By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
A pair of game-winning field goals. Gutsy calls to go for two. Three significant streaks broken and a pair of MHSAA records set, and on top of it all a scene to draw a tear from even the most macho fan.
What more could we ask for from one weekend of high school football?
Our Week 4 review touches on a lot of these stories and more. But also check out this Observer & Eccentric piece how two teams came together to make a special night for Novi's "hydration engineer" and his mother, who is fighting cancer for the second time. A piece by WXYZ-TV also is at the bottom of this report.
Bay & Thumb
Freeland 12, Alma 6
The Falcons (4-0) added to a 16-game regular-season winning streak and kept hold on their lead in the Tri-Valley Conference Central, but just barely thanks to a defense that locked down an Alma offense that averaged 36 points per game over its first three. Freeland had three interceptions to stay ahead of the Panthers, who have given up only 26 points on the year. Click for more from the Midland Daily News.
Croswell-Lexington 48, Almont 28 – The Pioneers (3-1) are a three-point loss to Richmond from perfection, but are keeping themselves in the Blue Water Area Conference conversation thanks to this win over Almont (2-2).
Flint Carman-Ainsworth 41, Flint Powers Catholic 7 – A tough opening schedule made it tough to gauge the Cavaliers (2-2), but downing Powers (2-2) said plenty and kept them undefeated in the Saginaw Valley League Blue.
Midland 31, Mount Pleasant 28 – Gavin Archbold drilled a 40-yard field goal as the final seconds ticked off the clock to give Midland (3-1) the edge over the Oilers (1-3) in a series that has seen the last five games decided by eight points or fewer.
Montrose 29, Flint Beecher 15 – What’s generally a three-team race in the Genesee Area Conference Red now has two favorites with Montrose (3-1) and Lake Fenton both downing Beecher (2-2) over the last two weeks.
Farmington Hills Harrison 28, West Bloomfield 0
Harrison (3-1) avenged last season’s Week 9 loss by dealing West Bloomfield (2-2) its first shutout since 2010. Both could emerge as eventual league champions; Harrison is 2-0 in the Oakland Activities Association White, and the Lakers have two strong opening wins in the OAA Red. Click for more from the Detroit Free Press.
Birmingham Brother Rice 13, Warren DeLaSalle 3 – The Warriors (3-1) are back after their first sub-.500 season in 30 years, with this win over DeLaSalle (2-2) giving them more victories than in all of 2015.
Oak Park 44, Rochester Adams 43 (OT) – The Knights (2-2) went for the two-point conversion in overtime and made it five straight over Adams (3-1) and stay in the mix in the OAA White.
Detroit Catholic Central 28, Cleveland St. Ignatius, Ohio, 21 (OT) – This was the first close game for both teams, with the Shamrocks (4-0) emerging as the still-undefeated by winning overtime.
Warren Fitzgerald 24, St. Clair Shores South Lake – The Spartans (4-0) are in a slightly more comfortable position in the Macomb Area Conference Silver thanks to this win and an earlier victory by South Lake (3-1) over 2015 champion Madison Heights Madison.
Portland 36, Lansing Catholic 35
The Lansing area’s most anticipated game was as good as expected, coming down to a made two-point conversion with 25 seconds to play that kept Portland (4-0) atop the Capital Area Activities Conference White. Lansing Catholic (3-1), which beat Portland in a Division 5 District Final last season after losing their regular-season matchup, led the entire game until that go-ahead score. Click for more from the Lansing State Journal.
Stockbridge 70, Leslie 32 – This wasn’t just another 100-point game involving Stockbridge (3-1); Mason Gee-Montgomery threw eight touchdown passes, reportedly breaking the MHSAA career record in the category after entering this season needing 21 to do so.
Greenville 35, Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central 34 – The Yellow Jackets (3-1) now have one more win than all of last season after handing Forest Hills Central (3-1 also after going 2-7 a year ago) its first loss.
Ithaca 45, Pinconning 0 – The Yellowjackets’ third straight shutout also put them at 4-0 and 97-3 over their last 100 games, the best 100-game winning percentage in MHSAA history.
DeWitt 47, Mason 0 – The Panthers (3-1) finish with a couple tough nonleague matchups, but beating Mason (3-1) this well makes it look like they won’t have many more challenges in the CAAC Red.
Northern Lower Peninsula
Traverse City Central 38, Portage Central 22
Storms pushed the end of this one past midnight Friday, but Traverse City Central left its home field with a big-time statement win against one of the southwest corner's top teams. The Trojans finished on a 21-7 second-half run to remain undefeated at 4-0 and hand the Mustangs (3-1) their first loss while scoring the most points Portage Central has given up since a 2013 Division 2 Semifinal. Click for more from the Traverse City Record-Eagle.
Johannesburg-Lewiston 47, Central Lake 14 – The Cardinals’ five-year playoff streak looked to be in jeopardy, but getting to 2-2 with this win over Central Lake (1-3) will help significantly with a tough slate ahead.
Lincoln Alcona 58, AuGres-Sims 20 – Alcona (3-1) is all alone atop the North Star League standings with the second-place Wolverines (3-1) now needing some help and two others only a win back.
Maple City Glen Lake 42, Onekama 7 – The Lakers (3-1) kept pace in the Northern Michigan Football Conference Leaders division and are the only team to beat the Portagers (3-1) during the last two regular seasons, having done so last year as well.
Roscommon 20, Beaverton 14 – Another week, another important win for upstart Jack Pine Conference co-leader Roscommon (4-0), which dealt the Beavers (2-2) a second straight loss.
Southeast & Border
Saline 26, Temperance Bedford 24
There’s a chance this season’s Southeastern Conference Red championship will come down to the field goal kicked by Vinnie Patteri with three seconds to play against Bedford (3-1) after he missed an extra point earlier in the game and was injured the week before when Saline (4-0) also won on a late field goal. Click for more from MLive-Detroit.
