By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
If Michigan high school football teams collectively had a few messages to pass on during Week 3, those came through the loudest.
Whether it was Portage Northern, Oak Park, Holland Christian or others, a number of contenders announced with their play that they will be factors deep into the fall.
And more teams than should be listed in one sentence continued to equal or better their successes of a year ago – and we continue to make mention of many of those in this week's review below.
"Drive for Detroit" is sponsored by MI Student Aid.
Bay & Thumb
HEADLINER Flint Hamady 25, Flint Beecher 6 The Genesee Area Conference is down to just four teams, and this matchup may have decided the eventual champion. Hamady (3-0) ran its regular-season winning streak to 16 with a third-straight win over the Bucs (1-2), and its remaining two league opponents have started a combined 0-6. Click for more from the Flint Journal and see highlights below from WJRT.
— ABC12WJRT (@ABC12WJRT) September 14, 2019
Watch list Flint Powers Catholic 28, Kalamazoo Central 22 The Chargers are 3-0 for the first time since 2012, and this one likely will be quite memorable as Kalamazoo Central (1-2) is a league title contender that was coming off a big win over Portage Central after suffering its other loss by just a point.
Remember this one Flint Kearsley 29, Flushing 21 With their first win over Flushing (0-3) since 2006, the Hornets (3-0) tied their win total from last season and their most in a season since going 4-5 in 2012. The Raiders are better than their record, with close losses also to Detroit Country Day and Temperance Bedford.
More shoutouts Carrollton 29, Millington 27 The Cavaliers (1-2) also equaled their win total from all of last season, dealing a third loss to a Cardinals team that suddenly must win out to guarantee extending their 15-season playoff streak. Midland Bullock Creek 33, Hemlock 31 The Lancers (2-1) went 2-7 the last two seasons and haven’t won more than two since going 3-6 in 2014, but they are on pace to equal or surpass that success after handing Hemlock (2-1) its first defeat.
HEADLINER Oak Park 64, Clarkston 41 The Knights (2-1) needed just about all of their 64 points to extend their winning streak against Clarkston to three, as the Wolves (1-2) led 41-40 with just under six minutes to play. A six-point Week 1 loss to West Bloomfield gave an indication Oak Park would be strong again this fall, but this comeback backs that up as the Knights now prepare for a massive Oakland Activities Association White matchup this week against Birmingham Groves. Click for more from the Oakland Press and see highlights below from State Champs Sports Network.
— STATE CHAMPS! (@statechampsnet) September 14, 2019
Watch list Plymouth 15, Canton 13 The Wildcats are 3-0 for the first time since 2014, and after defeating the Chiefs (1-2) should carry some serious momentum into this week’s league matchup with reigning Kensington Lakes Activities Association West champion Brighton.
Remember this one Dearborn Heights Robichaud 32, Redford Thurston 31 After four straight losses to end last season, Robichaud (3-0) has bounced back with this win over the annually-strong Eagles (2-1) its best so far.
More shoutouts West Bloomfield 17, Southfield Arts & Technology 8 The Lakers (2-1) rebounded quickly from a Week 2 loss to Groves with a win over another program in Southfield (1-2) that’s rumbled through one of the state’s toughest early schedules. Lake Orion 36, Rochester Adams 31 The Dragons (3-0) added to one of the most impressive starts, edging Adams (2-1) to stay a step ahead in an OAA Red that could be the state’s strongest league this fall.
HEADLINER Clare 42, Harrison 40 The Pioneers scored to go-ahead points with 40 seconds left to keep in step in a league that again has multiple contenders after three shared the title a year ago. Clare is one of three teams in the Jack Pine Conference off to a 3-0 start, and this was a good win to get out of the way especially with co-leaders Beaverton and Sanford Meridian still needing to face the Hornets (2-1) later on. Click to see more from the Mount Pleasant Morning Sun.
Watch list Beal City 13, Lake City 0 The Aggies (3-0) averaged nearly 10 wins per season from 2010-16, but won a combined six games over the last two seasons. They’ve opened this fall with a combined scoring margin of 90-8 after earning their second shutout by downing 2018 Division 7 semifinalist Lake City (1-2).
Remember this one Fowlerville 20, Williamston 14 The Hornets (2-1) shared last season’s Capital Area Activities Conference Red title, but the Gladiators (3-0) are looking like a team to chase in the league as they chase a first winning season since 2016.
