In coachspeak, it's referred to as "sense of urgency."
And the numbers back up why that phrase is thrown around frequently when the calendar turns to October.
After Week 6, there are 57 teams qualified for the MHSAA football playoffs – out of 73 total that had opportunities last weekend to earn automatic berths. And 101 can join that fortunate group with victories Friday or Saturday.
Those totals together would make up more than half of this season's playoff field, and with chances running out for teams sitting on the edge. Here's a look at how some of those teams kept their destinies in their own hands, with only three games to play before the postseason begins.
Orchard Lake St. Mary 24, Birmingham Brother Rice 14
Make that wins the last two weeks over the reigning Division 1 (Detroit Cass Tech) and Division 2 (Brother Rice) champions by the reigning MHSAA Division 3 champ Eaglets. Running back Grant Niemiec continues to build on that strong championship performance, and ran for three scores in this Detroit Catholic League Central clash. Click to read more from the Detroit Free Press.
Ann Arbor Pioneer 14, Temperance Bedford 13 – The Pioneers took a solid step toward repeating as Southeastern Conference Red champions with their second one-point win in league play.
Saline 20, Monroe 13 – Saline had lost all three games against Monroe since they both moved into the SEC Red, and looks good for its best season since 2008.
Brownstown Woodhaven 64, Wyandotte Roosevelt 36 – Although not massive, call this an upset nonetheless as the Warriors had lost six straight to their Downriver League foes, who were 5-0.
Romeo 21, Port Huron 20 – Romeo stayed alive for an automatic playoff berth at 3-3 by beating the Macomb Area Conference White co-leader.
Thumb and Bay
Flint Powers 42, Davison 28
The Chargers won a big one in the wake of retired coach Jack Pratt’s recent death; his funeral was Friday morning. These two and Carman-Ainsworth were all undefeated in the Saginaw Valley Association South heading into the night, and Powers’ win set up this week’s game against FCA as the league title decider. Click to read more from the Flint Journal.
Lake Fenton 34, Goodrich 7 – The Blue Devils continue to roll in the Genesee Area Conference Red, outscoring league opponents 190-21.
Bay City Western 28, Midland Dow 20 – The Warriors needed this one to keep pace with that other Midland team, the Chemics, with whom Western is tied atop the SVA North.
Lapeer West 27, Holly 21 (OT) – Lapeer West moved to 4-1, just barely, and remains a game behind Swartz Creek in the Flint Metro League standings.
Hemlock 19, Saginaw Swan Valley 7 – The Huskies have emerged as tops in the Tri-Valley Conference Central, just in time to play second-place Freeland this week to decide the title.
Hartland 35, Brighton 14
The Eagles are quickly becoming one of the best stories in the state this fall, and are off to a 6-0 start for the first time since, well, potentially ever (at least since 1950, the start of the team’s records at Michigan-football.com). They are tied for first in the Kensington Lakes Activities Association West, with co-leader Grand Blanc up next. Click to read more from the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus.
Ithaca 33, Carrollton 21 – Make it 34 straight wins for the Yellowjackets, tied for sixth in MHSAA football history, and with no one else likely to slow them during the regular season.
Lansing Everett 6, East Lansing 0 – The Vikings are one game through a tough three-game string that will determine if they go 9-0 and win the Capital Area Activities Conference Blue.
Lansing Sexton 21, Holt 7 – Sexton’s playoff hopes appeared done and Holt’s revived, but both are now 3-3 although still facing tough must-win games down the stretch.
Beal City 43, Lake City 8 – Both were undefeated coming into the weekend, but it appears the Aggies will cruise to the Highland Conference title.
Lowell 42, Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central 24
Forest Hills Central carried a lead into the fourth quarter, but Lowell intercepted four passes during the final period to remain tied for first atop the O-K White. Circle the Week 9 game against Grand Rapids Christian as the likely decider of this league’s title. Click to read more from the Grand Rapids Press.
Hopkins 34, Grandville Calvin Christian 21 – The Vikings are 6-0 and clinched a share of the O-K Silver by beating the second-place Squires.
