By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Just when we thought we'd figured out a few things about how this MHSAA football season might unfold ... we found out we don't know that much yet.
Upsets ruled Week 4. Of course, the teams that won probably don't see their victories that way. And in two months, some of what we consider surprises now might not be considered stunners any longer.
But check out how the unexpected played a major role as we began the second third of this fall's slate.
Lowell 31, Muskegon 20
Many were so caught up in Muskegon’s 45-0 win over Rockford two weeks ago that they likely didn’t give Lowell (4-0) a shot at catching the Big Reds (3-1). But Kyler Shurlow is fast becoming the next Red Arrows quarterback star, and he came up big in his team’s biggest game of the regular season. Click to read more from the Grand Rapids Press.
Comstock Park 27, Allendale 25: The Falcons (3-1) have pushed Comstock Park to the brink the last two seasons, but the Panthers (4-0) survived again after a five-point win in their 2012 matchup.
Muskegon Reeths-Puffer 14, East Kentwood 7: Reeths-Puffer (3-1) hasn’t made the playoffs since 2007, but is ascending after avenging last season’s 35-points loss to East Kentwood (2-2) to also equal its number of wins for the entire season.
Zeeland East 27, Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central 25: The undefeated Chix (4-0) had to survive a second straight game against Forest Hills Central (2-2) decided by four points or fewer.
Reed City 22, Newaygo 14: Make that 24 straight regular-season wins for the Coyotes (4-0), who by beating solid Newaygo (3-1) look even better to push it to 29.
Escanaba 35, Marquette 14
This one was not just significant but probably shocking to fans who pay close attention to Upper Peninsula’s biggest schools. Escanaba entered 0-3 and Marquette 3-0, but the Eskymos made it three straight over the Redmen. Click to read more from the Escanaba Daily Press.
L'Anse 21, Hancock 20: The Purple Hornets (3-1) have one of the highest playoff point averages of any team expected to make the Division 8 playoffs, but Hancock (1-3) must win out to gain an automatic bid.
Negaunee 36, Iron Mountain 8: The Miners are 4-0 for the second straight season, but the Mountaineers (1-3) face their toughest start since 1990.
Norway 36, Manistique 34: Norway (2-2) is a win from equaling last season’s total after beating a 2012 playoff qualifier in Manistique (0-4).
Lake Linden-Hubbell 22, Bessemer 20: The Lakes (2-2) earned a shot at staying in the Great Western Conference title hunt, while dealing a blow to repeat hopes of Bessemer (3-1).
Holt 31, Lansing Everett 21
Just when it looked like Holt (2-2) wouldn’t factor in the Capital Area Activities Conference Blue race this season, the Rams beat the reigning champion and presumed favorite by scoring more points in one game than Everett (3-1) had given up in its other three games combined. Click to read more from the Lansing State Journal.
Fowler 42, Bath 22: The Eagles (3-1) have outscored three opponents by a combined 106-50 since falling 40-0 to Mendon on opening night; Fowler also has beaten the Bees (2-2) in 24 straight.
Pinckney 20, Howell 10: Seeking their first winning record and playoff berth since 2001, the Pirates (3-1) are halfway there and off to their best start since that season; Howell remains in good shape at 3-1 as well.
Eaton Rapids 17, Jackson Northwest 7: The Greyhounds (3-1) have tied their most wins for a season since 1997, although Northwest (2-2) can’t be too frustrated with its most victories for a season since 2009.
Springport 18, Reading 13: The Spartans (3-1) lent Big 8 Conference leaders Jonesville and Homer a hand by downing last season’s champ, Reading (2-2).
Lower Up North
Standish-Sterling 27, Whittemore-Prescott 20
Standish-Sterling (4-0) continued its best start since 2008 with a late stand as Whittemore-Prescott (3-1) also played to remain perfect on the season. The Cardinals had won both games since the series was restarted after previously coming to close after the 1985 season. Click to read more from the Bay City Times.
Kinglsey 31, Frankfort 20: The Stags (3-1) set up next week’s rematch with reigning Northwest Conference champion Maple City Glen Lake by edging Frankfort (2-2) for the third time in four seasons.
Cheboygan 42, Ludington 14: The Chiefs moved to 3-1 for the second straight season by dealing a first loss this fall to Ludington (3-1), which remains off to its best start since 2004.
Mancelona 22, Central Lake 18: These teams combined to go 17-5 in 2012, and Mancelona (2-2) got back on the right foot by also pushing Central Lake to 2-2 and claiming the M-88 Trophy.
Traverse City St. Francis 34, Grayling 14: The Gladiators (3-1) ended Grayling’s 12-game regular-season winning streak and made it 10 of 11 over the Vikings (3-1).
