By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
We’re chewing on a lot of football numbers this week at the MHSAA office with this season’s playoff selection just days away.
Some of the most important after Week 8 are 176 – as in the number of 11-player teams that have earned spots in that 256-team playoff field – and 78, the number of teams one win away from automatic qualification.
But this second-to-last weekend of the regular season gave us plenty of other numbers to enjoy as well. Like 431, the number of career wins and an MHSAA record for Farmington Hills Harrison coach John Herrington after his team defeated Berkley 39-0. Ionia also set an MHSAA record Friday, coming back from 32 points down at halftime to beat McBain 41-40 in the largest football comeback in MHSAA history.
How about 703, the number of running (238) and passing (465) yards combined for Essexville Garber’s Hunter Bridenbaugh in a 60-47 win over North Branch? That total, as reported by the Bay City Times, will rank third in the national record book once submitted and approved. Then there’s 616, the total passing yards for Grayling’s Justin Nicholas in a 58-46 win over Benzie Central as reported by the Traverse City Record-Eagle – which rank as the second-most passing yards in one game in MHSAA history.
Finally, 27. Congrats to Flat Rock, which clinched its first playoff berth since 1990 – 27 years ago – with a 14-7 win over New Boston Huron.
And if that’s not all … check out below the results that jumped out most from all of the statewide action in this week’s “Drive for Detroit” powered by MI Student Aid.
Bay & Thumb
Algonac 34, Richmond 14
One of the best stories statewide over the last few seasons, Algonac (7-1) clinched its first outright league title since 1972 by downing second-place Richmond in the Blue Water Area Conference after splitting the championship with the Blue Devils (7-1) in 2015. It’s key to recall Algonac was 1-8 in 2014 and hadn’t had a winning season since 2005 before rattling off a combined 28-5 record over the last three. Click for more from the Port Huron Times Herald.
Midland Dow 45, Flint Carman-Ainsworth 14 – Thanks to a one-point loss to Bay City Central in Week 2, Dow (7-1) trailed the Cavaliers (5-3) by a win in the Saginaw Valley League Red entering the conference finale before forcing a shared title.
Midland 35, Lapeer 14 – The Chemics (7-1) finished a perfect run through the SVL Blue while putting third-place Lapeer (5-3) into a must-win situation this week to guarantee a playoff spot.
Saginaw Swan Valley 36, Alma 19 – This was the final obstacle Swan Valley (7-1) needed to navigate to clinch the outright Tri-Valley Conference Central title; Alma (6-2) is one of three teams that tied for second.
Harbor Beach 26, Ubly 14 – The Pirates (7-1) came away with the Greater Thumb Conference East title by downing second-place Ubly (6-2) in their final league game of this season.
Detroit Martin Luther King 17, Detroit Cass Tech 7
With these rivals this season in different divisions of the Detroit Public School League, King (7-1) avenged a pair of 2016 losses to the rival Technicians while holding Cass Tech (5-2) to its fewest points since 2013. But while winning this matchup frequently makes the victor the best in the PSL, King still has a tough one ahead – the Crusaders will face undefeated East English on Friday in the PSL A championship game. Click for more from the Detroit News.
Cass Tech fumbles on the goal line. King leads 17-7 4th 2:48 pic.twitter.com/6ZnR8wsmeM
— Rico Beard (@RicoBeard) October 14, 2017
Warren DeLaSalle 20, Detroit Catholic Central 6 – The Pilots (6-2) finished a perfect run through the Catholic League Central, earning themselves a rematch this week with DCC (5-3) this time for the Prep Bowl A-B championship.
Warren Michigan Collegiate 46, Harper Woods Chandler Park 20 – The Charter School Conference title came down to this game as both teams entered undefeated in league play; Michigan Collegiate (8-0) remains undefeated overall while Chandler Park (5-3) must win this week to guarantee a playoff spot.
Grosse Pointe North 45, Roseville 28 – The Norsemen (5-2) and Port Huron both trailed Roseville (5-3) by a win in the Macomb Area Conference Blue entering the weekend, and all three will share the league title thanks to North’s win.
Ferndale 20, Hazel Park 17 (2OT) – Ferndale (7-1) also forced a three-way championship in the Oakland Activities Association Blue, giving Hazel Park (5-3) its first league loss to create a first-place tie between these two teams and Auburn Hills Avondale.
Haslett 20, Williamston 14
Coming off a league title-deciding loss to rival DeWitt, Haslett bounced back to move to 6-2 – two wins better than a year ago and tying their most since 2006. The Vikings’ good fortune was accompanied by more hard luck for Williamston (5-3), which has three defeats by a combined 14 points and must win this week to guarantee a playoff spot against a Lake Fenton team that hasn’t lost since opening night. Click for more from the Lansing State Journal.
TD Halsett. Ben Brittain sweeps outside for the 5 yard score. The Hornets blocked the XP. Vikings 6, Hornets 0. pic.twitter.com/dytTY7Lvxi
— Jake Atnip (@JakeAtnip) October 13, 2017
Olivet 27, Berrien Springs 17 – The Eagles (8-0) moved to within one more win of their first perfect regular season since 2005 by avenging last season’s 61-7 playoff loss to the Shamrocks (6-2).
