By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
We’ve begun the second half of the football regular season, and predictably every week will include increasingly important games as league titles and playoff qualifiers are determined.
We’ve highlighted a number of matchups below that could end up deciding league title races. Meanwhile, four teams qualified last week for the 11-player playoffs after starting 5-0 with eight-game schedules. Another 64 can join the field with a win this weekend.
A total of 28 games will be streamed live tonight on MHSAA.tv, including eight highlighted below. Click for the full schedule.
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Bay & Thumb
Goodrich (4-1) at Lake Fenton (3-2)
The winner earns a share of the inaugural Flint Metro League Lower division championship. Both joined the league this fall after previously playing in the Genesee Area Conference Red – Goodrich won that league’s final title in 2018 after Lake Fenton was the champ in 2016 and 2017. Don’t be shocked if this is close. The Martians have hung on after opening this season with a one-point loss to Flint Powers, claiming wins over Linden and Ortonville Brandon by a touchdown or less. Lake Fenton similarly knows how to navigate a close game. The Blue Devils opened with losses to Cadillac by 10 and Ida by six, but won their next three games by six, two and one point.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Sanford Meridian (4-1) at Beaverton (5-0), Lapeer (4-1) at Grand Blanc (4-1), Essexville Garber (4-1) at Frankenmuth (5-0), North Branch (4-1) at Richmond (5-0).
Belleville (5-0) at Dearborn Fordson (5-0)
The annual meeting between these two – most recently in the Kensington Lakes Activities Association East – eventually has decided three straight league titles, and there’s a chance that will be the case again when all is said and done this fall. These two and Livonia Franklin are all undefeated and tied for first in the East. Belleville is seeking its third straight league title, and hence third straight win over Fordson after prevailing 29-26 a year ago. Both are piling up points again, each averaging more than 40 per game.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Oak Park (4-1) at Birmingham Seaholm (4-1), Detroit Martin Luther King (3-2) at Detroit Denby (5-0), Southfield Arts & Technology (3-2) at Clarkston (2-3), Hartland (3-2) at Plymouth (5-0).
Midland (5-0) at Mount Pleasant (5-0)
The winner will move into first place alone in the Saginaw Valley League Red. The reigning champion Oilers have won 19 of their last 20 games going back to midway through 2017 and last season beat Midland 40-20 in the game that eventually decided the league title. This time they couldn’t be much more numerically even – the Oilers have scored 200 points and given up 38, and the Chemics have a 203-39 combined scoring margin. Midland also has beaten the only other team in the league with an overall winning record, Saginaw Heritage (3-2).
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Mason (5-0) at Fowlerville (5-0), Holt (3-2) at East Lansing (4-1), Remus Chippewa Hills (2-3) at Central Montcalm (5-0), New Lothrop (5-0) at Durand (3-2).
Northern Lower Peninsula
Johannesburg-Lewiston (5-0) at Charlevoix (4-1)
While this matchup means nothing toward a league title, it should serve as a measuring stick for some of the best small-school teams just south of the Mackinac Bridge. Both are undefeated in their leagues – Charlevoix in the Northern Michigan Football League Leaders and the Cardinals in the NMFL Legacy. The Rayders should have a little extra incentive as well as they continue their best season since 2016 and lost to Johannesburg-Lewiston by a combined 62-7 over the last two years.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Traverse City St. Francis (3-2) at Boyne City (2-3), Evart (3-2) at Houghton Lake (3-2), Oscoda (5-0) at Tawas (3-2), Frankfort (2-3) at Mancelona (3-2).
Southeast & Border
Hillsdale (5-0) at Blissfield (4-1)
This is another matchup of teams tied for first place in their league. Hillsdale is in a bit more familiar spot having shared the Lenawee County Athletic Association title last season with Brooklyn Columbia Central. But Blissfield already has beaten BCC (for the third straight season) and will try to continue its charge with a first win over the Hornets since 2016. Hillsdale won those last two meetings by 10 in 2018 and eight the year before.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Springport (3-2) at Jonesville (4-1), Sand Creek (4-1) at Ottawa Lake Whiteford (3-2), Riverview (3-2) at Carleton Airport (4-1), Britton Deerfield (3-2) at Clinton (5-0).
