By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
There are a handful of significant turning points every Michigan high school football season – and Week 3 always proves to be the first.
There are 106 11-player and 12 8-player teams statewide celebrating 3-0 starts, including a good share enjoying big-time turnarounds from a year ago. There also are 117 11-player teams – including a handful of notable powers – that have opened 0-3 and find themselves starting their personal playoffs six weeks earlier than usual as they now must win out to guarantee a spot in the postseason.
Our look back at Week 3 tells how some of those teams got there, plus hits on a few rivalry streaks now broken and more shaking up among the 8-player elite.
Bay & Thumb
Flushing 26, Detroit Country Day 19 (OT)
Flushing’s season – and decade – got a massive boost with this upset of last season’s Division 4 runner-up. The Raiders are coming off consecutive 4-5 finishes and have only one winning season over the last six (going 9-3 in 2014). But they’re 2-1 this fall after jumping out to a 13-0 lead Friday, seeing it dissolve, but then rising again in overtime. Country Day (2-1) didn’t lose in the regular season last year and had lost only one regular-season game going back to the start of 2015.
Bay City Central 35, Flint Powers Catholic 28 – For the second straight week Central (2-1) pulled off a nail-biter in the Saginaw Valley League Red, handing Powers (2-1) its first loss.
Cass City 54, Brown City 30 – The Red Hawks (3-0) are halfway to a fourth straight playoff berth, and this time they’ve put up more than 50 points twice with 138 their most three games in since 2006.
Richmond 35, Croswell-Lexington 28 – This one definitely could’ve tripped up the Blue Devils (3-0) as they go for a third straight Blue Water Area Conference title; Croswell-Lexington (2-1) can stay in the mix with wins over the next two weeks again also-contenders Almont and Algonac.
Davison 40, Flint Carman-Ainsworth 13 – Davison (3-0) is rolling on offense again with a second 50-point game this season over a 2016 playoff team; Carman-Ainsworth has its work cut out after falling to 1-2.
Clarkston 34, Bloomfield Hills 20
The Wolves are 3-0 against teams that went a combined 24-8 last season, with reigning Oakland Activities Association Blue champion Bloomfield Hills the most recent to fall. The teams traded scores most of the game and the Black Hawks (2-1) led early in the fourth quarter before Clarkston scored 21 unanswered points. Bloomfield Hills moved this season into the OAA Red, where Clarkston is the reigning co-champion. Click for more from the Oakland Press.
Detroit Denby 12, Detroit Central 6 – Denby (2-0) got off to a slow start with no Week 1 game, but has caught up quickly handing another 2016 playoff team Central (2-1) its first loss.
Livonia Stevenson 20, Livonia Churchill 9 – These neighbors have now split their last 10, with Stevenson (2-0) claiming the last two while handing Churchill (2-1) its first loss for the second straight season.
Riverview 34, Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central 7 – The Pirates (2-1) downed SMCC for the first time since 2011, in the process equaling their win total from last year and putting the Falcons (1-2) down two games in Huron League play.
New Boston Huron 31, Carleton Airport 30 – Sticking in the Huron, New Boston Huron is 3-0 for the first time since 1970, according to Michigan-football.com, after Austin Atherton’s late 36-yard field goal got the Chiefs past Airport (2-1).
Haslett 28, St. Johns 24
These teams are regulars in the chase after DeWitt in the Capital Area Activities Conference Red. Although this was a league opener, it would seem to indicate Haslett (2-1) is back as the top competition for the Panthers in the latter’s final season before moving into the CAAC Blue. The teams traded scores throughout the second and third quarters, but the Vikings held St. Johns (1-2) scoreless over the final 18 minutes. Both of the Redwings’ losses this fall are by four points or fewer. Click for more from the Lansing State Journal.
Belding 21, Hopkins 20 – The Black Knights (2-1) bounced back from a one-point Week 2 loss to Lake Odessa Lakewood to win a close one over Hopkins (1-2).
Holt 29, Jackson 27 – The Rams (1-2) didn’t let losses to Grandville and Hudsonville derail their season, edging Jackson (0-3) thanks to 265 yards and four touchdowns on 51 carries by Troy Jordan.
