By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
This weekend was "why they play the games" all over the state of Michigan.
That cliche is thrown around often, of course. But rarely do we see this many upsets as we cross the midway points of the regular season.
We touch on many of them below in this week's "Drive for Detroit" report.
Bay & Thumb
Almont 30, Richmond 29 (2 OT)
The game that has decided the Blue Water Area Conference champion the last two seasons might have done so again Friday, with Almont (5-0) dealing the Blue Devils (4-1) their first loss after both made field goals to send the game to a second overtime. Richmond scored the most points Almont had given up since these teams met in 2013 – but Almont held on in a game that was knotted at multiple points during regulation. Click for more from the Port Huron Times-Herald.
Frankenmuth 28, Millington 7 – The Eagles (5-0) made it three of the last four over the rival Cardinals (4-1) in a game that could again decide the Tri-Valley Conference East title.
Lapeer 35, Mount Pleasant 14 – The Lightning (5-0) remains perfect during the regular season over its first two as a program after a test against another Saginaw Valley League Red contender in Mount Pleasant (3-2).
Midland Dow 35, Flint Powers Catholic 30 – Midland (4-1) earned the upper hand in the SVL Blue again after beating Powers (3-2) for the title last season.
Corunna 20, Flint Beecher 8 – This may turn out to be the Cavaliers’ most significant win in more than a decade; Corunna (4-1) is the Genesee Area Conference Red favorite now after handing reigning champion Beecher (4-1) its first regular-season loss since Week 7 of 2013.
Detroit Martin Luther King 31, Detroit Cass Tech 28 (OT)
The match up of the city’s two best teams unfolded like a game of that magnitude should, ending on an 18-yard field goal by kicker Anwar Miah, who missed an extra point earlier in Saturday’s contest. King (5-0) held on for its third victory this season by a touchdown or less and first win over Cass Tech since the 2012 Detroit Public School League championship game. That also was Cass Tech’s last regular-season loss before Saturday; the Technicians (4-1) could see King in the PSL final again next month. Click for more from the Detroit Free Press.
Farmington Hills Harrison 17, Southfield 14 – If this ends up as the final season of Harrison football, it looks like the Hawks (4-1) will end with an Oakland Activities Association White title after downing former co-leader Southfield (3-2).
Warren DeLaSalle 31, Orchard Lake St. Mary's 8 – Reigning Division 2 title winner DeLaSalle (4-1) won this Catholic League Central battle of MHSAA champions big over reigning Division 3 winner St. Mary’s (4-1).
Belleville 23, Dearborn Heights Robichaud 20 – The Tigers (4-1) continued their bounce-back from last season’s 3-6 finish and are the Western Wayne Blue frontrunners after handing Robichaud (4-1) its first loss.
Clinton Township Chippewa Valley 34, Warren Mott 30 – The Macomb Area Conference Red race is a mish-mash now that Chippewa Valley (4-1) beat Mott (4-1), which beat Macomb Dakota, which beat Chippewa Valley, which handed Sterling Heights Stevenson its only loss.
Lake Odessa Lakewood 27, Olivet 14
The Vikings' best start since the perfect season of 1974 continues, and Lakewood (5-0) looks really good to claim its first league title since 1980 after beating the reigning Greater Lansing Activities Conference champion Eagles (3-2). The win also guaranteed Lakewood its first winning regular season since 2005. Click for more from Fox 17 in Grand Rapids.
Holt 35, East Lansing 20 – New coach Chad Fulk’s turnaround effort is gaining steam, with Holt (3-2) equaling last season’s win total while handing a first Capital Area Activities Conference Blue loss to also-improved East Lansing (2-3).
Dansville 21, Fowler 19 – Just when it looked like the Aggies (4-1) were out of the Central Michigan Athletic Conference race after a 57-point loss to Pewamo-Westphalia in Week 3, they storm back to edge the reigning champion Eagles (4-1).
Grand Ledge 35, Jackson 16 – This sets the Comets (5-0) up nicely to win the CAAC Blue, while making the playoff push just a little tougher for Jackson (3-2) as it pursues its first berth since 2009.
Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart 16, Carson City-Crystal 14 – The Irish (2-3) needed this one as they look to repeat in the Mid-State Activities Conference with Vestaburg also standing in the way in Week 7; the Eagles (2-3) also could still figure into the conversation playing Vestaburg in Week 8.
Northern Lower Peninsula
Traverse City St. Francis 32, Boyne City 13
The last three seasons of this rivalry belonged to Boyne City, but St. Francis added to a fall already full of highlights by beating the Ramblers (4-1) big to take an early step forward in the Northern Michigan Football Conference Leaders division. Boyne City had beaten St. Francis (5-0) by a point, 28-27, a year ago. But the Gladiators’ defense continues to shine and has given up only 25 points over five games. Click for more from the Traverse City Record-Eagle.
Traverse City Central 34, Gaylord 27 – The Trojans (5-0) got a needed big start on a tough string of Big North Conference games to finish the season, with Gaylord (4-1) still on track for its best since at least 2005.
Maple City Glen Lake 12, Onekama 7 – Glen Lake (4-1) continued its rebound from last season by handing Onekama (4-1) its first loss and scoring the first points the Portagers have given up this fall.
Whittemore-Prescott 14, Lincoln Alcona 8 – The Cardinals (2-3) must win out to guarantee a ninth straight playoff appearance, and this week that meant handing a first loss to Alcona (4-1).
McBain 26, Manton 24 – The Ramblers (4-1) held on to set up this week’s Highland Conference battle with favorite Beal City by downing Manton (2-3) by two points for the second time in three seasons.
Southeast & Border
Clinton 42, Morenci 22
Morenci has risen to Tri-County Conference power over the last two seasons, but league supremacy still belongs to Clinton (5-0) after it extended its regular-season winning streak to 32 and beat the Bulldogs (4-1) for the fourth straight time. Running back Mathew Sexton ran for 262 yards and six touchdowns as Clinton also set a conference record with 24 straight victories in the league; its last league defeat was to Sand Creek in Week 9 of 2011. Click for more from the Adrian Daily Telegram.
Ann Arbor Pioneer 20, Monroe 12 – Pioneer’s first 5-0 start since 1991 has it lined up to play Saline this week for a share of the Southeastern Conference Red title, with Monroe (3-2) also potentially still in the mix as it faces Saline in Week 7.
Vandercook Lake 44, Grass Lake 26 – This is already the best season for Vandercook Lake (5-0) since 1997 with its best start since 1996, while Grass Lake (2-3) must now win out to guarantee a playoff berth for the 11th straight season.
Dundee 29, Hudson 20 – The Vikings (3-2) have gone from 0-9 a year ago to an impact team in the Lenawee County Athletic Association with this win over reigning champion Hudson (2-3).
Ida 40, Brooklyn Columbia Central 0 – The Bluestreaks (5-0) have four straight games against LCAA contenders but got past the first by handing Columbia Central (4-1) its first loss.
Marshall 21, Jackson Lumen Christi 14
The Redhawks (4-1) have struggled to sub-.500 records four of the last five seasons, but this definitely was their most monumental win since the MHSAA Division 4 championship game in 2009. Marshall lost to Lumen Christi (4-1) by 28 in last season’s first matchup as members of the Interstate Eight Conference, but now has the best chance of earning a share of the league title this fall if Coldwater (which beat Marshall 9-7 in Week 2) trips up. Click for more from the Battle Creek Enquirer.
Battle Creek Lakeview 27, Stevensville Lakeshore 22 – The opening slate has been loaded for Lakeview (3-2), but beating Lakeshore (3-2) for the second straight year is a great way to start the season’s second half.
Sturgis 12, Vicksburg 8 – The Trojans (4-1) look like favorite Edwardsburg’s toughest obstacle in the Wolverine B Conference after avenging last season’s 42-20 loss to Vicksburg (3-2).