Cassopolis (5-0) at White Pigeon (5-0)
The co-leaders in the Southwest 10 Conference have taken vastly different paths on the way. Cassopolis is the reigning league champion and has clinched the conference titles three of the last four seasons. The 11 points Decatur scored last week were the first the Rangers have given up this fall. White Pigeon made the playoffs last year for the first time since 2009, which also was its first winning season since 2014. But the Chiefs have been similarly stellar on defense giving up only 40 points over five games, and the opportunity to take the league lead by breaking a nine-game losing streak to Cassopolis should further feed the team’s motivation.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Schoolcraft (5-0) at Constantine (4-1), Gobles (3-2) at Lawton (5-0), Coldwater (4-1) at Marshall (3-2), St. Joseph (5-0) at Portage Central (3-2).
Iron Mountain (5-0) at Calumet (5-0)
This is the first of four straight league games for both, and a title won’t be decided tonight. But this has been one of the most highly-anticipated matchups in the Upper Peninsula since Week 1. Calumet won last season’s Western Peninsula Athletic Conference Copper title, and steadily earned a share of first place so far this fall with wins over Ishpeming Westwood and Negaunee sticking out. The Mountaineers gave notice as contenders quickly with wins over Negaunee and Westwood as well the first two weeks, and they haven’t allowed a point over the last three. Last year’s meeting ended with a 24-0 Calumet win, but it’s fair to expect a closer and yet still low-scoring result in the rematch.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Escanaba (4-1) at Menominee (4-1), Ishpeming Westwood (3-2) at Hancock (4-1), Negaunee (3-2) at L'Anse (4-1). SATURDAY West Iron County (4-1) at Lake Linden-Hubbell (3-2).
Hudsonville (4-1) at Grandville (5-0)
These two and Rockford are off to 2-0 starts in the Ottawa-Kent Conference Red. Hudsonville is a one-point Week 2 loss to Holt from undefeated and earned perhaps its best win so far last week, 28-16 over Jenison. Grandville hung on for a one-point win over East Kentwood last week, but its body of work continues to look better and better with Week 3 opponent Forest Hills Central a contender in the O-K White and Week 2 opponent East Lansing arguably the top team in the entire Lansing area this fall.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central (4-1) at Cedar Springs (4-1), Ravenna (4-1) at Montague (4-1), Allendale (3-2) at Grand Rapids Catholic Central (4-1), Ludington (4-1) at Muskegon Orchard View (5-0).
Martin (5-0) at Bridgman (5-0)
Just about everything about this is new. These two are both unbeaten in the first-year Southwest Michigan 8-Man Football League, both playing their first season of 8-player. They did play each other in 11-player last year for the first time, at least as far back as Michigan-Football.com tracks for Bridgman (1957), with Martin a 13-8 winner. The Clippers were 11-player playoff qualifiers last year, but the switch has really helped the Bees turn things around – they had gone a combined 1-16 over the last two seasons. Martin has played one more league game than Bridgman, so a win tonight would clinch the Clippers a share of the league title.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Gaylord St. Mary (5-0) at Suttons Bay (5-0), Cedarville (3-2) at Pickford (4-1), Climax-Scotts (4-1) at Tekonsha (3-2). SATURDAY Crystal Falls Forest Park (4-1) at Powers North Central (5-0).
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PHOTO: Mount Pleasant, here against Bay City John Glenn during a Week 3 win, is off to a 5-0 start and faces Midland in one of the state’s headlining games this weekend. (Click for more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)
ADDISON – Addison’s football team was dealt multiple blows this past offseason, enough to bring many teams to their knees.
After going 5-5 last fall with a young team, the Panthers were expecting big things in 2023. But tragedy struck twice. Junior Chad Miller, a fullback and safety, died in July. Starting linebacker Jay Griewahn, also a junior, was diagnosed with leukemia and began chemotherapy that same month.
Add in the transfer of a starting offensive lineman, and losing three expected contributors from a team of fewer than 30 players looked difficult to overcome.
