By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
There were a handful of newly-crowned league champions celebrating by the end of this football weekend, and 54 more teams were able to start making playoff plans.
For all of the predictions made at the beginning of each season and even over the course of every week, there are still plenty of surprises to enjoy even at this late date. Read more below about all of the above as we head into the final third of this regular season.
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Bay & Thumb
HEADLINER Midland 22, Mount Pleasant 21 Midland controls the Saginaw Valley League Red title race after avenging the 2018 loss that eventually resulted in Mount Pleasant (5-1) becoming last year’s league champion. This time, the teams traded leads throughout the game before the Chemics (6-0) went up for good during the fourth quarter. Click for more from the Midland Daily News and see highlights below from WJRT.
— ABC12WJRT (@ABC12WJRT) October 5, 2019
Watch list Hemlock 30, Ithaca 6 While the Yellowjackets (5-1) still finished with a share of the Tri-Valley Conference West I title, the headliner from this league finale was Hemlock (4-2) handing Ithaca its first league loss since 2009. Midland Bullock Creek ended up with a share of the title as well thanks to the Huskies’ feat.
Remember this one Goodrich 49, Lake Fenton 14 The Martians (5-1) secured a share of the Flint Metro League “Lower” division title and can win it outright this week again winless Clio. Lake Fenton (3-3), meanwhile, will hope for an upset to claim a share of the championship but also must win out to guarantee a playoff berth after missing the postseason a year ago.
More shoutouts Fenton 24, Linden 21 The Tigers (5-1) earned a share of the Flint Metro League “Upper” division title, their eighth league championship in nine seasons after finishing third in the formerly unified Metro last fall. Richmond 14, North Branch 7 The Blue Devils (6-0) will meet Almont this week with a share of the Blue Water Area Conference title on the line after knocking North Branch (4-2) out of contention.
HEADLINER Belleville 20, Dearborn Fordson 19 Belleville made a number of clutch plays during the final six minutes to continue its unbeaten run, first stopping a 2-point conversion attempt after Fordson’s final score and then driving for the game-winning touchdown. Belleville (6-0) remains tied with Livonia Franklin for first in the Kensington Lakes Activities Association East. Those two meet Week 8 – but Franklin also must face Fordson (5-1) this week as the Tractors try to keep their hopes alive for a three-team shared championship. Click for more from M-Live Detroit and see highlights below from State Champs Sports Network.
— STATE CHAMPS! (@statechampsnet) October 5, 2019
Watch list Detroit Martin Luther King 32, Detroit Denby 14 The Crusaders (4-2) won this matchup for first place in the Detroit Public School League Division 2, claiming a share of the title while handing Denby (5-1) its only loss.
Remember this one Detroit Renaissance 25, Detroit Cass Tech 20 The Phoenix (4-2) earned a share of the DPSL Division 1 title with something of a historic win; the Technicians (2-4) hadn’t lost a league game since 2015, and to any other league opponent besides King since falling to Detroit Crockett in 2011.
More shoutouts Oak Park 41, Birmingham Seaholm 21 The Knights (5-1) pulled within one more win of locking up a third straight Oakland Activities Association White title by sending Seaholm (4-2) into second place with its first defeat in league play. Clarkston 22, Southfield Arts & Technology 21 (OT) After falling to Southfield 28-14 in Week 1, the Wolves (3-3) got past the Warriors (3-3) in the rematch and held onto control of their playoff prospects as they look to extend a 16-year postseason streak.
HEADLINER Mason 21, Fowlerville 14 Continued improvement was expected from Mason this fall after the Bulldogs jumped from two wins in 2017 to five last season. Check that box, and then some. They are 6-0 for the first time since 2009 and barreled to a share of the Capital Area Activities Conference Red title by handing Fowlerville (5-1) its lone loss. Click for more from the Lansing State Journal.
Watch list Holt 21, East Lansing 14 A week after the Trojans (4-2) shook up the CAAC Blue with a win over DeWitt, Holt has brought half the league back into the race. Those three and Grand Ledge all have one league loss, and the Rams (4-2) have their most wins in a season since 2016.
Remember this one Perry 27, Leslie 21 The Ramblers (3-3) surely are being careful to not look ahead. But it’s tough to not consider what’s happened and what’s coming up as the program continues to seek its first playoff berth. Perry has won four or five games three straight seasons, its best stretch since the early 1990s, and could make a run at six wins with its next three opponents a combined 4-14 this fall.
More shoutouts Stockbridge 16, Lake Odessa Lakewood 14 The Panthers (1-5) earned their first win and in the process locked up part of the Greater Lansing Activities Conference title for Olivet, which meets Lakewood (2-4) this week to either win it outright or share with the Vikings. Central Montcalm 27, Remus Chippewa Hills 14 The Hornets’ incredible turnaround continued as they moved within a win of clinching a share of the Central State Activities Association Gold title. The Hornets were 0-9 a year ago and a combined 3-24 over the last three seasons.