Sand Creek 38, Morenci 36 – The Aggies are continuing to enjoy their best start since 2006, making themselves a Tri-County Conference contender by beating a Morenci team (2-2) that has been the last two seasons.
Ann Arbor Skyline 35, Monroe 22 – After a tough start, Skyline (1-3) lost to Saline by only three last week and now has its first win over a Monroe team that while 2-2 has made the playoffs four of the last five seasons.
Ida 58, Brooklyn Columbia Central 34 – The matchup of last season’s top two in the Lenawee County Athletic Association went Ida’s way again, with the Bluestreaks (4-0) now tied atop the league with Dundee and Columbia Central (2-2) needing to chase.
New Boston Huron 7, Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central 6 – The Chiefs (3-1) may be a win behind in the Huron League standings but kept themselves in the conversation – with much more to celebrate – by beating the Falcons (2-2) for the first time since 1986.
Cassopolis 28, Berrien Springs 21
The Rangers secured their first 4-0 start since 2009 in avenging a 7-0 loss from a year ago. Cassopolis mounted the winning the drive with three minutes to play and handed the Shamrocks (1-2) their second defeat by seven or fewer points this fall. Both won nine games a year ago. Click for more from the Niles Daily Star.
Comstock 26, Bronson 16 – The Colts’ 40-game losing streak is history as they won for the first time since 2011 to go to 1-3 this fall.
Vicksburg 24, Plainwell 8 – The Bulldogs (3-1) will need some help in the Wolverine Conference after falling to favorite Edwardsburg two weeks ago, but getting past perennial playoff team Plainwell (1-3) was big for postseason hopes.
Stevensville Lakeshore 31, St. Joseph 12 – A week after a big loss to Portage Central, Lakeshore (3-1) bounced back quickly and well in handing the Bears (3-1) their first defeat.
Portage Northern 24, Niles 21 – Portage Northern (2-2) got a needed victory as it hopes to get back to the playoffs after missing last fall; it’s worth noting that the Vikings (3-1) do have one more win already than all of last season.
Negaunee 35, Iron Mountain 13
The Mid-Peninsula Athletic Conference title is hardly wrapped up, but Negaunee (4-0) has now handed the only losses this season to two teams – Iron Mountain and Calumet – and has to feel pretty confident with nemesis Ishpeming coming up in three weeks. Iron Mountain (3-1) handed the Hematites their lone loss this fall and now will be rooting for them. Click for more from the Iron Mountain Daily News.
St. Ignace 46, East Jordan 8 – This meeting of early contenders in the NMFC Legacy didn’t stay close for long, as St. Ignace (3-1) kept its spot among favorites by handing East Jordan (3-1) a first defeat.
Newberry 22, Felch North Dickinson (20) – The Indians (4-0) stood up to their first challenge of the season to remain atop the Mid-Eastern Conference with North Dickinson (2-2) falling into a tie for third.
Gwinn 28, Bark River-Harris 14 – Save for a Week 2 loss to Iron Mountain, Gwinn (3-1) already has had a memorable fall with as many wins as in any season since going 4-5 in 2001 – and now a victory over last season’s Mid-Eastern Conference co-champion Broncos (2-2).
Kingsford 36, Sault Ste. Marie 14 – The Flivvers (3-1) lined themselves up nicely for this week’s matchup against Great Northern Conference power Menominee, while dropping first-year league member Sault Ste. Marie to 1-3 overall.
Hudsonville Unity Christian 24, Zeeland West 22 (OT)
Unity Christian (4-0) has strung together a pair of nice finishes over the last two seasons, but both included big regular-season losses to West including 52-6 in Week 9 last season. However, the Crusaders looked like they might have figured out the Dux (3-1) a bit, falling only 28-21 in a Division 4 Regional Final a few weeks later – and this time handed the reigning Division 4 champion its first regular season loss since Week 2 of 2013. Click for more from the Grand Rapids Press.
Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern 24, East Kentwood 23 – The Huskies (2-2) squeaked past what’s been considered one of the contenders in the Ottawa-Kent Conference Red; East Kentwood’s two losses the last two weeks were by a combined eight points.
Grandville Calvin Christian 36, Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian 33 – The Squires (2-2) have come back from opening losses to bigger teams with a pair of wins against O-K Silver opponents, this one over a NorthPointe team (3-1) that played in MHSAA Semifinals the last two years.
Grandville 36, Hudsonville 6 – The Bulldogs (4-0) now look like the clear favorites in the O-K Red with a combined 185-28 score on their four opponents including an Eagles team (3-1) that looked like the other likely contender.
Muskegon Reeths-Puffer 39, Muskegon Mona Shores 34 – Reeths-Puffer (3-1) had lost to Mona Shores by a combined score of 97-18 over the last two seasons, but this time dealt the Sailors (1-3) their third straight defeat of the fall.
Deckerville 38, Peck 0
These were two of the top three in the North Central Thumb 8-Man League, but Deckerville stands alone and impressively – the Eagles have given up 20 points this season and no more than eight in any game. Click for more from the Port Huron Times Herald.
Rapid River 48, Ontonagon 36 – One of the closer games statewide in 8-player saw Rapid River win its third straight to move to 3-1, with Ontonagon 2-2 after two straight losses to top Western Eight Conference teams.
New Haven Merritt 36, Hale 32 – The Mustangs are off to their first 4-0 start in their five-year program's history but only after just surviving an Eagles team that at 3-1 has as many wins this season as the last three combined.
PHOTO: Ithaca improved to 97-3 over its last 100 games with a win over Pinconning. (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.)