By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Time is running out on the 2012 MHSAA football season.
And that's why it's the favorite time of year for fans all over the state.
The field that began with 272 teams has been cut in half. Seven teams that entered the postseason undefeated suffered their first and only losses last week. And for a number of other contenders, things are about to get much more serious as the matchups get tougher and the first playoff trophies are handed out.
Four games again will be streamed live on FoxSportsDetroit.com's Prep Zone: Constantine at Schoolcraft, Traverse City Central at Midland, Macomb L'Anse Creuse North at Macomb Dakota and Plymouth at Livonia Churchill.
Below are some of the District Finals that could have the most bearing on championship races in each division. Visit the MHSAA Score Center for game times and dates, and all weekend for updated scores and standings.
Plymouth (8-2) at Livonia Churchill (10-0)
This is a rematch of the deciding game in the Kensington Lakes Activities Association South, although Livonia Churchill’s 35-31 win came all the way back in Week 3. The Wildcats rebounded nicely off a Week 9 loss to Grand Blanc with a 40-28 win over Canton last week, while the Chargers, with their 10th win, extended their best season in program history.
Others that caught my eye: Holland West Ottawa (8-2) at Rockford (8-2), Utica Eisenhower (8-2) at Lake Orion (9-1), Grand Blanc (6-4) at Clarkston (10-0).
Lowell (8-2) at Muskegon (9-1)
When these two met in Week 4, they were considered the top two teams in Division 2. They’re still among the elite despite a few bumps since, but Lowell might have an upward battle to keep its string of three straight MHSAA championship game appearances alive. The reigning Division 2 runner-up fell to the Big Reds 36-21 in that earlier meeting.
Others that caught my eye: Traverse City Central (9-1) at Midland (10-0), Walled Lake Western (7-3) at Mattawan (9-1), Wyandotte Roosevelt (9-1) at Taylor Truman (9-1).
Auburn Hills Avondale (9-1) at Orchard Lake St. Mary (8-2)
Avondale has its most wins since 1995 and won the Oakland Activities Association Blue championship before surviving with a two-point rematch win over Bloomfield Hills Lahser last week. The last time these two met turned into one of the wildest games of the 2010 playoffs – a 71-44 Eaglets win in the District Final. Beating St. Mary this time would give Avondale arguably its best playoff victory ever.
Others that caught my eye: DeWitt (8-2) at Linden (9-1), Zeeland West (7-3) at Grand Rapids Christian (9-1), Detroit East English (8-2) at St. Clair (9-1).
Richmond (7-3) at Croswell-Lexington (10-0)
Richmond has come back after two straight losing seasons to return to the playoffs, but has to be smarting a bit after missing out on the Blue Water Conference title by a combined 11 points over three losses. The first was to Croswell-Lexington, 27-24 in Week 2, and the Pioneers have won every game but one since by at least 15 points.
Others that caught my eye: Comstock Park (9-1) at Grand Rapids Catholic Central (10-0), Grand Rapids South Christian (7-3) at Dowagiac (10-0), Detroit Country Day (8-2) at Pontiac Notre Dame Prep (9-1).
Frankenmuth (10-0) at Flint Powers Catholic (10-0)
This is the Eagles’ best run since making a Class B Semifinal in 1997 and has included its first league title since 2007. Frankenmuth is outscoring opponents by an average of 34-7. But reigning MHSAA champion Powers has won 18 straight games and has been one of the most impressive teams in the state all season.
Others that caught my eye: Kingsford (9-1) at Menominee (9-1), Grand Rapids West Catholic (7-3) at Muskegon Oakridge (10-0), Lake Fenton (8-2) at Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard (9-1).
Millington (9-1) at Montrose (9-1)
Montrose got the scare of its season in the District Semifinal before edging Vassar 7-6. Millington had a much better time last week, cruising to a 66-18 win over Byron, the Cardinals' fourth straight game scoring at least 60 points. That sounds like bad news for the Rams, but consider: Montrose is giving up 14 points per game, and has faced five playoff teams including a pair still alive in Divisions 4 and 5.
Others that caught my eye: Constantine (8-2) at Schoolcraft (10-0), Detroit Consortium (7-3) at Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central (8-2), Hemlock (9-1) at Ithaca (10-0).
Saginaw Nouvel (8-2) at Reese (10-0)
The Rockets have a strong football tradition, and this is their fourth season with at least 10 wins over the last 13. But beating the reigning MHSAA champion would add another degree of credibility to an already impressive run. The Panthers played teams from all over the Lower Peninsula again this fall, with their only losses to Flint Powers and Traverse City St. Francis.
Others that caught my eye: Mancelona (10-0) at Ishpeming (9-1), Decatur (8-2) at Lawton (9-1), Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett (8-2) at Detroit Loyola (10-0).
Climax-Scotts (10-0) at Mendon (10-0)
This might be the most anticipated game in the state this weekend. Mendon has been untouchable the last two seasons and is riding a 24-game winning streak. There were two close calls over the last three weeks, and Climax-Scotts is built to provide another. This is the Panthers’ fourth straight season with at least 10 wins, and their ninth over the last decade. But Mendon beat Climax-Scotts 35-10 in last season’s Regional Final.
