By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Last week's MHSAA District Finals saw the thinning out of a number of favorites among the state's biggest football schools.
But many eyes will be turned this weekend to some of our smallest as they face their biggest moments this season.
The 8-player tournament is down to its Semifinals – and we kick off with previewing those this week before getting into the 11-player Regionals. But from a Regional national news could emerge – Madison Heights Madison might be the most capable team so far of potentially breaking Ithaca’s 67-game winning streak, longest currently in the country among 11-player teams.
All games below are Friday unless noted. Be sure to tune in to MHSAA.com throughout the weekend for results and updated pairings with Semifinal sites expected by Sunday evening.
Deckerville (9-2) at Cedarville (10-1), Saturday at DeTour
Only the two teams playing in the other Semifinal have beaten Deckerville, the 2012 MHSAA champion. Running backs Danny Wolfe (1,497) and Ryan Stone (1,123) have run for more than 2,600 of the team’s 3,639 yards on the ground and combined for 52 rushing touchdowns. Quarterback Dylan Pattullo has thrown only 33 times – but for 11 scores. Cedarville dominated Bridge Football Alliance rivals Bellaire and Rapid River the last two weeks to a combined score of 67-0 to make its first 8-player Semifinal. Quarterback Joey Duncan played a big part in helping the boys basketball team to last season’s Class D Semifinals and has thrown for 18 touchdowns and run for 12 this fall. Another basketball standout, Brad Causley, has caught 10 of those TD passes, scored twice off interceptions, once on a kickoff return and four times on punt returns.
Lawrence (11-0) at Peck (11-0), Saturday
Two stars of last season’s MHSAA championship run, twins Cody and Kyle Abrego, have Peck lined up for a repeat with Cody running this season for 1,879 yards and 32 touchdowns and Kyle also starting both ways and scoring four times on receptions, one on an interception and another time on a kickoff return. Teammate Caleb Dudley has run for 11 scores and found the end zone after three of his eight interceptions. Lawrence will be easily fired up to see familiar company; the Tigers were cruising in last season’s playoffs before falling 73-34 to Peck in their Semifinal. The Pirates no doubt remember Lawrence’s Derek Gribler, a quarterback/running back who again has been the team’s most dangerous offensive player.
Canton (9-2) at Saline (10-1)
Tonight will be familiar at least to fans of Canton, which reached the Regional Final four of five seasons from 2005-09. Putting the Chiefs' record in perspective makes it look even better – they faced six playoff teams during the regular season alone. Saline has tied its team record for wins in making the Regional Final for the second time in three seasons and is seeking its first Semifinal berth. The Hornets haven’t lost since August, when they fell to emerging Division 2 power Muskegon Mona Shores by a mere 31-28.
Other Regional Finals: Hudsonville (7-4) at East Kentwood (10-1), Walled Lake Central (9-2) at Clarkston (11-0), Clinton Township Chippewa Valley (8-3) at Detroit Cass Tech (11-0) on Saturday.
Southfield (8-3) at Wyandotte Roosevelt (9-2)
The Bluejays are seeking their first Semifinal appearance since 2008 after what most would argue were upsets of Detroit Martin Luther King and Oak Park to win the District title. That said, Southfield’s three losses this fall were by a combined 12 points, all to playoff teams including two more also playing this weekend. Roosevelt finished third in a competitive Downriver League, with two losses to eventual playoff teams. But the Bears are going for their 10th win for the sixth time in seven seasons and last week avenged one of those losses by handing Brownstown Woodhaven its first and lone defeat.
Other Regional Finals: Battle Creek Lakeview (9-1) at Muskegon Mona Shores (10-1), Flushing (9-2) at Farmington Hills Harrison (9-2) on Saturday, Warren DeLaSalle (8-3) vs. Birmingham Brother Rice (11-0) on Saturday at Berkley.
Lowell (10-1) at Zeeland West (11-0)
Arguably the top game in Michigan this weekend matches Ottawa-Kent Conference White co-champ Lowell with O-K Green and reigning Division 3 champion Zeeland West. The less-than-lovely weather hasn’t slowed down either team; the Red Arrows scored a season-high 49 points last week in beating Grand Rapids Christian for the second time this fall, and West has scored more than 500 points for the fourth straight season – although the Dux must bounce back from a scare after needing to outlast Stevensville Lakeshore 30-28 in the District Final.
