went 8-3 last season (their most wins since 1989) before coming over from the Kensington Lakes Activities Association West. Pinckney also had a coaching change in the offseason with defensive coordinator Rod Beaton getting a promotion, and his expertise will be especially handy this week. Chelsea 27 points last week on a Milan defense that gave up only 16 per game in 2016.
Others that caught my eye: THURSDAY New Haven (1-0) at Ida (1-0), Homer (1-0) at Concord (0-1), Petersburg-Summerfield (1-0) at Pittsford (1-0), FRIDAY Detroit Mumford (1-0) at Saline (0-1).
Schoolcraft (1-0) at Berrien Springs (1-0), Thursday
Berrien Springs has been right on the verge of a big season over the last few, with three straight playoff appearances and a 17-5 record since the start of 2015. The Shamrocks looked ready to make this the year opening with a 53-0 win over Buchanan last week. But giving Schoolcraft its first regular season loss since 2014 would really make a statement. The Eagles are 20-2 going back to the start of 2015 and downed Fennville 41-0 to start this year’s campaign. If Schoolcraft comes through this one on top too, Berrien Springs still will have a few more opportunities to make noise – see Week 4 against Benton Harbor and Week 9 against Muskegon Oakridge.
Others that caught my eye: THURSDAY Coldwater (1-0) at Marshall (1-0), Battle Creek Central (0-1) at Portage Central (1-0), Paw Paw (1-0) at Sturgis (1-0), FRIDAY Grand Rapids South Christian (1-0) at Benton Harbor (0-1).
Ishpeming (1-0) at Norway (1-0), Friday
The Hematites seem to be getting most of the tough ones out of the way early as they work back from last year’s 3-5 finish. Ishpeming started this fall by avenging a 2016 loss to Iron Mountain 34-7, and now comes Norway, which shut out the Hematites 14-0 last year. The slight difference this time is these teams are no longer in the same league, literally; the Knights left the Mid-Peninsula Conference for the Mid-Eastern Conference this season. They opened with a 34-7 nonleague win over Niagara (Wis.) after ending last fall as a District champ.
Others that caught my eye: THURSDAY Iron Mountain (0-1) at Gwinn (0-1), Calumet (1-0) at Negaunee (0-1), FRIDAY Traverse City Central (1-0) at Marquette (0-1), SATURDAY Munising (0-1) at St. Ignace (0-1).
Lowell (1-0) at Rockford (1-0), Friday
One of the best scheduling moves in the state in 2016 was the re-introduction of this matchup between two of the elite programs in all of the Grand Rapids area and statewide. Lowell won that first matchup since the end of a two-year series in 2011-12, 21-10, but it also was Rockford’s opener as it had to miss its Week 1 game last fall with a team-wide sickness. This time both teams have a win out of the way, and impressive ones on both sides. The Rams shut out Saline 14-0 to start, while the Red Arrows downed Warren DeLaSalle 36-6.
Others that caught my eye: THURSDAY Grand Rapids Christian (1-0) at Caledonia (1-0), Detroit Loyola (0-1) at Grand Rapids Catholic Central (1-0), Warren DeLaSalle (0-1) at Grandville (1-0), FRIDAY Muskegon Mona Shores (1-0) at Zeeland West (1-0).
Crystal Falls Forest Park (0-1) at Powers North Central (1-0), Friday
At least the faces will look mostly different from those who more or less decided which was the best team in the Upper Peninsula (and arguably statewide) last season. Reigning two-time MHSAA champion North Central graduated the majority of its stars from the last two seasons including quarterback Jason Whitens, and Forest Park’s record-setting back Dan Nocerini is now playing at Michigan Tech. After losing only to North Central (twice) last season, the Trojans opened last week with a 38-36 defeat to Rapid River. But some of the same success could be brewing again for the Jets, who made it 27 straight victories with a 66-0 shutdown of Felch North Dickinson.
Others that caught my eye: THURSDAY Lawrence (1-0) at Deckerville (1-0), Mayville (1-0) at Morrice (1-0), North Adams-Jerome (1-0) at Battle Creek St. Philip (1-0), Wyoming Tri-unity Christian (0-1) at Suttons Bay (1-0).
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: East Kentwood (with red trim) faces Orchard Lake St. Mary's this week after opening with a win against Harrison Township L'Anse Creuse. (Photo by John Johnson).
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.)