By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Streaks were broken, upsets were hatched, and significant steps toward league titles were taken all over Michigan during a Week 4 full of the unexpected.
See below for the results that popped off the page in every region of our state and on the 8-player scene as changes of the guard began to take hold from Detroit to Muskegon to the Lake Huron coast and across the middle of the Upper Peninsula.
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Bay & Thumb
Saginaw Swan Valley 21, Freeland 14
Freeland had won 24 straight regular-season games since its loss to Swan Valley in Week 6 of 2014, and the Vikings (3-1) surely enjoyed this even a little more after also falling in the playoffs to the Falcons (3-1) last fall. Swan Valley got the go-ahead score in the fourth quarter and now sits tied with Alma atop the Tri-Valley Conference Central standings. Click for more from the Saginaw News.
Beaverton 33, Houghton Lake 25 – The Beavers (4-0) are now off to their best start since 1984 and with a key obstacle overcome in the Jack Pine Conference; Houghton Lake (2-2) was a playoff team last season.
Fenton 48, Linden 13 – Although not close for the first time in a few years, downing the rival Eagles (3-1) could eventually result in Fenton (4-0) winning its seventh straight Flint Metro League title.
Lake Fenton 20, Goodrich 7 – The reigning Genesee Area Conference Red champion Blue Devils (3-1) now have two contenders out of the way as Goodrich (3-1) has bounced back nicely from going 0-9 in 2016.
Marine City 35, Marysville 7 – The Mariners (4-0) equaled their win total from last year’s rare non-playoff season and should feel pretty comfortable in the Macomb Area Conference Gold with this win over the reigning champion Vikings (2-2) to go with an earlier one over 2016 runner-up Port Huron Northern.
West Bloomfield 37, Clarkston 16
After close losses to Walled Lake Western and Bloomfield Hills to open this season, West Bloomfield is hitting stride. The Lakers (2-2) got back into the Oakland Activities Association Red hunt by downing the reigning co-champion Wolves (3-1) as standout quarterback Bryce Veasley again posted massive passing numbers and the West Bloomfield defense improved by 26 points from last year’s meeting. Click for more from the Oakland Press.
Waterford Mott 47, Walled Lake Western 37 – Mott (3-1) quietly is working toward a fourth straight playoff season, but ending an 11-game regular-season winning streak for the reigning Division 2 runner-up Warriors (3-1) remained a headline-grabber nonetheless.
Utica Eisenhower 49, Clinton Township Chippewa Valley 42 – Winning the prestigious MAC Red is a multi-step process, and this was a significant one as Eisenhower (4-0) seeks to repeat as champion and Chippewa Valley (3-1) is always among contenders.
Ferndale 17, Detroit Country Day 7 – The Eagles (3-1) are building off last season’s first playoff berth since 2008 with a great start now highlighted with their best win in at least a decade; reigning Division 4 runner-up Country Day (1-3) has three defeats by 13 points or fewer.
Oak Park 34, Birmingham Groves 14 – After falling to Groves (3-1) by just a point last season, Oak Park (3-1) could be headed toward winning the OAA White this time after a victory over the reigning champ.
Grand Ledge 27, Lansing Sexton 14
Grand Ledge remains the arguable favorite in the Capital Area Activities Conference Blue as it seeks a third straight league title. The Big Reds (3-1) remain in discussion of the Lansing area’s best teams, but Grand Ledge pushed its lead to 20 midway through the fourth quarter and now has three solid wins to go with a Week 2 loss to DeWitt. Undefeated Okemos is next up. Click for more from the Lansing State Journal.
Beal City 16, Leroy Pine River 7 – The Aggies (3-1) are working toward taking back the Highland Conference title after avenging last year’s 34-7 loss to reigning league champion Pine River (0-4).
Fulton 26, Fowler 20 – This rivalry game frequently is followed by a rematch in the playoffs, and the Pirates (3-1) now have a much better chance of making it back for the first time 2014 after equaling their win total of each of the last two years while knocking Fowler down to 2-2.
Lake Odessa Lakewood 36, Vermontville Maple Valley 7 – Maple Valley’s 3-1 start and best season already since 2014 are still worth celebrating, but the Greater Lansing Activities Conference looks like it will come down again to reigning champion Lakewood (4-0) and Olivet.
Lansing Catholic 35, Williamston 34 – The Cougars (4-0) squeaked out this CAAC White win to give this week’s matchup with Portland major title implications; Williamston (2-2) is just outside after also losing to Portland by only seven in Week 3.
Northern Lower Peninsula
AuGres-Sims 48, Lincoln Alcona 46
AuGres-Sims’ offense caught up after losing to Alcona 58-20 a year ago, with this win putting the Wolverines at 4-0 for the first time since 2006. The Wolverines are averaging 46 points per game this season, 11 more than a year ago when they finished 7-3. Alcona (3-1) will need some help now to repeat as North Star League champion; the Tigers didn’t lose in the league last season. Click for more from the Alpena News.
Alpena 23, Cadillac 14 – The Wildcats (2-2) had only two wins a year ago, and now have two plus two close losses as they play for their first winning record since 2004; Cadillac (1-3) has a tough road ahead starting with undefeated Wyoming Godwin Heights next.