More shoutouts Lansing Everett 21, Lansing Waverly 14 The Vikings (2-1) haven’t won more than two games since 2015 but have another chance to take a big step after also opening 2-1 last season and ending 2-7. Perry 36, Carson City-Crystal 30 There’s always an eye on the Ramblers (2-1) as they play to make the playoffs for the first time, and this fall they are a three-point Week 1 loss from a 3-0 start.
Northern Lower Peninsula
HEADLINER Ludington 45, Manistee 14 The Orioles (3-0) have made the playoffs two of the last three seasons, but this has been their most impressive start in more than a decade. Ludington has outscored its first three opponents by a combined 135-38 and opened Lakes 8 Conference play by handing reigning champion Manistee (2-1) its first regular-season defeat since 2017. See highlights below from MI Sports Now.
— MISportsNow (@MISportsNow) September 14, 2019
Watch list Evart 7, Manton 6 The Wildcats are 3-0 for the first time since 2013 and after winning two games all of 2018, claiming these first three victories by a combined 22 points.
Remember this one Houghton Lake 8, McBain 6 Moving from the Jack Pine Conference to Highland Conference this fall, Houghton Lake (1-2) is another strong bounce-back candidate after going 2-7 in 2018. The first two losses this fall were to still-unbeaten Oscoda and Beal City, and McBain (1-2) won eight games last season.
More shoutouts Traverse City West 26, Holt 21 The Titans (2-1) opened with a tough nonleague slate but picked up their second straight win with a last-minute score against the Rams (2-1). Kingsley 43, Grayling 16 The Stags (3-0) will bring a 38-ppg average into this week’s matchup with nemesis Traverse City St. Francis.
Southeast & Border
HEADLINER Milan 28, Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central 21 The Big Reds (3-0) couldn’t have put themselves in better position to start the Huron League season as they aim for their first league title since sharing in 2016. Two weeks ago they nearly tripled up reigning champion Grosse Ile, and Friday put up a late score to get past rival St. Mary (2-1) and stay in the league lead with Riverview. Click for more from the Monroe Evening News.
Watch list Hillsdale 46, Erie Mason 36 The Hornets (3-0) needed to score big to stay ahead of an Erie Mason team that fell to 2-1 but has been among the highest-scoring in the state early this fall, and this could end up as one of the key victories as Hillsdale looks to repeat after sharing the Lenawee County Athletic Association title in 2018.
Remember this one Brooklyn Columbia Central 26, Ida 8 The Golden Eagles (3-0) also were LCAA co-champs last season, and Ida (1-2) has been a contender the last six seasons and champion three of those years.
More shoutouts Jackson Lumen Christi 38, Coldwater 21 The Titans (3-0) were able slow a Coldwater offense that had been on a tear during a 2-0 start. Britton Deerfield 34, Petersburg Summerfield 28 The Patriots (2-1) beat Summerfield (1-2) for the first time since 2013 and now have as many wins this season as the last three combined.
HEADLINER Portage Northern 56, Portage Central 26 This meant a lot Friday night and could the rest of this season. The Huskies (3-0) had lost five straight to Central (1-2) and six straight during the regular season, including by just a point a year ago. With a win over Stevensville Lakeshore as well in Week 2, Northern finds itself in nice position in the Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference West, tied for first with St. Joseph and with wins over two of the other annual contenders. Click for more from the Kalamazoo Gazette.
— STATE CHAMPS! (@statechampsnet) September 14, 2019
Watch list Battle Creek Lakeview 27, Battle Creek Central 13 The Spartans started 0-3 a year ago, losing to rival Central by 15. This time they’re 3-0 with a 14-point win over the Bearcats (1-2) that gave Lakeview more wins this fall than all of 2018.
Remember this one Cassopolis 15, Centreville 0 The reigning Southwest 10 Conference champion Rangers (3-0) have yet to give up a point this season, even more impressive considering Centreville (2-1) had scored more than 50 in each of its first two games.
More shoutouts Niles Brandywine 45, Saugatuck 10 The Bobcats are independent this season, but the going has been good so far with their first 3-0 start since 2014, a 151-18 combined scoring margin and this avenging of last year’s 48-12 loss to Saugatuck (1-2). Schoolcraft 54, Ottawa Lake Whiteford 24 The Bobcats (1-2) may be off to their toughest start since 2011, but Schoolcraft (3-0) also has put up a combined 170 points over three games in picking up where they left off last fall.
