By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Just like that, the MHSAA football season is one-third over. And after this weekend, teams will be cruising into the midpoint of the regular season.
Don't let it pass you by. We're entering the thick of league races, Homecoming and rivalry games. The toughest part can be choosing which to watch.
See below for some of the best options near you. And remember to visit the MHSAA Score Center for updated scores and standings.
(All are tonight unless noted. Go to Score Center for additional dates and kickoff times.)
Bay and Thumb
Flint Powers (3-0) at Saginaw Nouvel (3-0)
This beats out some pretty strong league matchups because of a few hard-to-match circumstances. Both are undefeated, yes. But both also are reigning MHSAA champions -- Powers won Division 5 last season and Nouvel was Division 7. Both have already survived close calls, but are surging behind solid defensive efforts -- both teams are giving up roughly 11 points per game.
Others that caught my eye: Croswell-Lexington (3-0) at Capac (2-1), Bay City Western (3-0) at Saginaw (2-1), Marine City (2-1) at Clawson (3-0), Goodrich (3-0) at Montrose (2-1).
Lowell (3-0) at Muskegon (3-0)
These two have been in the conversation for best game in the state just about every week so far. That's the product of loading up tough nonleague opponents before expected championship runs through their respective conferences. Lowell is a slight favorite in the O-K White, and Muskegon is a little bit more in the O-K Black. But this game might indicate something even bigger -- the eventual frontrunner for the MHSAA Division 2 title.
Others that caught my eye: Allendale (3-0) at Comstock Park (2-1), Hudsonville (1-2) at Grand Rapids Christian (2-1), Zeeland East (3-0) at Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central (3-0), Cedar Springs (3-0) at Zeeland West (2-1).
Saginaw Swan Valley (3-0) at Alma (3-0)
Two teams kept Alma from winning the Tri-Valley Conference Central in 2011, and the Panthers are rolling after gaining vengeance on Freeland last week. They've also beaten Swan Valley in two straight, but by a combined three points. The TVC Central race has whittled down quickly, with these two and Hemlock the only three off to 2-0 starts in the league. That number will be down to at least two by the end of tonight.
Others that caught my eye: Haslett (1-2) at DeWitt (2-1), Charlotte (2-1) at Jackson Lumen Christi (3-0), St. Johns (3-0) at Owosso (2-1), Lansing Everett (3-0) at Holt (2-1).
Birmingham Brother Rice (2-1) at Warren DeLaSalle (2-1), Saturday
Raise your hand if you realized DeLaSalle has won three of its last four against the Warriors. Or that the teams' last eight meetings have been decided by 11 or fewer points. The reason that might surprise is Brother Rice's four trips and two wins in MHSAA Finals over the last decade -- DeLaSalle also has played in two Finals, but is seeking its first title. The winner this weekend will have the upper hand in the Detroit Catholic League Central, a great sign for another MHSAA run.
Others that caught my eye: Oxford (2-1) at Farmington (3-0), Oak Park (3-0) at Southfield (2-1), Detroit Country Day (2-1) at Dearborn Divine Child (2-1), Monroe St. Mary Catholic (3-0) at Carleton Airport (3-0).
Ishpeming (3-0) at Ishpeming Westwood (2-1)
This rivalry has been one-sided lately, with Ishpeming winning the last 15 meetings including twice in the playoffs. The Hematites ended Westwood's 2011 season and own a couple of impressive wins already this fall over Iron Mountain and Calumet. But the Patriots haven't given up a point since their Week 1 loss to Stephenson -- and appear due to tilt this series the other way.
Others that caught my eye: Engadine (2-0) at Cedarville (3-0), Negaunee (3-0) at Iron Mountain (2-1), Gladstone (2-1) at Menominee (3-0), Iron Mountain North Dickinson (3-0) at Stephenson (2-1).
Lower Up North
Traverse City St. Francis (2-1) at Grayling (3-0)
St. Francis is the big opponent on many teams' calendars. That goes with winning six MHSAA championships. But both of these teams were ranked in the opening Associated Press polls this week. The Gladiators have won two straight since being shut out on opening night by Kingsley; Grayling is off to its third straight 3-0 start and looks like the favorite in the Lake Michigan Conference after watching last season's title fall out of grasp with a one-point loss to St. Francis in the regular-season finale.
Others that caught my eye: Muskegon Catholic Central (1-2) at McBain (2-1), Petoskey (2-1) at Traverse City Central (2-1), Maple City Glen Lake (3-0) at Benzie Central (1-2), Boyne City (3-0) at Harbor Springs (2-1).
Southwest and Border
Portage Central (3-0) at Stevensville Lakeshore (3-0)
Four of the seven teams in the Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference West appear capable of winning it, with these two joining St. Joseph among the 3-0 teams so far this season. Lakeshore perhaps has been the most impressive after finishing second in the league to Mattawan last season. But Portage Central already has equaled last season's win total and has won five straight going back to 2011's Week 8.
Others that caught my eye: Paw Paw (3-0) at Allegan (1-2), Plainwell (2-1) at Otsego (3-0), St. Joseph (3-0) at Portage Northern (2-1), Kalamazoo Loy Norrix (2-1) at Sturgis (1-2).
PHOTO: Flint Powers senior receiver Zach VanAlst attempts to break a tackle in his team's game against Mount Pleasant during Week 2. (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.)