Portland 21, Williamston 14 – The Raiders (2-1) made it six wins in their last seven against the CAAC White rival Hornets (2-1), bouncing back this time from a Week 2 loss to Lansing Sexton.
Fowler 14, Bath 7 – A rare loss last week to Saranac could’ve knocked Fowler (2-1) off course, but the Eagles instead avenged last season’s loss to the Bees (2-1).
Northern Lower Peninsula
Traverse City West 29, Traverse City Central 27
After five straight meetings between these neighbors decided by seven points or fewer, the latest didn’t disappoint. West looked to break away multiple times during the second half, but Central (2-1) continued to answer before the Titans finally put away the “Patriot Game” victory by securing an onside kick attempt in the final minute. The Trojans had won the last four matchups between the two – including by two points during the regular season and one in the playoffs in 2016. West is 3-0 for the first time since 2004. Click for more from the Traverse City Record-Eagle.
Petoskey 34, Cadillac 19 – Last season’s one-win finish is becoming a distant memory for Petoskey (2-1), which not only doubled its win total from 2016 in Week 3 but tied its highest scoring performance from all of last season in getting past Cadillac (1-2).
Lake City 28, McBain 8 – Lake City (3-0) has rumbled back into the mix after winning only two games last season and losing three straight to Highland Conference foe McBain (2-1).
Evart 15, Leroy Pine River 7 – The Wildcats (2-1) have ridden last season’s upswing into this fall, downing 2016 Division 6 semifinalist Pine River (0-3) for the first time since 2013.
Manistee 42, Ludington 28 – The Chippewas (1-2) got on the board by avenging last season’s loss to Ludington (2-1) and after losing their first two games this season by a combined 14 points.
Southeast & Border
Ypsilanti Lincoln 26, Chelsea 14
A pair of 20-point losses to Chelsea contributed to Lincoln’s back-to-back 4-5 finishes the last two seasons. Getting one back couldn’t have come at a better time. The Railsplitters (1-2) fell to Pinckney by nine on opening night and one to Tecumseh a week ago, but now can enjoy some confidence picked up by handing the Bulldogs (2-1) their first regular-season loss since Week 7 in 2015. Chelsea had beaten Pinckney in Week 2 and still should figure into the Southeastern Conference White title chase after winning outright or sharing the championship the last two seasons. Click for more from the Ann Arbor News.
Salem 10, Brighton 7 – The Rocks (2-1) are one point this season from a perfect start as they seek their first winning season in 2012, while Brighton (1-2) now has two losses both by three points as they go for a third straight playoff berth.
Reading 52, Homer 38 – The Rangers (2-1) have gone from 3-6 last year to beating two of three reigning co-champions from the Big 8 Conference over the last two weeks, this time handing Homer (2-1) its first loss after an impressive start.
Hudson 48, Brooklyn Columbia Central 21 – The Tigers (3-0) handed Columbia Central (2-1) its first loss to move to 13-2 since the start of 2016.
Napoleon 17, Michigan Center 14 – The Pirates (2-1) are becoming strong favorites to add another Cascades Conference championship after downing the other reigning co-champ, Grass Lake, in Week 2, and edging another likely contender in the Cardinals (2-1) this time.
Battle Creek Harper Creek 22, Jackson Lumen Christi 21 (OT)
A two-point conversion in overtime gave Harper Creek its second straight win over Lumen Christi – the reigning Division 6 champion – and put the Beavers in nice position in the Interstate 8 Athletic Conference after sharing the league title with the Titans in 2016. Harper Creek came back from 14 points down and trailed by a score heading into the fourth quarter. The Beavers went for two after answering Lumen’s TD and extra point to begin overtime. Click for more from the Battle Creek Enquirer.
Watervliet 52, Maple City Glen Lake 26 – The Panthers (3-0) have yet to score fewer than 50 points, and the reigning Division 6 runner-up Lakers (1-2) hadn’t given up that many since 2014.
Stevensville Lakeshore 24, Portage Central 7 – Give the Lancers (3-0) the early upper hand on the Mustangs (2-1) as one of these two has won or shared the Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference West title the last five seasons.
Battle Creek Central 32, Battle Creek Lakeview 13 – The Bearcats (1-2) downed their rival for the second time in three seasons, especially impressive because Central is seeking its first playoff season since 2008 and Lakeview (1-2) has made the postseason five straight.
