By Geoff Kimmerly
We’re into October, and the drive continues on as we begin turning our attention toward the playoffs beginning at the end of this month.
Today we preview a number of matchups that could again end in league title celebrations – and mention a number of other neighborly clashes that may have nothing to do with league title and playoff pursuits, but will still be memorable.
That said, It just so happens that most of the nine games we glance at below include a mix of all of the above.
All games below are tonight unless noted. Check out the MHSAA Score Center for the full schedule and results as games are completed. MHSAA.tv will broadcast eight games including Frankenmuth/Millington mentioned below. Our “Drive for Detroit” previews are powered by MI Student Aid.
Bay & Thumb
Millington (5-1) at Frankenmuth (5-1)
The noticeable difference heading into the latest chapter of this annual showdown is both teams have a loss – Frankenmuth fell in Week 2 to Tri-Valley Conference Central leader Saginaw Swan Valley, and Millington fell in Week 1 by three points to Ohio’s Sylvania Southview. Otherwise, it’s business as usual with this TVC East finale deciding the league title for the seventh time in eight seasons – and with the Eagles on a three-game winning streak against their rival.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Warren DeLaSalle (5-1) at Davison (6-0), Richmond (4-2) at Almont (6-0), Fenton (5-1) at Flushing (4-2), SATURDAY Lapeer (6-0) at Flint Carman-Ainsworth (3-3).
Dearborn Heights Robichaud (6-0) at Dearborn Heights Crestwood (6-0)
Both have plenty to celebrate. Robichaud was 1-8 just two years ago, rebounded to 6-3 last season but went 2-3 in the league, and now is facing Crestwood for the Western Wayne Athletic Conference title. Crestwood last week clinched its first playoff berth since 2005 and with a seventh win would have its most victories since 2000. After a four-year break, these teams met again last season with Robichaud a 34-26 winner – but Crestwood hasn’t given up more than 20 points in a game this fall.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Detroit Mumford (5-1) at Detroit Cass Tech (6-0), Detroit Denby (5-1) at Detroit Martin Luther King (6-0), Waterford Our Lady (4-2) at Clarkston Everest Collegiate (6-0), Macomb Dakota (5-1) at Romeo (5-1).
Breckenridge (6-0) at Carson City-Crystal (6-0)
Breckenridge football was reborn with its move to the Mid-State Activities Conference in 2016, and the Huskies are 18-0 in league games heading into this weekend’s MSAC finale. Two of those wins came against the Eagles, who formerly battled mostly Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart for league superiority. Breckenridge got the win in this matchup by just a point last fall, 27-26, and this season hasn’t given up a point since Week 1. Carson City-Crystal and its tough running game most likely will need to get on the board at least a few times if it’s to secure its first league championship since 2013.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Lake Odessa Lakewood (5-1) at Olivet (6-0), Beaverton (5-1) at Clare (5-1), Dansville (5-1) at Pewamo-Westphalia (6-0), Mason (3-3) at Williamston (5-1).
Northern Lower Peninsula
Johannesburg-Lewiston (5-1) at Harbor Springs (6-0)
After losing by just seven points to Manton on opening night, Johannesburg-Lewiston has been biding its time to pounce in the league race. The Cardinals have given up only 35 points over the last five weeks and two weeks ago won big against Gaylord St. Mary, which beat them for the Northern Michigan Football League Legacy title a year ago. Harbor Springs has its most wins since going 6-4 in 2000, including an impressive one against Frankfort in Week 2 – but must avenge last year’s 50-8 loss to Johannesburg-Lewiston to secure that league title tonight.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Muskegon Catholic Central (3-3) at Manistee (6-0), Elk Rapids (4-2) at Frankfort (4-2), Petoskey (3-3) at Gaylord (5-1), Kingsley (5-1) at Maple City Glen Lake (3-3).
Southeast & Border
Grass Lake (6-0) at Napoleon (5-1)
Grass Lake has shared or won outright four Cascades Conference championships this decade, but stepped back a year ago going 3-4 in the league and missing the playoffs for the first time since 2004. That’s almost a distant memory, as the Warriors need only 14 more points to outscore last year’s team and defensively are on pace for their best performance in more than a decade. Grass Lake defeated 2017 co-champions Addison and Michigan Center the last two weeks and now gets the third team that shared last year’s title – Napoleon, which has bounced back from an opening night loss to get back into the hunt and won last year’s meeting with the Warriors 45-8.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Grosse Ile (6-0) at Milan (5-1), Hillsdale (6-0) at Ida (5-1), Pittsford (6-0) at Adrian Lenawee Christian (5-1), Ottawa Lake Whiteford (6-0) at Sand Creek (4-2).
Three Rivers (6-0) at Edwardsburg (6-0)
These are the two best teams in Michigan we’ve barely mentioned this season – because in the Wolverine Conference, every team plays nine league games and these two have dominated the league thoroughly. Edwardsburg has scored at least 41 points every week this fall and given up 19 total; Three Rivers has been slightly less dominant offensively but given up only 35 points and only seven over the last four weeks. Three Rivers broke Edwardsburg’s 34-game league winning streak last season, although the Eddies did still go on to claim the conference title and then defeat the Wildcats in a District Final on the way to finishing Division 4 runner-up.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Kalamazoo United (6-0) at Delton Kellogg (5-1), Hartford (4-2) at Cassopolis (6-0), Portage Northern (4-2) at Battle Creek Central (4-2), Fennville (5-1) at Lawton (3-3).