Montague 22, Shelby 15 (OT) – Shelby had the highest playoff point average among likely Division 6 teams, and Montague was 13th; this should change that up dramatically.
Fruitport 21, Grant 14 – The Trojans also are 6-0 and now owners of a share of the Lakes Eight Conference title thanks to this win over second-place Grant.
Rockford 24, Holland West Ottawa 14 – The Rams have seemingly laid low after a 1-2 start, but of course you shouldn't forget about them; Rockford is 4-2 and tied for first in the O-K Red.
Lower Up North
Traverse City Central 42, Traverse City West 28
Central took one more giant step toward winning its first league title since these schools were still one, in 1996. The Trojans now sit atop the Big North Conference, needing only a victory over winless Gaylord in Week 8 to clinch a share of the title. This win also earned Central the Nowak-Olson Memorial Trophy. Click to read more from the Traverse City Record-Eagle.
Grayling 41, Elk Rapids 22 – This helped sort out the top of the Lake Michigan Conference, with Grayling moving to 6-0 to stay tied for first with Boyne City.
Mancelona 36, Pickford 8 – These teams were both 5-0 entering this nonconference matchup, but Mancelona’s defense kept to its eight-points-given-up per-game average.
Maple City Glen Lake 29, Kingsley 7 – Glen Lake is in line for its first league title since 2001 after knocking off the proposed favorite in 4-2 Kingsley.
West Branch Ogemaw Heights 24, Cadillac 21 – Ogemaw Heights needed a win to get to 3-3 and stay alive for an automatic playoff bid, and for all intents and purposes knocked Cadillac (4-2) out of contention for a possible share of the Big North Conference title.
Southwest and Border
Schoolcraft 19, Battle Creek Pennfield 16
Schoolcraft’s first win over Pennfield since 2009 possibly lines it up for a first 9-0 regular season since 2001, and nearly assures the Eagles will win the Kalamazoo Valley Association title as they’ve now beaten all three teams tied for second place. Schoolcraft didn’t take the lead in this one until 1:34 remained in the fourth quarter. Click to read more in the Kalamazoo Gazette.
Buchanan 28, Niles Brandywine 22 – The Bucks look good to finish first in the Lakeland Conference with one league game to play.
Hartford 27, Lawton 24 – Not much has cleared up in the Southwestern Athletic Conference South, where these two are among four tied for second in a league that has five teams 5-1 or better overall.
Climax-Scotts 7, Pittsford 6 – These two are the best in the Southern Central Athletic Association, with Climax-Scotts just one point better in this game that should eventually decide the champion.
Mattawan 49, St. Joseph 14 – The Wildcats moved to 6-0 and kept pace with Stevensville Lakeshore atop the Southwest Michigan Athletic Conference West; circle Oct. 12, the night they meet.
Cedarville 72, Rapid River 12
For the second straight week, Cedarville downed in a big way another contender in the Bridge Alliance 8-Man Conference, this time reigning MHSAA 8-Player runner-up Rapid River. Todd Hecht scored on two runs, two catches and a fumble return. Click to read more from the Escanaba Daily Press.
Iron Mountain North Dickinson 55, Crystal Falls Forest Park 27 – No league standing was at stake as they play in difference conferences, but North Dickinson did end an eight-game losing streak against the Trojans.
L’Anse 36, Ironwood 28 (OT) – Only 2-7 a year ago, the Purple Hornets are 6-0 and contending for the Western Peninsula Athletic Conference title with Eagle River Northland Pines (Wis.).
Iron Mountain 12, Manistique 7 – Both are still alive for the playoffs, but this was key; Iron Mountain moved to 4-2 while Manistique fell to 3-3.
Kingsford 21, Marquette 14 – The Flivvers have won both of their first two Great Northern Upper Peninsula Conference games by seven or fewer points, but look like the favorites with two to go.
Every week, the MHSAA highlights Trophy Games from around the state. Here are a few more to join the Traverse City West/Central matchup above:
Friendship Trophy: This replaced the Oil Can, which originated in 1930, as the award played for annually by Sparta and Coopersville. Final: Coopersville 35, Sparta 14.