East Lansing 9, Lansing Sexton 7 – This shouldn’t result in Sexton (5-3) not earning a playoff bid with winless Eastern up next, but it got East Lansing (6-2) into the playoffs with a more precarious game coming up against playoff hopeful Okemos.
DeWitt 33, Linden 3 – The Panthers (7-1) have won six straight recent meetings with Linden (6-2), including the first two of this string in the playoffs.
Portland 29, Pontiac Notre Dame Prep 27 – In a great playoff prep game for both, Portland (7-1) survived its closest since a Week 2 loss while the Fighting Irish (6-2) have suffered their two defeats by a combined seven points.
Northern Lower Peninsula
Lake City 35, Lincoln Alcona 34
The Highland Conference champion Trojans (8-0) moved to within one more win of their first perfect regular-season since the start of the playoff era in 1975 and after going only 2-7 a year ago. Alcona (6-2) pulled within a score of the lead multiple times and should be a dangerous playoff team – the Tigers’ losses this season are by a combined three points. Click for more from the Cadillac News.
Boyne City 40, Elk Rapids 10 – The Ramblers (8-0) guaranteed the Northern Michigan Football League Leaders championship will come down to this week’s matchup with undefeated Traverse City St. Francis; Elk Rapids (6-2) can still this week get to seven wins for the first time since 2010.
Gaylord St. Mary 30, Harbor Springs 0 – The Snowbirds (8-0) secured a share of the NMFL Legacy title while sending Harbor Springs (4-4) into second place and hoping for both a split title and an at-large playoff bid.
Whittemore-Prescott 42, Hillman 41 – The Cardinals’ string of 10 straight playoff seasons got additional life as the team moved to 4-4, while Hillman’s streak of 11 straight postseason trips also now will hinge on an at-large bid as the Tigers fell to 4-4.
Oscoda 36, Muskegon Heights Academy 23 – The Owls (5-3) put themselves in position to clinch not only their second playoff berth in three seasons, but also their second over the last 17; Muskegon Heights (3-5) fell out of playoff contention but still has its best record since 2014.
Southeast & Border
Michigan Center 41, Grass Lake 14
The Cascades Conference ended with three teams sharing the championship, and Michigan Center joined Addison and Napoleon among the celebrators by downing reigning league title winner Grass Lake (4-4). The Cardinals also beat Grass Lake in 2016, but the Warriors were able to win the conference last year with that one defeat. The Cardinals (7-1) have their most wins since 2013 and one more than a year ago heading into this week’s crossover with Big 8 Conference champion Reading.
Adrian Lenawee Christian 21, Athens 20 (OT) – This was something of an undercard in the Southern Central Athletic Association, but key for both teams as Lenawee Christian (6-2) secured a playoff berth and forced Athens (5-3) to now beat Climax-Scotts this week if it is to make the postseason for the first time since 2000.
Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard 16, Detroit U-D Jesuit 14 – After falling to Dearborn Divine Child by a point in Week 7, the Fighting Irish (7-1) pulled out the close victory over a U-D Jesuit team that at 3-5 has four losses by 10 points or fewer.
Hillsdale 27, Ida 8 – The Hornets (4-4) kept themselves in the playoff hunt while dealing the Lenawee County Athletic Association race an unexpected shuffle; Ida was tied for first with Hudson and looking good to share the title, but now the Tigers can clinch it outright this week.
Ypsilanti Lincoln 23, Temperance Bedford 19 – After two straight four-win seasons and two losses to start this one, Lincoln (6-2) is headed back to the playoffs while Bedford (6-2) already had secured a second straight berth.
Mendon 34, Cassopolis 24
Mendon (8-0) never really went away, but is looking more and more like the dominant teams that won at least 10 games eight straight seasons from 2007-14. Beating Cassopolis (7-1) cemented that observation, as both teams were undefeated heading into the weekend and a share of the Southwest 10 Conference title was on the line. Mendon had fallen to Cassopolis the last two seasons. Even after giving up 24 points to the Rangers, the Hornets still have allowed just 45 over eight games this fall. Click for more from JoeInsider.com.
Pittsford 28, Climax-Scotts 14 – The Wildcats (7-1) clinched the Southern Central Athletic Association title outright by breaking an 11-game losing streak, including playoffs, to the rival Panthers (6-2).
Ottawa Lake Whiteford 52, Clinton 21 – The Bobcats (8-0) clinched a share of the Tri-County Conference title while sending Clinton (5-3) from a second-place tie into third and needing a win this week to make the playoffs for the sixth straight season.
Edwardsburg 54, Vicksburg 27 – This took the Wolverine B Conference race from three first-place teams down to two with a game to play and Edwardsburg (7-1) sure to watch closely as Vicksburg (6-2) takes on co-leader Three Rivers this week.
Watervliet 36, Schoolcraft 14 – Watervliet (8-0) secured a Southwestern Athletic Conference Valley title even as second-place Schoolcraft (5-3) became the first this season to hold the Panthers to fewer than 50 points.
