By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Halftime of this weekend’s games will mark the midway point of the 2015 football regular season.
And the final results this Friday and Saturday could prove to be turning points for a number of teams playing for league titles all over the state.
The Week 5 slate is filled with matchups of teams tied for first place in their respective leagues, plus others pitting leaders against those in second and hoping to move up. The report below touches on many, but not all of these – tune in to the Score Center this weekend for scores and updated standings as those games are decided.
Bay & Thumb
Frankenmuth (4-0) at Millington (4-0)
The latest chapter in this Tri-Valley Conference East rivalry should again decide the champion. Millington handed the Eagles their only loss of the 2014 regular season – although these two then shared the title with Birch Run after the Panthers beat the Cardinals. Millington has won nine of the last 15 meetings, but Frankenmuth holds a slim 22-20 edge going back to their first reported meeting in 1956.
Others that caught my eye: Almont (4-0) at Richmond (4-0), Mount Pleasant (3-1) at Lapeer (4-0), Flint Powers Catholic (3-1) at Midland Dow (3-1), St. Clair Shores South Lake (4-0) at Marine City (3-1).
Detroit Cass Tech (4-0) at Detroit Martin Luther King (4-0)
This Detroit Public School League rivalry game always is anticipated, but this season more than most. King’s only regular-season loss last season was to Cass Tech, in the PSL championship game; the Crusaders then saw their season end in the first round of the playoffs the next week. However, they opened this fall by beating reigning Division 2 champion Warren DeLaSalle. Cass Tech hasn’t lost a regular-season game since Week 8 of 2012 – to King – but despite dominating four opponents that had winning records a year ago, might be behind the Crusaders in terms of generating statewide buzz.
Others that caught my eye: Warren Mott (4-0) at Clinton Township Chippewa Valley (3-1), Belleville (3-1) at Dearborn Heights Robichaud (4-0), Southfield (3-1) at Farmington Hills Harrison (3-1), Warren DeLaSalle (3-1) at Orchard Lake St. Mary's (4-0).
Olivet (3-1) at Lake Odessa Lakewood (4-0)
Lakewood has plenty of history it would like to still make, but consider this from the Vikings’ start: they are 4-0 for the first time since 1974. Those four wins tie the total for all of last season and tie the team’s most for a season since 2005. Lakewood’s 176 points through four games is more than they scored during 14 of the last 20 seasons. But Olivet certainly can dampen the excitement by winning tonight’s Greater Lansing Activities Conference matchup, like the Eagles did last season 42-9 on the way to winning the league title.
Others that caught my eye: Jackson (3-1) at Grand Ledge (4-0), Flint Beecher (4-0) at Corunna (3-1), Haslett (3-1) at Mason (2-2), Holt (2-2) at East Lansing (2-2).
Northern Lower Peninsula
Boyne City (4-0) at Traverse City St. Francis (4-0)
By the smallest of margins, this game gets top billing over two others matching undefeated teams. For starters, Boyne City won the matchup last season 28-27 – and eventually, the Northern Michigan Football Conference Leaders division title. The Ramblers then made the Division 6 Semifinals, and then graduated a significant group of contributors – but has come back to shut out two of its first four opponents. Then again, St. Francis didn’t give up a point this season until last week and is sparking statewide chatter like its contending teams of a few years ago.
Others that caught my eye: Gaylord (4-0) at Traverse City Central (4-0), St. Ignace (4-0) at Johannesburg-Lewiston (4-0), Onekama (4-0) at Maple City Glen Lake (3-1), McBain (3-1) at Manton (2-2).
Southeast & Border
Clinton (4-0) at Morenci (4-0)
Morenci won 10 games last fall for the first time since 1996 – but the only blemish on an otherwise incredible regular-season run was a 28-26 loss to Clinton that ended up deciding the Tri-County Conference championship. All four of the Bulldogs’ wins this season are against teams .500 or better so far, lining this up as again a likely league title decider – Clinton has shut out two of its first four opponents and won 31 straight regular-season games.
Others that caught my eye: Brooklyn Columbia Central (4-0) at Ida (4-0), Monroe (3-1) at Ann Arbor Pioneer (4-0), Chelsea (4-0) at Tecumseh (2-2), New Boston Huron (2-2) at Milan (3-1).