Bobcat-Bulldog Award: Petersburg-Summerfield had claimed this the last four seasons against rival Ottawa Lake Whiteford. Final: Whiteford 40, Petersburg-Summerfield 26.
Hinker Bell: Menominee has now held onto this trophy against Escanaba for 14 straight seasons. Final: Menominee 42, Escanaba 17.
PHOTO: Orchard Lake St. Mary running back Parker McInnis pulls away from Brother Rice defenders Jason Alessi (4) and Lucas Cherocci (46) during this weekend's 24-14 Eaglets win. (Click to see more at Terry McNamara Photography.)
On jaw-dropping moments alone, the 2023 Football Finals played over the last two weekends at Northern Michigan University’s Superior Dome and Ford Field were an unforgettable success.
The two longest active winning streaks in the state were ended by first-time champions. Perhaps the two most recognizable players in Michigan faced off in the season finale. The winningest active coach in state history led his team to a record-tying title, while two more coaches retired with their program’s first. The lone repeat champion needed every last second to score all of its points during the fourth quarter, and four reigning champions saw their repeat or three-peat bids denied.
Consider those an opening kickoff of the final “1st & Goal Review” this season.
MHSAA.com covered all 10 championship games, with quick recaps and links (click on the game scores) to those stories below followed by notations of performances entered into the MHSAA Finals record book and a report on some of the main storylines to emerge as those championships were being decided.
Finals in Review
11-Player Division 1: Southfield Arts & Technology 36, Belleville 32 – Read
The concluding game of this season’s Finals kept everyone on the edge of their seats as A&T not only claimed its first championship but ended reigning champ Belleville’s winning streak at 38 games. This matched up arguably the top quarterbacks in the state, with senior Isaiah Marshall piling up 415 total yards while running for a touchdown and throwing for two more, and Belleville junior Bryce Underwood totaling 203 total yards with a passing score as he attempted to lead the Tigers to a Division 1 title for the third-straight season.
11-Player Division 2: Muskegon 33, Warren De La Salle Collegiate 21 – Read
Muskegon also ended a two-year title streak, as De La Salle was the reigning champion and making its fourth-straight Finals appearance. The Big Reds had finished Division 3 runner-up in 2022, but followed senior quarterback M’Khi Guy, who piled up 374 total yards, ran for a pair of touchdowns and threw for two more.
11-Player Division 3: Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central 27, Mason 10 – Read
Both were playing for a first championship, and Forest Hills Central after finishing Division 2 runner-up last season. Several top contributors from the 2022 Rangers team were back, and they limited a Mason offense that had averaged 41 points per game entering the finale. In doing so, FHC sent retiring coach Tim Rogers out with the ultimate win.
11-Player Division 4: Harper Woods 33, Grand Rapids South Christian 27 – Read
Harper Woods was another first-time champion, carrying a 14-0 lead into the second quarter and extending it to as many as 20 before South Christian made a late run behind the record-setting passing of junior quarterback Carson Vis. Harper Woods lost junior lead back Colby Bailey on the second play, but junior Donald Adams stepped in and averaged 10 yards per carry with 174 total.
11-Player Division 5: Grand Rapids Catholic Central 21, Corunna 7 – Read
After missing out on a Ford Field trip last fall, Grand Rapids Catholic Central claimed its third Division 5 title over the last four seasons. Senior quarterback Connor Wolf ran for all three touchdowns and senior running back Kellen Russell-Dixon powered the attack with 133 yards on the ground. Corunna was making its first Finals appearance and gave the Cougars one of their closest games, as all but three wins had come by at least 32 points.
11-Player Division 6: Kingsley 38, Almont 24 – Read
Kingsley claimed its first Finals championship since 2005 led by another record-setting performance. Senior running back Eli Graves tied the Finals record scoring 30 points, the last of his four touchdowns with 2:19 to play and after Almont had pulled within six points of the lead. The Stags controlled the ball for more than 33 minutes – or nearly 70 percent of the game.
