By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Why does high school football remain a community staple? Perhaps the most telling reasons are the pride or disappointment that can result from playing the neighboring school a few miles down the road. Whether that game is played early in the schedule or at the end of October – it's going to be brought up again and again during the year to come.
Week 2 featured plenty of games that will be recalled after the snow begins to fall.
For most, league play ramps up this week. But these are the best of the momentum-builders and rivalry clashes that were played all over the state over this Labor Day weekend.
Zeeland East 60, Zeeland West 52 (2 OT)
This is one of the top rivalry games in Michigan, no question. And this was another classic, with East scoring in double overtime and then its defense holding on to avenge last season’s 26-21 loss to the Dux. The Chix have scored a combined 124 points during their 2-0 start. It’s been a rougher one for West (0-2), which in addition to this defeat put up 58 points on opening night and still lost by one to Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central. Click to read more from the Holland Sentinel.
Grand Rapids Catholic Central 14, Muskegon Catholic Central 0 – This slugfest between annual powers could get cited in November if these two again make their usual deep playoff runs.
Grand Rapids Kenowa Hills 28, Greenville 22 – Kenowa Hills is winning close (see also the four-point win over Traverse City West on opening night), but winning nonetheless.
Whitehall 28, Ravenna 7 – Whitehall joined the West Michigan Conference contenders in 2011 by beating Ravenna, and this seems to indicate that wasn’t just a one-year showing.
Grand Rapids West Catholic 28, Comstock Park 0 – The Falcons rebounded from a shutout in Indianapolis to shut out a team that won 10 games in 2011.
Southwest and Border
Morenci 34, Hudson 28
Keeping in mind that Morenci pushed into the playoffs as a 5-4 qualifier in 2011, this win was maybe a close second in significance. Maybe. Hudson (1-1) had won 33 straight regular-season games and at least 12 total in each of the last three seasons. The Tigers had beaten Morenci 10 straight times. Last but not least, this is Morenci’s first 2-0 start since 2001. Click to read more from the Adrian Daily Telegram.
Mattawan 49, Sturgis 27 – The Wildcats avenged last season’s nine-point loss in this matchup of 2011 playoff qualifiers to start 2-0 for the first time since 2006.
Schoolcraft 42, Constantine 32 – The Eagles broke a seven-game losing streak to Constantine and now look like the favorites in the Kalamazoo Valley Association.
Jonesville 52, Springport 51 – It’s big that these two scored a combined 103 points; it’s bigger that Jonesville won just once in 2011 and Springport was a playoff team.
Kalamazoo Loy Norrix 22, Kalamazoo Central 9 – This one always is significant, regardless of the talent on the two teams; Loy Norrix made it two straight in the series after previously dropping seven in a row.
Detroit East English 34, Detroit Martin Luther King 26
Make East English the favorite to finish first in the Detroit PSL East and rival Detroit Cass Tech as best in city. East English (1-1) and King (0-2) were considered the main contenders of their newly-formed division, and East English running back Desmond King averaged nearly 10 yards per carry to push his team to the forefront. King fell to 0-2. Click to read more from the Detroit Free Press.
Farmington 14, Southfield 6 – The Falcons have made the playoffs four straight seasons, so success is expected; this win was especially significant not only because it was the OAA White opener, but given Southfield’s impressive win over Detroit King during opening weekend.
Farmington Hills Harrison 19, Rochester Adams 7 – The OAA White is absolutely loaded, and these two are the usual favorites; Harrison sits atop the pack once again.
Dearborn Heights Robichaud 28, Dearborn 21 – This was just the third meeting between the two during the modern era, but also since 2009; it was also the first time Robichaud got the win.
Allen Park Cabrini 35, Madison Heights Bishop Foley 23 – Cabrini equaled both its total wins from last season (two) and Catholic League Intersectional wins (one).
Lower Up North
Traverse City West 16, Grand Haven 14
Aside from rivalry games victories over Traverse City Central, this might be West’s best win of the last five seasons. Grand Haven (1-1) is a force while playing in arguably the best league in the state – the O-K Red – and had beaten the Titans the last three seasons. It also was a great way for TC West (1-1) to bounce back after that four-point loss to Kenowa Hills on opening night. Click to read more from the Traverse City Record-Eagle.
Cadillac 15, Bay City John Glenn 14 – Cadillac had lost five straight to John Glenn, including by 35 points in 2011.
Boyne City 18, Kent City 13 – Boyne City is 2-0 for the first time since 2008, also the last the last time the Ramblers made the playoffs.
Traverse City Central 50, Escanaba 6 – These longtime annual foes renewed their rivalry for the first time since 2007.
McBain 42, Manistee 40 – The Ramblers made it three straight over Manistee; the Chippewas finished just short after winning their opener by two points.
Thumb and Bay
Croswell-Lexington 27, Richmond 24
In the pecking order of the Port Huron area’s best, this combined with Richmond’s win over Marine City on opening night might mean the Pioneers are tops so far. Croswell-Lexington (2-0) didn’t take its first lead until 31 seconds remained in regulation and trailed 21-0 midway through the second quarter. But after edging the Mariners by a point, the Blue Devils (1-1) couldn’t regain the lead this time. Click to read more from the Port Huron Times Herald.
Flint Powers Catholic 27, Mount Pleasant 7 – The reigning Division 5 champion used a big second quarter to push ahead of the reigning Division 3 runner-up.