Other Regional Finals: Petoskey (9-2) vs. Muskegon (10-1) on Saturday at Holton, Mason (8-3) at Orchard Lake St. Mary’s (9-2) on Saturday, Redford Thurston (8-3) at New Boston Huron (10-1).
Eaton Rapids (8-3) at Edwardsburg (10-1)
These two are similar to the point that this game could be done in 90 minutes – both have gotten here with tough running that runs down the clock and leaves little opportunity for opponents. Edwardsburg has a pair of 1,000-plus yard runners and is three points from being undefeated. But Eaton Rapids – under former Holt coach Mike Smith, a playoff veteran – has become something of an unpredictable playoff force. The Greyhounds are 4-1 in two seasons of playoff games after having never made them before Smith took over last fall.
Other Regional Finals: Whitehall (9-2) at Grand Rapids South Christian (9-2), Richmond (10-1) at Lansing Sexton (11-0) on Saturday, Detroit Country Day (7-4) at Chelsea (9-2).
River Rouge (10-1) at Almont (11-0)
Almont’s dominating 35-7 win over Marine City in the District Final has made the Raiders a trendy pick to reach Ford Field from this side of the bracket. Eliminating the reigning Division 4 champion will do that, as will outscoring two playoff opponents by a combined 100-7 and putting up 569 points total through 11 games. Almont will face River Rouge for the second time in three seasons after falling 44-22 to the Panthers in a 2012 District Final. Last week’s opponent, Ida, was the first to score on River Rouge in more than a month.
Other Regional Finals: Freeland (10-1) at Menominee (11-0) on Saturday, Reed City (9-2) at Grand Rapids West Catholic (11-0), Flint Powers Catholic (8-3) at Lansing Catholic (11-0).
Madison Heights Madison (9-2) at Ithaca (11-0) on Saturday
Most opponents face Ithaca not expected to win and with nothing to lose – the Yellowjackets haven’t lost since 2009. But Madison definitely faces some pressure this weekend as the team expected to come closest, at least this season so far, to ending that run. Madison runs a lot – the team has 310 rushes to 104 passes – and with good reason averaging 9.4 yards per carry. But this might be the best defense, at least on paper, in Ithaca history. It hasn’t given up a point in the playoffs and allowed only 66 during the regular season.
Other Regional Finals: Leroy Pine River (8-3) at Boyne City (11-0), Watervliet (10-1) at Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian (10-1) on Saturday, Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central (10-1) at Jackson Lumen Christi (11-0) on Saturday
New Lothrop (11-0) vs. Detroit Loyola (11-0) at Detroit U-D Jesuit
It’s been quite a calendar year for New Lothrop’s boys teams, with MHSAA championships in wrestling and baseball. Beating a Loyola football team that has finished runner-up in Division 7 the last two seasons probably shouldn’t count the same – but would still be a giant deal for a Hornets team that has five straight perfect regular seasons but hasn’t made it to Ford Field during that run. Loyola hasn’t lost a regular-season game since 2010 or given up more than seven points in a game since September – the Bulldogs’ 69 points against for the season rank them among the best defensively in the state.
Other Regional Finals: Traverse City St. Francis (9-2) vs. Ishpeming (10-0) at the Superior Dome, Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary (10-1) at Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker (11-0), Bridgman (8-2) at Pewamo-Westphalia (9-2).
Mendon (10-1) vs. Muskegon Catholic Central (11-0), Saturday at Grand Haven
Muskegon Catholic Central has certainly played up to expectations this fall, extending its winning streak to 23 games despite taking on a number of larger schools as a first-year member of the Lakes 8 Conference. The Crusaders are supposed to cruise to their second straight Division 8 title. But if they are to be stopped, it could be by Mendon. Only Columbus Hartley from Ohio has come closer to catching MCC than Mendon did in last season's 28-12 Regional Final defeat. With eight straight seasons of at least 10 wins, the Hornets surely aren’t intimidated.