11-Player Division 7: Jackson Lumen Christi 34, Menominee 30 – Read
The Titans and longtime coach Herb Brogan tied the MHSAA record with their 13th Finals championship as they scored the game-winning points with 4:04 to play to complete this repeat title run. Junior running back Kadale Williams ran for 276 yards, the fifth-most in Finals history, and scored his first two touchdowns during the second quarter to bring Lumen back from an early 14-0 deficit.
11-Player Division 8: Ubly 21, Ottawa Lake Whiteford 6 – Read
The rematch of the 2022 Division 8 Final – won by Whiteford – this time went Ubly’s way as the Bearcats also ended the Bobcats’ 27-game winning streak in coach Eric Sweeney's final game. Ubly had finished Finals runner-up three times, but concluded its first championship season 14-0. The teams played a scoreless first quarter and Whiteford scored first in the second before the Bearcats stacked three scoring drives of at least 5 minutes, 30 seconds apiece.
8-Player Division 1: Martin 30, Indian River Inland Lakes 26 – Read
Martin scored all 30 of its points during the final 10:17 to repeat as Division 1 champion in unimaginable fashion. Junior quarterback Gavin Meyers’ 21-yard run with five seconds to play put the Clippers ahead for good, and he finished with 358 total yards and also threw a touchdown pass with 33 seconds left to pull Martin within four points of the lead. Inland Lakes was playing its first Final.
8-Player Division 2: Adrian Lenawee Christin 36, Marion 18 – Read
Lenawee Christian clinched its third Finals championship over the last four seasons and after falling short a year ago. Senior quarterback Sam Lutz piled up one more massive statistical performance, throwing for 350 yards and three touchdowns on near-perfect passing, while also running for two scores. Marion was making its first Finals appearance since 1990.
As noted above, Jackson Lumen Christi tied the MHSAA football record by winning its 13th Finals championship. The Titans share that top spot with now-closed Farmington Hills Harrison, and Grand Rapids Catholic Central and Muskegon also moved up that list with their eighth and seventh titles, respectively. Lumen Christi also played in its 16th championship game – third-most and two short of Harrison’s record in that category, while Muskegon played in its 14th, GRCC in its 10th and Grand Rapids South Christian and Warren De La Salle Collegiate both in their ninth Final.
Kingsley senior Eli Graves became one of five to score a record 30 points in an 11-Player Final, doing so with four rushing touchdowns and three 2-point conversions. His four touchdowns tied for fifth-most TDs in a Final and tied for third-most rushing scores. Graves also made the single-game rushing yards list with 210 yards on 33 carries.
Jackson Lumen Christi junior Kadale Williams finished his season with more than 1,900 yards rushing after reaching the single-game Finals rushing list with 276 on 27 carries. Muskegon senior quarterback M’Khi Guy joined Williams and Graves with 215 rushing yards on 25 carries.
Although Harper Woods and Grand Rapids South Christian combined to score just 60 points, they combined for 1,030 total yards, second-most on the list for both teams combined, and South Christian’s 533 total yards alone tied for fourth-most by a single team. Sailors junior quarterback Carson Vis set 11-Player Finals records with 441 passing yards, 30 completions and 513 total yards, and his 44 pass attempts rank second. His senior receiver Jake Vermaas made lists with 10 receptions and 176 yards. Not surprisingly, Vis’ passing yards also make the most by one team in an 11-Player Final.
Southfield A&T senior Isaiah Marshall also made the total yardage list with 415, ranking fourth, and his 281 passing yards and 20 completions also earned entries. Guy made the total yardage list with 374 and also the longest pass list with a 94-yarder to senior Destin Piggee for a score. De La Salle junior Sante Gasperoni made the single-game passing yardage list with 249, and Harper Woods sophomore Nate Rocheleau also made the longest throw list with a 90-yard scoring toss to senior Ramonty Houze. Mason junior Cason Carswell made the attempts and completions lists connecting on 22 of 40 passes.
Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central senior Alex Moeller made the single-game field goals list in 11-player with two, from 35 and 27 yards out. Lumen Christi junior Andrew Salazar made the single-game extra points list with five in five tries.
Senior Tashi Braceful was on the other end of some of Marshall’s record work making the 11-player receptions list with 10 catches, for 152 yards.