Others that caught my eye: Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart (9-1) at Beal City (10-0), Muskegon Catholic Central (7-3) at Fowler (9-1), Harbor Beach (9-1) at New Lothrop (10-0).
Rapid River (9-1) at Cedarville (10-0)
Cedarville entered the postseason with the highest playoff point average in this division, and this game will be a big step regardless of what happened the first time these teams met this fall. Rapid River finished runner-up in last season’s inaugural Final, and should give the Trojans a much better game than the Cedarville's 72-12 win on Sept. 28.
Other Regional Finals: Owendale-Gagetown (8-2) at Bellaire (7-3), Kinde-North Huron (6-4) at Deckerville (9-1), Battle Creek St. Philip (7-3) at Portland St. Patrick (10-0).
PHOTO: Montrose survived a tough challenge from Vassar to win last week's District Semifinal, 7-6. (Click to see more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com).
Caryn Jackson said it “started to hit her” at about noon, some seven hours before kickoff.
An official for football games at both the high school level in Michigan and the college level for the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, Jackson started to fully realize what a special event she was about to participate in.
Jackson was assigned to be the head line judge for the Waterford Kettering at Detroit Lincoln-King varsity game last Thursday at Detroit Mercy, but this was a different assignment than any other.
In addition to Jackson, there were four more women to form what’s believed to be the first all-female officiating crew for a varsity football game in state history.
With that in mind, Jackson posted what was about to happen on her X (Twitter) feed hours before the game.
“It had 23,000 engagements in an hour,” Jackson said.
And all this happened without any retweets from her daughter Rikea Jackson, the 2019 Miss Basketball Award winner at Detroit Edison who plays for Tennessee and has over 10,000 followers.
The football game arrived, and right away spectators sensed they were watching history unfold.
The crew of Jackson, referee Nicole Randolph, line judge Delonda Little, umpire RanDee Henry and back judge Kamaria Douglas made history and inspired others during a night that should be impactful for a long time.
And this also wasn’t the first time they’ve led in the officiating world.
Randolph is a Big Ten football official. As noted above, Jackson officiates Division II college football. Douglass, Little and Henry all are college basketball officials as well, and Little in March became the first woman to officiate an MHSAA Boys Basketball Final since 1995 when she refereed the Division 3 championship game at Breslin Center.
Here are thoughts from all five about their unforgettable evening on the football field:
Kamaria Douglas: “It was very well-received, which was an even better feeling,” she said. “There were a lot of people, whether we were in the parking lot afterward or just chit-chatting, who wanted to take pictures. People gave us kudos and flowers and said we did a nice job. It’s one thing to get an opportunity, but also to go out there and do a good job. They want to see more of it. Waterford Kettering’s coach said he was the father of three girls, so it just warmed his heart. He came over and got a picture with us, which was really cool.”
RanDee Henry: “This game, although historic, was even more amazing because I got to do it with friends,” she said. “All of these women have strong friendships on and off the field, making this moment even more amazing and monumental.”
Very honored and proud for the Waterford Kettering Football program for being part of MHSAA history with the first ever all female group of officials for our game. Congrats to all five of them. @WKFootball1 @WKHSCaptains @WSDATHLETICS @MHSAA @michiganhsfca pic.twitter.com/HJvtEMSnXA
— Coach Bob Chiesa (@ChiesaBob) September 22, 2023
Caryn Jackson: “For my children, I always tell them to leave your mark wherever you go and whatever you do,” she said. “Be a part of history. Who knew I would be refereeing high school, let alone doing it with all women? It feels good when I walk the football field and people are cheering just because they see a woman. People say ‘I’m glad you’re here, ref.’ I’ve had young boys walk up to me and shake my hand and say thank you for making history, and that you’re the first female official I have had. That stuff makes me feel good. To do it alongside four other women, that was amazing.”
Delonda Little: “Women are breaking barriers, and it’s nice to be acknowledged and to have some gender equality out there,” she said. “We all felt good to get the support during the game from the coaches and the fans. Both coaches told us we did a great job. Coaches wanted to take pictures with us to be a part of the historical moment. Fans as we were leaving told us we did a good job.”
Little continued: “Women, we still have a long way to go. But it’s good we are getting the acknowledgment we deserve. There should be gender equality.”
Nicole Randolph: “The players kind of got the adrenaline going,” she said. “I was already a little nervous going into the day because it was really happening. When I got to the field, I was calm, cool and collected. When we all walked onto the field, the players were excited, and the coaches were excited. They asked for pictures and said they wanted to take pictures at the end of the game because they had never seen this many female officials at a game.”
Randolph continued: “We went in and said ‘Hey girls, this a great opportunity. Let’s make the best of it so we can continue to open the doors for other young ladies to continue to aspire (in) our footsteps.’”
PHOTO Thursday's crew at Detroit Mercy, from left: head line judge Caryn Jackson, umpire RanDee Henry, referee Nicole Randolph, line judge Delonda Little and back judge Kamaria Douglas. (Courtesy photo.)