By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Just when we think we’ve got this season figured out … Week 8 happens.
How are these for scores that command a double-take?
- Mattawan, fighting for a playoff berth, beats a league champion in Stevensville Lakeshore 12-10.
- Caledonia hands Lowell its first shutout in 16 years, 33-0.
- Dearborn, also fighting for a playoff berth, delivers local rival Robichaud its first loss, 28-12.
The second-to-last week of the regular season did have more happy than sad as another batch of automatic qualifiers was added and the group of possible at-large teams grew:
- Felch North Dickinson saw the longest playoff streak in MHSAA history officially end as it fell to 3-5; the team no longer can qualify for the postseason for the 24th straight season.
- But in New Boston, there was celebration as the team set a school record for wins in moving to 7-1.
- And Burton Atherton backers surely enjoyed clinching their first playoff berth ever after missing by a win two of the last four years.
Read on for details behind more of the most intriguing results to emerge from Week 8 from all over the state:
Bay and Thumb
Flint Beecher 19, Montrose 14
The long-anticipated Genesee Area Conference Red finale played to its billing, with Beecher scoring with 17 seconds left on the clock to earn its first league title since 2009. Montrose (6-2), league champs the last three seasons, could’ve forced a three-way share of this season’s title with a win – Goodrich would’ve been the third team, but finished second. Beecher can finish the regular season undefeated also for the first time since 2009 with a win over Byron on Friday. Click for more from the Flint Journal.
Marine City 39, Warren Woods Tower 14 – Marine City (8-0) got back the Macomb Area Conference Gold championship, keeping second-place Warren Woods-Tower (6-2) from gaining a share.
Bay City Central 26, Mount Pleasant 22 – The Wolves (4-4) can still earn a first playoff berth since 2007 after beating the Oilers (5-3) for the first time in their recent eight-game series.
Lapeer 34, Flint Carman-Ainsworth 31 (OT) – The Lightning (8-0) finished a perfect run through the Saginaw Valley Association Red, but not without some necessary extra work against Carman-Ainsworth (6-2).
Birch Run 27, Millington 21 – The Panthers (7-1) edged the Cardinals (7-1) in the final game on the Tri-Valley East Conference schedule to make those two and Frankenmuth tri-champions after Millington led by a win coming in.
Lower Up North
Whittemore-Prescott 31, Hillman 14
While not a league game, this one unofficially recognized the top team on the northeast side of the Lower Peninsula – and once again it’s Whittemore-Prescott (8-0), which is one more winnable game from its first perfect regular season since 2002. Hillman (7-1) also entered undefeated and a league champion. Click for more from the Bay City Times.
Traverse City West 22, Gaylord 7 – Gaylord (5-3) has been working toward its first playoff berth since 2007, but had to put its celebration off while West (4-4) kept itself in the mix for an at-large bid.
Boyne City 28, Elk Rapids 23 – The Ramblers (8-0) won their eighth game for the third straight season and need one more for a first perfect regular season since 2001; Elk Rapids (4-4) will need help to return to the playoffs.
Mancelona 30, Central Lake 22 – Mancelona (5-3) is still alive for an automatic playoff berth, while Central Lake (4-4) is not and must win this week for a chance at an at-large bid.
Charlevoix 27, Frankfort 6 – The Rayders (5-3) quietly have won three straight to set up for their first playoff appearance since 2009, while forcing Frankfort (5-2) into a must-win situation to return to the postseason after missing the last two years.
Southwest and Border
Watervliet 28, Decatur 19
Make that six straight wins for Watervliet over Decatur, this one for the Southwestern Athletic Conference South championship. The Panthers (7-1) earned a share, giving them at least part of the league title for four straight seasons and seven straight wins this fall after opening with a one-point loss at Gobles. Decatur (7-1) will have more to play for next month, having already qualified for the playoffs as well. Click for more from the St. Joseph Herald-Palladium.
Union City 42, Homer 19 – The Chargers (8-0) finished their second Big 8 Conference title in four years, winning big to keep second-place Homer (6-2) from earning a share.
Fennville 22, Gobles 12 – This, combined with Bangor’s upset of Saugatuck, created a three-team tie atop the SAC North standings between Saugatuck (5-3), Fennville (5-3) and Gobles (6-2).
Constantine 35, Olivet 14 – The Kalamazoo Valley Association champ Falcons (7-1) bounced back from its first loss by doubling up former league rival Olivet (6-2), the champ in the first-year Greater Lansing Activities Conference.
Edwardsburg 42, Berrien Springs 21 – The Eddies earned a share of the Wolverine B Conference West championship against second-place Berrien Springs (5-3), which will need a major upset of Edwardsburg by Coloma this week to also gain a share.
Marquette 9, Negaunee 8
The wind and rain couldn’t distract Marquette kicker Max Bednarek, who drilled a game-winning 22-yard field goal as time ran out to push the Redmen to 7-1. Marquette trailed 8-0 and went for two unsuccessfully after scoring its lone touchdown. Negaunee has now lost three games this season by five points or fewer, and at 4-4 will need some help to earn an at-large playoff bid. Click for more from the Marquette Mining Journal.
Lake Linden-Hubbell 36, Felch North Dickinson 30 – The Lakes (7-1) have built their best record since 2010 with three wins by eight or fewer points, while North Dickinson (3-5) officially won’t make the playoffs for the first time since 1990 after its third loss of six points or fewer.
Bark River-Harris 44, Powers North Central 22 – The Broncos (6-2) bounced back from a disappointing loss to Mid-Eastern Football Conference champ Munising to earn its first playoff appearance since 2009.
