By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
As the old cliché goes, Week 8 was why they play the games.
Sure, some of the weekend’s results could be anticipated. But others – think Detroit Martin Luther King over Cass Tech, Oxford over Oak Park and Bessemer over Crystal Falls Forest Park to mention a few – no doubt caught some high school football fans by surprise.
Following are the most significant results from all corners of Michigan during the second-to-last weekend of the regular season. The final games finish off this week, with playoff brackets to be announced during the Selection Sunday Show at 6 p.m. on Fox Sports Detroit.
Clarkston 21, Lake Orion 14
In a game pitting the two top-ranked teams in Division 1 according to The Associated Press, No. 1 Clarkston scored with 14.3 seconds to play to move to 8-0 and win the Oakland Activities Association Red championship. Lake Orion fell to 7-1. Click to read more from The Oakland Press.
Detroit Catholic Central 35, Orchard Lake St. Mary 13 – DCC’s win created a three-way tie atop the Detroit Catholic League Central standings, and set up these two to meet again in this week’s Prep Bowl. St. Mary (6-2) is in the playoffs for sure, while DCC (5-3) can earn an automatic berth.
Detroit Martin Luther King 44, Detroit Cass Tech 13 – King might be the best 5-3 team in Michigan, but it’s fair to call this an upset with Cass Tech (6-2) considered among the state’s elite all season. King now will face Detroit East English in Friday’s Public School League championship game.
Walled Lake Northern 55, Hartland 52 – Northern (6-2) not only handed Hartland (7-1) its first loss, but most importantly earned its first playoff berth ever.
Oxford 14, Oak Park 12 – Oak Park (7-1) still won the Oakland Activities Association White title, but Oxford (5-3) kept the Knights from doing so perfectly while keeping its automatic playoff berth chances alive.
Bay and Thumb
Midland 42, Bay City Western 15
Midland had fallen just shy of a league title over the last four seasons, with a combined five league losses during that stretch. But the Chemics (8-0) made it seven wins over Western in their last nine meetings, and earned a share of the Saginaw Valley Association North championship with Midland Dow coming up this week. The Warriors (7-1) must hope for a Midland loss and beat rival Bay City Central to also earn a share. Click to read more from the Bay City Times.
Fenton 55, Swartz Creek 28 – By beating Swartz Creek (7-1), Fenton (7-1) created a four-way tie atop the Flint Metro League standings with a league game to play.
Marine City 35, St. Clair 34 – After opening this season with a nonleague loss, Marine City (7-1) has won seven straight and clinched the Macomb Area Conference Gold title with this nail-biter over second-place St. Clair (7-1)
Merrill 35, Saginaw Valley Lutheran 27 – The Vandals (5-3) kept their automatic playoff berth hopes alive, while dealing a blow to Valley Lutheran (5-3) as it goes for its first berth ever.
Burton Bendle 20, Genesee 16 – Bendle (7-1) has earned a third-straight playoff berth, and remains a win behind New Lothrop in the Genesee Area Conference Blue standings. Genesee (5-3) can still earn an automatic berth, but needs to beat New Lothrop to do so.
Southwest and Border
Stevensville Lakeshore 28, Mattawan 16
It’s something that both of these teams were undefeated heading into this game, given the competitiveness of the Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference West this fall. But Mattawan (7-1) couldn’t make it two in a row over Lakeshore (8-0), which earned a share of the league title. Click to read more from the Kalamazoo Gazette.
Dowagiac 28, Edwardsburg 8 – The Wolverine Conference West came down to the final league game of the season, with Dowagiac (8-0) edging runner-up Edwardsburg (6-2).
Watervliet 26, Decatur 19 – Four of six teams in the Southwestern Athletic Conference South have made the playoffs, and a fifth can this week; Watervliet (8-0) leads them all and earned a share of the title, while knocking Decatur (6-2) into a tie for third.
Paw Paw 46, Otsego 23 – Paw Paw (8-0) avoided being part of a three-way championship in the Wolverine Conference East by knocking off formerly second-place Otsego (6-2).
Mendon 33, Buchanan 28 – Mendon (8-0) got its biggest scare with its first win by fewer than 20 points, but also big playoff points because Buchanan (6-2) is a Class B school.
Lowell 14, Caledonia 7
Caledonia (6-2) nearly crashed Lowell’s run at the O-K White title. But the Red Arrows (7-1) – despite five turnovers – held on to earn the right to play Grand Rapids Christian this weekend for the league championship. Click to read more from the Grand Rapids Press.
Grand Rapids West Catholic 25, Cedar Springs 20 – This close call earned West Catholic (7-1) the opportunity to play Grand Rapids Northview this week for the O-K Bronze title, and might’ve dropped Cedar Springs (4-4) out of playoff contention.
Hamilton 42, Zeeland West 38 – The Hawkeyes (5-3) edged a win closer to their first playoff berth since 2009, while knocking Zeeland West (5-3) into a three-way tie atop the O-K Green with a league game to play.