Elk Rapids 17, Kalkaska 0 – The Elks have gone from no wins in 2015 to two last season and now stand 3-1 this fall after bouncing back from a Week 3 loss to hand Kalkaska (3-1) its first.
Gaylord St. Mary 20, Whittemore-Prescott 12 – The Snowbirds (4-0) continued to prep for a strong league slate by handing a second straight defeat to annual playoff team W-P (2-2).
McBain 34, Evart 10 – McBain (3-1) bounced back from a Lake City loss in Week 3 to down another playoff hopeful in the Wildcats (2-2).
Southeast & Border
Brooklyn Columbia Central 46, Ida 38
While Columbia Central had put together a combined 15-5 record over the last two seasons, Ida has been the class of the Lenawee County Athletic Association of late with two straight league titles (last season shared) and only one loss in its last 15 league games before this defeat. The win was Columbia Central’s first ever against the Bluestreaks (3-1); the Golden Eagles (3-1) will now root for Ida to beat Hudson in Week 7, possibly their best chance at securing a shared league title after losing to the Tigers in Week 3. Click for more from the Jackson Citizen-Patriot.
Addison 32, Napoleon 30 – The Cascades Conference has taken all kinds of turns early; Napoleon (2-2) looked like the new favorite for a bit, but Addison (4-0) has stepped in tying its win total from 2016 and its most since 2010.
Parma Western 28, Coldwater 21 – The Panthers (3-1) impressively bounced back from a loss to Marshall in Week 3 to hand annual league contender Coldwater (3-1) its first defeat, potentially jumbling up a competitive Interstate Eight Athletic Conference race.
Morenci 26, Clinton 20 – The Bulldogs (2-2) ran their streak against Clinton (2-2) to two straight to pull to .500 after two losses by a combined three points to start the fall.
Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard 28, Detroit Loyola 15 – The Fighting Irish (4-0) have one more win than all of last season with their best start since 2010, and with this one may have eliminated the reigning Division 7 runner-up Bulldogs (0-4) from playoff consideration.
Stevensville Lakeshore 14, St. Joseph 6
The “War by the Shore” went Lakeshore’s way for the fourth straight season as the Lancers put two touchdowns on the board during the first quarter and then clamped down on St. Joseph’s offense. Combined with a Week 3 win over Portage Central, Lakeshore (4-0) looks to have a good handle on the Southwest Michigan Athletic Conference West race – it’s looking to secure its first league title since 2014, with Portage Northern (1-3) and Niles (2-2) left to play. Click for more from the St. Joseph Herald-Palladium.
Benton Harbor 29, Berrien Springs 7 – Don’t give up on Benton Harbor (1-3); after opening with three losses, the Tigers began their must-win stretch by handing Berrien Springs (3-1) its first defeat.
Edwardsburg 28, Dowagiac 20 – The Chieftains (2-2) gave Edwardsburg (4-0) easily its toughest game so far this season as the Eddies added a 32nd straight Wolverine Conference win (since Dowagiac handed them their last league loss in 2012.)
Schoolcraft 24, Saugatuck 21 – Life after graduated star Blake Dunn has seen Saugatuck (2-2) lose its first and second regular-season games since 2014 but now look pretty good as a favorite heading into the Southwestern Athletic Conference Lakeshore schedule; Schoolcraft (3-1) is looking at a tougher path to three-peat in the Valley.
Portage Central 49, Traverse City Central 34 – After both lost to their league rivals in Week 3, Portage Central (3-1) enjoyed the most bounce-back although the Trojans (2-2) should benefit from playing such a strong nonleague foe.
Gladstone 20, Ishpeming Westwood 12
The Braves are piling up memorable wins, and moving to 4-0 gave them their most victories in a season since also winning four in 2010. The switch from the Great Northern Conference to the Mid-Peninsula Conference certainly has made a difference for the small Class B school, but Gladstone also has dominated against a tough opening group – Westwood (3-1) also has been building what could be its best season this decade. Click for more from the Escanaba Daily Press.
Escanaba 45, Marquette 28 – The Eskymos (3-1) made it two straight over rival Marquette (1-3) and five wins in the last seven meetings of the biggest schools in the Upper Peninsula.
L'Anse 20, Hancock 18 – The Purple Hornets (3-1) bounced back from a Week 3 loss to Westwood to surpass last season’s win total and hand the Bulldogs (3-1) their first defeat.
Newberry 24, Munising 22 – The Mid-Eastern Conference is down to five teams, but five that could make the playoffs; Newberry (3-1) is the early leader, but Munising (2-2) could find its way into a shared league title.
Norway 21, Gwinn 6 – The Knights (4-0) also play in the Mid-Eastern Conference and have loaded up on impressive nonleague wins heading into their four conference games starting this week; Gwinn (2-2) has its work cut out as it looks to make the playoffs for a second straight season.
