By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Most conferences in Michigan have between six and eight teams, and all start each season with hopes of ending up number one.
In a few weeks, showdowns to determine those top teams will take place all over the state. But in the meantime, the leg work must be done to set up those colossal matchups. And a number of those games were played during Week 4, although the most notable result came in a game that instead matched potential MHSAA championship contenders.
Muskegon 36, Lowell 21
The Big Reds have two running backs on pace to rush for 1,000 yards this season if the team makes any kind of run in the playoffs, and at this point it looks like they might run away from the rest of the Division 2 field. Muskegon added another win to its impressive start, in a game that some suggested matched the two best teams in the division this fall. Click to read more from the Muskegon Chronicle.
Zeeland East 27, Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central 23 – The Chix have to be considered one of the hottest teams in all of Michigan so far, with this win perhaps its most impressive of a 4-0 start.
Caledonia 14, Grandville 7 – After two straight seasons at 4-5, Caledonia is 4-0 heading into a series of tough O-K White games.
Comstock Park 13, Allendale 8 – This was one of the best rivalries of the old O-K Silver, and this first matchup between the two since 2004 was a strong way to start off the O-K Blue schedule.
Muskegon Mona Shores 21, Grand Haven 14 – Mona Shores’ 3-1 start is its best since 1997, and comes after the team won a combined three games over the last two seasons.
Oak Park 24, Southfield 18 (OT)
This has become Oak Park's most serious conversation about league contention since at least 2003, when it finished second in the Oakland Activities Association III to Farmington – which just happens to be the other team tied for first this fall in the OAA White, and also this week’s opponent. Oak Park needed overtime in this one to get past Southfield, which fell to 2-2 but is much better than that middling record suggests. Click to read more from the Oakland Press.
Farmington 19, Oxford 13 (OT) – This is the other overtime thriller that helped set up this week’s OAA White matchup; the Falcons haven’t given up more than 14 points this fall.
Birmingham Brother Rice 28, Warren DeLaSalle 0 – This is usually a much closer matchup (see explanation last week), but Brother Rice’s defensive performance was stunning and earns the Warriors top billing going forward in the Detroit Catholic League Central.
Waterford Our Lady 24, Royal Oak Shrine 21 – The Catholic League has other divisions too, and with this win Our Lady earned the status as biggest contender to Loyola in the Intersectional.
Milan 21, Grosse Ile 14 – Milan moved to 4-0 after winning just one game last season; the Big Reds look like Huron League favorites heading into this week’s matchup with Monroe St. Mary Catholic.
Southwest and Border
Stevensville Lakeshore 41, Portage Central 40
This nearly ended with the classic comeback, with Portage Central trailing by 20 at halftime. But Lakeshore hung on through a two-point conversion called back because of a penalty. That one-point swing will surely come to mean more as the Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference West season moves into October. Click to read more from the Kalamazoo Gazette.
Bridgman 27, Niles Brandywine 26 – The Lakeland Conference is down to just three teams after playing with six only three seasons ago, and Bridgman looks like the favorite already after beating Brandywine for the first time since 2006.
Reading 26, Springport 20 – This was a big one as the Rangers move quietly toward another Big Eight Conference decider in Week 8 against Union City.
Portage Northern 7, St. Joseph 0 – This was the other SMAC West game of most note, with these two now among four that are 1-1 in the league and 3-1 overall, but tied for third in the league.
Sturgis 27, Kalamazoo Loy Norrix 12 – The Trojans were in a bit of a rough spot at 1-2 and coming off their first playoff berth in seven seasons; this victory could kick off a run back into the mix.
Lower Up North
Grayling 28, Traverse City St. Francis 20
The Vikings ended a nine-game losing streak against St. Francis, and after falling by three and one point the last two seasons, respectively. Grayling is considered one of the best teams in Division 5 and the Lake Michigan Conference favorite, and beating the Division 7 power Gladiators will no doubt strengthen both expectations. Click to read more from the Traverse City Record-Eagle.
Maple City Glen Lake 56, Benzie Central 12 – The Lakers are 4-0 for the first time since 2001 and appear to have made the Northwest Conference race a two-team battle with Kingsley.
Boyne City 14, Harbor Springs 7 – Boyne City improved to 4-0 to equal last season’s win total heading into this week’s matchup with St. Francis.
Traverse City Central 40, Petoskey 0 – The Trojans announced their Big North Conference contention in a big way over a usual favorite, and next week can equal their 2011 win total by moving to 4-1.
Elk Rapids 48, Charlevoix 22 – Two losses by a combined 11 points have put the Elks at 2-2 and against the playoff wall, but this was a big step with two more tough games coming up.
