By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
There are 100 undefeated Michigan high school football teams at the midpoint of this season. Another 136 teams have only one loss heading into Week 5, which will be played out in most places tonight.
A number of our undefeated teams take on those from the group with one loss. Many of those matchups are mentioned below in this week’s Drive for Detroit preview, powered by MI Student Aid. Many more may be discussed in Monday's review of the weekend; be sure to tune back in then.
To see the weekend's full schedule, check out the MHSAA Score Center. All games below are Friday unless noted.
Bay & Thumb
Millington (4-0) at Frankenmuth (4-0)
A year doesn’t go by when this isn’t one of the must-see games from the Saginaw Bay area. There’s just too much history between the two; Millington has handed Frankenmuth its only two Tri-Valley Conference East losses over the last five seasons, and three of the Cardinals’ five league losses over the last five seasons came to the Eagles. Frankenmuth owns the most recent victory, 28-7 last year, and has outscored four opponents by a combined 150-20 this fall. Millington’s margin so far is 182-28 – and this one could see more offense than defense with standout quarterbacks Jared Davis and Bryce Bearss leading the Eagles and Cardinals, respectively.
Others that caught my eye: Brighton (3-1) at Grand Blanc (4-0), Croswell-Lexington (3-1) at Algonac (4-0), Montrose (3-1) at Lake Fenton (4-0), Midland Dow (4-0) at Flint Powers Catholic (2-2).
Detroit Catholic Central (4-0) at Birmingham Brother Rice (3-1)
What gives this an edge over the many other 4-0 vs. 3-1 matchups in the Detroit area this week is a few-fold. The winner certainly has an upper hand in the Detroit Catholic League Central, annually one of the state’s most competitive leagues. But it’s also intriguing because of Brother Rice’s bounce-back from 2-7 a year ago – its first sub-.500 finish since 1985. The Warriors’ lone loss this fall was to Indiana power Mishawaka Penn; DCC handed previously-undefeated Cleveland St. Ignatius a first loss last week and also owns an always-impressive win over Toledo Whitmer. The Shamrocks’ 35-7 win over Brother Rice in 2015 was their first against the rival after three straight losses; Rice surely will be looking to start a new streak.
Others that caught my eye: Romulus (4-0) at Dearborn (3-1), Detroit East English (3-1) at Detroit Cass Tech (4-0), Romeo (3-1) at Utica Eisenhower (4-0), Dearborn Fordson (4-0) at Redford Thurston (3-1).
Stockbridge (3-1) at Lake Odessa Lakewood (4-0)
These two have combined to score 73 and then 103 points in their most recent meetings, respectively, and Stockbridge quarterback Mason Gee-Montgomery is coming off throwing eight touchdown passes to pass 100 for his career last week. Lakewood hasn’t scored fewer than 37 points this fall, and both teams are giving up their share as well. In addition to the obvious entertainment factor, this is a big one because it could decide the eventual Greater Lansing Athletic Conference champion. The Vikings are reigning champs, and with Stockbridge and Olivet are 2-0 in league play with two more league games left after this weekend.
Others that caught my eye: Laingsburg (4-0) at Fowler (3-1), East Lansing (2-2) at Holt (2-2), Flint Hamady (2-2) at Durand (4-0), New Lothrop (4-0) at Byron (3-1).
Northern Lower Peninsula
Charlevoix (4-0) at Maple City Glen Lake (3-1)
The Northern Michigan Football Conference Leaders division standings could clear up a little bit this week with this result; the winner will join Frankfort (which plays a crossover) as the only undefeated teams left in league play. This isn’t unfamiliar territory for the Rayders; they finished second in the Leaders in 2014. Glen Lake hasn’t been in contention since the formation of the NMFC that fall – but looks early more like the 2012 and 2013 teams that won Northwest Conference titles. The Lakers’ loss this season was by a mere eight points to powerhouse Traverse City St. Francis, and they beat 3-1 Onekama 42-7 a week ago. Charlevoix has an impressive win though too, by eight over NMFC Legends co-leader Boyne City in Week 2.
Others that caught my eye: Johannesburg-Lewiston (2-2) at Frankfort (4-0), Traverse City Central (4-0) at Gaylord (2-2), Houghton Lake (3-1) at Roscommon (4-0), Lincoln Alcona (3-1) at Whittemore-Prescott (3-1).
Southeast & Border
Adrian Madison (3-1) at Sand Creek (4-0)
Six of eight teams in the Tri-County Conference are .500 or better so far, and the league has a couple of significant matchups this week. Sand Creek gets a chance to prove it will stick in contention with also-undefeated Clinton and Ottawa Lake Whiteford. The Aggies have more wins than they’ve totaled in an entire season since 2011, but Madison – which lost to Clinton by only eight in Week 3 – is halfway to earning its first playoff berth since 2009.