Ishpeming (6-0) at Iron River West Iron County (5-1), Saturday
Three Western Peninsula Athletic Conference small-school division games remain for both of these teams, but this one very well could decide the league title. Only once this season have the Hematites had a game closer than 10 points. The Wykons took a tough Week 4 loss to West PAC large-school leader Calumet in Week 4, but minus that game have given up only 13 points over their other five. This is the first meeting of these teams since 2014, when Ishpeming ended West Iron’s season in the playoffs for the third time this decade.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Houghton (3-3) at Calumet (6-0), Escanaba (4-2) at Gladstone (3-3), Gwinn (4-2) at Norway (3-3), Ishpeming Westwood (4-2) at L'Anse (3-3).
Montague (5-1) at Muskegon Oakridge (6-0)
This West Michigan Conference rivalry is alive and well, with the teams splitting the last four meetings and Montague winning the most recent 40-0 a year ago on the way to the league title. This likely will decide the championship as well; after losing to still-unbeaten Reed City on opening night, Montague has outscored its first five league opponents on average 58-7. Oakridge has outscored its league opponents only 57-12 on average.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Spring Lake (5-1) at Grand Rapids Catholic Central (5-1), Middleville Thornapple Kellogg (5-1) at East Grand Rapids (4-2), Rockford (3-3) at Hudsonville (5-1), Holton (5-1) at Kent City (6-0).
Mesick (3-3) at Brethren (4-2)
These two are relative newcomers to 8-player football, Brethren in its third season and Mesick in its second. But the headway made has been fast and impressive. Brethren can clinch a share of the West Michigan D League championship tonight and also tie its highest win total since 1990. Mesick made the playoffs for the first time last season since 1995, and with a win tonight can create a three-team tie at the top of the league standings with one WMDL game to play (Manistee Catholic Central would join them in first with a win over reigning champion Marion). Mesick won this meeting 30-14 a year ago.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Morrice (6-0) at Genesee (4-2), Mayville (4-2) at Deckerville (4-2), New Haven Merritt (3-3) at Caseville (4-2), SATURDAY Bellevue (5-1) at Battle Creek St. Philip (4-2).
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PHOTO: Clare, here against Beal City during a Week 1 win, is among teams chasing first place in their respective leagues this weekend. (Click for more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)
SOUTHFIELD — Normally, having students come up and say they won’t be in school the next day might have a school administrator seething and ready to reserve seats in the detention room.
But if there ever was a time to allow it, this was the moment.
Following a 36-32 upset of Belleville that stunned many around the state in the MHSAA Division 1 Football Final on Nov. 26, Southfield Arts & Technology senior quarterback Isaiah Marshall said he and other players made it known, “Don’t expect us in school on Monday.”
After all, the game was played and ended late on a Sunday night, the team achieved something nobody else in the community had done, and there were celebrations that needed to begin.
And for the record, the players were back in school Tuesday.
Whether it’s been in school or outside the halls of Southfield A&T, it’s been a week of historic celebrations and congratulations after the Warriors captured the first MHSAA Finals championship in school history.
Marshall said that remained the case when he attended the Big Ten Championship game in Indianapolis on Saturday.
“Everywhere I go, there is someone congratulating me,” he said.
Over their final decades before the schools merged in 2016, Southfield High School and Southfield-Lathrup High School had plenty of talented teams with numerous players who went on to play big-time college football and even in the NFL.
But none of those good teams was able to advance to a state championship game, let alone win it all.
“There was a lot of people that texted me and talked to me and said they graduated from the 1980s,” said Marshall, pointing out that one former player who reached out was Nic Jones, currently a member of the Kansas City Chiefs who graduated from Southfield High. “There were a lot of older people that used to go to Southfield that told me that they couldn’t do the job. They were proud of us that we could do it for them.”
Marshall said that after the game was over Sunday, he and other teammates congregated at his house at 3 a.m. to watch a replay of the game.
It was only the first time this week the replay was watched.
“We watched it that day and the day after,” Marshall said. “I think we’ve been watching it the whole week.”
A parade Saturday will start at noon at the building that housed the old Southfield-Lathrup and finish at the current school, which was the home of Southfield High before the merger. A&T then will host a celebration in the school gymnasium from 1:15-2:30 p.m.
Players will certainly soak it all in while they can, because it won’t be long before they split up.
Marshall will soon sign to play in college for Kansas and will be enrolling early there. He plans to take his last final exams at Southfield A&T next week and head to Lawrence the first week of January.
Teammate Jalen Todd will do the same as he is also committed to Kansas, while Tashi Braceful will enroll early at Toledo.
But long after this year, it’s a group that won’t be forgotten in the community, or the state after it pulled off the upset of a Belleville team that was riding a 38-game winning streak and was two-time reigning Division 1 champion.
No doubt, future reunions should be memorable and festive.
Even Marshall admitted his still rubs his eyes in amazement over what his team did.
“Yes, I still do,” he said.
Keith Dunlap has served in Detroit-area sports media for more than two decades, including as a sportswriter at the Oakland Press from 2001-16 primarily covering high school sports but also college and professional teams. His bylines also have appeared in USA Today, the Washington Post, the Detroit Free Press, the Houston Chronicle and the Boston Globe. He served as the administrator for the Oakland Activities Association’s website from 2017-2020. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties
PHOTOS (Top) Southfield A&T players enjoy the first moments after their Division 1 championship win at Ford Field. (Middle) The A&T band plays during a break in the action. (Below) Fans celebrate in the stands during the victory over Belleville. (Photos by Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)