By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Every football regular season there’s one week when it’s tough to tell heading in which matchups might eventually have the greatest impact on the season as a whole. That tough-to-forecast week then tends to end up as one of the most exciting of the entire fall.
This might be that week for 2019. There are some definite must-watch games across the state for Week 3 – but in a lot of places, we’re eager to see who emerges as leagues continue to get rolling and summer weather hangs on just a little bit longer.
Below are some pretty strong guesses at games you won’t want to miss from your part of Michigan. You’ll again be able to check out 20 games live on MHSAA.tv – including eight of the games listed below.
Games below are Friday unless noted. "Drive for Detroit" is sponsored by MI Student Aid.
Bay & Thumb
Flint Beecher (1-1) at Flint Hamady (2-0)
These neighbors have begun playing each other during the regular season again only recently, with Hamady winning both matchups as part of the Genesee Area Conference Blue schedule over the last two seasons. Hamady edged Beecher 24-18 in Week 3 last year on the way to winning the league title and both teams qualifying for the playoffs.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary (2-0) at Saginaw Nouvel (2-0), Kalamazoo Central (1-1) at Flint Powers Catholic (2-0), Sandusky (1-1) at Ubly (2-0), Chesaning (2-0) at Montrose (2-0).
Rochester Adams (2-0) at Lake Orion (2-0)
The Dragons are one of the stories of the season so far, coming off back-to-back 0-2 starts the last two years with wins over highly-touted Lapeer and Southfield Arts & Technology to open this one. Lake Orion won those games by a combined score of 54-14, but faces another team that hasn’t gotten much attention – yet. Adams has outscored its first two opponents by a combined 91-31, with a 31-7 win last week over 2018 playoff qualifier Oxford.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Detroit U-D Jesuit (2-0) at Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice (2-0), Dearborn (1-1) at Belleville (2-0), Utica Eisenhower (1-1) at Clinton Township Chippewa Valley (2-0), Canton (1-1) at Plymouth (2-0).
Clare (2-0) at Harrison (2-0)
The Jack Pine Conference title continues to go through Clare, which shared the championship with Roscommon last season after outright wins in 2016 and 2017 and four more during the first half of the decade. The Pioneers have lost only three league games this decade – including to Harrison in 2010 and 2015. The Hornets earned their first two wins this season by a combined 70 points, but Clare has to be happy too with a combined 62-point margin during its start that included an impressive 35-0 shutout of Alma in Week 1.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Hartland (1-1) at Brighton (2-0), Fowlerville (2-0) at Williamston (2-0), Haslett (1-1) at Mason (2-0), Lake City (1-1) at Beal City (2-0).
Northern Lower Peninsula
Alcona (1-1) at Oscoda (2-0)
Alcona owns a 7-3 advantage since the teams began playing each other annually again in 2009, but Oscoda won 55-8 last season on the way to a North Star League title. The Owls offense found its stride last week against Coleman with a feat that is at least rare, if not unique – eight players combined to score 10 touchdowns, with Owen Franklin crossing the goal line three times and Andy Dault, Robert Host, Caleb Nagel, Gabe Kellstrom, Zach Ouillette, Gavin Lueck and Anthony Ward all scoring once (and quarterback Brayden Mallak making the MHSAA record book with five first-half TD passes).
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Ludington (2-0) at Manistee (2-0), Grayling (1-1) at Kingsley (2-0), Tawas (1-1) at Whittemore-Prescott (1-1). SATURDAY Holt (2-0) at Traverse City West (1-1).
Southeast & Border
Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central (2-0) at Milan (2-0)
This pair frequently of late has decided the Huron League title – although Milan last season followed up a 26-21 win over the Falcons with later losses to Riverview and eventual conference champion Grosse Ile. But these two look like the possible teams to beat again. Milan opened league play last week beating Grosse Ile 35-13, and St. Mary has nice wins over 2018 Division 7 runner-up Madison Heights Madison and Carleton Airport to start this fall.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Coldwater (2-0) at Jackson Lumen Christi (2-0), Hillsdale (2-0) at Erie-Mason (2-0), Brooklyn Columbia Central (2-0) at Ida (1-1), Schoolcraft (2-0) at Ottawa Lake Whiteford (1-1).