Berrien Springs (4-0) at Bridgman (4-0)
Both of these programs have enjoyed recent success; Bridgman has made the playoffs three straight seasons, and Berrien Springs made the postseason last year and two of the last four. But there’s a little more intrigue although these teams don’t play in the same division of the Berrien-Cass-St. Joseph Conference. Bridgman has never started 4-0 – and looks like the BCS Blue favorite. Berrien Springs likely will battle Buchanan in the BCS White and hasn’t allowed a point in two weeks, most recently shutting out BCS Red favorite Cassopolis.
Others that caught my eye: Saugatuck (4-0) at Decatur (3-1), Dowagiac (3-1) at Edwardsburg (4-0), Jackson Lumen Christi (4-0) at Marshall (3-1), Sturgis (3-1) at Vicksburg (3-1).
Lake Linden-Hubbell (4-0) at L'Anse (3-1)
The Lakes are used to success and have made the playoffs nine of the last 11 seasons – but are 4-0 for the first time since winning 10 games in 2009 and on pace to score their most points since 1997. L’Anse has bounced back from 4-5 a year ago but has a tough schedule over the season’s second half – and would enjoy the momentum from playing a tough opponent well this weekend.
Others that caught my eye: Crystal Falls Forest Park (2-2) at Newberry (3-1), Detroit Country Day (3-1) at Escanaba (2-2), Ishpeming Westwood (2-2) at Iron Mountain (2-2), Felch North Dickinson (1-3) at Bark River-Harris (4-0).
Montague (4-0) at Whitehall (3-1)
The season’s first half has been one of resurgence for Montague, one of the state’s most successful programs during the first decade of the 2000s. The Wildcats are 4-0 for the first time since 2010 and after going only 2-7 a year ago. They’re giving up points, but scoring more including 70 on Ravenna and 55 against Shelby. Whitehall did fall by a score to undefeated Traverse City Central last week, but otherwise navigated well a solid nonleague slate – and beat Montague 48-20 a year ago.
Others that caught my eye: Hudsonville Unity Christian (3-1) at Byron Center (3-1), Grand Rapids Christian (3-1) at Hudsonville (3-1), Zeeland East (3-1) at Muskegon Mona Shores (4-0), Caledonia (2-2) at Rockford (2-2).
Posen (4-0) at Pickford (3-1)
Pickford should be finding 8-player football to its liking so far. The Panthers, in their first season, have one more win than they earned all of 2014 and have lost this fall only to reigning MHSAA runner-up Cedarville. Posen has shown to be in a similar elite class so far, especially after last week’s 30-point win over always-tough Bellaire – and the Vikings have guaranteed tying their best finish since 2010.
Others that caught my eye: Webberville (4-0) at Waldron (4-0), Owendale-Gagetown (4-0) at Akron-Fairgrove (3-1).
PHOTO: A Detroit Cass Tech ball carrier breaks through during the Technicians’ win this season against Detroit Renaissance. (Photo courtesy of Detroit Public School League.)
DETROIT – Isaiah Marshall took a second Sunday night to think about the interception he’d just thrown that led to Belleville taking a late lead in the Division 1 Football Final.
But just a second.
When Marshall and his Southfield Arts & Technology teammates took the field down four points with 4 minutes, 47 seconds remaining at Ford Field, the interception wasn’t on his mind. Neither was the raucous Belleville crowd that had awoken on the home side of the stadium.
He wasn’t thinking about stopping a three-peat or snapping a 38-game Belleville win streak. He wasn’t thinking about the talk he’d heard during the week leading up to the game, that his team was on its way to getting blown out like so many of those previous 38 opponents.
All Marshall was focused on was doing his job.
“As soon as I threw the pick, I knew what I had to do differently,” Marshall said. “I just wasn’t thinking about that last play. As soon as I threw the pick, I just thought about it on the bench, then as soon as I came out, it wasn’t on my mind at all. I just knew I had to go down the field and score.”
Like he had all night, Marshall came through when the Warriors needed him most, leading his team on a 69-yard scoring drive, finishing the final 11 with his legs for the go-ahead score in Southfield A&T’s 36-32 victory against Belleville.
His defense finished the rest, as Dorian Freeman intercepted a pass during the final seconds, sealing the first Finals title for Southfield.
“It’s special,” A&T coach Aaron Marshall said. “It’s special for the community. It’s a long time coming. All week I’ve been getting calls from guys I’ve never met just congratulating the boys on making it. We had never even made it to the championship game, let alone won one. It’s real big for the community. I’m really proud.”