Other Regional Finals: Munising (10-1) vs. Crystal Falls Forest Park (9-1) at the Superior Dome, Baldwin (10-1) at Beal City (9-2), Morenci (10-1) at Harbor Beach (11-0) on Saturday.
PHOTO: Ithaca, here against Millington in their Division 6 District Final, will look to extend its winning streak to 68 games. (Click to see more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com).
Five showdowns of undefeated teams highlight this week's Michigan high school statewide schedule as we begin our second-half buildup toward the end of the regular season.
If you're not watching in person, check out most of the matchups highlighted below, and several others, on MHSAA.tv. Check in as well with the MHSAA Scores page for all of them as they come in. (Games below are Friday unless noted.)
Bay & Thumb
Croswell-Lexington (5-0) at Almont (5-0) - Watch
Just past halfway through the Blue Water Area Conference schedule, half the teams are 3-1 or 4-0 in league play – with these the co-leaders. Croswell-Lexington hasn’t played a game closer than 19 points this fall, but did lose last year’s meeting with Almont 37-26. The Raiders, meanwhile, have won the last two weeks by seven and one point, respectively – but opened the season with three straight shutouts as the stifling defense they’ve become known for has given up only 34 points total.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Lapeer (4-1) at Grand Blanc (3-2) - Watch, Linden (4-1) at Fenton (4-1) - Watch, Birch Run (4-1) at Freeland (5-0) - Watch, Madison Heights Lamphere (4-1) at Marine City (4-1).
Westland John Glenn (5-0) at Belleville (5-0) - Watch
Belleville’s 42-3 victory over Livonia Franklin last week was the team’s 30th straight, and the Tigers now own the state’s longest active winning streak with Powers North Central’s coming to an end at 41 on the same night. Belleville’s next challenger is John Glenn, which under second-year coach Jason Mensing has as many victories this fall as the last two combined and has nearly guaranteed its first winning season since 2014. Mensing guided his former team Ottawa Lake Whiteford through several memorable moments, and this will be the Rockets’ biggest so far under his leadership.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Gibraltar Carlson (4-1) at Trenton (4-1) - Watch, Romeo (3-2) at Macomb Dakota (4-1) - Watch, Lake Orion (5-0) at Rochester Adams (3-2) - Watch, Marine City Cardinal Mooney (3-2) at Clarkston Everest Collegiate (3-2) - Watch.
Goodrich (5-0) at Corunna (5-0) - Watch
The winner of this matchup clinches a share of the Flint Metro League Stars championship, similar to last season when Goodrich won the league and Corunna was second thanks to the Martians’ 42-7 win in their Week 5 matchup. Both arguably have been even better this fall. Goodrich has handed the only losses this season to Frankenmuth and Linden, and Corunna has given up only 31 points this season and no more than 17 in a game while scoring at least 38 every time out.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Evart (4-1) at Beal City (5-0) - Watch, Grand Ledge (5-0) at DeWitt (2-2) - Watch, Fowler (5-0) at Pewamo-Westphalia (4-1) - Watch, Montrose (4-1) at New Lothrop (4-1) - Watch.
Northern Lower Peninsula
Charlevoix (4-1) at Elk Rapids (2-3)
There’s more riding here than the initial glance my indicate. Charlevoix, with a win, would clinch a share of the Northern Michigan Football Conference Leaders title – its first since 2020 and after finishing second to Boyne City both of the past two seasons. The Rayders haven’t had a game closer than 13 points since falling to Traverse City St. Francis by one in their season opener. Elk Rapids got off to a tough start but has won two straight – both in shutouts – and is looking for its first win over Charlevoix since 2018.
