A Game for Every Fan: Week 6

October 1, 2014

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

We’ve reached October, and that means two things – league titles and lots of numbers.

We’ll cover the former by telling you which teams are winning what in our weekly Drive for Detroit reports posted each Monday. As for those piles of numbers, here are a few: Ishpeming is the first to qualify for the 2014 MHSAA playoffs because it started 5-0 and is playing eight games this season; 66 more teams have started 5-0 and can qualify with victories this weekend.

Below are some of the best games from every corner of the state, most of which will help define those league title races while giving us more numbers to crunch with playoff selection only four weeks away. (All games are Friday unless noted.)

Greater Detroit

Detroit East English (4-1) at Detroit Cass Tech (5-0), Saturday

All 16 Detroit Public School League football teams are playing in one division this season after being split into multiple the past many years. The top six contenders have begun to separate from the pack – with East English, Cass Tech and Martin Luther King the only three with perfect league records. Because of the way the schedule fell, neither East English nor Cass Tech plays King in a league game – so whichever wins this weekend’s matchup should receive a top seed in the PSL playoffs that begin Week 8. East English is a nine-point nonleague loss to Lansing Sexton from being undefeated, but hasn’t given up a point since that opening weekend defeat.

Others that caught my eye: Waterford Mott (4-1) at Walled Lake Central (4-1) on Thursday, Orchard Lake St. Mary's (5-0) at Birmingham Brother Rice (5-0), Morenci (5-0) at Clinton (5-0), Monroe (4-1) at Saline (4-1).


DeWitt (5-0) at St. Johns (5-0)

This feels a lot like the rivals’ matchup in 2010, when DeWitt came into Week 9 undefeated and dominating everyone and left with a 49-35 loss (the Panthers went on to make the Division 3 Semifinals). Once again, the Panthers are likely considered heavy favorites despite the teams’ matching records – but St. Johns has enough speed to try to match DeWitt’s high-octane offensive attack. There’s another big difference from 2010– this time, both are in the same league, the Capital Area Activities Conference Red.

Others that caught my eye: Coldwater (5-0) at Jackson Lumen Christi (5-0) on Saturday, Stockbridge (4-1) at Olivet (4-1), Manchester (4-1) at Grass Lake (5-0), Portland (3-2) at Williamston (5-0).

Lower Up North

Ishpeming (5-0) vs. Beal City (5-0) at Gaylord

Although technically neither of these teams is from the counties of the northern Lower Peninsula, this game will be played in between them at Gaylord – and could be the most entertaining game of the weekend. Beal City has finished Division 8 runner-up the last two seasons and hasn’t given up a point in the last two games. Ishpeming has won the last two Division 7 championships and hasn’t allowed an opponent this season within 26 points.

Others that caught my eye: Gaylord (4-1) at Cadillac (5-0), Whittemore-Prescott (5-0) at Tawas (4-1), St. Ignace (5-0) at Mancelona (3-2), Petoskey (4-1) at Traverse City Central (4-1).

Southwest and Border

Niles (4-1) at Portage Central (3-1)

It’s time to give Niles a look and some credit for a solid turnaround; the Vikings are 4-1 after winning two games last season and no more than four since 2003. They did fall to Portage Northern two weeks ago – but can cement themselves as a probable playoff team and possible Southwest Michigan Athletic Conference West spoiler for some other contenders by beating reigning champion Portage Central.

Others that caught my eye: Portage Northern (4-1) at Stevensville Lakeshore (4-1), Paw Paw (3-2) at Berrien Springs (3-2), South Haven (2-3) at Edwardsburg (4-1), Buchanan (2-3) at Mendon (4-1).

West Michigan

Grand Rapids Christian (4-1) at Lowell (5-0)

The Ottawa-Kent Conference White includes these two plus a Caledonia (3-2) team that beat Rockford 42-0 last week, improved East Grand Rapids (3-2), and a Forest Hills Central team that is 1-4 but beat Caledonia and has losses to teams that are a combined 14-6. Lowell already has gotten EGR out of the way, and a win over the Eagles – 35-34 winners over the Red Arrows a year ago – would solidify its frontrunner status in arguably the state’s most competitive conference.

Others that caught my eye: East Kentwood (5-0) at Holland West Ottawa (4-1), Stanton Central Montcalm (3-2) at Remus Chippewa Hills (5-0), North Muskegon (3-2) at Ravenna (4-1), Holland Christian (2-3) at Holland (3-2).