Northern Lower Peninsula
HEADLINER Johannesburg-Lewiston 22, Charlevoix 6 The Cardinals moved to 6-0 for the first time since 2000, and four of those victories have come against teams 3-3 or better including the Rayders (4-2). After two straight non-league games, Johannesburg-Lewiston meets Harbor Springs this week to decide at least partially the Northern Michigan Football League Legacy title. Click for more from the Traverse City Record-Eagle and see highlights below from MI Sports Now.
— MISportsNow (@MISportsNow) October 5, 2019
Watch list Traverse City St. Francis 17, Boyne City 14 The Gladiators (4-2) kept themselves in the NMFL Legends title mix, one game behind leader Kingsley but with the Stags closing the regular season against two more teams (including Boyne City) with only one league loss.
Remember this one Mancelona 36, Frankfort 18 The Ironmen (4-2) had lost all three games against Frankfort (2-4) since the two became part of the NMFL Leaders division. This win also strengthened Mancelona’s pursuit of a first playoff berth since 2014 with Charlevoix up next but its final two opponents a combined 1-11.
More shoutouts Houghton Lake 20, Evart 6 While still hoping for some help catching Beal City in the Highland Conference, second-place Houghton Lake (4-2) has now doubled up last season’s win total by getting past another improved foe in the Wildcats (3-3). Kingsley 67, Benzie Central 40 The Stags (6-0) are scoring 44 points per game, with this week’s output their highest since 2013 – although Benzie (2-4) also scored its season high.
Southeast & Border
HEADLINER Hillsdale 35, Blissfield 28 After sharing the Lenawee County Athletic Association title last season, Hillsdale (6-0) finds itself a major step closer to another championship after getting past the first of four tough opponents down the stretch. The Hornets moved into first place alone, with Blissfield (4-2) the only team one game back and four more tied for third place – although three of those teams make up Hillsdale’s final three opponents. Click for more from the Hillsdale Daily News.
Watch list Ottawa Lake Whiteford 28, Sand Creek 6 The Bobcats (4-2) did their part to set up this week’s Tri-County Conference-deciding matchup with Clinton, downing a Sand Creek team that stands 4-2 and fell by only six to Clinton three weeks ago.
Remember this one Saline 24, Temperance Bedford 21 Three of the four closest wins during Saline’s 31-game Southeastern Conference winning streak came over Bedford (4-2) – which also handed the Hornets (5-1) their last league loss, in 2013.
More shoutouts Jonesville 46, Springport 0 The Comets (5-1) have guaranteed their best finish since at least 2013 and will square off this week with Reading for a first share of the Big 8 Conference championship. Adrian Madison 38, Petersburg Summerfield 14 After breaking an 11-game losing streak against Summerfield (2-4) this past week, Madison (3-3) has more wins than the last two seasons combined and playoff possibilities as it seeks its first postseason appearance since 2009.
HEADLINER Schoolcraft 27, Constantine 24 While the Falcons became the first team this season to hold Schoolcraft (6-0) under 50 points, the Eagles’ defense also came through by locking down a Constantine offense averaging 40.5 points per game. Schoolcraft extended its winning streak over the Falcons (4-2) to five and remains tied for first in the Southwestern Athletic Conference Valley. Click for more from the Kalamazoo Gazette.
VIDEO: Check out the highlights of the Schoolcraft (@SCSEagles1) at Constantine football game from Friday afternoon.
— STATE CHAMPS! (@statechampsnet) October 5, 2019
Watch list Cassopolis 41, White Pigeon 0 After giving up its first points this fall (11) to Decatur in Week 5, Cassopolis (6-0) rolled out its fifth shutout of this season to take over first place alone in the Southwest 10 Conference. White Pigeon (5-1) entered tied for first and averaging 34 points per game.
Remember this one Coldwater 21, Marshall 20 All three of Coldwater’s final opponents also have playoff hopes, making this win over Marshall (3-3) of particular importance as the Cardinals (5-1) look to get back to the postseason after a year away. Marshall’s three defeats were by a combined nine points.
More shoutouts Battle Creek Central 32, Kalamazoo Central 29 The Bearcats broke a three-game losing streak to the rival Maroon Giants and kept their playoff hopes alive as both teams sit at 2-4. St. Joseph 34, Portage Central 7 The Bears have two massive nonleague opponents up next – Battle Creek Lakeview and then DeWitt – but with this win over the Mustangs (3-3) guaranteed the Week 9 matchup with Portage Northern will be for the outright Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference West title.
