By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
The most significant celebrations of MHSAA football season Week 5 arguably were thrown by Portland and Felch North Dickinson, the first teams this fall to claim spots in the playoffs.
Both won their fifth games and are playing only eight. They'll no doubt be joined in the postseason field by many more expected to win their sixth games (of nine) this weekend.
But the main focus at this point remains on league title races, and most of our significant scores this week either affected those or broke long streaks among annual foes.
Birmingham Brother Rice 28, Detroit Catholic Central 21
This could be the final time Brother Rice coach Al Fracassa faces DCC – he will retire after this, his 54th season, and the teams aren’t guaranteed to face each other again in the Week 9 Prep Bowl. But what a way to potentially finish off his part in one of Michigan’s best rivalries. A late touchdown pass gave the Warriors (5-0) its third win in its last five games against the Shamrocks (4-1) and the lead in the Detroit Catholic League Central. Click to read more from the Detroit Free Press.
Southfield 20, Farmington Hills Harrison 19: The Bluejays (4-1) continued to build after an opening-night loss to Cass Tech, handing Harrison (4-1) its first loss.
Wyandotte Roosevelt 17, Melvindale 10: Roosevelt (5-0) gained an edge over the Cardinals (4-1) thanks to what could decide the Downriver League champion.
Detroit Loyola 36, Pontiac Notre Dame Prep 29: The Catholic League AA also has a couple teams capable of reaching Ford Field, with reigning Division 7 runner-up Loyola (5-0) claiming this league opener over the Fighting Irish (4-1).
Temperance Bedford 33, Saline 17: Beating previously-undefeated Saline (4-1) was its best performance so far as Bedford (5-0) has put together its best start since 2010.
Bay and Thumb
Mount Pleasant 50, Midland 42
These teams combined for 49 points during the first quarter alone, with Mount Pleasant (4-1) left trailing with three and then two quarters to play. But a big third quarter put the Oilers ahead for good and earned them a half-game advantage atop the Saginaw Valley Association North standings, while dropping reigning champion Midland (4-1) a game back. Click to read more from the Saginaw News.
Reese 34, Vassar 28 (OT): Beating the Vulcans (3-2) makes Reese (4-1) likely to face Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port to decide the Greater Thumb League West championship.
Harbor Beach 49, Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port 6: This nonconference loss didn’t hurt Laker (4-1) in its league race, but it did give reigning Division 8 champion Harbor Beach (4-1) its most impressive win this fall.
Lake Fenton 33, Flint Beecher 14: Beecher (4-1) was beginning to look unbeatable in the Genesee Area Conference Red, but now Lake Fenton (4-1) looks most likely to push Montrose for first place.
Midland Dow 42, Saginaw Arthur Hill 20: At least five SVA North teams look like possible playoff qualifiers, with Dow (4-1) looking much better off after handing Arthur Hill (3-2) its second straight loss.
Holt 24, East Lansing 21 (OT)
The demise of Holt football surely has been overstated. After opening with tough losses to Hudsonville and Rockford, Holt’s Rams (3-2) have won three straight and beaten Capital Area Activities Conference Blue contenders Lansing Everett and East Lansing (3-2) in successive weeks. Next up: impressive favorite Lansing Sexton, which hasn't lost or given up more than 14 points in a game. Click to read more from the Lansing State Journal.
Carson City-Crystal 50, Coleman 48: Go back to 1999 to find the last Eagles team to start 5-0. Coleman (4-1) also should still be proud; its four wins are as many as all of last season.
Charlotte 37, Mason 16: The Orioles (3-2) have been tough to figure out, but there’s no denying this win over the Bulldogs (4-1) was impressive.
DeWitt 35, Haslett 7: Make that 11 straight for the Panthers (5-0) over the rival Vikings (3-2).
Portland St. Patrick 47, Burr Oak 36: The Shamrocks (5-0) have now won all 14 regular-season games since moving to 8-player football last season; Burr Oak at 3-2 already has equaled last season’s win total and its highest since 2005.
Menominee 42, Kingsford 13
The Maroons further avenged last season’s one-point loss to Kingsford, and in a big way. Menominee also had beaten Kingsford (4-1) during last fall’s playoffs after falling to the Flivvers during the regular season, and made it two straight Friday after jumping out to a 21-0 lead. Given that one of these teams has at least shared the Great Northern UP Conference title every season going back to 1999, it’s a good expectation the Maroons (5-0) will come away with the championship later this month. Click to read more from the Iron Mountain Daily News.
Munising 26, Manistique 21: After three losses to open, Munising (2-3) has equaled last season’s win total; Manistique (0-5) is continuing to seek its first this fall with three losses by six points or fewer.
St. Ignace 29, Sault Ste. Marie 21: The Saints (4-1) have stormed back after an opening-night loss to Charlevoix; two of Sault Ste. Marie’s three losses have come by eight points or fewer.
Rapid River 46, Engadine 22: The Rockets (5-0) are firing again, undefeated heading into this week’s matchup with Bridge Alliance rival Cedarville; Engadine fell to 1-4 but with four losses to undefeated teams.