Bay and Thumb

Saginaw Swan Valley (5-0) at Freeland (5-0)

Alex Grace is up to 994 yards rushing this fall and more than 6,100 for his three-year varsity career, and as such Swan Valley remains one of the scariest Class B teams in the state. But Freeland actually has outscored the Vikings by seven points this fall – although Swan Valley also has given up only 22 to Freeland’s 83. The last seven matchups between the two have been decided by 15 points or fewer, which could make a standout runner and his offensive line the difference-makers once again.

Others that caught my eye: Birch Run (5-0) at Frankenmuth (4-1), Warren Woods-Tower (5-0) at Marysville (3-2), Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary (4-1) at St. Charles (3-2), Lake Fenton (2-3) at Flint Beecher (5-0).

Upper Peninsula

Crystal Falls Forest Park (3-1) at Felch North Dickinson (3-2)

While these two remain in different leagues, this remains one of the best annual matchups in the Upper Peninsula. Forest Park came back from a 2012 28-point loss to North Dickinson by sweeping the Nordics in two games in 2013, including 24-20 in a Regional Final. North Dickinson also is trying to avoid losing three regular-season games for the first time since 2008. Both are playing only eight games this fall, so both need only two more wins to qualify for the postseason and the potential to face off again.

Others that caught my eye: Iron River West Iron County (5-0) at Calumet (3-2), Gladstone (3-2) at Sault Ste. Marie (2-3), Marquette (4-1) at Kingsford (2-3), Rudyard (2-3) at Munising (4-1).


Cedarville (5-0) at Rapid River (5-0)
Lawrence (5-0) at Deckerville (5-0) on Saturday

It’s impossible to separate these two – Friday’s game matches the top two 8-player programs in the Upper Peninsula, while Saturday’s matches arguably the two best from the Lower Peninsula not including reigning MHSAA champion Peck and last week’s 89-point scorer Battle Creek St. Philip. Needless to say, the results could mean a lot when playoffs are drawn up and home teams for Regionals are assigned at the end of this month.

Others that caught my eye: Battle Creek St. Philip (5-0) at Webberville (3-2), Peck (5-0) at Kingston (3-2).

PHOTO: Detroit East English (in blue) fell to Lansing Sexton during opening weekend but hasn’t given up a point since that Saturday afternoon. (Click to see more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com).

Working Together, with Neighbor's Help, Schoolcraft Teams Making Selves at 'Home'

By Pam Shebest
Special for MHSAA.com

September 19, 2023

SCHOOLCRAFT — If it is a home game for the Schoolcraft football team, head over to Vicksburg.

Southwest CorridorIf it is soccer, go to Schoolcraft’s baseball field.

Things are a bit jumbled in the sports world for the Eagles this season.

With a new football field under construction and a new elementary school built on the site of the former practice fields, the two teams have been a bit displaced.

“Along with our football field, we had three practice fields that were utilized by a lot of our youth programs, Rocket football, youth soccer and our soccer and football programs,” Schoolcraft athletic director Bryan Applin said. “It’s taken a lot of understanding and flexibility from our coaches, players and our community to make it work out, and it has.”

Meanwhile, all four Eagles home football games will be played at Vicksburg High School.

If Vicksburg is home on a Friday, then the Eagles will play Saturday, including their Homecoming game this Saturday against Galesburg-Augusta.

The Eagles won their only “home” game so far, 33-14 against Kalamazoo United, and take a 3-1 record into Saturday’s contest.

The soccer team gave up its field to the football team for practices and has been practicing and playing their matches in the outfield of the baseball stadium.

For the soccer team, “It’s kind of an upgrade,” Applin said. “The soccer field they traditionally play on, they don’t have a scoreboard, they don’t have a bathroom facility, so we’ve been able to use the (baseball) scoreboard, the PA system, open up the bathroom building.

Schoolcraft’s Kolby Lloyd (10) works to break away from a tackler during a “home” game played at Vicksburg this fall. “The goal at some point is to give soccer a home, and we’re very, very excited about that.”

This year definitely has been challenging for the first-year AD, who credits Vicksburg athletic director Mike Roy with being a tremendous help.

“Mike Roy has been nothing but accommodating to us,” Applin said. “He’s been super helpful to me stepping in and assuming this scenario.

“The communities are so close, it almost feels like home for us.”

Roy said Jeff Clark, former Schoolcraft AD, reached out once the bond was passed for the new stadium last year.

