A Game for Every Fan: District Openers

October 31, 2013

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

A handful of MHSAA football teams always are safe to expect at Ford Field when we finish the annual five-week Finals run into Thanksgiving weekend. 

But if the record number of at-large qualifiers – 31 – or the difficulty in picking the best first-round matchups are indications, this weekend could be ripe for plenty of the unexpected.

A total of 38 teams enter the playoffs perfect for the regular season. Ithaca is riding a national-record 51-game winning streak and seeking its fourth straight Division 6 title, while Detroit Cass Tech and Birmingham Brother Rice are going for their third straight each in Divisions 1 and 2, respectively.

How they might fare this time will be easier to predict over the next few weeks. But first things first, and in this case it’s our forecast of the best District openers all over the state this weekend. (Click to see the entire schedule, with dates, times and locations.) 

Division 1

Detroit Catholic Central (7-2) at Northville (8-1)

Arguably the most competitive District in any division also includes Canton and Walled Lake Western, but Northville finished ahead of both to win the Kensington Lakes Activities Association. That doesn’t necessarily make the Mustangs favored. DCC’s only marks against came against reigning Division 2 champion Birmingham Brother Rice, and the Shamrocks have plenty of know-how in the postseason – they’ve finished Division 1 runner-up the last two seasons.

Others that caught my eye: East Kentwood (5-4) at Hudsonville (6-3), Rochester Hills Stoney Creek (6-3) at Rochester Adams (6-3), Belleville (6-3) at Saline (8-1), Canton (8-1) at Walled Lake Western (8-1).

Division 2

Southfield (7-2) at Birmingham Seaholm (8-1)

This is a meeting of Oakland Activities Association champions, with OAA White winner Southfield hoping to bounce back after last week’s loss to Red champ Clarkston. Blue champ Seaholm also lost in Week 9, to Detroit U-D Jesuit. The Bluejays have been considered MHSAA contenders since the preseason, but the Maples quietly are 16-3 over the last two years and poised to take the next step.

Others that caught my eye: Midland Dow (7-2) at Fenton (8-1), Muskegon Reeths-Puffer (7-2) at Muskegon (8-1), Ypsilanti Lincoln (7-2) at Wyandotte Roosevelt (9-0), Taylor Truman (7-2) at Allen Park (7-2).

Division 3

Zeeland East (5-4) at Zeeland West (8-1)

It’s fair to assume this won’t be much of a game – East got in with an at-large bid and its worst record since 2009. But there’s too much history to ignore. East did win their first matchup this season, in Week 2, 50-44. And after the Chix cruised to a 9-0 regular season in 2012, West upset them during the District opener. More payback would be the best way to end a four-game losing streak for East – although West hasn’t lost again this fall since that early defeat.

Others that caught my eye: Detroit Denby (7-2) at Detroit Mumford (7-2), Eaton Rapids (5-4) at Charlotte (7-2), Haslett (6-3) at DeWitt (9-0), Riverview (7-2) at Melvindale (7-2).

Division 4

Battle Creek Pennfield (8-1) at Paw Paw (8-1)

League champions clash in the best Division 4 game of opening night, Paw Paw from the Wolverine B Conference East and Pennfield from the Kalamazoo Valley Association. Pennfield has made the playoffs every season under the current format, which began in 1999 – but enters this run with perhaps its best defense of the bunch after giving up seven or fewer points in six games. Paw Paw is coming off a disappointing loss to Edwardsburg last week, but has been similarly sturdy stopping opponents – Week 9 was the first the Redskins gave up more than 14 points in a game.

Others that caught my eye: Harper Woods Chandler Park (7-2) at Richmond (8-1), Dowagiac (6-3) at Edwardsburg (9-0), Dearborn Heights Robichaud (6-3) at Pontiac Notre Dame Prep (7-2), Yale (6-3) at Saginaw Swan Valley (9-0).

Division 5

Grand Rapids West Catholic (5-4) at Portland (7-1)

Just as this matchup was tough to predict when these teams met for the Division 5 championship last season, it’s hard to read again this fall. The Raiders rebuilt quickly, with their lone loss two weeks ago to Division 3 contender DeWitt, 13-7. West Catholic made the playoffs with an at-large bid after a one-point win in Week 9 – but has won four straight after opening 0-3.

Others that caught my eye: Kingsford (7-2) at Grayling (8-1), Clare (7-2) at Reed City (9-0), Olivet (8-1) at Hopkins (7-2), River Rouge (8-1) at Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central (8-1). 

Division 6

Reese (8-1) at Montrose (9-0) 

Judging by last week’s Genesee Area Conference Blue deciding game, it's fair to guess this might not be much of a contest – Montrose ran past second-place Lake Fenton 37-0 to claim the title outright and also beat Reese 38-8 on opening night. But the Rockets haven’t loss since or scored fewer than 41 points since the first week of October.

Others that caught my eye: Elk Rapids (6-3) at Boyne City (7-2), Marlette (8-1) at Saginaw Nouvel (8-1), Schoolcraft (8-1) at Niles Brandywine (8-1), Manchester (7-2 at Grass Lake (8-1).