Others that caught my eye: Tecumseh (2-2) at Chelsea (4-0), Springport (4-0) at Homer (2-2), Dundee (2-2) at Ida (4-0), Grand Ledge (3-1) at Jackson (2-2).
Lawton (4-0) at Gobles (4-0)
This rivalry has been on, and then off, and now on again a few times over the last 15 years, but this edition might be the most meaningful in a while – and not just because Lawton won a nail-biter 30-27 a year ago. Both are staring down reigning champion Schoolcraft in the Southwestern Athletic Conference Central, with Lawton getting the Eagles next week and Gobles getting them in Week 7. Both are contenders to take the title away; Gobles has scored at least 50 points three weeks in a row, and Lawton has given up 12 – total – in four games.
Others that caught my eye: Battle Creek Lakeview (3-0) at Portage Central (3-1), Edwardsburg (4-0) at Dowagiac (2-2), Parchment (3-1) at St. Joseph Lake Michigan Catholic (4-0), Bark River-Harris (2-2) at Climax-Scotts (4-0) on Saturday.
Lake Linden-Hubbell (4-0) at Newberry (4-0)
The Mid-Eastern Conference has seen the share of top games in the Upper Peninsula so far, and this one could finish the sorting for this season. Newberry, in fact, can clinch a share of the league title, which would its first since 2005 in the Straits Area Conference. The Lakes won the final Great Western Conference title last fall but have played only one Mid-Eastern game so far. They need to win this one to not only take the lead, but keep alive a 13-game regular-season winning streak that this fall included handing Hancock its only loss so far.
Others that caught my eye: Calumet (3-1) at Hancock (3-1), Norway (4-0) at Ishpeming (2-1), Menominee (4-0) at Kingsford (3-1), Gwinn (3-1) at Negaunee (4-0).
Whitehall (4-0) at Montague (4-0)
This is a rematch of one of the classics from the Muskegon area a year ago; Montague won 29-28 in Week 5, which ended up contributing significantly to the Wildcats winning the West Michigan Conference championship. Comparing results against the same first four opponents from a year ago, Montague has been far more dominant this fall, outscoring those teams by a combined 173-24. Whitehall earned an impressive 50-47 win over much-improved Wyoming Kelloggsville in Week 1 and hasn’t slowed, running for 402 yards against Hart last week.
Others that caught my eye: Zeeland West (3-1) at Byron Center (3-1), Grand Rapids Christian (4-0) at Cedar Springs (3-1), Muskegon Reeths-Puffer (3-1) at Muskegon (3-1), Lowell (4-0) at Greenville (3-1).
Battle Creek St. Philip (4-0) at Camden-Frontier (3-0), Saturday
Camden-Frontier made its 8-player debut Week 1 by breaking a 19-game losing streak and has absolutely dominated, outscoring its first three opponents by a combined 194-8 – although two of those wins came against the same team. Regardless, the Redskins will find out Saturday where they might sit when it comes to the state’s elite. St. Philip has had a couple of closer-than-usual wins, two by 10 or fewer points. But the reigning MHSAA runner-up has won 16 of its last 17 games.
Others that caught my eye: Deckerville (4-0) at Rudyard (3-1), Pickford (3-1) at Posen (2-2).
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PHOTO: Flint Hamady (blue helmets) downed Byron in Week 2 and takes on Durand this week; Byron takes on New Lothrop, which with Durand is tied for first in the Genesee Area Conference Blue. (Click to see more from Varsity Monthly.)
SCHOOLCRAFT — If it is a home game for the Schoolcraft football team, head over to Vicksburg.
If it is soccer, go to Schoolcraft’s baseball field.
Things are a bit jumbled in the sports world for the Eagles this season.
With a new football field under construction and a new elementary school built on the site of the former practice fields, the two teams have been a bit displaced.
“Along with our football field, we had three practice fields that were utilized by a lot of our youth programs, Rocket football, youth soccer and our soccer and football programs,” Schoolcraft athletic director Bryan Applin said. “It’s taken a lot of understanding and flexibility from our coaches, players and our community to make it work out, and it has.”
Meanwhile, all four Eagles home football games will be played at Vicksburg High School.
If Vicksburg is home on a Friday, then the Eagles will play Saturday, including their Homecoming game this Saturday against Galesburg-Augusta.
The Eagles won their only “home” game so far, 33-14 against Kalamazoo United, and take a 3-1 record into Saturday’s contest.
The soccer team gave up its field to the football team for practices and has been practicing and playing their matches in the outfield of the baseball stadium.