Saginaw Nouvel 33, Lansing Catholic 28 – The reigning Division 7 champion Panthers came back to edge the reigning Division 5 runner-up; the Cougars hadn’t lost during the regular season since 2009.
Midland 31, Davison 20 – Not too much flash and dash, just two solid wins now for the Chemics as they head into Saginaw Valley League North play.
Beaverton 14, Tawas 12 – The Beavers broke a 12-game losing streak on opening night and are 2-0 for the first time since 1984 after beating a 2011 playoff team this week.
Lansing Everett 38, DeWitt 10
This might’ve come as a shock to those not familiar with Lansing-area football. True, the Panthers had beaten the Vikings 48-7 in 2011. But Everett (2-0) has had nearly the same starting lineup the last three seasons and was picked by its league coaches to finish first in the Capital Area Activities Conference Blue now that those players are juniors and seniors. The title quest begins this week, while DeWitt (1-1) remains the heavy favorite in the CAAC Red. Click to read more from the Lansing State Journal.
Belding 63, Lakewood 42 – This is one of five games statewide over the first two weeks in which the teams combined for more than 100 points and the losing team scored at least 40.
Bath 19, Fulton 17 – The Bees are 2-0 for the first time since 2000 and broke a 14-game losing streak to the Pirates after falling to them by just a point in 2011.
Haslett 28, Okemos 20 – This Meridian Bowl featured old rivals not just in that Haslett and Okemos share the same township, but because Chieftains coach Jack Wallace spent most of the last three decades coaching Fowlerville.
Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart 49, Manistee Catholic Central 41 – The Irish made it seven straight over their former league foe, but not without 90 points being scored between the two.
Cedarville 32, Deckerville 8
Using the transitive property of who beat who, Cedarville might now be the team to beat in 8-player football this fall. The Trojans are 2-0 after going 9-2 and making a Regional Final in 2011. Deckerville opened the season with a 32-12 win over reigning MHSAA 8-player champion Carsonville-Port Sanilac, giving Cedarville something more to feel good about heading back into league play. Click and scroll to the bottom to read more from the Soo Evening News.
Negaunee 12, Calumet 6 – These two had last met in the regular season in 1958, but also in two playoff games since 1995; the Miners won both of those and this long-awaited rematch as well.
Crystal Falls Forest Park 35, Norway 22 – Norway made this much closer than last season’s 34-0 shutout, but the Trojans are 2-0 as usual heading into a tough matchup with Hurley (Wis.).
Powers North Central 36, Munising 12 – Good news for a North Central turnaround; the Jets fell to Munising 45-8 in 2011, when Munising finished in the playoffs and North Central ended 4-5.
L’Anse 40, Iron River West Iron County 20 – The Purple Hornets are 2-0, equaling last season’s win total, and with 74 points are also halfway to that 2011 output.
PHOTO: Midland quarterback Alec Johnson follows his blockers during last week's win over Davison. (Click to see more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)
Separated by 527 travel miles – whether over Mackinac Bridge or around Lake Michigan, the Novara family celebrated nearly parallel football successes this fall.
At Portland, John Novara completed his 25th season as head coach leading the Raiders to a 12-1 record – their best since finishing Division 5 runner-up in 2018, and a second-straight Capital Area Activities Conference White championship on the way to reaching the Division 4 Semifinals.
At Kingsford, fifth-year coach Mark Novara led the Flivvers to a 10-2 record – their best since posting the same in 2004. Kingsford shared the Western Peninsula Athletic Conference Copper title and won a Division 5 District title, its first District championship since 2009.
John Novara graduated from Iron Mountain in 1989, and younger brother Mark graduated from Kingsford in 1993.
Similarly parallel, both teams were quarterbacked by Novaras. Dominic Novara directed the Raiders’ attack, and cousin Nic Novara led the Flivvers. Both are juniors. (Mark Novara was a Division III All-American at quarterback at Lakeland College in Wisconsin.)
One more connection: Portland athletic director Kevin Veale quarterbacked the Iron Mountain teams with John Novara as tight end long before they worked together downstate. Veale’s nephew Garrett Veale was a standout two-way lineman for Mark Novara and Kingsford this fall.
Small gesture, memorable connection
Dante DeGrazia’s senior season was sadly short-lived this fall, as he suffered a season-ending injury during the first half of South Lyon East’s opening game against White Lake Lakeland at Michigan Stadium.
But an official provided a memory the DeGrazias will not forget.
Chris Curtis had begun his 16th season as an official earlier that day at U-M, and stuck around to watch the Lakes Valley Conference matchup. A month later, he was officiating the East/Warren Mott game, and made sure to check in with DeGrazia – a small gesture, but a meaningful one as well and another reminder of the interconnectedness of communities within educational athletics.
“When he heard my son wasn't able to play anymore, needed surgery and that he was a senior, he offered him kindness and a hug on the field,” Dante’s mother Dana DeGrazia wrote to East athletic director Greg Michaels. “As a parent whose son is going through a rough time dealing with losing his senior season, hearing this story from Dante means a lot to me and the support that was given to him and I wanted to reach out and tell him thank you.”
PHOTOS (Top) Kingsford football coach Mark Novara, far left, quarterback Nic Novara and Portland coach (and uncle) John Novara celebrate the Flivvers' District title. (Middle) South Lyon East's Dante DeGrazia (33) and official Chris Curtis meet for a quick hug during East's Week 5 game. (Photos courtesy of the Portland football program and DeGrazia family, respectively.)