HEADLINER Iron Mountain 15, Calumet 14 What may end up the game of the year in the Upper Peninsula couldn’t have been more evenly matched. Iron Mountain scored first and Calumet (5-1) scored last, and the teams piled up nearly the same amount of yardage and first downs. But the Mountaineers (6-0) emerged alone atop the Western Peninsula Athletic Conference Copper and having now avenged both of its league defeats from a year ago. Click for more from the Iron Mountain Daily News.
Watch list Escanaba 26, Menominee 20 The Great Northern Conference could finish up any number of ways, as these two are among three teams with one league loss behind leader Marquette – which is only 2-4 overall and has yet to play Menominee (4-2). Escanaba (5-1) has just one league game left and will have to wait and watch through Week 9 to see if it ends up as the league’s overall or co-champion or having fallen just short.
Remember this one Gladstone 20, Sault Ste. Marie 8 The Braves’ schedule is becoming more impressive by the week and could end up featuring three league champions. After three straight losses Gladstone (3-3) got back on track with a needed win over the Blue Devils (4-2).
More shoutouts Ishpeming Westwood 36, Hancock 23 The Patriots (4-2) have won three straight and put themselves in position to earn a third-straight playoff berth with this key win over the improved Bulldogs (4-2). West Iron County 24, Lake Linden-Hubbell 16 The Wykons (5-1) earned an opportunity to play Ishpeming this week for first place in the West PAC Iron, getting past another possible playoff team in the Lakes (3-3).
HEADLINER Muskegon Orchard View 30, Ludington 14 The Cardinals clinched a share of their first Lakes 8 Conference title since 2008 and can finish the run outright this week against Muskegon Heights Academy. The Cardinals were just 2-7 a year ago, but avenged last season’s loss to Ludington (4-2) to get to 6-0 for the first time since 2005. Click for more from the Local Sports Journal and see highlights below from FOX 17.
Orchard View improves to 6-0 with win over visiting Ludington https://t.co/OxrSQlKvLv
— FOX 17 Blitz (@FOX17Blitz) October 5, 2019
Watch list Hudsonville 44, Grandville 21 The Eagles (5-1) were never forgotten in the Ottawa-Kent Conference Red, of course, with that lone loss by a point to nonleague Holt. But the Week 8 Grandville/Rockford matchup was starting to look like the likely decider in the league title race. Instead, that unofficial championship game could come this week when the Eagles meet the Rams. Hudsonville came back from a halftime deficit, scored its most points since Week 1 and held the Bulldogs (5-1) to their season low.
Remember this one Cedar Springs 30, Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central 6 Four of seven teams in the O-K White are 4-2 or better, and with this win reigning champ Cedar Springs (5-1) set itself up to play Lowell this week for first place. The Red Hawks have wins already over the other contenders including now the Rangers (4-2).
More shoutouts East Grand Rapids 59, Grand Rapids South Christian 35 The O-K Gold race appears down to EGR (4-2) and Grand Rapids Christian, although South Christian (3-3) still could make an impact as it takes on the Eagles this week. Ravenna 17, Montague 7 North Muskegon or Hart could play spoiler this week, but if not the West Michigan Conference title will be decided in Week 8 when Ravenna (5-1) takes on Muskegon Oakridge as they’ve handed back-to-back defeats to reigning champion Montague (4-2).
HEADLINER Martin 60, Bridgman 16 The Clippers have begun their 8-player history as league champions, downing another first-year 8-player program Bridgman (5-1) to lock up a share of the inaugural Southwest Michigan 8-Man Football League title. Martin (6-0) did so scoring its second-most points of the season, and can clinch the championship outright Week 8 against St. Joseph Michigan Lutheran. Click for more from TownBroadcast.com.
Watch list Gaylord St. Mary 48, Suttons Bay 47 This didn’t affect any league race but did provide a glance at what could become one of the key playoff matchups in two months. Had the playoffs started this past week, St. Mary (6-0) and Suttons Bay (5-1) would’ve entered tied for the third-highest playoff point average in 8-player Division 1.
Remember this one Powers North Central 34, Crystal Falls Forest Park 8 Not only did this win over the rival Trojans (4-2) pull North Central within one more victory of clinching a share of the Great Lakes Conference West title, but the Jets (6-0) were tied for first and the Trojans fifth in last week’s projected 8-player Division 2 playoff listings.
More shoutouts Deckerville 44, Mayville 12 Five of six teams in the North Central Thumb League Blue are 4-2 or better, and Deckerville (6-0) remains tied with Kingston atop the league after handing Mayville (4-2) its first Blue defeat. Kinde North Huron 22, Peck 14 The Warriors (5-1) should be eager for their chance at Deckerville this week coming off a solid win over the Pirates (4-2).
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PHOTO: Frankenmuth's quarterback surveys the Essexville Garber defense before the snap during Friday's Eagles win. (Photo by Dan Brovont.)
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.)