By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Yes, it's only mid-September. We've got a long way to go in this MHSAA football season.
But there were a number of games played during Week 3 that should impact significantly how league races unfold through the end of the October.
A few you won't read about below but are worth including: Mason County Central ended a seven-game losing streak to Shelby with a 12-6 win and could make some noise in the West Michigan D. Newaygo beat annual favorite Reed City, 14-6, for the first time as a member of the Central State Activities Association and could now be the favorite in the new Gold division.
And those are just scratches on the surface; read on for more that should provide lasting impact this fall.
Lowell 30, East Grand Rapids 25
Make no mistake – East Grand Rapids (2-1) is back after two non-playoff seasons, and despite falling in this heartbreaker Friday. The Red Arrows (3-0) went ahead for good during the final minutes on Max Dean’s fourth touchdown of the night. Life doesn’t get easier for either team – East Grand Rapids faces Muskegon next and both play in the highly-competitive O-K White. But it’s tough to imagine a better way to kick off the league schedule. Click to read more from the Grand Rapids Press.
Rockford 10, Muskegon Mona Shores 7 – In two years, Mona Shores (2-1) has gone from sub-.500 to first-time playoff qualifier and now competitor with an elite program in Rockford (3-0).
Grand Rapids South Christian 33, Hudsonville Unity Christian 30 (OT) – The Sailors (1-2) have had a tough start against tough competition, but finally broke through against the improved Crusaders (2-1).
Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central 31, Caledonia 19 – After also opening with two tough losses, Forest Hills Central (1-2) got in the win column against a Caledonia (2-1) team that had been one of the state’s most impressive early.
Greenville 36, Comstock Park 16 – Greenville (2-1) is off to its best start since 2011, impressive all the more after beating Comstock Park (1-2), winners of 22 of its last 24 regular-season games.
Southwest and Border
Watervliet 18, Mendon 13
Even after winning 10 games two of the last three seasons, Watervliet probably was a passing thought for most in this game given Mendon’s 35-game regular-season winning streak. In fact, the Hornets hadn’t lost a regular-season game to an in-state opponent since 2006 – that 2010 loss was to Edgerton, Ohio. Mendon (2-1) was undermanned a bit – eight seniors did not play – but that shouldn’t take away from a huge victory for the Panthers (2-1). Click to read more from the St. Joseph Herald-Palladium.
Stevensville Lakeshore 20, Portage Central 17 – Lakeshore (3-0) handed Portage Central (1-1) its first regular-season loss since Week 8 of 2012.
St. Joseph 17, Portage Northern 7 – Knocking off solid Portage Northern (2-1) makes the Bears (3-0) early favorites with Lakeshore in the always-tough Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference West.
Vicksburg 16, Edwardsburg 14 – The Bulldogs (3-0), coming off two straight sub-.500 seasons, beat Edwardsburg (2-1) after losing by a combined score of 81-27 over the last two meetings.
Coldwater 35, Battle Creek Pennfield 6 – The Cardinals (3-0) made the playoffs last season, for the first time ever, with an at-large bid at 5-4. But they are halfway to automatic qualification after dealing perennial playoff team Pennfield (0-3) another disappointment.
Bay and Thumb
Montrose 27, Lake Fenton 12
The Rams (3-0) ran their Genesee Area Conference Red winning streak to 22 and set back again Lake Fenton (1-2), league runner-up to Montrose the last two seasons. Lake Fenton stood within two points of the lead in the third quarter before the Rams pulled away. The last league team to beat Montrose was Flint Beecher, this season’s Week 8 opponent. Click to read more from the Flint Journal.
Flint Carman-Ainsworth 31, Davison 8 – The Cavaliers (2-1) came back from their Week 2 one-point heart-breaking loss to Mount Pleasant by beating former league rival Davison (1-2) for the fifth straight time.
Flint Southwestern 58, Saginaw 8 – The Knights (2-1) equaled their win total of the last three seasons and can equal their most since 2008 with another victory; Saginaw fell to 0-3.
Marlette 51, Reese 34 – Marlette’s Connor Thomas, a member of the MHSAA Student Advisory Council, ran for 217 yards and four touchdowns and also caught a touchdown pass as the Raiders moved to 2-1 and Reese fell to 1-2.
St. Clair 32, Sterling Heights 31 – Sterling Heights (0-3) won only once in 2013, but nearly pulled off its best victory in at least a few years as the Saints (2-1) had to come back in the fourth quarter riding the strength of four rushing touchdowns from Larry Ochadleus.
Lower Up North
Traverse City Central 20, Traverse City West 13
Central (3-0) got some revenge after last season’s three-point overtime loss that played a part in the Trojans missing the playoffs. West (1-2) may still own a 12-6 advantage in their series, but Central definitely has the upper hand in this season’s Big North Conference race although it’s only one game old for both. Click to read more from the Traverse City Record-Eagle.
Cadillac 27, Petoskey 7 – Cadillac (3-0) kicked off the Big North Conference season by handing a first loss to Petoskey (2-1) and keeping up a defensive effort allowing only nine points per game.
Maple City Glen Lake 15, Grayling 8 – The Lakers (2-0) have tough opponents lined up for at least the next five weeks but should contend, while Grayling (1-2) now is forced to bounce back to extend its five-season playoff streak.