Kalamazoo Loy Norrix 21, Kalamazoo Central 14 – The Knights (1-2) got their first win since opening night 2015 and first over rival Central (0-3) since 2014.
Gladstone 43, Negaunee 0
Gladstone is 3-0 for the first time since 2014, and the Braves also started 3-0 in 2009. But this opening surge has included outscoring their first three opponents by a combined 129-6 – and shutting out a pair of 2016 playoff teams in Gwinn and now the Miners. Gladstone had lost to Negaunee by 23 in 2016 and 24 in 2015. The Miners, meanwhile, face their toughest path forward since 2000 as they try to make the playoffs for a sixth straight season. Click for more from the Escanaba Daily Press.
Ishpeming Westwood 38, L’Anse 10 – The Patriots not only are 3-0 after winning two games last season, but they’ve outscored those first three opponents by a combined 98-22; the Purple Hornets (2-1) were the first to reach double digits.
Escanaba 21, Detroit Loyola 20 – The Eskymos (2-1) crossed the bridge and just edged the reigning Division 7 runner-up Bulldogs (0-3).
Fond du Lac, Wis. 49, Menominee 20 – The Maroons (2-1) had only one other regular-season loss (to DeWitt last season) since mid-2012, but Fond du Lac is 3-1 and made the quarterfinals of its Wisconsin division last season.
Iron River West Iron County 35, Iron Mountain 3 – The Wykons (2-1) had lost by 26 and 27 to the rival Mountaineers (0-3) the last two seasons.
East Grand Rapids 16, Lowell 14
East Grand Rapids got ahead by a pair of touchdowns but needed a late field goal by Mark Boeve to finish off what has to be considered its most impressive win this decade. The Pioneers handed the Red Arrows (2-1) their first regular-season defeat since opening night 2015 and first in this series since EGR’s undefeated run in 2010. East Grand Rapids is 3-0 for the second time in three seasons. Click for more from the Grand Rapids Press.
Muskegon Mona Shores 30, Rockford 24 (OT) – The Sailors (3-0) evened their recent series with the Rams (1-2) at 2-2 while continuing one of the most impressive starts in the state this fall.
Grand Rapids West Catholic 17, Zeeland West 6 – The Falcons (2-1) avenged last season’s loss to West (1-2) by holding the Dux to their fewest points since a 2014 Division 3 Semifinal defeat.
East Kentwood 24, Hudsonville 17 – The Falcons (3-0) opened the Ottawa-Kent Conference Red schedule with a third win over a 2016 playoff team while dropping Hudsonville to 1-2.
Holland 36, Hudsonville Unity Christian 30 (OT) – The Dutch are 3-0 for the first time since 2011 and after two straight 2-7 finishes; Unity (2-1) had won all five previous meetings since Holland joined the O-K Green.
Stephenson 42, Crystal Falls Forest Park 16
Another week, another massive 8-player result from the Upper Peninsula. Forest Park couldn’t celebrate for long breaking Powers North Central’s 27-game winning streak in Week 2, as Stephenson now can stake a claim as the team to chase in a loaded Western Eight Conference. The Eagles (3-0) are joined by Rapid River and Ontonagon among undefeated squads in the league that also includes the Trojans and Jets among others. This win avenged two losses to Forest Park last year, including the second in a playoff opener. Click for more from the Iron Mountain Daily News.
Camden-Frontier 46, Battle Creek St. Philip 14 – The Redskins (3-0) look good to continue rising in their second season of 8-player after beating power St. Philip (2-1) for the second straight time.
Brimley 26, Onaway 25 – The Bays are suddenly 3-0 after not having enough players to field a team in 2016 and going 0-9 in 2015; Onaway fell to 1-2.
Pickford 40, Engadine 22 – Engadine (2-1) has made the playoffs six straight seasons, but Pickford (3-0) now has two straight wins on the Eagles after losing to them last regular season but also beating them by two in a Regional Final.
Ontonagon 32, Powers North Central 30 – The Gladiators (3-0) handed reigning MHSAA champion North Central (1-2) its second straight loss.
PHOTO: A Clarkston ball carrier dives for the end zone during Friday's win over Bloomfield Hills. (Click for 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.)