Drive for Detroit: Week 9 Preview

October 24, 2019

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Sadly, thousands of Michigan high school football players will play the final game of their seasons – and in many cases their careers – this weekend.

The sunnier news: A few thousand more may still have control over whether they will suit up again for the MHSAA Playoffs.

Week 9, the last of this regular season, began Thursday with a handful of games and will conclude around 8 p.m. Saturday with the last of the Detroit Catholic League championship games. Entering Thursday, 166 teams had clinched playoff berths in the 256-team 11-player field – with 139 hopefuls still with a chance to advance. Of that 139, 60 simply need to win this weekend to qualify – but it’s also anticipated that a record number of additional qualifiers – with 5-4 or 4-4 records – will make the field when it is selected and introduced Sunday.

Our weekly preview below highlights many contests you might expect, and many you might not. There are still five league title races completely up for grabs, and 23 where one team has clinched but another (or more) may still share the championship. Games with league titles or playoff berths are on the line were given priority over otherwise great matchups that will still be fun to watch but won’t figure in as much into what happens beyond this weekend.

Remember to tune in to FOX Sports Detroit PLUS at 7 p.m. Sunday for the “Selection Sunday Show” announcement of brackets in every division for both 11 and 8-player. The show also can be viewed on or via FOX Sports Go! Additionally, 34 games will be streamed live Friday and Saturday on – click for listings and links.

"Drive for Detroit" is sponsored by MI Student Aid.

Bay & Thumb

Lapeer (7-1) at Davison (7-1)

Just like a year ago, the Saginaw Valley League Blue title comes down to this regular-season finale. Last season, Lapeer emerged with a 28-6 win and the outright league championship. The Lightning’s only regular-season loss the last two seasons came to Lake Orion this year in Week 1, and that’s looked better every week as the Dragons stand 7-1. Also for the second straight year, Davison’s lone loss heading into this game has come to Warren De La Salle Collegiate. The Cardinals also have a notable win over Flint Metro League “Upper” champion Fenton, while Lapeer beat SVL Red second-place Midland Dow and last week Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice.

Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Ubly (7-1) at Cass City (7-1), Central Montcalm (7-1) at Millington (4-4), New Lothrop (8-0) at Frankenmuth (8-0), Midland (8-0) at Midland Dow (5-3).

Greater Detroit

Detroit Catholic Central (4-4) vs. Orchard Lake St. Mary's (7-1), Saturday at Eastern Michigan University

The Bishop division championship game at Rynearson Stadium will match up the co-champions from the Detroit Catholic League Central – but this means more than another trophy for the Shamrocks. DCC is one of two league champions statewide facing the prospect of ending with a sub-.500 overall record. And if history holds, DCC also would look good to qualify for the playoffs at 5-4 due to its strong schedule. But the Eaglets are not without added motivation too – they fell to DCC 20-14 two weeks ago to create that shared league title.

Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Dearborn Fordson (7-1) at Brighton (7-1), Birmingham Groves (7-1) at Brownstown Woodhaven (8-0), Detroit Martin Luther King (6-2) vs. Detroit Denby (7-1) at Detroit Renaissance, West Bloomfield (7-1) at Warren De La Salle Collegiate (5-3).


Pewamo-Westphalia (8-0) at Williamston (5-3)

The Pirates locked up the Central Michigan Athletic Conference title last week and can extend their regular-season winning streak to 26. One of the few close victories during that run came in Week 9 last season when P-W edged Williamston 28-27. The Hornets need this one to qualify for the playoffs automatically, and having that chance is impressive on its own considering they entered Week 7 with three undefeated teams left on the schedule. Williamston then fell close to still-unbeaten Mason, but last week handed Olivet its only loss, 35-28.

Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Okemos (1-7) at East Lansing (6-2), Lansing Waverly (3-5) at DeWitt (6-2), Grand Ledge (2-6) at Holt (6-2), Bath (3-5) at Perry (4-4).