Division 7

Saugatuck (8-1) at Pewamo-Westphalia (8-1) 

One of these teams has reached MHSAA semifinals each of the last three seasons and both have advanced to Ford Field once during that time. And each has prepared well this season against similar or bigger foes – Saugatuck’s lone loss was to playoff qualifier Decatur and it beat Division 6 qualifier Hartford. Pewamo-Westphalia beat Division 5 qualifier Lansing Catholic and lost only to Division 8 powerhouse New Lothrop.

Others that caught my eye: Traverse City St. Francis (5-4) at Iron River West Iron County (9-0), Royal Oak Shrine (6-3) at Madison Height Bishop Foley (6-3), St. Joseph Lake Michigan Catholic (6-2) at Cassopolis (6-3), Whittemore-Prescott (6-3) at Lake City (8-1).

Division 8

Bessemer (6-3) at Crystal Falls Forest Park (9-0) 

We discussed this game at length when these teams met only two weeks ago and Forest Park celebrated avenging a 2012 loss to the Miners to this time clinch the Great Western Conference title outright. A win for Bessemer in this game would be even bigger as the Trojans are attempting to bounce back after failing to reach the District Finals last season for the first time since 2002.

Others that caught my eye: Munising (6-3) at Powers North Central (7-2), Mio (7-2) at Beal City (9-0), Clarkston Everest Collegiate (7-2) at Waterford Our Lady (7-2), Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart (6-3) at Coleman (7-2).


Deckerville (5-4) at Peck (9-0)

Last season’s champion opens these playoffs against one of the favorites according to playoff points average. Deckerville won the MHSAA championship in 2012, the team's first season of 8-player, and won two of its final three regular season games this fall. Peck is one of three 9-0 teams in 8-player and owns the third-highest playoff point average in the division. The Pirates beat Deckerville 56-8 only two weeks ago.

Others that caught my eye: Akron-Fairgrove (7-2) at Owendale-Gagetown (8-1), Casonville Port-Sanilac (6-3) at Portland St. Patrick (7-2), Bellaire (5-4) at Kinde-North Huron (6-3), Engadine (5-4) at Cedarville (8-1). 

PHOTO: DeWitt (blue helmets) and Portland met in a Week 7 battle of undefeated teams, and both are considered Ford Field possibilities – DeWitt in Division 3 and Portland in Division 5. (Click to see more from High School Sports Scene.)

MHSAA, MHSFCA to Provide Spring Evaluation Camps for College Football Hopefuls

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

March 27, 2023

The Michigan High School Athletic Association, in partnership with the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association (MHSFCA), will be hosting first-ever Spring Evaluation Camps to provide athletes with aspirations of playing college football opportunities to show their skills and abilities to college coaches at one of five locations.

The one-day camps will take place between May 15-18 at Jenison High School, DeWitt High School, Jackson High School, Brighton High School and Detroit Country Day High School. The MHSAA’s involvement will allow for the opportunity for Division I college coaches to attend, and representatives from college football programs at all levels are expected.

Athletes who will be juniors or seniors in Fall 2023 may register to participate via a link on the Football page.

“This is an attempt by the MHSAA to help our athletes get exposure during the spring evaluation period in a way that does not intrude on spring sports,” said Brad Bush, an MHSAA assistant director and past high school and college football coach. “We are working with the MHSFCA to help put together a first-class experience for the athletes and college coaches.”

Cost is $20 per player, and each registrant will receive a shirt to wear based on the athlete’s graduation year and registration number so college coaches in attendance can monitor their camp performance. College coaches also will receive registration information for each athlete in attendance.

All athletes must have a coach from the athlete’s school staff present at the camp, and that coach must be a member of the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association.

MHSFCA executive director Andrew Pratley called the Spring Evaluation Camps a tremendous opportunity for high school athletes in Michigan.

“We are very excited with the partnership with the MHSAA that allows our kids the opportunity to wear a helmet and do drills in front of college coaches in the spring at a minimal cost,” Pratley said. “College coaches are thrilled, and it's a unique opportunity to have the rules waived by the MHSAA at these events only in order to showcase the tremendous talent all over the great state of Michigan.”

The Michigan High School Football Coaches Association (MHSFCA) has been devoted to the promotion of high school football since its inception in March 1972. The MHSFCA has more than 2,500 members and provides several educational and development opportunities for members and their athletes, including an annual coaching clinic, an annual leadership conference for coaches and potential team captains, and the annual summer East-West All-Star Game for graduated seniors. Additionally, the MHSFCA’s Leadership Development Alliance is in its third year of training coaches and offering veteran members of the association as mentors.

The MHSAA is a private, not-for-profit corporation of voluntary membership by more than 1,500 public and private senior high schools and junior high/middle schools which exists to develop common rules for athletic eligibility and competition. No government funds or tax dollars support the MHSAA, which was the first such association nationally to not accept membership dues or tournament entry fees from schools. Member schools which enforce these rules are permitted to participate in MHSAA tournaments, which attract more than 1.3 million spectators each year.