Iron River West Iron County 30, Hancock 13
For the second straight season Hancock has been a contender in the Western Peninsula Athletic Conference, but the Wykons (7-1) are again the team to beat. West Iron clinched the league title outright with its sixth straight win over the Bulldogs, who also tied for second in the league last season behind champion Calumet. Hancock (6-2) remains a win better than a year ago with its most victories since 2006, while West Iron can get to eight wins this week for the first time since 2014. Click for more from the Iron Mountain Daily News.
Kingsford 42, Menominee 21 – The Flivvers (6-1) did their part to turn this week’s meeting with Escanaba into a Great Northern Conference championship game as both are undefeated in the league; Kingsford hadn’t beaten Menominee (5-3) since 2012.
Marquette 35, Negaunee 19 – The Redmen (4-4) have a chance at an at-large playoff bid still if they can beat Menominee this weekend, and regardless have as many wins this fall as the last two seasons combined; Negaunee must beat Ishpeming Westwood this weekend to have a chance at extending its five-season playoff streak.
Norway 21, Lake Linden-Hubbell 11 – The Knights (7-1) secured a shared Mid-Eastern Conference title with Newberry; the Lakes (3-4) face winless Manistique this week with a chance still at an at-large playoff bid.
Calumet 30, Bessemer Gogebic – The Miners (3-5) had upset the playoff chances of two hopefuls two weeks in a row, but Calumet (5-3) hung on to earn a chance to clinch a spot this week.
Grand Rapids Catholic Central 35, Grand Rapids West Catholic 33
Of course it’s rare to have a pair of reigning MHSAA champions meet with a league title on the line. And this time there even was a little revenge to be had. Last year’s Division 4 title winner GRCC (8-0) claimed its second straight game this month by seven points or fewer to clinch a share of the Ottawa-Kent Conference Blue title. The Cougars moved into the Blue last season and finished second to eventual Division 5 champion West Catholic (6-2), which handed GRCC its only loss last season. The Falcons scored late this time to pull within two, but could get no closer. Click for more from the Grand Rapids Press.
— Luke Stier (@LukeStier) October 14, 2017
Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central 35, Cedar Springs 20 – The Rangers (8-0) finished a perfect run through the O-K White by handing second-place Cedar Springs (5-3) its first league loss in what also ended up Forest Hills Central’s closest league game.
Muskegon 35, Muskegon Mona Shores 24 – Ladarius Jefferson ran 34 times for 285 yards and four touchdowns as the Big Reds (8-0) earned a share of the O-K Black title by downing rival Mona Shores (7-1) for the third time in a row.
Rockford 24, East Kentwood 10 – The Rams (5-3) have a chance to make it to the playoffs for the 23rd straight season thanks to this bounce-back win over the Falcons (5-3), who also can earn an automatic berth this week.
Wyoming Kelloggsville 27, Belding 3 – The Rockets (8-0) faced what have ended up the second, third and fourth-best teams in the O-K Silver three weeks in a row and claimed a share of the league title by knocking Belding (6-2) out of their tie for first.
Central Lake 42, Onekama 28
As noted in Friday’s preview, these two both could end up in MHSAA Finals at the Superior Dome, but Central Lake has claimed the first of their possible championships this fall with this win deciding the Midwest Central Michigan Conference title. New to 8-player this season, the Trojans (8-0) were 2-7 last season in 11-player and last won a league title in 2008. Onekama moved to 7-1 after going 6-4 in 11-player last season. Click for more from the Traverse City Record-Eagle.
Pickford 47, Cedarville 8 – Pickford (8-0) claimed a share of the Bridge Alliance championship after finishing second last season and while dealing Cedarville (6-2) a second straight defeat.
Mayville 46, Bay City All Saints 34 – Mayville (5-3) can’t win the North Central Thumb League Stars championship, but dealt a loss to the Stripes’ co-leading Cougars (6-2).
Powers North Central 36, Rapid River 0 – Just when it looked like reigning MHSAA champion North Central (5-2) might go quietly into the offseason, the Jets stunned the state’s 8-player scene handing Western Eight Conference leader Rapid River (7-1) its first defeat a week after the Rockets handed a first loss to Stephenson.
Portland St. Patrick 24, Marion 8 – The Shamrocks (7-1) are playing in a two-team league but now also have a win over Marion (6-2), which ran the table in the West Michigan Conference.
Second Half’s weekly “Drive for Detroit” previews and reviews are powered by MI Student Aid, a part of the Student Financial Services Bureau located within the Michigan Department of Treasury. MI Student Aid encourages students to pursue postsecondary education by providing access to student financial resources and information, including various student financial assistance programs to help make college more affordable for Michigan students. MI Student Aid administers the state’s 529 savings programs (MET/MESP) and eight additional aid programs within its Student Scholarships and Grants division. Click for more information and connect with MI Student Aid on Facebook and Twitter @mistudentaid.
PHOTO: Farmington Hills Harrison coach John Herrington enjoys the postgame fanfare with his team after setting the MHSAA record with his 431st career victory. (Click for 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.)