Portage Northern (2-0) at Portage Central (1-1)
These neighbors shared the Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference West title last season, in part because of Central’s 21-20 win over Northern in Week 3. Northern earned a degree of revenge seven weeks later with a 35-7 win over Central in a Division 2 playoff opener and on the way to a District title. The Huskies got past a major league obstacle last week by edging Stevensville Lakeshore 14-6, but haven’t beaten Central during the regular season since 2012.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Centreville (2-0) at Cassopolis (2-0), St. Joseph (2-0) at Mattawan (1-1), Paw Paw (2-0) at Plainwell (1-1), Kalamazoo United (0-2) at Berrien Springs (2-0).
Calumet (2-0) at Ishpeming Westwood (1-1)
A number of contenders facing off immediately this season has put a focus on the Western Peninsula Athletic Conference Copper, and this week reigning champion Calumet will travel to take on 2018 runner-up Westwood. The Copper Kings won last year’s matchup 14-12 and then got past the Patriots 6-0 in a Division 6 playoff opener. But Westwood this time is trying to bounce back from last week’s 20-point loss to Iron Mountain, which has emerged as the possible Copper favorite this fall.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Menominee (1-1) at Gladstone (2-0), Charlevoix (2-0) at St. Ignace (1-1), Ishpeming (2-0) at Norway (1-1), Marquette (0-2) at Sault Ste. Marie (2-0).
Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central (2-0) at Grandville (2-0)
This matchup features a pair of teams that have been impressive so far and have high hopes of moving up in tough conferences. Forest Hills Central was 5-5 a year ago and third in the Ottawa-Kent Conference White, but has beaten 2018 playoff teams Jenison and Holland West Ottawa to start and held both to seven points apiece. Grandville tied for fourth in the O-K Red last season and finished 4-5 overall despite a one-point Week 3 win over the Rangers. The Bulldogs have outscored their first two opponents by a combined 106-44, with a 39-point win over playoff regular East Lansing last week.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY East Grand Rapids (1-1) at Muskegon (2-0), Grand Rapids Catholic Central (1-1) at Zeeland East (2-0), Muskegon Reeths-Puffer (1-1) at Muskegon Mona Shores (2-0), Hamilton (2-0) at Byron Center (2-0).
Pickford (2-0) at Powers North Central (2-0), Saturday
If nothing else, this matchup might feature the two best offenses in 8-player football this season – and might be pitting two teams that will be playing for MHSAA championships at the Superior Dome in two months. Reigning 8-player Division 1 runner-up Pickford has put up 106 points, against 34, over its two wins over playoff regulars Crystal Falls Forest Park and Engadine. North Central’s combined tally is 128-18 against two more annual powers, reigning 8-player Division 2 champion Rapid River and Cedarville.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Pellston (2-0) at Au Gres-Sims (1-1), Bellevue (1-1) at Climax-Scotts (2-0), Battle Creek St. Philip (1-1) at Colon (2-0), Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart (1-1) at Deckerville (2-0).
Second Half’s weekly “Drive for Detroit” previews are powered by MI Student Aid, a part of the Office of Postsecondary Financial Planning 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. MI Student Aid administers the state’s 529 college savings programs (MET/MESP), as well as scholarship and grant programs that help make college Accessible, Affordable and Attainable for you. Connect with MI Student Aid at www.michigan.gov/mistudentaid and find more information on Facebook and Twitter @mistudentaid.
PHOTO: A Newberry ball-carrier looks for an opening during last week’s 8-player 32-8 win over Stephenson. (Photo by Jeff Rochefort.)
DETROIT – Isaiah Marshall took a second Sunday night to think about the interception he’d just thrown that led to Belleville taking a late lead in the Division 1 Football Final.
But just a second.
When Marshall and his Southfield Arts & Technology teammates took the field down four points with 4 minutes, 47 seconds remaining at Ford Field, the interception wasn’t on his mind. Neither was the raucous Belleville crowd that had awoken on the home side of the stadium.
He wasn’t thinking about stopping a three-peat or snapping a 38-game Belleville win streak. He wasn’t thinking about the talk he’d heard during the week leading up to the game, that his team was on its way to getting blown out like so many of those previous 38 opponents.
All Marshall was focused on was doing his job.
“As soon as I threw the pick, I knew what I had to do differently,” Marshall said. “I just wasn’t thinking about that last play. As soon as I threw the pick, I just thought about it on the bench, then as soon as I came out, it wasn’t on my mind at all. I just knew I had to go down the field and score.”
Like he had all night, Marshall came through when the Warriors needed him most, leading his team on a 69-yard scoring drive, finishing the final 11 with his legs for the go-ahead score in Southfield A&T’s 36-32 victory against Belleville.
His defense finished the rest, as Dorian Freeman intercepted a pass during the final seconds, sealing the first Finals title for Southfield.