Lincoln Alcona 22, Rogers City 6 – Alcona (3-0) quietly has won 15 straight regular-season games, with this one impressive as Rogers City (2-1) appears in the midst of turning things around after four straight sub.-500 finishes.
Cheboygan 13, Escanaba 12 – The Chiefs (1-2) were off to a rough start after two straight playoff seasons, but took a first step toward extending the streak while dropping Escanaba to 1-2.
Gladstone 24, Negaunee 19
Although Gladstone started with two wins this fall after going 0-9 two of the last three seasons, it was fair to assume the Braves’ success would come to a quick end with Negaunee followed by the Great Northern U.P. Conference schedule. It’s time to rethink that assumption. Not only is Gladstone 3-0 for the first time since 2009, but got there by beating a Miners team that also started 2-0 and won 10 games each of the last two seasons. Click to read more from the Escanaba Daily Press.
Hurley, Wis. 18, Crystal Falls Forest Park 14 – Hurley (4-0) is one of the top-ranked small schools in Wisconsin, and beating Forest Park (2-1) no doubt will help that cause in addition to giving Hurley a huge advantage in the Great Western Conference race.
Ishpeming Westwood 48, Rudyard 0 – This wouldn’t usually register except that Westwood (3-0) won two games total in 2013 and three in 2012; Rudyard (0-3) is hoping for a quick turnaround.
Lake Linden-Hubbell 33, L’Anse 20 – The Lakes (2-1) avenged last season’s 52-34 playoff-opener loss to the Hornets (1-2).
Menominee 37, Pontiac Notre Dame Prep 23 – We love when our best from the Upper Peninsula get together with tough teams from downstate, and this was a great way for the Maroons (3-0) to prepare for their Great Northern U.P. Conference schedule while giving Notre Dame Prep (1-2) another competitive nonleague game.
Lansing Sexton 32, Grand Ledge 21
Although the league opener, this could end up one of the most important games in the Capital Area Activities Conference Blue this season if not the championship decider. Sexton (3-0) has yet to play a home game this season but has continued to build an impressive resume adding the Comets to Detroit East English and Monroe among those defeated so far. Grand Ledge (1-2) made a run at the lead during the second half but couldn’t climb back after Sexton went up three scores during the second quarter. Click to read more from the Lansing State Journal.
Okemos 23, Lansing Everett 13 – The Chieftains (2-1) are looking like contenders in the CAAC Blue as well although a difficult early slate gets tougher with Grand Ledge and Sexton next; Everett (1-2) will attempt to bounce back against Holt.
Jackson Lumen Christi 34, Battle Creek Harper Creek 14 – These two have looked like favorites in the first-year Interstate 8 Athletic Conference, although Lumen Christi (3-0) remains undefeated and Harper Creek (1-2) must bounce back from a tough start.
St. Johns 28, Haslett 13 – The Redwings (3-0) are one of the surprises in the CAAC Red and best teams from the Lansing area, while Haslett (1-2) is working to stay in contention in the competitive league.
Ithaca 33, Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary 14 – This was a little more of a scare than Ithaca (3-0) has had in a while, as the Yellowjackets trailed MLS (2-1) by a point at halftime.
Brownstown Woodhaven 42, Allen Park 35 (OT)
Woodhaven (3-0) came out ahead in another close Downriver League battle, this time in overtime after beating Southgate Anderson by two in Week 2. The Warriors need only one more win to equal last season’s finish and already have avenged three of those 2013 losses. Always-solid Allen Park is still there despite falling to 2-1. Click to read more from the Detroit Free Press.
Macomb Dakota 35, Warren Mott 7 – Dakota (2-1) is laying a strong early claim on the Macomb Area Red title, with Mott (2-1) previously expected to be a contender but now facing an uphill battle.
Sterling Heights Stevenson 21, Clinton Township Chippewa Valley 7 – This changes up the MAC Red race as well with Chippewa Valley (1-2) formerly a contender and Stevenson (2-1) now an intriguing possibility despite a Week 2 loss to Utica Eisenhower.
Oak Park 27, Farmington Hills Harrison 0 – The right to challenge Southfield in the Oakland Activities Association White belongs firmly to Oak Park (2-1), which hasn’t given up a point since Week 1 and dropped Harrison to 2-1 as well.
Clinton 54, Ottawa Lake Whiteford 30 – Whiteford (2-1) might’ve been the biggest obstacle as Clinton (3-0) goes for a third straight 9-0 regular season.
Portland St. Patrick 27, Waldron 6
The Shamrocks (3-0) have the highest playoff point average in 8-player thanks in part to handing Waldron (2-1) its first loss. The victory also made Portland St. Patrick 21-4 since moving to 8-player football in 2012 – and continued an impressive defensive effort this fall as the team is giving up only eight points per game. Click to read more from the Hillsdale Daily News.
Rapid River 36, Ontonagon 22 – Although Ontonagon (0-2) is new to 8-player football, it gave Rapid River (3-0) its closest regular-season game since Week 9 of 2012.
Deckerville 66, Carsonville-Port Sanilac 13 – The Eagles (3-0) added to their recent dominance of rival CPS (0-3) with their second-most points in three seasons of 8-player ball.
PHOTO: Lowell charges toward the end zone during its 30-25 come-from-behind win over East Grand Rapids on Friday. (Click to see more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com).
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.)