Northern Lower Peninsula

Cadillac (5-3) at Traverse City Central (7-1), Saturday

The Trojans led the Big North Conference all season, winning all of their games since falling to DeWitt by five in Week 1. They claimed a share of the title last week, but a fifth-straight win over Cadillac to make the championship outright won’t be automatic by any means. The Vikings have bounced way back from going 1-8 last year after finishing 2-7 in 2017, and two of those three losses this fall were by a combined four points.

Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Charlevoix (5-3) at Harbor Springs (6-2), Clare (7-1) at McBain (5-3), Kingsley (8-0) at Boyne City (4-4), Johannesburg-Lewiston (8-0) at Indian River Inland Lakes (8-0).

Southeast & Border

Livonia Clarenceville (5-3) at Whitmore Lake (6-2)

The Trojans moved into the Michigan Independent Athletic Conference this fall after decades in the Tri-County Conference, and they couldn’t have hoped for a better football outcome. Whitmore Lake is guaranteed its first winning regular season in this sport since 2013, and it claimed a share of the MIAC title last week. But that could turn into a three-team shared championship if Clarenceville – tied with Auburn Hills Oakland Christian for second place – downs Whitmore Lake in this league finale.

Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Jonesville (6-2) at Grass Lake (7-1), Hillsdale (8-0) at Dundee (5-3), Homer (6-2) at Manchester (5-3). SATURDAY Reading (7-1) at Addison (7-1).

Southwest Corridor

Edwardsburg (8-0) at Paw Paw (8-0)

The reigning Wolverine Conference and statewide Division 4 champion Eddies are putting a 22-game winning streak on the line, having last lost in the 2017 Division 4 Final. In fact, Edwardsburg has only two league defeats since joining the Wolverine in 2012. The Eddies defeated Paw Paw twice last season, also in a District Final – but the Redskins rarely have been slowed this fall and enter this matchup with nearly the same defensive points-against average as Edwardsburg after playing the same opponents. Not counting South Haven, which forfeited to Edwardsburg and fell to Paw Paw 56-0, the Eddies are scoring 52 points per game and giving up 6.4. Paw Paw is scoring 39 points and giving up 6.9.

Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY St. Joseph (6-2) at Portage Northern (7-1), Stevensville Lakeshore (4-4) at Mattawan (4-4), Kalamazoo United (4-4) at Schoolcraft (8-0), Vicksburg (5-3) at Otsego (5-3).

Upper Peninsula

Kingsford (4-4) at Marquette (4-4)

Marquette joins Detroit Catholic Central as the other league champion also playing for an overall winning record and playoff berth this week. The Redmen have earned a share of the Great Northern Conference title and can clinch it outright against the Flivvers. But Kingsford has a lot to play for as well – a win could mean an additional qualifier playoff berth after the team just missed the postseason a year ago. Additionally, Escanaba would claim a share of the league title as well if the Flivvers are victorious.

Keep an eye on these: THURSDAY Bark River-Harris (5-3) at Ishpeming (6-2). FRIDAY L'Anse (4-4) at Calumet (7-1), Negaunee (6-2) at Ishpeming Westwood (6-2), Bessemer (0-8) at Iron Mountain (8-0).

West Michigan

East Kentwood (5-3) at Rockford (7-1)

The Ottawa-Kent Conference Red is full of possibilities after Grandville defeated Rockford 30-3 last week to move into a tie for first place with the Rams. The first option would see Rockford win this game and Grandville defeat Caledonia so they would share the title – or just one of the two could win tonight and claim the championship outright. Or, East Kentwood and Caledonia could win this weekend, with the Falcons and then perhaps Hudsonville (with a win over last-place Holland West Ottawa) making it a four-team shared championship. East Kentwood defeated Rockford 28-17 last season, and fell to Grandville by just a point four weeks ago.

Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Portland (7-1) at Montague (6-2), Traverse City St. Francis (6-2) at Muskegon Oakridge (8-0), Hudsonville Unity Christian (5-3) at Zeeland East (5-3), Grandville (7-1) at Caledonia (3-5).


Martin (8-0) at Climax-Scotts (7-1)

At one point in Martin history, the Clippers posted six straight 0-9 seasons from 2008-13. It’s only worth bringing those up because Martin this weekend can finish the regular season undefeated for the first time since 1987, when it won the 11-player Class D title. Climax-Scotts, like Martin, is enjoying an excellent first year of 8-player – and if the playoffs started today, they’d both be considered MHSAA championship contenders with the Clippers in Division 1 and the Panthers in Division 2.

Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Gaylord St. Mary (3-5) at Brethren (5-3), Suttons Bay (8-0) at Mesick (7-1), Burr Oak (5-3) at Portland St. Patrick (8-0), Pickford (7-1) at Brimley (5-3).

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PHOTO: Southfield Arts & Technology defenders, in red, stop an Oxford ball carrier during a Week 7 win. The Warriors are among teams needing a victory this weekend to potentially qualify for the playoffs. (Photo by Terry Lyons.)

Robichaud 3-Sport Legend Wheatley Selected to National High School Hall of Fame

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

March 11, 2024

The playing career of 1991 Dearborn Heights Robichaud graduate Tyrone Wheatley remains one of the most storied in Michigan high school sports history. His prestige gained during that early stage of his athletic stardom has been recognized nationally as well, as Wheatley was one of 12 honorees announced today as this year’s inductees into the National High School Hall of Fame by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS).

Wheatley – who grew up in Inkster and is currently the head football coach at Wayne State University – will be inducted as one of 11 honorees selected for the 41st Hall of Fame class at a ceremony during the NFHS summer meeting July 1 in Boston. The rest of the class is made up of three more athletes, four coaches, two former state association administrators and a game official. Wheatley was nominated by the Michigan High School Athletic Association.

Wheatley will become the Hall of Fame’s 10th inductee from Michigan, joining the MHSAA’s first full-time Executive Director Charles E. Forsythe (inducted 1983), River Rouge boys basketball coach Lofton Greene (1986), Warren Regina athletic director, softball and basketball coach Diane Laffey (2000), Fennville basketball and baseball standout Richie Jordan (2001), Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett boys and girls tennis coach Bob Wood (2005), Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook hockey standout Jim Johnson (2007), Owosso football, basketball and baseball all-stater Brad Van Pelt (2011); Vermontville Maple Valley baseball national record holder Ken Beardslee (2016) and retired MHSAA Executive Director John E. “Jack” Roberts (2022).

To the greater public, Wheatley surely is best known as a star running back for University of Michigan who went on to play 10 seasons in the NFL for the New York Giants and Oakland Raiders. However, he is arguably most glorified in Michigan high school athletics for his accomplishments on the track, where as a junior in 1990 he became the first (of still only two) athletes to win four individual events at an MHSAA Lower Peninsula Finals – placing first in the 100 and 200-meter dashes, 110-meter hurdles and long jump. He led Robichaud to the Class B team title that day, scoring 40 of its 49 points. Wheatley completed his high school career in 1991 with three more Class B individual track & field championships and nine total over his final three seasons; he was injured in the 100 during that senior-year meet and could not run his final race to attempt another four-title day.

Wheatley’s meet records of 13.7 seconds in the 100 at the 1991 LP Class B Final and 23-10¾ in long jump in 1989 still stood when the four-Class track & field format was retired after the 1999 season. He also remains the only athlete to win the 100 three times at the prestigious Mehock Relays in Mansfield, Ohio, also finishing first in the 110 hurdles and 200 and runner-up in the long jump at that meet in 1991.

Wheatley was similarly accomplished on the high school football field, leading his team to a state championship in 1990 and earning a Parade All-America honor. Over three varsity seasons total he ran for a combined 4,257 yards and 67 touchdowns, including 2,010 yards and 33 scores on 208 carries as a senior in 1990 – the latter despite playing quarterback half of that season (and throwing five touchdown passes). He played quarterback, running back, defensive back, punter, kicker and returned kicks, and he scored 252 points over 13 games as a senior and 484 over 38 career games.