“It’s special,” A&T coach Aaron Marshall said. “It’s special for the community. It’s a long time coming. All week I’ve been getting calls from guys I’ve never met just congratulating the boys on making it. We had never even made it to the championship game, let alone won one. It’s real big for the community. I’m really proud.”
To do it, the Warriors needed to overcome the team that has dominated Division 1 for the past three seasons in Belleville (13-1). The Tigers had won the past two Division 1 Finals, and hadn’t dropped a game since Sept. 10, 2021.
They entered Sunday having outscored opponents this fall by an average of 49-7. They also featured the nation’s No. 1 recruit in the Class of 2025 in quarterback Bryce Underwood.
But Sunday, none of that mattered to Marshall and the Warriors (13-1). Well, except maybe the last part.
“Just a little bit,” Marshall said when asked if he was out to prove he was the state’s top quarterback. “I do think I’m the best player in the state. Me proving that tonight, and showing what I can do on the big stage shows that, I think.”
He finished the night completing 20 of 31 passes for 281 yards with two touchdowns, as well as two interceptions. He also rushed for 134 yards and the go-ahead score, as well as the two-point conversion that put his team up four.
“He came out there and played like I thought he was going to play,” said Belleville star linebacker and running back Jeremiah Beasley, who has committed to Michigan. “He’s a real tough player. Since we were little, he’s always been tough. He came out there and played with all his heart, and they came out on top.”
Underwood certainly had his moments, finishing 11 for 24 for 164 yards and a touchdown to go along with one interception. He also had five rushes for 39 yards.
And A&T was certainly cognizant of what Underwood could do, especially when he got the ball back with 47 seconds to play and a chance to take the lead. But by playing coverage, they didn’t allow the Tigers to push the ball down the field, and eventually pressure from senior defensive tackle Reggie Gardner forced the throw that Freeman intercepted to clinch the game.
“My coaches just told me to spy the quarterback, and whatever he did, I would go,” Freeman said. “Then it was just right in my zone.”
A&T led for most of the game, getting a pair of rushing touchdowns from Mathias Davis during the first half, the second score giving them a 12-7 lead.
After a 31-yard field goal from Belleville’s Brayden Lane made the score 12-10, Marshall engineered an 80-yard drive over the final three minutes of the second quarter to give his team a 10-point lead at the half. He accounted for 79 of the 80 yards with either his legs or his arm, finishing it off with a 13-yard TD pass to Tashi Braceful with 13 seconds remaining in the half. Braceful finished the night with 10 catches for 152 yards.
The Warriors nearly added to that halftime lead, as well, recovering a squib kick at the Belleville 43. Marshall hit Tyjuan Esper for a 38-yard gain on the next play, but he was tackled as the first-half clock expired.
Early in the third quarter, Marshall and the Warriors did stretch their lead when he threw a 19-yard TD pass to Xavi Bowman on a 4th-and-14. DaMario Quarles’ conversion run put them up 28-10 with 3:39 to play in the third quarter.
Of course, Belleville didn’t go away.
The Tigers responded immediately with a 45-yard TD pass from Underwood to Jalen Johnson. And after stopping Marshall on a 4th-and-2 run near midfield, they needed just three plays and 30 seconds to pull within three points of the lead as Beasley scored on a 15-yard run.
On the next A&T possession, Marquis Peoples put Belleville right back in business with an interception that he returned to the 35-yard line. Beasley again cashed in three plays later, with a 22-yard TD run that gave Belleville a 33-27 lead with 4:47 remaining.
Beasley finished the night with 106 yards and the two touchdowns on the ground.
“He’s a senior ball player; he did exactly what he was supposed to do,” Belleville coach Calvin Norman said of Beasley. “He came through in the clutch. When he ran the ball, he did his thing. I have nothing but love for the young man.”
Belleville cornerback Adrian Walker made one of the more remarkable plays of the weekend late in the first quarter, intercepting a Marshall pass deep in A&T territory.
Walker got both hands on the pass, deflecting it up and toward himself as he was spinning up the field. The ball went over his head and Walker reached behind his back to make the catch at the A&T 26.
Four plays later, Belleville was on the board with a 16-yard Colbey Reed touchdown run, and the Tigers led 7-6.
PHOTOS (Top) Southfield A&T quarterback Isaiah Marshall stretches for the game-winning touchdown during Sunday’s Division 1 Final. (Middle) The Warriors ended the night by raising their first championship trophy. (Below) Belleville’s Adrian Walker (2) makes a stunning behind-the-back interception. (Photos by Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)