Escanaba 31, Marquette 22
This was a little unexpected, perhaps more than a little, with Marquette coming in undefeated and the Eskymos having been outscored 99-37 during their 1-2 start. But Escanaba’s defense shut down the Redmen during the second half to win the Great Northern Upper Peninsula Conference opener. Click to read more from the Marquette Mining Journal.
Bessemer 39, Lake Linden-Hubbell 12 – Bessemer not only broke an eight-game losing streak to Lake Linden-Hubbell, but this victory also helped the Speedboys move to 3-1 and equal last season’s three wins.
Negaunee 28, Iron Mountain 6 – The Miners’ broke a two-game losing streak to Iron Mountain and have started 4-0 for the first time since 2006.
Ishpeming 38, Ishpeming Westwood 8 – Ishpeming pushed it to 16 straight over Westwood and hs now won 11 straight regular-season games.
Iron Mountain North Dickinson 55, Stephenson 30 – The Nordics’ point totals this season, in chronological order, have been 41, 42, 48 and 55.
DeWitt 28, Haslett 27
The Panthers have won this rivalry game 10 straight times, which might make it seem like it shouldn’t be a rivalry anymore. Don’t buy it. This game still matters a ton to both communities, and this brought back memories of the classics from the beginning of the 2000s. It also kept DeWitt tied for first in the Capital Area Activities Conference Red and has Haslett needing to win out to guarantee a playoff berth.
Perry 14, Flint Beecher 13 – The Ramblers should celebrate some small victories, like their best start since 2006; two wins already equals their most since that same season.
Lansing Everett 21, Holt 3 – This was the first of four tough CAAC Blue foes the Vikings must survive; Grand Ledge, East Lansing and Lansing Sexton still loom after a 4-0 start.
St. Johns 14, Owosso 13 – The CAAC Red has been tough to read so far, but this combined with the DeWitt win means the Panthers and Redwings likely will play for the title again.
Morrice 44, Burton Atherton 14 – Before opening night, the last time Morrice (4-0) had won was 2009; the last time Morrice won four games in a season was 2006, and the last time the Orioles started 4-0 was 1997.
Thumb and Bay
Flint Powers Catholic 34, Saginaw Nouvel Catholic 12
This game may not have turned out as close as might have been expected. But the reigning Division 5 champion Chargers had plenty to celebrate after falling to Nouvel 55-14 in 2011, when Nouvel finished as Division 7 champion. Click to read more from The Saginaw News.
Saginaw Swan Valley 31, Alma 26 – The Vikings handed Alma its first Tri-Valley Conference Central loss, meaning Swan Valley and Hemlock are the only two still perfect in league play.
Montrose 13, Goodrich 12 – This leaves Montrose and Lake Fenton as the teams to beat in the Genesee Area Conference Red.
Almont 17, Richmond 13 – By way of a series of three and four-point games, including this one, Almont is again among those chasing Croswell-Lexington at the top of the Blue Water Conference standings.
Beaverton 26, Houghton Lake 21 – The Beavers might not contend in the Jack Pine Conference after losing big to Gladwin in Week 3, but this win put them at 3-1 to equal their most wins since 2007 and has them halfway to their first playoff berth since 2000.
Each week, the MHSAA highlights trophy games around the state. A number were played during Week 4.
- Little Brown Jug: Union City hosted Athens in a Big Eight Conference matchup and kept the trophy for the 12th straight season. Final: Union City 33, Athens 18.
- Little Brown Jug: The Kingsley/Suttons Bay matchup has been much more even, with the teams splitting their last 10 games although Kingsley won for the second straight: Final: Kingsley 62, Suttons Bay 7.
- Little Brown Jug: Concord won its ninth of the last 10 against Homer (including a forfeit in 2006), but this was the closest of the recent renditions. Final: Concord 28, Homer 27.
- The Axe: Newberry kept its strong start going by breaking a seven-game losing streak to rival Munising. Final: Newberry 29, Munising 12.
- Rocket-Rebel Trophy: Wyoming Kelloggsville has won all six since it began playing Wyoming Lee annually again in 2007. Final: Kelloggsville 21, Lee 6.
- Pioneer-Thunderbird Spirit Bowl: Dearborn has won three straight over its Western Wayne Athletic Conference rival Edsel Ford. Final: Dearborn 35, Edsel Ford 14.
PHOTO: Southfield (blue) and Oak Park battled into overtime of a key Oakland Activities Association game that in the end went Oak Park's way, 24-18. (Click to see more at Terry McNamara Photography.)
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.)