Whitehall 28, Muskegon Oakridge 14
Oakridge (3-1) has had quite a hold on the West Michigan Conference with three perfect runs through the league over the last five seasons and 37 wins over its last 39 league games. Whitehall (3-1) has made the playoffs three straight seasons but been just outside the league title mix thanks in large part to 17 straight losses to the Eagles. The Vikings can’t celebrate yet – but a win over similarly-powerful Montague this week would solidify their league title campaign. Click for more from the Local Sports Journal.
Comstock Park 49, Allendale 40 – The Panthers, 2-7 a year ago but 4-0 now, need only 43 more points to equal last season’s output and look like a contender in an Ottawa-Kent Conference Blue that has a number of annual playoff teams, with Allendale (1-3) now facing a must-win road to make it two straight appearances.
Coopersville 28, Sparta 21 – The Broncos (3-1) might hope to enter the O-K Blue mix already with two more wins than all of last year after handing Sparta (3-1) its first.
Muskegon 63, Byron Center 14 – The Big Reds (4-0) made it three wins over two seasons against Byron Center (3-1), a strong program in its own right with a combined 13-3 record since the start of 2016.
Grand Rapids Christian 33, Grand Rapids South Christian 12 – The Eagles (4-0) made it eight straight over what used to be an opening night nonleague rival before South Christian (3-1) joined the O-K Gold last season.
Rapid River 26, Ontonagon 22
The way things are shaking out, this should eventually help decide the Western Eight Conference title. Rapid River (4-0) has a win over Crystal Falls Forest Park, and Ontonagon (3-1) has downed Powers North Central; Stephenson also is 4-0 and will see Rapid River in Week 7. By then the league should be more sorted out, and it seems likely the Rockets will be in the mix to lead it. Click for more from the Houghton Daily Mining Gazette.
Bay City All Saints 69, New Haven Merritt 26 – The move to 8-player this fall is suiting All Saints (3-1) as it equaled last season’s win total by downing a 2016 playoff team in Merritt (2-2).
Deckerville 20, Kingston 14 – The Eagles (4-0) haven’t had many close games over the last two seasons, but leave it to the rival Cardinals (2-2) to provide easily the toughest challenge this fall.
Onekama 36, Wyoming Tri-unity Christian 8 – The Portagers (4-0) also have adjusted seamlessly to a new format, with this win over the 2016 semifinalist Defenders (2-2) the latest of a dominating start.
Bellevue 28, Portland St. Patrick 6 – The Broncos (4-0) are yet another first-year 8-player team finding the going smooth as they handed St. Patrick (3-1) its first regular-season loss since 2015.
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PHOTO: Lansing Sexton and Grand Ledge linemen lock up during Friday's Comets victory. (Click for more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)
Separated by 527 travel miles – whether over Mackinac Bridge or around Lake Michigan, the Novara family celebrated nearly parallel football successes this fall.
At Portland, John Novara completed his 25th season as head coach leading the Raiders to a 12-1 record – their best since finishing Division 5 runner-up in 2018, and a second-straight Capital Area Activities Conference White championship on the way to reaching the Division 4 Semifinals.
At Kingsford, fifth-year coach Mark Novara led the Flivvers to a 10-2 record – their best since posting the same in 2004. Kingsford shared the Western Peninsula Athletic Conference Copper title and won a Division 5 District title, its first District championship since 2009.
John Novara graduated from Iron Mountain in 1989, and younger brother Mark graduated from Kingsford in 1993.
Similarly parallel, both teams were quarterbacked by Novaras. Dominic Novara directed the Raiders’ attack, and cousin Nic Novara led the Flivvers. Both are juniors. (Mark Novara was a Division III All-American at quarterback at Lakeland College in Wisconsin.)
One more connection: Portland athletic director Kevin Veale quarterbacked the Iron Mountain teams with John Novara as tight end long before they worked together downstate. Veale’s nephew Garrett Veale was a standout two-way lineman for Mark Novara and Kingsford this fall.
Small gesture, memorable connection
Dante DeGrazia’s senior season was sadly short-lived this fall, as he suffered a season-ending injury during the first half of South Lyon East’s opening game against White Lake Lakeland at Michigan Stadium.
But an official provided a memory the DeGrazias will not forget.
Chris Curtis had begun his 16th season as an official earlier that day at U-M, and stuck around to watch the Lakes Valley Conference matchup. A month later, he was officiating the East/Warren Mott game, and made sure to check in with DeGrazia – a small gesture, but a meaningful one as well and another reminder of the interconnectedness of communities within educational athletics.
“When he heard my son wasn't able to play anymore, needed surgery and that he was a senior, he offered him kindness and a hug on the field,” Dante’s mother Dana DeGrazia wrote to East athletic director Greg Michaels. “As a parent whose son is going through a rough time dealing with losing his senior season, hearing this story from Dante means a lot to me and the support that was given to him and I wanted to reach out and tell him thank you.”
PHOTOS (Top) Kingsford football coach Mark Novara, far left, quarterback Nic Novara and Portland coach (and uncle) John Novara celebrate the Flivvers' District title. (Middle) South Lyon East's Dante DeGrazia (33) and official Chris Curtis meet for a quick hug during East's Week 5 game. (Photos courtesy of the Portland football program and DeGrazia family, respectively.)