By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
The most difficult part of previewing the state’s top football matchups each week is coming up with an introduction that hits on a common theme for what we can expect from those games – but this week we’ll stick with the obvious.
Every featured Drive for Detroit preview matchup tonight and Saturday pits a pair of undefeated teams whose seasons will hardly be over if they take a loss over the next two days – but who also could be rewarded as victors with some serious momentum as league schedules get underway and the first third of the regular season waves good-bye.
Our weekly previews are powered by MI Student Aid. Find all of our scores as they come in on the MHSAA Score Center, and click on teams off that page for updated standings and playoff points. MHSAA.tv will broadcast eight games this weekend from across the state – click here for the schedule.
Bay & Thumb
Richmond (2-0) at Croswell-Lexington (2-0), Friday
Richmond has won or shared the Blue Water Area Conference title three of the last four seasons, fending off mostly Algonac and Almont during that time. This could be Croswell-Lexington’s turn to jump into the mix. The Pioneers are coming off two straight playoff seasons and fell to the Blue Devils by only three points in last year’s meeting.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Flint Powers Catholic (2-0) at Bay City Central (1-1), Flint Carman-Ainsworth (1-1) at Davison (2-0), Detroit Country Day (1-1) at Flushing (1-1), Beaverton (2-0) at Gladwin (0-2).
Bloomfield Hills (2-0) at Clarkston (2-0), Friday
The Black Hawks have won 11 straight regular-season games, including 28-24 last week over highly-regarded West Bloomfield to open the Oakland Activities Association Red schedule. Now Bloomfield Hills – last season’s OAA Blue champ before switching divisions – gets the reigning OAA Red winner Clarkston and faces a defense that held both Lapeer and Southfield Arts & Technology to seven points apiece over the first two weeks, respectively.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Livonia Churchill (2-0) at Livonia Stevenson (2-0), Belleville (2-0) at Dearborn Edsel Ford (2-0), Wyandotte Roosevelt (2-0) at Lincoln Park (2-0), SATURDAY Detroit Catholic Central (1-1) at Detroit U-D Jesuit (1-1).
Perry (2-0) at Lake Odessa Lakewood (2-0), Friday
This could end as one of the most important nights in Perry football history. The Ramblers are off to the best possible start as they pursue their first playoff appearance, and can take the momentum to an unprecedented level with a win over the reigning Greater Lansing Activities Conference champion. The Vikings won last year’s meeting only 37-32, their closest victory of a perfect league run.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Williamston (2-0) at Portland (1-1), Bath (2-0) at Fowler (1-1), Houghton Lake (2-0) at Clare (1-1), East Lansing (1-1) at Grand Ledge (1-1).
Northern Lower Peninsula
Traverse City Central (2-0) vs. Traverse City West (2-0) at Thirlby Field, Friday
It’s nearly a guarantee this will be the most attended high school game in Michigan this weekend and one of the most highly-attended anywhere this year. These teams meet annually on the field they share to honor military and local first-response personnel in a “Patriot Game,” and they’ll draw 10,000 fans for this long-awaited rematch after Central downed West 10-8 during the regular season and 13-12 in a Division 2 District opener in 2016.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Lincoln Alcona (2-0) at Rogers City (1-1), Indian River Inland Lakes (1-1) at Gaylord St. Mary (2-0), Boyne City (2-0) at Cheboygan (1-1), SATURDAY Elk Rapids (2-0) at Traverse City St. Francis (2-0).
Portage Central (2-0) at Stevensville Lakeshore (2-0), Friday
The Southwest Michigan Activities Conference West is expected to again be one of the most competitive leagues in the state, and for the fourth straight season these two powers will kick off their league schedules against each other. Last year’s meeting didn’t feature the usual down-to-the-end drama of previous matchups this decade. But both enter tonight with similar wins over Battle Creek Central and the need for a quick upper hand as league mate St. Joseph also has won its first two games this fall.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Maple City Glen Lake (1-1) at Watervliet (2-0), Edwardsburg (2-0) at Paw Paw (2-0), Cassopolis (2-0) at White Pigeon (2-0), Plainwell (1-1) at Vicksburg (2-0).
Southeast & Border
Battle Creek Harper Creek (2-0) at Jackson Lumen Christi (2-0), Friday
Lumen Christi tripped up only twice on last year’s march to the Division 6 title – to Grand Rapids West Catholic on opening night and Harper Creek in Week 3 in a 10-point loss that ultimately led to those two sharing the Interstate 8 Athletic Conference title. The Titans avenged the first defeat by downing West Catholic two weeks ago – and there’s a great chance again this game will have league title implications.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Petersburg-Summerfield (2-0) at Ottawa Lake Whiteford (2-0), Marshall (1-1) at Parma Western (2-0), Napoleon (1-1) at Michigan Center (2-0), Blissfield (1-1) at Ida (2-0).
L’Anse (2-0) at Ishpeming Westwood (2-0), Friday
This one doesn’t feature the usual heavyweights of a top U.P. matchup. But there are some valid reasons for it being the top pick this week. L’Anse, which already has equaled last season’s two wins, has given up 12 points over two games and last week downed a Lake Linden-Hubbell team that didn’t lose a regular season game in 2015 or 2016. Westwood also went only 2-7 last year, and also has given up only 12 points over two games – and if it scores 26 tonight will match its offensive output for all of last season as well.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Lake Linden-Hubbell (0-2) at Munising (1-1), Newberry (1-1) at Bark River-Harris (2-0), Hurley, Wis. (2-1) at Calumet (2-0), Iron River West Iron County (1-1) at Iron Mountain (0-2).
East Grand Rapids (2-0) at Lowell (2-0)
It’s become one of the givens every season: Lowell is going to play a loaded nonconference schedule. The Red Arrows will look to make it two straight 3-0 starts against a Warren DeLaSalle/Rockford/East Grand Rapids trio and after downing the Pioneers 34-7 last fall. But East Grand Rapids also has two wins over notable opponents – annual power Farmington Hills Harrison and 2016 playoff qualifier Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern, and the Pioneers surely are aching to take a win from their former league rival for the first time since 2010.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Rockford (1-1) at Muskegon Mona Shores (2-0), East Kentwood (2-0) at Hudsonville (1-1), Greenville (2-0) at Cedar Springs (1-1), SATURDAY Grand Rapids West Catholic (1-1) at Zeeland West (1-1)
Camden-Frontier (2-0) at Battle Creek St. Philip (2-0), Saturday
These two met under similar circumstances in Week 4 last season, both undefeated with St. Philip the reigning MHSAA runner-up and Camden-Frontier an upstart quickly gaining respect. The Redskins receive plenty now with a 10-2 record since switching to 8-player, but this will certainly be their first significant test of 2017. Last year’s loss contributed to St. Philip just missing the playoffs; the Tigers are looking strong so far with a win over 2016 semifinalist Wyoming Tri-unity Christian already to their credit.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Crystal Falls Forest Park (1-1) at Stephenson (2-0), Portland St. Patrick (2-0) at Webberville (1-1), Pickford (2-0) at Engadine (2-0), SATURDAY Atlanta (2-0) at Wyoming Tri-unity Christian (1-1).
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: Lowell blasts forward for a touchdown during its win over Warren DeLaSalle in Week 1 at Wayne State University. (Click for 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.)