Edwardsburg 22, Dowagiac 12 – The Eddies (5-0) ran their league winning streak to 15 against the last team to beat them in a conference game, Dowagiac (3-2) in 2012.
Berrien Springs 31, Bridgman 21 – The Shamrocks (5-0) continued their best start since 2011 by handing Bridgman (4-1) its first loss, but not before the Bees scored the most points Berrien Springs has given up.
St. Ignace 27, Johannesburg-Lewiston 21
The Saints (5-0) haven’t lost a league game since 2009, combining 23 straight in the Ski Valley Conference with its final six as a member of the Straits Area Conference for football. Johannesburg-Lewiston’s only Ski Valley losses of the last two seasons have come to St. Ignace, although this one was much closer than the 28-0 defeat of a year ago. The Cardinals (4-1) led by eight early in the fourth quarter before the Saints prevailed. Click for more from WWTV 9&10 News.
Houghton 44, Iron River West Iron County 22 – The Gremlins’ first win over West Iron (1-4) since 2001 puts them one game away at 2-3 from equaling last season’s win total.
Lake Linden-Hubbell 51, L'Anse 14 – The Lakes (5-0) have made it two straight against L’Anse since falling to the Purple Hornets (3-2) in their playoff opener in 2013.
Menominee 27, Kingsford 24 – The Maroons (5-0) haven’t lost a regular-season game since Week 5 in 2012, when Kingsford (3-2) also gave Menominee its most recent close game in the Great Northern Upper Peninsula Conference before this one.
Crystal Falls Forest Park 44, Newberry 24 – The Trojans (3-2) are battling with a smaller team than usual, but beating Newberry (3-2) keeps them among the elite small schools in the U.P.
Hudsonville 31, Grand Rapids Christian 24
While this meant nothing toward a league title for either team, it should give Hudsonville (4-1) plenty of momentum heading into the meat of its Ottawa-Kent Red schedule. The Eagles fell to Grand Rapids Christian 35-34 a year ago and then just made the playoffs at 5-4, but now Christian (3-2) has to be careful with a tough slate ahead and three wins needed to guarantee a spot in the postseason. Click for more from the Grand Rapids Press.
Rockford 46, Caledonia 20 – Rockford coach Ralph Munger joined the top 10 all-time winningest MHSAA football coaches with his 301st win, and the Rams got a key victory over Caledonia (2-3) as they look to keep a 20-year playoff streak alive.
Montague 29, Whitehall 28 – The resurgence continues for the Wildcats (5-0), who are setting up well for a Week 8 West Michigan Conference title decider against Muskegon Oakridge now that they’ve given Whitehall (3-2) a first league loss.
Jenison 28, East Kentwood 7 – The Wildcats (3-2) hadn’t won more than two games in a season since 2005, but look dangerous in the O-K White after handing East Kentwood (4-1) its first loss.
Saugatuck 50, Decatur 20 – The Indians (5-0) can clinch a share of the Southwestern Athletic Conference Division 3 title after downing former co-leader Decatur (3-2) and winning five games total a year ago.
Engadine 62, Rapid River 30
This might be the biggest upset during the short history of MHSAA 8-player football. Engadine (3-2) has had success with three playoff appearances over the last four seasons. But Rapid River is an annual contender for the MHSAA title and has beaten the Eagles 46-26, 58-18, 50-21, 56-28, 60-40 and 50-32 in their 8-player games over the last five years. Rapid River (4-1) hadn’t lost a regular-season game since 2012. Click for more from the Escanaba Daily Press.
Waldron 46, Webberville 14 – Waldron (5-0) may have joined the state’s elite this fall by handing Webberville (4-1) its first loss and holding the Spartans under 30 points for the first time.
Morrice 55, Kingston 6 – Season two of 8-player is going well for the Orioles (4-1), who have outscored four opponents 222-12 since falling to Battle Creek St. Philip on opening night.
PHOTO: Detroit Martin Luther King, with ball, charged past rival Detroit Cass Tech in one of the state's most anticipated games this weekend. (Photo courtesy of the Detroit Public School League.)
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.)