HEADLINER Calumet 14, Ishpeming Westwood 8 This was the key matchup as Calumet won the Western Peninsula Athletic Conference Copper title a year ago, and it surely will have an impact on this season’s race as well. The Copper Kings (3-0) kept Westwood (1-2) off the board until the final minute to keep pace with Iron Mountain atop the league and heading into two weeks of nonleague play before Calumet meets the Mountaineers in Week 6. Click for more from the Houghton Daily Mining Gazette.
Watch list Menominee 42, Gladstone 6 The Maroons (2-1) fell back last season to 2-7, their first sub-.500 finish since 1995, and in addition to equaling last season’s success this win also was a good sign because the Braves (2-1) had opened with two wins.
Remember this one St. Ignace 26, Charlevoix 21 Although this was the Saints’ second win in two years over the Rayders (2-1), Charlevoix also was off to its best start this fall since its last playoff run in 2016 – and St. Ignace also is looking to get back to the playoffs for the first time since that season.
More shoutouts Negaunee 28, Hancock 19 After opening with a pair of losses to Iron Mountain and Calumet, the Miners (1-2) got on the board by handing Hancock (2-1) its first loss. Marquette 31, Sault Ste. Marie 0 The Redmen (1-2) did the same, coming off two losses to strong opponents by handing the Blue Devils (2-1) their first defeat.
HEADLINER Holland Christian 27, Hudsonville Unity Christian 13 For the first time in three years, these teams didn’t combine to score 80 points. And for the first time since 2012, Holland Christian came out on top. The Maroons (2-1) bounced back from a Week 2 loss by holding on against the reigning Division 5 champion Crusaders (2-1), earning an early edge in what’s stacking up as an even more loaded than usual Ottawa-Kent Conference Green. Click for more from the Holland Sentinel and see highlights below from FOX 17.
— FOX 17 Blitz (@FOX17Blitz) September 14, 2019
Watch list Muskegon 28, East Grand Rapids 23 We already knew Muskegon (3-0) was arguably the state’s best team after its wins over Warren De La Salle Collegiate and Detroit Martin Luther King. But this close loss spoke volumes for East Grand Rapids (1-2) despite its deceptive W-L record.
Remember this one Grandville 32, Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central 29 The Bulldogs (3-0) head into the O-K Red schedule looking good to best last season’s 4-5 finish and with this win coming over one of the likely contenders in the O-K White.
More shoutouts Byron Center 42, Hamilton 27 These are two more reasons the O-K Green looks so tough; Byron Center (3-0) has equaled last season’s win total, and Hamilton (2-1) needs only one more victory to do the same. Grant 8, Reed City 6 The Tigers (2-1) scored just one more point this season than in big losses to Reed City in 2016, 2017 and 2018. But eight points with tough defense is all they needed for their first win over the Coyotes (1-2) in the six seasons they’ve been together as part of the Central State Activities Association Gold.
HEADLINER Powers North Central 20, Pickford 14 As noted in last week’s preview, these two could both find themselves playing for 8-player championships at the Superior Dome, in separate divisions. So this was everything expected of a meeting between arguably the two best 8-player teams in the Upper Peninsula, with the Jets (3-0) handing Pickford its first regular-season loss since Week 3 of 2016 and Pickford holding North Central to its fewest points since a 2017 playoff defeat. Click for more from the Escanaba Daily Press.
Watch list Pellston 32, Au Gres-Sims 30 Coming back from an 18-point halftime deficit, Pellston moved to 3-0 and reversed last season’s 0-3 start against the same opponents. After last season’s big jump to 4-5, the Hornets find themselves two wins from a first winning record since 1995, while Au Gres-Sims (1-2) will try to bounce back quickly after suffering its first two regular-season defeats since 2016.
Remember this one Climax-Scotts 34, Bellevue 22 The Southern Central Athletic Association A is loaded – three of five teams are 3-0 including Climax-Scotts – and the Panthers face the next two (Camden-Frontier, then Colon) over the next two weeks after downing last season’s league runner-up, Bellevue (1-2).
More shoutouts Bay City All Saints 20, International Academy of Flint 12 The Cougars were outscored 98-0 over their first two games but turned things upside-down defeating a Flames team that opened by beating its first two opponents by a combined 120-0. Deckerville 40, Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart 6 The Eagles (3-0) avenged last season’s 10-point loss in a big way, locking down an Irish offense that had put up 78 points the week before.
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PHOTO: West Bloomfield's JaQuan Wiggins follows his blocks during Friday's win over Southfield Arts & Technology. (Photo courtesy of C&G Newspapers.)
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.)