To do it, the Warriors needed to overcome the team that has dominated Division 1 for the past three seasons in Belleville (13-1). The Tigers had won the past two Division 1 Finals, and hadn’t dropped a game since Sept. 10, 2021.
They entered Sunday having outscored opponents this fall by an average of 49-7. They also featured the nation’s No. 1 recruit in the Class of 2025 in quarterback Bryce Underwood.
But Sunday, none of that mattered to Marshall and the Warriors (13-1). Well, except maybe the last part.
“Just a little bit,” Marshall said when asked if he was out to prove he was the state’s top quarterback. “I do think I’m the best player in the state. Me proving that tonight, and showing what I can do on the big stage shows that, I think.”
He finished the night completing 20 of 31 passes for 281 yards with two touchdowns, as well as two interceptions. He also rushed for 134 yards and the go-ahead score, as well as the two-point conversion that put his team up four.
“He came out there and played like I thought he was going to play,” said Belleville star linebacker and running back Jeremiah Beasley, who has committed to Michigan. “He’s a real tough player. Since we were little, he’s always been tough. He came out there and played with all his heart, and they came out on top.”
Underwood certainly had his moments, finishing 11 for 24 for 164 yards and a touchdown to go along with one interception. He also had five rushes for 39 yards.
And A&T was certainly cognizant of what Underwood could do, especially when he got the ball back with 47 seconds to play and a chance to take the lead. But by playing coverage, they didn’t allow the Tigers to push the ball down the field, and eventually pressure from senior defensive tackle Reggie Gardner forced the throw that Freeman intercepted to clinch the game.
“My coaches just told me to spy the quarterback, and whatever he did, I would go,” Freeman said. “Then it was just right in my zone.”
A&T led for most of the game, getting a pair of rushing touchdowns from Mathias Davis during the first half, the second score giving them a 12-7 lead.
After a 31-yard field goal from Belleville’s Brayden Lane made the score 12-10, Marshall engineered an 80-yard drive over the final three minutes of the second quarter to give his team a 10-point lead at the half. He accounted for 79 of the 80 yards with either his legs or his arm, finishing it off with a 13-yard TD pass to Tashi Braceful with 13 seconds remaining in the half. Braceful finished the night with 10 catches for 152 yards.
The Warriors nearly added to that halftime lead, as well, recovering a squib kick at the Belleville 43. Marshall hit Tyjuan Esper for a 38-yard gain on the next play, but he was tackled as the first-half clock expired.
Early in the third quarter, Marshall and the Warriors did stretch their lead when he threw a 19-yard TD pass to Xavi Bowman on a 4th-and-14. DaMario Quarles’ conversion run put them up 28-10 with 3:39 to play in the third quarter.
Of course, Belleville didn’t go away.
The Tigers responded immediately with a 45-yard TD pass from Underwood to Jalen Johnson. And after stopping Marshall on a 4th-and-2 run near midfield, they needed just three plays and 30 seconds to pull within three points of the lead as Beasley scored on a 15-yard run.
On the next A&T possession, Marquis Peoples put Belleville right back in business with an interception that he returned to the 35-yard line. Beasley again cashed in three plays later, with a 22-yard TD run that gave Belleville a 33-27 lead with 4:47 remaining.
Beasley finished the night with 106 yards and the two touchdowns on the ground.
“He’s a senior ball player; he did exactly what he was supposed to do,” Belleville coach Calvin Norman said of Beasley. “He came through in the clutch. When he ran the ball, he did his thing. I have nothing but love for the young man.”
Belleville cornerback Adrian Walker made one of the more remarkable plays of the weekend late in the first quarter, intercepting a Marshall pass deep in A&T territory.
Walker got both hands on the pass, deflecting it up and toward himself as he was spinning up the field. The ball went over his head and Walker reached behind his back to make the catch at the A&T 26.
Four plays later, Belleville was on the board with a 16-yard Colbey Reed touchdown run, and the Tigers led 7-6.
PHOTOS (Top) Southfield A&T quarterback Isaiah Marshall stretches for the game-winning touchdown during Sunday’s Division 1 Final. (Middle) The Warriors ended the night by raising their first championship trophy. (Below) Belleville’s Adrian Walker (2) makes a stunning behind-the-back interception. (Photos by Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)