Southwest and Border
Parchment 44, Constantine 26
Parchment has had only one playoff season over the last decade and not a lot of wins to be this excited about. The Panthers (2-2) hadn’t beaten Constantine (2-2) since the latter joined the Kalamazoo Valley Association in 2008, but Clay Wilkey averaged more than 20 yards per carry in leading Parchment to the big upset. Read more from the Kalamazoo Gazette.
Portage Central 38, Stevensville Lakeshore 28: This makes Portage Central (4-0) one the favorites in the Southwestern Michigan Activities Conference West, while leaving Lakeshore (2-2) to battle back from its worst start since 2004.
St. Joseph 17, Portage Northern 10: St. Joseph (4-0) is that other favorite in the SMAC West, thanks to a defense that is giving up 12 points per game and held the Huskies (3-1) to a season low.
Niles Brandywine 26, Bridgman 18: The Bobcats (4-0) made the playoffs last season for the first time since 2002 and haven’t slowed down, although Bridgman (2-2) gave them their toughest game to date.
Plainwell 44, Otsego 17: The Trojans (4-0) just keep rolling despite playing three 2012 playoff teams over their first four games; Otsego has little room for error at 2-2 and with tough opponents waiting in Weeks 8 and 9.
Greater Detroit and Southeast
Southfield 20, Oak Park 12
The Bluejays have arrived among the elite in the Detroit area. That seemed a pretty good bet after a four-point loss to Detroit Cass Tech during Week 1, but Southfield (3-1) took another big step by handing Oak Park (3-1) its first loss and shutting down a Knights offense averaging nearly 32 points per game entering the weekend. Click to read more from the Detroit Free Press.
Rochester Hills Stoney Creek 36, Lake Orion 7: Last season was the only other time during its 12-year history that Stoney Creek (4-0) had played powerful Lake Orion (3-1), and this one looked a lot different than that 35-point loss.
Birmingham Brother Rice 26, Warren DeLaSalle 24: Of a number of key Catholic League games, this one is the most telling; Brother Rice (4-0) might be the favorite again, but DeLaSalle (2-2) should push the other contenders as well.
Pontiac Notre Dame Prep 28, Flint Powers Catholic 2: Few statewide are surging early like the Fighting Irish (4-0), who have outscored opponents by a combined 172-10. Powers (2-2) hadn’t scored fewer than 14 points before this game.
Saline 35, Ann Arbor Pioneer 3: Saline tied for the Southeastern Conference Red title last season and missed winning outright by a one-point loss to Pioneer (2-2); this time, the Hornets (4-0) might not be slowed.
Bay and Thumb
Midland 51, Saginaw Arthur Hill 21
Much has been discussed, and rightly so, about Arthur Hill’s resurgence this season. But it appears the Saginaw Valley Association North still belongs to Midland (4-0), which showed it in a big way. The reigning league champ put up its season high points total against a Lumberjacks team that had started 3-0 and not given up more than 18 points in a game. Click to read more from the Saginaw News.
Mount Pleasant 35, Midland Dow 28: The Oilers’ two-win season of 2012 is fast becoming a distant memory, with this win over Dow (3-1) putting Mount Pleasant (3-1) in a tie for first in the SVA North.
Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port 27, Unionville-Sebewaing 0: Hard to believe the Lakers (4-0) haven’t made the playoffs since 2009, but they’ve now won as many games as in all of 2012. Beating USA (3-1) also sets Laker up for a Greater Thumb Conference West showdown with Reese that could decide the title.
Peck 61, Lawrence 38: These are two of the top 8-player teams in the state, with Peck (4-0) now owning the highest playoff point average and Lawrence (2-1) looking like a playoff lock as well in its first season after making the move.
Richmond 42, Almont 35 (2 OT): Make Richmond (3-1) the favorite now in the Blue Water Area Conference after beating both Almont (3-1) and Croswell-Lexington.
Each week the MHSAA highlights trophy games around the state. Here are a few in addition to the one mentioned above:
Little Brown Jug: Union City vs. Athens. These two play for a trophy that originated in 1947. Final: Union City 33, Athens 14.
Little Brown Jug: Homer vs. Concord. Like their Big Eight Conference colleagues mentioned just above, these two play for a similar prize. Final: Homer 44, Concord 6.
The Axe: Munising vs. Newberry. This newer traveling award originated in 2004. Final: Munising 28, Newberry 27.
Rocket-Rebel Trophy: Wyoming Kelloggsville vs. Wyoming Lee. These crosstown rivals both also play in the O-K Silver. Final: Kelloggsville 47, Lee 6.
Battle for Butch: Beaverton vs. Gladwin. These Jack Pine Conference rivals play for a stuffed dog stitched together in 1937. Final: Gladwin 48, Beaverton 14.
Holton-Hesperia Trophy: Holton vs. Hesperia. These two have been foes in various leagues going back half a century. Final: Hesperia 40, Holton 19.
PHOTO: Lowell ran past Muskegon 31-20 in a face-off of two of the most highly-regarded teams in the state. (Click to see more from High School Sports Scene.)
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.)