Yet, through five games, Addison is undefeated and ranks at the top of the MHSAA playoff points list in Division 8. The Panthers have turned to what their coaches have been teaching them for years – control only what you can control.
“I felt strongly that we would embrace the challenge and not make excuses, because we just don’t allow it,” said Addison head coach Joshua Lindeman.
“We can’t control everything, right? It’s what we instill in kids every single day. The football team is an extension of the classroom. Anything you do through education and educational athletics is preparing you to become a man. That is really what we build our entire program around. We talk about it daily.”
Lindeman is in his 10th season as the Addison head coach and recently passed the 50-win mark. He said it took a couple of years to build the current culture at the school in southwest Lenawee County, but seasons like this one – where the team comes together to overcome adversity – shows it is working.
“There are going to be events in your life that are going to happen that you can’t control,” he said. “Everybody knows this, whether you are a faith-driven person or not. There are events in our lives that are out of our control. We can’t waste energy or time and effort on those things.
“The only thing we can focus on is our response to those events.”
Addison also has remained true to its culture when it comes to toughness on the football field, too. Lindeman employs a full house T formation, an offense he learned while playing at nearby Hudson. In most games, as many as four backs carry the ball at least eight times apiece. Spencer Brown had 19 carries in Friday’s win over Jonesville, by far the most of any Addison back in a single game this season.
“That doesn’t change,” Lindeman said of the offense. “We don’t get envious about who carries the ball. We teach that to our backs. If you ask anybody about our program, about who gets taken care of in our program … they’ll tell you the linemen.
“Football is so many times glorified by the guy carrying the ball or the guy throwing the ball,” Lindeman added. “I don’t care who has the ball. I care about the seven guys up front. That’s where football is won or lost, no matter what anybody says.”
Addison has been an offensive juggernaut, scoring 258 points over five games. That includes wins of 50-14, 60-27, 58-14, 50-28 and 38-14, making the Panthers one of the highest-scoring teams in the state. They have 10 pass completions all season.
Brown is a perfect example of a player who has embraced the Addison culture. Coming in as a freshman, Brown shied away from contact. Once he hit the weight room and grew into his body, he became a bruising runner who fights for tough yards inside but has the speed to break long runs.
“When I came in as a freshman, I was tall and skinny,” Brown said. “I didn’t want anything to do with contact or someone touching me. As a sophomore, I started lifting, and last year things clicked.”
He said the team has remained close through the difficult offseason.
“It was hard losing a couple of guys, but you just have to look at the next guy up and lock in and do your job,” Brown said. “It’s talked about. It would be great to have those guys with us, but you just have to tell the guy there now to fill your spot and play your role.”
Brown is one of four captains with fellow seniors Jaxen Sword and Gabe Pepper, plus junior Joe Clark.
“Our captains say the right thing,” Lindeman said. “All four of them have done a really good job.”
This week Addison hosts Homer on Thursday in hopes of improving to 6-0.
“The mindset is to keep working hard in practice,” Brown said. “We are trying to go undefeated here.”
The Panthers know some difficult games lie ahead. No matter what happens, Lindeman will continue to do things like shake hands with every player after every practice and game and tell his players he loves them.
“All of that stuff creates the word culture that everybody speaks about,” Lindeman said. “It’s an identity. It’s not unnormal to see our football players in the hallway and they tell me they love me, and I say I love you back.”
Doug Donnelly has served as a sports and news reporter and city editor over 25 years, writing for the Daily Chief-Union in Upper Sandusky, Ohio from 1992-1995, the Monroe Evening News from 1995-2012 and the Adrian Daily Telegram since 2013. He's also written a book on high school basketball in Monroe County and compiles record books for various schools in southeast Michigan. E-mail him at [email protected] with story ideas for Jackson, Washtenaw, Hillsdale, Lenawee and Monroe counties.
PHOTOS (Top) Addison’s Spencer Brown (22) attempts to elude a Detroit Voyageur defender during a 50-14 Week 1 win. (Middle) Panthers coach Joshua Lindeman greets his players before a game. (Photos by Deloris Clark-Osborne.)