For the soccer team, “It’s kind of an upgrade,” Applin said. “The soccer field they traditionally play on, they don’t have a scoreboard, they don’t have a bathroom facility, so we’ve been able to use the (baseball) scoreboard, the PA system, open up the bathroom building.
“The goal at some point is to give soccer a home, and we’re very, very excited about that.”
This year definitely has been challenging for the first-year AD, who credits Vicksburg athletic director Mike Roy with being a tremendous help.
“Mike Roy has been nothing but accommodating to us,” Applin said. “He’s been super helpful to me stepping in and assuming this scenario.
“The communities are so close, it almost feels like home for us.”
Roy said Jeff Clark, former Schoolcraft AD, reached out once the bond was passed for the new stadium last year.
“We had to make small accommodations as did Schoolcraft to make the schedules work,” Roy said. “By moving (Schoolcraft’s) games to Saturday, Vicksburg had to work with our Rocket football organization to make sure games were completed” before the Eagles varsity games.
Schoolcraft football coach Nathan Ferency said his team has been “rolling with the punches.
“These guys don’t care where it’s at; they just want to play football. We’re all taking care of each other. What a great place to be when everybody works together.”
When Jake Bailey heard the team would be playing at Vicksburg, “That got me excited,” the junior offensive tackle said. “They’ve got a really nice facility. I know the school will come out to support us no matter where we are, but it’s definitely different.
“Good thing we don’t play Vicksburg, although it would be fun because it would be both our home fields. The new facilities and being back at our home field at Roy Davis (Field next year) will be really fun.”
Vicksburg is Division 4, while Schoolcraft is Division 7.
The soccer team was “just being a team player” in giving up its own field for football practice, second-year head coach Jeremy Mutchler said.
“For the soccer team to be a team player and get behind the football team will help the community get behind the soccer team as well,” he added.
The biggest drawback is that part of the current field includes a piece of the baseball infield.
“The only odd thing is it is a smaller field, still regulation size, but smaller,” Mutchler said. “Part of the field is in the diamond, so we have to play in the dirt and it gets tricky, especially when you’re trying to throw it in or just play down the line.”
The move has cost the team a few home games.
“At the beginning of the year, we allowed schools, if they didn’t want to play here, we would go to their house,” Mutchler said. “We had to go to a few schools we would have played at home.”
Maintenance supervisor Eric McGehee was instrumental in preparing the field.
“He laid out exactly the parameters, so I was able to send that to all the ADs that were going to visit to give them an opportunity to decide whether that’s something they wanted to help us out for our home games,” Applin said. “A lot of schools were more than willing to come and play us to give our boys some home games. A couple wanted to be cautious and play on a more traditional surface, and we were able to make those arrangements as well.”
In only its second year as a varsity sport, the boys soccer team is still finding its identity, posting a 2-5 record so far.
“We’re a very young team,” Mutchler said. “All juniors and freshmen. This is the juniors' second regular season. It’s all been a learning phase with maturity and sportsmanship.”
Junior captain Jack Curtis said he was a bit “bummed out” when he heard the team would move to the baseball field.
“The first practice, I drove over to our practice field,” he said. “No one was there.
“I drove over to the high school and saw everyone practicing (at the baseball field). I didn’t think a soccer field could fit on a baseball field.”
Curtis said in spite of the temporary move, “I’m just glad we can have some home games this year on Schoolcraft soil.”
As for Applin, he spent much of his career coaching basketball at both the high school and college levels and most recently worked as a salesman for Zeigler. His wife, Meredith, is an assistant coach for Western Michigan University’s women’s basketball team.
Ferency is appreciative of the work Clark and Applin have done to make this season’s changes relatively seamless.
“I’d like to highlight how great our athletic department is,” he said. “It takes a lot of moving pieces and parts to move people around and have a space for everybody.
“I’m really proud of our athletic department and all our coaches and kids for just rolling with the punches.”
Pam Shebest served as a sportswriter at the Kalamazoo Gazette from 1985-2009 after 11 years part-time with the Gazette while teaching French and English at White Pigeon High School. She can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Calhoun, Kalamazoo and Van Buren counties.
PHOTOS (Top) Schoolcraft’s varsity boys soccer team, including Nyan Wonders (15), faces Comstock this season on its field in the outfield of the baseball stadium. (2) Schoolcraft’s Kolby Lloyd (10) works to break away from a tackler during a “home” game played at Vicksburg this fall. (3) Clockwise, from top left: Schoolcraft football coach Nathan Ferency, Schoolcraft boys soccer coach Jeremy Mutchler, soccer player Jack Curtis and football player Jake Bailey. (4) Schoolcraft athletic director Bryan Applin has taken over the maneuvering of the teams’ home sites during his first year on the job. (Action photos by Stephanie Blentlinger/Lingering Memories Photography. Headshots and Applin photo by Pam Shebest.)