Grand Rapids Catholic Central 28, Hastings 14 – The Cougars (8-0) clinched a share of the O-K Gold championship, although Hastings (6-2) can still earn another share in the unlikely scenario that GRCC falls this week to winless Wayland.
Fruitport 24, Muskegon Catholic Central 21 (OT) – The Trojans (8-0) hadn’t faced MCC (5-3) since 1976, but are now one win away from a 9-0 season for the first time since 2006.
Lansing Waverly 38, Mason 16
The Warriors (5-3) need another win Friday over Fowlerville to earn an automatic playoff berth. But it’s fair to say this was their best win since 2002, the last time Waverly made the postseason. Mason (5-3) has beaten the Warriors by an average of 21 points per game over the last four seasons. Click to read more from Mlive Lansing.
Clare 27, Sanford Meridian 7 – After opening 0-2, Clare (6-2) has stormed back to win a share of the Jack Pine Conference title while putting Sanford Meridian (5-3) in a must-win situation to earn an automatic playoff berth.
Grand Ledge 40, East Lansing 0 – This was expected to be much closer with both 5-2 coming in; the Comets (6-2) are no doubt relieved to have a playoff berth in hand with a tough game against Holt coming up, while the Trojans (5-3) should still get in with two-win Okemos next on the schedule.
Williamston 25, Haslett 22 – A late score kept playoff hopes alive for Williamston (5-3), while potentially derailing those of Haslett (4-4).
Portland 37, DeWitt 7 – When these teams were in the same league a decade ago, few would have believed Portland (7-1) could beat DeWitt (6-2) twice in row; this made it so.
Lower Up North
Maple City Glen Lake 26, Traverse City St. Francis 20
Glen Lake (8-0) hadn’t won more than five games in a season since 2001, but lined itself up for its first perfect regular season since that season with a late score to claim this nonleague game. In doing so, the Lakers also might’ve finished St. Francis’ MHSAA-best 22-season playoff streak – the Gladiators fell to 4-4. Click to read more from the Traverse City Record-Eagle.
Boyne City 44, Elk Rapids 30 – Boyne City (8-0) remained tied for first in the Lake Michigan Conference with a league game to play, while dropping Elk Rapids (4-4) into a tough spot for playoff qualification.
Grayling 63, East Jordan 29 – Grayling (8-0) didn’t have as much to stress with East Jordan (0-8), but will face Boyne City this week for the Lake Michigan Conference title.
West Branch Ogemaw Heights 56, Traverse City West 39 – Ogemaw Heights kept automatic playoff berth hopes alive by moving to 5-3, and made life a little less comfortable for Traverse City West, also 5-3.
Lake City 49, Manton 12 – Lake City (7-1) can only hope for a Beal City loss this week that would split the Highland Conference title. Manton (4-4) hopes to get into the playoffs if it can finish with a victory.
Bessemer 46, Crystal Falls Forest Park 15
Bessemer (5-2) hadn’t celebrated a winning season since 2006. Now the Speedboys also can celebrate a league title, with this win giving it a shared championship in the Great Western Conference with Hurley (Wis.). Bessmer (also referred to as Gogebic because it is a co-op with Wakefield) also qualified for the playoffs, something Forest Park (6-2) had already secured. Click to read more from the Iron Mountain Daily News.
Kingsford 49, Gladstone 28 – Kingsford (7-1) finished a perfect 4-0 in the Great Northern UP Conference by knocking off fifth-place Gladstone (2-6)
Eagle River Northland Pines (Wis.) 68, L'Anse 24 – Northland Pines (8-0) avoided a three-way tie in the Western Peninsula Athletic Conference, while dropping L’Anse (6-2) to third in the final league standings.
Marquette 34, Negaunee 26 – Marquette (4-4), playing eight games this regular season, kept a slim hope of playoffs alive by beating Mid-Peninsula Athletic Conference champion Negaunee (7-1, with a share of the title so far). Marquette also claimed the Diamond Jubilee Trophy, which originated in 1969.
Menominee 48, Marinette (Wis.) 26 – This was the 106th meeting between the two, dating back to 1894.
Every week, the MHSAA highlights trophy games played throughout the state. Here are a few more from Week 8:
- Brown Jug – This trophy contended by Center Line and Warren Lincoln dates back to 1947. Final: Warren Lincoln 52, Center Line 13.
- Oak Chest – Lansing Everett beat the Big Reds for the first time since 2008, and after losing by 32 to Sexton in 2011. Final: Everett 32, Sexton 0.
- Sugar Bowl – Reese made it seven straight wins in this series against Unionville-Sebewaing for a trophy that originated in 1994. Final: Reese 55, USA 42.
- Spirit Bell – Ithaca at St. Louis - Originated in 1972, this is an all-sports traveling trophy. The Bell goes on the line again next week when the two schools meet in volleyball. Final: Ithaca 70, St. Louis 0.
PHOTO: Clarkston junior running back Ian Eriksen (25) searches for an opening during Friday's win against Lake Orion. (Click to see more at Terry McNamara Photography.)
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.)