Hurley, Wis. 30, Bessemer 0: This matchup of 2012 co-Great Western Conference champions likely eliminated Bessemer (3-2) from contention this time.
Lower UP North
Maple City Glen Lake 42, Kingsley 14
Glen Lake (5-0) looks strong atop the Northwest Conference as it plays for its second straight championship, with only Kingsley and Suttons Bay now a win back and the rival Stags (3-2) out of the way. The Lakers scored on five plays of 52 or more yards to beat them. Click to read more from the Traverse City Record-Eagle.
Boyne City 27, Traverse City St. Francis 14: The Ramblers (4-1) have followed up a 10-game losing streak to St. Francis (3-2) with two straight wins.
Cadillac 53, West Branch Ogemaw Heights 27: Last season’s three-point loss to Ogemaw Heights (3-2) was one of few obstacles that kept Cadillac from Big North Conference contention; the Vikings (5-0) now are the only undefeated team in the league.
Cheboygan 9, Petoskey 6: The Chiefs (4-1) ended a five-game losing streak to Petoskey (2-3) in one of the state’s lowest-scoring games this season.
Lincoln Alcona 28, Whittemore-Prescott 26 (2 OT): The Tigers (5-0) are lined up favorably to at least their equal their most wins (seven) since 1986, and ending a 19-game losing streak against the Cardinals (3-2) has been the highlight so far.
Southwest and Border
Lawton 25, Decatur 21
Lawton (5-0) remains tied for first in the Southwestern Athletic Conference South thanks to a 42-yard go-ahead touchdown pass with 26 seconds to play against the Raiders (4-1). Four of the formerly six-team league made the playoffs last season, and that looks possible again even as the division now has only five teams. Lawton is only one win away and tied with Watervliet atop the title hunt. Click to read more from the Kalamazoo Gazette.
Watervliet 41, Hartford 17: As mentioned above, Watervliet (5-0) also is in first in the SAC South, with Hartford (3-2) hoping to remain in the mix despite falling in this league opener.
Portage Central 49, Portage Northern 7: The goalposts of these teams’ shared stadium will be painted for Central (5-0) after its second straight win over the rival Huskies (3-2).
Edwardsburg 40, Three Rivers 22: If this season plays out like last, dispatching of Three Rivers (3-2) should allow the Eddies (5-0) to decide the Wolverine Conference West championship in three weeks against Dowagiac.
Battle Creek St. Philip 67, St. Joseph Michigan Lutheran 14: The Tigers (5-0) have one of the most potent offenses in 8-player football, averaging 58 points per game while giving up 29 total; Michigan Lutheran (1-4) scored nearly half of those.
Muskegon Oakridge 31, Ravenna 27
Oakridge (5-0) has had little to fear over the last two seasons aside from Grand Rapids West Catholic, which eliminated the Eagles in last season’s District Final and fell to them by only six on opening night. But Ravenna (2-3) showed plenty of fight as it works to get back to its previous status as a West Michigan Conference contender. Click to read more from the Muskegon Chronicle.
Comstock Park 30, Belding 7: Four teams in the O-K Blue are 4-1 or better including both of these, but Comstock Park is the only one at 5-0.
Grand Rapids Christian 28, East Grand Rapids 17: The Eagles (4-1) continue to impress and now own three wins in their last four games against the Pioneers (3-2) and 27 wins in their last 30 games overall.
Rockford 20, Holland West Ottawa 13: At midseason, these looked like the best of the O-K Red, with Rockford (4-1) now holding a slight edge on the Panthers (3-2) and two others in the title hunt.
Muskegon 26, Muskegon Mona Shores 20: Coming off a disappointing loss to Lowell, Muskegon (4-1) got a scare from the much-improved Sailors (4-1).
Each week the MHSAA highlights trophy games played around the state. All six of these were contested Friday:
Red, White & Blue Bell: Whitehall vs. Montague. The Wildcats made it seven straight over rival Whitehall. Final: Montague 56, Whitehall 34.
The Silver Football: Coldwater vs. Sturgis. The Cardinals broke a three-game losing streak to reclaim this prize. Final: Coldwater 34, Sturgis 14.
Bobcat-Bulldog Award: Ottawa Lake Whiteford vs. Petersburg-Summerfield. This game was made bigger this season in that both entered 3-1. Final: Whiteford 38, Summerfield 13.
Iosco County News-Herald/Oscoda News-Press Trophy: Tawas vs. Oscoda. Tawas scored its most points in more than two seasons, dating back to its last win over Oscoda in 2011. Final: Tawas 50, Oscoda 14.
Cipriano Cup: Dearborn vs. Dearborn Fordson: Fordson got some revenge for last season's District opener loss to the Pioneers. Final: Fordson 34, Dearborn 7.
WBRN Victory Bell: Big Rapids vs. Remus Chippewa Hills: These two have split their last 22 regular-season meetings. Final: Chippewa Hills 42, Big Rapids 7.
PHOTO: Maple City Glen Lake (white jerseys) shut down Kingsley's offense in taking the Northwest Conference lead and moving to 5-0 last week. (Photo courtesy of Glen Lake athletic department).
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.)