Wheatley also was a standout on the basketball court for Robichaud, averaging 14 points and 16 rebounds per game as a senior in earning all-state recognition in that sport as well.

“My city where I come from, Inkster, means the world to me. I grew up in an incredible era of sports in Michigan (with successful University of Michigan and Detroit pro teams) … but if you ask me who my idols were, they were the guys I grew up with playing on the playground,” Wheatley said. “After you come from a basketball game where you see Jarvis Walker drop 30, or Earl Jones running the last 200 of a race backwards … you hear people talk about them, you hear their reverence about them, and I just wanted to be put in the conversation of the best to come out of Inkster, forget the state. I can tell you this for sure: I’m not the best athlete to come out of Inkster, just the person who got the recognition. And my foundation was built watching, taking notes, preparing, working out and just trying to be one of the guys.

“(Robichaud was) the step. Because without Robichaud … Michigan, the NFL, me coming back to coach, it doesn’t happen,” Wheatley said. “Without the Robert Yaucks (his football coach at Robichaud), the Coach (Leit) Jones (his Robichaud track coach), the Coach (Mercer) Brysons, the (coach) Wade Cooks, the (coach Jeff) Flounorys, the Millie Hursins (his academic advisor) of the world, this doesn’t happen. Without my high school teammates, none of this happens. So it’s not just a step. What’s the saying – the first impression is the lasting and best impression? Robichaud was it.”

Wheatley returned to Robichaud as its varsity football coach in 2007 and led that team to a 9-2 record and the MHSAA Playoffs for the first time since 1994 – after Robichaud had finished 0-9 the previous season. He has served as an assistant football coach at four college programs including U-M and Syracuse, and with the Buffalo Bills, Jacksonville Jaguars and Denver Broncos.

He also served as Morgan State University's head coach from 2019-21 and just completed his first season as head coach at Wayne State, which finished 3-8 – an improvement of two wins from 2022 and the program’s best record since 2019.

Wheatley graduated from University of Michigan in 2008 with a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology. He and wife Kimberly have five children: Tyrone Jr., Terius, Tyrique, Tiana and Tamari. Tyrone Jr., an offensive tackle, played this past season for the New England Patriots.

“Many of us who grew up in Michigan grew up as fans of Tyrone Wheatley because of what he accomplished at the college level – but his legendary story begins at Dearborn Heights Robichaud, where his outsized athletic ability was on full display in every sport he played,” MHSAA Executive Director Mark Uyl said. “Michigan has produced several professional athletes in a variety of sports and nearly 50 Olympians in track & field alone, and what Tyrone Wheatley achieved as a high school athlete remains a standard few have approached. We are ecstatic that he will deservedly take his place among the all-time elite high school athletes nationally as well.”

The National High School Hall of Fame was started in 1982 by the NFHS. The 11 individuals were chosen after a two-level selection process involving a screening committee composed of active high school state association administrators, coaches and officials, and a final selection committee composed of coaches, former athletes, state association officials, media representatives and educational leaders. Nominations were made through NFHS member associations. Also chosen for this class were athletes Joe Mauer (Minnesota), Takeo Spikes (Georgia) and Dot Ford Burrow (Mississippi); sport coaches Paula Kirkland (South Carolina), Gary Rankin (Tennessee), Roy Snyder (Pennsylvania) and Ronald Vincent (North Carolina); former state association administrators Mike Colbrese (Washington) and Marie Ishida (California), and baseball/football game official David Core (Oklahoma).

For more on this year’s Hall of Fame class, visit the NFHS Website.

PHOTO Tyrone Wheatley crosses the finish line first during one of his nine MHSAA Finals track & field championship victories. (MHSAA file photo.)