Southeast & Border
Jackson (4-1) at Adrian (4-1) - Watch
Jackson has a chance to set up a Week 7 winner-take-all matchup with Chelsea for the Southeastern Conference White championship – a nice jump after finishing third last season. The Vikings haven’t defeated Chelsea since 2018 but lost by a respectable 17-0 last fall. But they can’t overlook Adrian, still enjoying its best season since 2016 despite falling to Chelsea 28-18 last week. The Maples would love to hand Jackson a loss tonight and cheer for the Vikings next week with a title share possible.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Michigan Center (4-1) at Grass Lake (4-1) - Watch, Flat Rock (4-1) at Milan (3-2) - Watch, Ann Arbor Huron (3-2) at Saline (5-0) - Watch, Hudson (5-0) at Blissfield (3-2) - Watch.
Parma Western (5-0) at Battle Creek Harper Creek (4-1)
We’re halfway through the Interstate 8 Athletic Conference schedule, and this has emerged as an important matchup with Parma Western tied with Hastings for first and Harper Creek only a game back after falling to the Saxons 34-6 last week. The Beavers struggled to 3-6 a year ago but already have avenged 2022 losses to Battle Creek Lakeview, Battle Creek Central and Marshall – and Western defeated them 34-0 last season before Harper Creek went 2-1 to finish the fall. Western’s defense is a notable strength again, giving up only 37 points total this season despite taking on Dearborn Divine Child and Detroit Country Day over the first two weeks.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Paw Paw (5-0) at Edwardsburg (3-2) - Watch, Constantine (4-1) at Allegan (4-1) - Watch, St. Joseph (3-2) at Portage Northern (5-0) - Watch, Muskegon Catholic Central (3-2) at Schoolcraft (4-1) - Watch.
Gladstone (4-1) at Menominee (5-0)
This is the first of three games that will tell a lot about Menominee’s season as the Maroons enter this stretch alone atop the Western Peninsula Athletic Conference Copper at 4-0 but with Gladstone, Week 7 opponent Negaunee and Week 8 opponent Kingsford all 3-1 in league play. While this is a new conference for the Maroons this season, they have plenty of history with Gladstone as both came from the Great Northern Conference – and Menominee had won three straight in the series before Gladstone’s 28-6 victory last fall. Gladstone’s lone defeat this year came Week 3 to Kingsford, 35-12.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Maple City Glen Lake (3-2) at Sault Ste. Marie (3-2) - Watch, Manistique (3-2) at Iron Mountain (5-0) - Watch, Marquette (2-2) at Escanaba (1-4) - Watch, Houghton (2-3) at Calumet (1-4) - Watch.
Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central (4-1) at East Grand Rapids (5-0)
We’ve been watching East Grand Rapids’ rejuvenation this fall with this among games circled for special attention, and Forest Hills Central’s 15-14 loss to Byron Center last week hardly lessens the intrigue. The Rangers are still among favorites statewide in Division 3, ranked No. 2, and East Grand Rapids is right behind them this week at No. 3 (while Byron Center is No. 2 in Division 2). The Ottawa-Kent Conference White title won’t be decided with this matchup, but it surely will be impacted – and the Rangers have defeated EGR all three times they’ve met since the Pioneers rejoined the division in 2020.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Allendale (5-0) at Spring Lake (4-1), Lowell (4-1) at Byron Center (5-0), Caledonia (4-1) at Hudsonville (4-1) - Watch, Zeeland East (4-1) at Muskegon (3-2).
Mendon (5-0) at Adrian Lenawee Christian (5-0) - Watch
Movement on the overall 8-player enrollment list have made this a matchup we’ll see just this once this fall, as Mendon – last year’s Division 2 runner-up – has moved to Division 1 and is ranked No. 2, while Lenawee Christian is top-ranked in Division 2 after winning Division 1 titles in 2020 and 2021 and reaching a Regional Final last year. Still, many 8-player eyes will be watching. The Cougars have given up just 32 points this season and no more than 12 in a game, and that defense should be part of the key matchup within the matchup because Mendon is scoring 52 per contest and coming off an 80-point performance.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Carson City-Crystal (5-0) at Coleman (4-1) - Watch, Brown City (5-0) at Mayville (5-0) - Watch, St. Ignace (5-0) at Newberry (4-1), Norway (4-1) at Ontonagon (4-1) - Watch.
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PHOTO Muskegon Catholic Central and Orchard View players reach to get a hand on the ball during their meeting this season. (Photo by Tim Reilly.)