Conversely, two teams made the list for fewest passing attempts in an 11-player championship game – Almont, which completed one pass on two attempts, and Ubly, which attempted three passes and completed two.
South Christian earned one more entry from the Division 4 game, tying for third-most first downs with 28. Kingsley also made that list, ranking sixth with 27.
Kingsley and Ubly also made the list for fewest punts in an 11-Player Final, as neither punted last weekend.
Marion senior Gavin Prielipp set the 8-Player Finals record for the fastest touchdown scored on an opening kickoff, bringing it back in Division 2 76 yards for a score over the game’s first nine seconds.
Lenawee Christian sophomore Max Stamats made the records for longest field goal also in that game, drilling a 42-yarder.
Cougars senior quarterback Sam Lutz is all over the record book. His 396 total yards in the Division 2 Final rank fifth on that list, while his 350 passing yards are third and .870 percentage throwing the ball (20 for 23) is the first entry in that category. The 350 passing yards also represent the third-most on the team list for 8-Player Finals.
Senior teammate Easton Boggs also made his marks in Division 2, with his 210 receiving yards ranking third and his three touchdown receptions tying for second-most in an 8-Player title game.
Both Division 1 quarterbacks also made the 8-Player Finals list for total offense, Martin junior Gavin Meyers with 358 yards and Inland Lakes junior Aidan Fenstermaker with 323.
Martin as a team ranked second on the 8-player list for most points scored in a quarter, with its 30 during the fourth, and also made the first downs list with 27. Neither Martin nor Inland Lakes punted in that Division 1 game, placing those teams on the lists for fewest punts by one team and fewest between both teams in one game.
Stories Behind the Scores
Legendary Lineup: From a competitiveness point of view, this was as strong a set of Football Finals as we’ve enjoyed in recent memory. Over the last five seasons alone, only 12 championship games – out of 50 – had been decided by seven points or fewer, and only 24 had margins of 14 or fewer points, including only three of 10 games in 2022. But the last two weekends saw four games decided by seven points or fewer, three more by 8-14 points, and the remaining three by 15, 17 and 18.
Some Old, Some New: Of 10 champions this season, four earned football titles for the first time – and only two were repeat winners from 2022. While nine teams played in Finals for at least the second season in a row, five played in a championship game in this sport for the first time. More than 45,000 fans attended the 11-Player Finals, up 2,000 from a year ago and thanks in part to notable crowds from first-time finalists Mason, Corunna and A&T.
Scheduling Notes: Due to Michigan State playing Penn State on Friday at Ford Field, the MHSAA 11-Player Finals were moved to Saturday and Sunday, and Sunday’s games also started at 9:30 a.m. instead of the traditional 10 kickoff time. The schedule adjustment also allowed for experimentation with the order of games, with the largest schools each day – Division 2 on Saturday and Division 1 on Sunday – moved to the final time slots those evenings.
Dazzling Finishes: The Division 1 games – both in 11-player and 8-player – provided last-minute game-winning touchdowns to cap storybook seasons. In 11-player, Isaiah Marshall’s 11-yard scoring run with 47 seconds to play pushed Southfield Arts & Technology past Belleville 36-32 after the Tigers previously had come back from an 18-point deficit. In 8-Player Division 1, Martin scored all of its 30 points during the fourth quarter – the last 16 over the final 33 seconds – and with quarterback Gavin Meyers scrambling 21 yards for the winning score with five seconds to play. The Martin win kicked off the championship weekends, while the Southfield A&T victory ended the season.
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PHOTOS (Top) Our collage includes photos from all 10 MHSAA Football Finals. (2) Muskegon’s Da'Carion Taylor holds up the ball after his touchdown catch during the 11-Player Division 2 game. (3) Inland Lakes’ Jacob Willey (4) and Avery Enos celebrate Willey’s second touchdown of the 8-Player Division 1 Final. (4) Southfield A&T’s DeMario Quarles enjoys a moment after his team’s 11-Player Division 1 victory. (11-Player Finals photos by Hockey Weekly Action Photos. 8-Player Finals photos by Cara Kamps.)