By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Most of this weekend is about numbers for hopeful MHSAA football teams.
There are still a few league titles to award. Some are listed below. But much of the focus is on the 256-team playoff field that will be determined Sunday. As of this morning, 178 teams have achieved automatic berths.
Some other numbers of note:
- Only five games this weekend feature 5-3 teams facing each other. That means at least five more teams will be added to the automatic qualifier list.
- Six 5-3 teams face undefeated opponents, and 16 5-3 teams face opponents that have only one loss.
- A total of 31 teams face opponents with six or more losses, including eight that face teams that haven't won this fall.
See below for some of the most significant games being played in every corner of the state. Visit the MHSAA Score Center all weekend for updated scores and standings, and tune in to Fox Sports Detroit at 6 p.m. Sunday for the Selection Sunday Show.
(All games below are tonight unless noted. Go to Score Center for additional dates and kickoff times.)
Detroit Catholic Central (5-3) vs. Orchard Lake St. Mary (6-2), Saturday at Ford Field
The Detroit Catholic League Central title had seemed all but sown up by the Eaglets before DCC’s stunning 35-13 win last week that pushed Brother Rice out of this Prep Bowl game and set up this rematch instead. But two of DCC’s losses were to Ohio powers and it’s fast becoming the expectation for three Catholic League Central teams to make runs at MHSAA Finals.
Others that caught my eye: Detroit Martin Luther King (5-3) vs. Detroit East English (7-1) at Ford Field, Clarkston (8-0) at Oak Park (7-1), Allen Park Cabrini (6-2) vs. Detroit Loyola (8-0), Saturday at Ford Field; Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard (7-1) vs. Pontiac Notre Dame (8-0), Saturday at Ford Field.
Kingsford (7-1) at Escanaba (4-4)
The Flivvers have secured a share of the Great Northern Upper Peninsula Conference title, but can win it outright with one more victory tonight. That would appear likely as Kingsford has beaten Escanaba in 12 straight. But the Eskymos are holding onto a faint hope of making the playoffs at 5-4, and winning this one would go a long way beyond the obvious toward making that happen.
Others that caught my eye: Lake Linden-Hubbell (4-4) at Crystal Falls Forest Park (6-2), Bellaire (5-3) at Rapid River (7-1), Cheboygan (6-2) at St. Ignace La Salle (8-0), Powers North Central (5-3) at Stephenson (6-2).
Holt (5-3) at Grand Ledge (6-2)
This may be the best rivalry in the Lansing area. These are the only regular Division 1 teams, and they’ve split their last 10 meetings. With it unlikely that Lansing Everett will lose to winless Jackson tonight, Grand Ledge probably won’t gain a share of the Capital Area Activities Conference Blue title. But the Comets can continue to improve their playoff point average – and possibly keep Holt from qualifying at all.
Others that caught my eye: Portland (7-1) at Charlotte (6-2), Fruitport (8-0) at DeWitt (6-2), Grass Lake (7-1) at Leslie (8-0), Mendon (8-0) at Pewamo-Westphalia (6-2).
Thumb and Bay
Midland Dow (5-3) at Midland (8-0)
The Chemics secured a share of the Saginaw Valley Association North title by defeating Bay City Western last week, but easily could end up sharing the championship. Western plays Bay City Central, a tough foe, but perhaps not as tough as the Chemics run against in Dow – which must win to secure a playoff berth. Midland has won nine of the last 10 against the Chargers.
Others that caught my eye: Vassar (7-1) at Frankenmuth (8-0), Montrose (7-1) at Lake Fenton (7-1), Linden (7-1) at Swartz Creek (7-1), Lapeer West (6-2) at Fenton (7-1).
Muskegon (8-0) at Zeeland East (8-0)
Muskegon might’ve left a more competitive conference top to bottom when it moved from the O-K Red to Black after last season. But it still has to face a similarly tough foe for the title in the Chix. Zeeland East is seeking its second league title in three seasons; Muskegon its first since 2008, plus the possibility of home playoff games through Regionals.
Others that caught my eye: Lowell (7-1) at Grand Rapids Christian (7-1), Hastings (6-2) at Grand Rapids South Christian (5-3), Grand Rapids Northview (7-1) at Grand Rapids West Catholic (5-3), Hamilton (5-3) at Hudsonville Unity Christian (4-4).
Lower Up North
Boyne City (8-0) at Grayling (8-0)
These teams have succeeded in avoiding all obstacles on the way to this deciding game in the Lake Michigan Conference, which was dominated lately by Traverse City St. Francis before the Gladiators left the league after this spring. Grayling has won their last three meetings by at least 27 points and is going for its first perfect season since at least 1950 (the 1970 team didn’t lose, but had a tie). Boyne City is hoping for its first perfect regular season since 2001.