Iron Mountain 23, Hurley, Wis. 22 – The Moutaineers (5-3) put themselves in a win-and-in playoff scenario this week in part by going for two after a late score against Hurley (7-2) to create a two-possession game, and then holding the ball until nearly the end so Hurley didn’t get another chance.
Crystal Falls Forest Park 53, Bessemer 14 – The Trojans (6-1) can’t win the Great Western Conference this time, but are undefeated in Michigan with their lone loss to Hurley; Bessemer, at 4-3 but playing only eight 11-player games, can still qualify with a win this week against Ironwood.
Clare 30, Harrison 29
Clare (6-2) has come up with the right recipe for winning the Jack Pine Conference. For the third straight season, the Pioneers have opened 0-2 against top nonleague competition and gone on to win the league, and can clinch it outright this week against Roscommon. But Harrison gave Clare its toughest challenge of any team during this eight-season title run – Clare trailed by as many as 16, and a potential game-winning field goal for the Hornets (7-1) fell just short. Click for more from the Mount Pleasant Morning Sun.
Fowler 20, Pewamo-Westphalia 13 – One of the best rivalries in this region decided a league championship again; Fowler (8-0) claimed the Central Michigan Athletic Conference title, while Pewamo-Westphalia (6-2) fell to second place.
Lansing Sexton 21, Lansing Everett 12 – This was all a neighborly rivalry game should be, with Everett holding Sexton to its second-fewest points this season and the Big Reds (8-0) keeping the Vikings (5-3) to their fewest.
Haslett 43, Williamston 23 – The Vikings (4-4) looked likely to miss the playoffs for the second time in three seasons, but upsetting Williamston (6-2) helps their at-large chances significantly.
Hanover-Horton 34, Grass Lake 28 – Not only had Hanover-Horton not beaten Grass Lake (5-3) since 2005, the Comets (7-1) had scored only a combined 15 points in their last five losses to the Warriors.
Caledonia 33, Lowell 0
The Fighting Scots just keep piling up impressive wins. After Caledonia (6-2) lost to Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central by 12 in Week 3, there probably weren't many who would've believed the Scots would go on to beat Rockford and now Lowell by a combined 75-0. Because of that Forest Hills Central loss, Caledonia only shares first place in the Ottawa-Kent Conference White with the Red Arrows (7-1), but both can clinch a share of the title this week. Click for more from the Grand Rapids Press.
Reed City 60, Remus Chippewa Hills 32 – The Coyotes (7-1) earned a share of the Central State Activities Association Gold title while keeping Chippewa Hills (6-2) from the same.
Cedar Springs 48, Greenville 16 – The Red Hawks (7-1) earned a share of the O-K Bronze title, its first league championship since 1978, while forcing Greenville (4-4) into an at-large playoff scenario.
East Kentwood 35, Rockford 3 – The Falcons (7-1) looked capable of beating Rockford (6-2) to push both into a tie atop the O-K Red standings, but the final margin was much more unexpected.
East Grand Rapids 31, Grand Rapids Christian 7 – The Pioneers (5-3) look good for the playoffs with 1-7 Jenison up this week, and left Christian (5-3) in a tougher position with the Eagles now facing Caledonia.
Southfield 20, Oak Park 16
The Bluejays (6-2) swooped in for a share of their second straight Oakland Activities Association White championship after falling a game behind with a Week 5 loss to Farmington Hills Harrison. Oak Park (6-2) had beaten Harrison and entered Week 8 atop the league, but couldn’t break Southfield’s defense – which held the Knights 22 points below their average. Harrison ended up with a share of the league title as well with Oak Park’s loss. Click for more from the Detroit Free Press.
Harper Woods Chandler Park 22, Warren Michigan Collegiate 13 – Chandler Park (6-2) won this deciding game in the Charter School Conference, sending Michigan Collegiate (7-1) into second place; Chandler Park is 34-1 in league play since its start in 2009.
Farmington 24, Birmingham Groves 20 – The Falcons (7-1) finished their bounce-back from 2-7 last season to OAA Blue champs this fall by edging second-place Groves (6-2).
Ypsilanti Lincoln 28, Ypsilanti Community 27 – Lincoln (6-2) won the Southeastern Conference White outright for the second straight year despite trailing Community (5-3) at one point by three scores.
Detroit Cass Tech 19, Detroit East English 12 – The Technicians (8-0) advanced to meet Martin Luther King in the Detroit Public School League Final thanks to three fourth-quarter touchdowns by standout running back Mike Weber; East English (5-3) must win this week to guarantee an MHSAA playoff berth.
Peck 30, Deckerville 28 (OT)
This has become arguably the best rivalry in 8-player football (the argument being against Rapid River/Cedarville). Peck (8-0) made it 21 straight wins including three straight over Deckerville, although the Eagles made it plenty tough by scoring first in overtime and also leading into the fourth quarter. The win gives Peck the North Central Thumb League title outright while dropping Deckerville (6-2) into second place.
Battle Creek St. Philip 48, Portland St. Patrick 0 – This battle of undefeateds didn't match up to that expectation, but these two have history of meeting again during the playoffs.
Cedarville 57, Bellaire 14 – This one too didn't necessarily match up to a matchup of teams with a combined one loss, with Cedarville dominating to match Bellaire at 7-1 overall and second place in the Bridge Football Alliance.
PHOTO: Beal City, carrying the ball, defeated McBain on Friday to claim a share of the championship in the Highland Conference. (Click to see more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com).
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.)