“We had to make small accommodations as did Schoolcraft to make the schedules work,” Roy said. “By moving (Schoolcraft’s) games to Saturday, Vicksburg had to work with our Rocket football organization to make sure games were completed” before the Eagles varsity games.

Schoolcraft football coach Nathan Ferency said his team has been “rolling with the punches.

“These guys don’t care where it’s at; they just want to play football. We’re all taking care of each other. What a great place to be when everybody works together.”

When Jake Bailey heard the team would be playing at Vicksburg, “That got me excited,” the junior offensive tackle said. “They’ve got a really nice facility. I know the school will come out to support us no matter where we are, but it’s definitely different.

“Good thing we don’t play Vicksburg, although it would be fun because it would be both our home fields. The new facilities and being back at our home field at Roy Davis (Field next year) will be really fun.”

Vicksburg is Division 4, while Schoolcraft is Division 7.

Clockwise, from top left: Schoolcraft football coach Nathan Ferency, Schoolcraft boys soccer coach Jeremy Mutchler, soccer player Jack Curtis and football player Jake Bailey.The soccer team was “just being a team player” in giving up its own field for football practice, second-year head coach Jeremy Mutchler said.

“For the soccer team to be a team player and get behind the football team will help the community get behind the soccer team as well,” he added.

The biggest drawback is that part of the current field includes a piece of the baseball infield.

“The only odd thing is it is a smaller field, still regulation size, but smaller,” Mutchler said. “Part of the field is in the diamond, so we have to play in the dirt and it gets tricky, especially when you’re trying to throw it in or just play down the line.”

The move has cost the team a few home games.

“At the beginning of the year, we allowed schools, if they didn’t want to play here, we would go to their house,” Mutchler said. “We had to go to a few schools we would have played at home.”

Maintenance supervisor Eric McGehee was instrumental in preparing the field.

“He laid out exactly the parameters, so I was able to send that to all the ADs that were going to visit to give them an opportunity to decide whether that’s something they wanted to help us out for our home games,” Applin said. “A lot of schools were more than willing to come and play us to give our boys some home games. A couple wanted to be cautious and play on a more traditional surface, and we were able to make those arrangements as well.”

In only its second year as a varsity sport, the boys soccer team is still finding its identity, posting a 2-5 record so far.

Schoolcraft athletic director Bryan Applin has taken over the maneuvering of the teams’ home sites during his first year on the job.“We’re a very young team,” Mutchler said. “All juniors and freshmen. This is the juniors' second regular season. It’s all been a learning phase with maturity and sportsmanship.”

Junior captain Jack Curtis said he was a bit “bummed out” when he heard the team would move to the baseball field.

“The first practice, I drove over to our practice field,” he said. “No one was there.

“I drove over to the high school and saw everyone practicing (at the baseball field). I didn’t think a soccer field could fit on a baseball field.”

Curtis said in spite of the temporary move, “I’m just glad we can have some home games this year on Schoolcraft soil.”

As for Applin, he spent much of his career coaching basketball at both the high school and college levels and most recently worked as a salesman for Zeigler. His wife, Meredith, is an assistant coach for Western Michigan University’s women’s basketball team.

Ferency is appreciative of the work Clark and Applin have done to make this season’s changes relatively seamless.

“I’d like to highlight how great our athletic department is,” he said. “It takes a lot of moving pieces and parts to move people around and have a space for everybody.

“I’m really proud of our athletic department and all our coaches and kids for just rolling with the punches.”

Pam ShebestPam Shebest served as a sportswriter at the Kalamazoo Gazette from 1985-2009 after 11 years part-time with the Gazette while teaching French and English at White Pigeon High School. She can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Calhoun, Kalamazoo and Van Buren counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Schoolcraft’s varsity boys soccer team, including Nyan Wonders (15), faces Comstock this season on its field in the outfield of the baseball stadium. (2) Schoolcraft’s Kolby Lloyd (10) works to break away from a tackler during a “home” game played at Vicksburg this fall. (3) Clockwise, from top left: Schoolcraft football coach Nathan Ferency, Schoolcraft boys soccer coach Jeremy Mutchler, soccer player Jack Curtis and football player Jake Bailey. (4) Schoolcraft athletic director Bryan Applin has taken over the maneuvering of the teams’ home sites during his first year on the job. (Action photos by Stephanie Blentlinger/Lingering Memories Photography. Headshots and Applin photo by Pam Shebest.)