Others that caught my eye: Elk Rapids (4-4) at Kalkaska (6-2), Menominee (7-1) at Petoskey (5-3), Muskegon Catholic Central (5-3) at Traverse City St. Francis (4-4), Mayville (5-3) at Big Rapids Crossroads (0-8).
Southwest and Border
Lawton (7-1) at Watervliet (8-0)
Watervliet can claim the Southwestern Athletic Conference South championship for the second straight season and is averaging 50 points per game in league play. Lawton would love to get the title back after winning in 2010 but falling to Watervliet in the deciding game last season.
Others that caught my eye: Otsego (6-2) at Dowagiac (8-0), Paw Paw (8-0) at Edwardsburg (6-2), Portage Northern (7-1) at Mattawan (7-1), Portland St. Patrick (8-0) at Waldron (6-2).
PHOTO: Pontiac Notre Dame, here against Dearborn Divine Child, will face Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard in a Prep Bowl game Saturday at Ford Field. (Click to see more at Terry McNamara Photography.)
Kingsley football fans have become pretty familiar with VIP parking for home games over the last couple of seasons.
They may just start looking for a Kingsley VIP lot at Ford Field. The Stags just captured the MHSAA Division 6 championship trophy with a 38-24 victory over Almont, their second Finals championship and first since 2005.
The road to the Finals started with Kingsley hosting two playoff games, allowing great use of the VIP Parking of Trina’s Touchdown Club. The lot is adjacent to the school’s Rodes Field and provided in loving memory of Katrina “Trina” Kay Schueller, who passed away Oct. 21, 2021, at Munson Medical Center.
Those playoff games filling Trina’s Touchdown Club’s parking lot featured wins over Mason County Central 61-12 and Manistee 37-18, and 51-27 over Gladstone in the Regional Final. Kingsley then traveled down the road and defeated Reed City 37-7 in the Semifinal.
There may not have been designated VIP parking in Cadillac and Ford Field for the Stags’ followers, but there were a lot of VIPs at both stadiums with Schueller on their minds. Pretty much everyone with an affiliation with the highly-successful program or familiarity with the community’s struggles have become VIPs to the Kingsley coaching staff and many others.
Most certainly among the VIPs are head coach Tim Wooer, assistant coach Conner Schueller, his brother Carter Schueller, and his father Mike Schueller.
Conner was set to play the biggest regular-season game of his career the day after his mom passed. It was the regular-season finale against rival Traverse City St. Francis.
Wooer vividly remembers the moments leading up to that matchup, noting how difficult it was for Conner. But his then-fullback and now-assistant coach demonstrated amazing strength and maturity he stills exhibits today.
“He’s in his senior football season, and his mom is in the hospital for four weeks — he’s balancing that playing football and going to school,” Wooer recalled. “And then she passes, and he has the strength to come back to school and deliver the news to our team.
“I am sobbing watching this kid, and I’m just amazed,” Wooer continued. “The next night is Parents Night, and he’s on the field with his dad and brother without his mom.”
Conner still played, making a 4th-down goal line tackle to prevent a St. Francis touchdown. The Gladiators won the game, but Conner won the day, conquering much just to dress for the game.
The Stags went on to playoff wins over Kingsford 28-10 and Clare 32-6. They bowed out with a 33-18 Regional loss to Frankenmuth.
Conner’s junior year of 2020 had been cut short as the Kingsley was forced to forfeit its District Final to Reed City because several players and coaching staff tested positive for COVID-19. The Stags had Ford Field in their minds that season too after playoff wins over 38-13 Standish-Sterling 38-13 and Gladwin 63-16.
Conner, who celebrated his 20th birthday at Saturday’s Final, remembers his playing days and the challenges presented him.
“At the time it was ‘she’s not there,’ especially my senior year she wasn’t there to watch me and finish it out, but I know she’s watching above,” he said. “We were about to go play Reed City my junior year for Regionals, and everyone got sick and it ended our season unfortunately.”
Those challenges were on his mind at Ford Field, and running through his mind when he saw his brother and father in the stands. Carter, now a senior at Kingsley, had been unable to play football due to injuries.
“I thought about my brother – he unfortunately didn’t play this year due to his injuries, and I don’t really blame him for that,” Conner said. “I thought about him as well because it was just me and my dad and my brother now.
“It was very emotional,” Conner continued. “I got a glimpse of him in the strands.”
Carter also was filled with gratitude for the coaching staff for welcoming and mentoring him. He had become keenly aware of the amount of time coaches spend away from family at practices and going through film.
In addition to his family, Conner was thinking about many others in the Kingsley community – and other senior classes like his that didn’t get the chance to celebrate a championship.
He also was thinking about Justin Hansen, a 2003 graduate of Kingsley. Hansen was a captain on the 2002 conference championship team. He went on to become a special-operations Marine sergeant and was killed in action July 24, 2012, while deployed in Afghanistan. Hansen was on patrol as part of an operation in search of a high-value target when his team was hit with small arms fire.
On Saturday, Wooer was wearing a red T-shirt with the letters “USA” on the front and the name “Hansen” on the back. It also featured the number 54, Hansen’s in high school.
Wooer, who turned 54 in July, wore the shirt in Hansen’s memory knowing Hansen would be on the veteran coach’s mind and symbolizing Hansen’s presence with the team at Ford Field.
Wooer wants to make sure Hanson is never forgotten and reminds the soldier’s family the entire community remains behind them.
“I believe it is part of our job as a community to show our love to this family and help in any way possible to help them get through this process,” Wooers said. “After the funeral, we all went about life.
“We certainly still think about Justin and feel the pain,” he continued. “But nothing like a family does.”
Hansen’s tragic passing led to the creation of the annual Patriot Game in Traverse City in 2012 while Wooer was coaching Traverse City West. The game features crosstown rivals West and Traverse City Central every year and strives to honor veterans, first responders, active duty military, and area heroes who died while serving their country.
Saturday’s win over Almont left Wooer emotionally exhausted after all the preparations to do it right for the senior class, the school, the Kingsley community, the Schueller family and Hansen. Collectively, they’ve really become more like a family to the Stags coaching staff and many, many others.
“In terms of emotions, there is no doubt Justin was on my mind throughout the game,” Wooer said. “Trina and Conner have been – those are two huge pieces.
“And, a lot of my thoughts are with the seniors,” he continued. “You want to win the game, but also it is your last time with them.”
Wooer has learned a lot from his former players and coaches over the years. He’s become close friends with many of them, going back to his early days of coaching as a student-teacher at Elk Rapids. He also coached at Farewell and Traverse City West, the latter from 2008-2017 after a first tenure at Kingsley. He returned to Kingsley in 2018.
Schueller is among several former players and coaches who have been on Wooer’s coaching staffs over the years. Several continue today.
“I could give you lots of other stories about kids I have had,” Wooer said. “There comes this transition where they turn into such amazing men, you catch yourself every once in a while saying, ‘I want to be like him.’
“You get this huge smile on your face because you’re so proud of them, just like a mother or father would,” Wooer continued. “A coach always looks at his players like they’re part of his family.”
In addition to Conner, current assistants with long-term relationships with Wooer are Tom Kaleita, Kyle Smith, Ryan Zenner, Dan Goethals, Josh Merchant, Jordan Bradford, Steve Klinge, Connor Schueller, Mike Arlt, Larry Mikowski, Bobby Howell, Rob Whims and Jason Morrow.
This year’s seniors were Jon Pearson, Eli Graves, Skylar Workman, Gavyn Merchant, Max Goethals, Evan Trafford, Bode Bielas, Grant Kolbusz, James Person, Caleb Bott, Trenton Peacock, Noah Scribner and Gavin Dear. They and the coaching staff will be the center of attention as the community celebrates the football team at 7 p.m. this evening in the high school gymnasium.
The seniors probably won’t need VIP parking tonight. But if it would help, Conner would surely make arrangements to utilize Trina’s Touchdown Club. He’d have to add a shuttle though as Rodes Field is about a mile away from the school.
“It feels amazing — I don’t think it really hit any one yet, but I am sure it will,” Conner said. “After we won, it is truly something – it is something else I can’t explain.
“The seniors finally won it the way they were supposed to,” he continued. “It was a good class of seniors.”
Tom Spencer is a longtime MHSAA-registered basketball and soccer official, and former softball and baseball official, and he also has coached in the northern Lower Peninsula area. He previously has written for the Saginaw News, Bay County Sports Page and Midland Daily News. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Manistee, Wexford, Missaukee, Roscommon, Ogemaw, Iosco, Alcona, Oscoda, Crawford, Kalkaska, Grand Traverse, Benzie, Leelanau, Antrim, Otsego, Montmorency, Alpena, Presque Isle, Cheboygan, Charlevoix and Emmet counties.
PHOTOS (Top) Kingsley students support their classmates during Saturday’s Division 6 Final at Ford Field. (2) Stags assistant coach Conner Schueller watches from the sideline during an Almont run back. (3) Kingsley coach Tim Wooer, in red, prepares to present the championship trophy to his team including Schueller, far right. (4) Trina’s Touchdown Club welcomes members to the VIP lot adjacent to the Kingsley stadium. (Ford Field photos by Hockey Weekly Action Photos; touchdown club photo courtesy of the Kingsley football program.)