By Ron Pesch
Special for Second Half
When it comes to football, Russ Maki wears his heart on his sleeve. A 1971 graduate of Wakefield High School, he’s on a mission.
As a 7-year-old, he fell in love with the sport and, in particular, with a team.
“My Dad brought me to every (Wakefield) game,” he recalled. “We lived four blocks from the football field, and I watched every morning and afternoon practice.”
Maki’s memories are of the 1960 Cardinals, and he’s on a quest to honor the team.
Football began in 1920 at Wakefield. Interrupted briefly for a national crisis, it returned to the gridiron stronger than ever – but then, until recently, disappeared from the landscape of this Upper Peninsula town. Like in other cities across the nation, shrinking enrollments have impacted the sport.
“(That 1960) team just kicked everybody's butt,” added Maki. “The players on this team were my heroes then and still are to this day. Hardly anybody in town knows they were State Champs.”
Football state championships in Michigan are decided on the playing field via a tournament these days. But that wasn’t the case when Maki was a kid.
Hence, his challenge. He would like the school district to honor the team with recognition such as a pennant to hang in the gym. So he needs proof.
The City of Wakefield proudly notes that it is located in the heart of Big Snow country. Indeed, nearby are three of the finest ski hills in the Midwest. Located in the center of town is Sunday Lake. Porcupine Mountains State Park and Lake Superior are a little north. It is beautiful country.
But it wasn’t snow, scenic waterways or quality of life that initially attracted folks to the Gogebic Range area of Michigan. Rather, it was the discovery of iron ore in 1881. The find inspired a mad rush to capitalize, and that led to the founding of the village of Wakefield in 1887. The city was incorporated in 1919.
Hop on highway US-2, head west, and around 10 minutes later, you’ll be in Wisconsin. Stay on US-2, jog a bit to the north, and in two hours you’ll find yourself in Duluth, Minnesota. A trip from Wakefield to Fargo, ND, is six and a half hours. For comparison, a visit to Detroit, with traffic cooperating, would require a commitment of at least nine hours.
So it’s completely understandable that, from the beginning, Hurley High School – located a mere 13 miles away in the Badger State – became a rival.
“The Wakefield high school football team will meet Hurley on the local grounds Saturday afternoon,” announced the Ironwood Daily Globe on October 20, 1920. According to Coach (Fred) Hackett, who has charge of the team, the boys are light and newly organized and have only a fair chance of winning the game with Hurley.”
Indeed, it was a mismatch, with Hurley trouncing the “green but willing youngsters” from Wakefield, 46-6.
“In the two weeks that the Wakefield team has been out in uniform, Coach Hackett had little time to even drill some of the youngsters in ordinary tactics of the game, much less develop a strong team.”
The schools met again in 1921 with similar result, but continued to play each other sporadically in the coming years. A field goal by Pat O’Brien with eight seconds left to play in the 1929 contest gave Wakefield a 23-20 victory over its natural rival, sealing the school’s first ever unbeaten (but once tied) season.
“A local grocery store offered a free ham to each player on the team if they beat Hurley in that season-ending game,” said Maki, laughing. “Can you imagine that?”
They became league rivals when both teams, along with Bessemer and Ironwood from Michigan and Ashland from Wisconsin, became charter members of the Michigan-Wisconsin Conference in 1937.
Hopes for a different moniker, “for brevity’s sake,” were tossed around by the press at the time. The ‘Big Five’ was pitched by the Iron Mountain News. The Ironwood Daily Globe suggested ‘Michwico’, a juxtaposition of the words Michigan, Wisconsin and Conference. Another thought was the ‘WHABI’, a combination or first letters from each member town.
Instead, as time wore on, the league simply became known as the “M-W.”
Alumnus comes home
Wakefield discontinued football for two years – some say three – due to World War II. The team returned in the fall of 1945. Ansel Anderson, a graduate of league rival Ashland and Stout Institute in Menomonie, Wis. – where he took part in basketball, track and captained the football team – guided the athletic squads at Wakefield for two seasons.
In 1947, the school hired one of its own.
Roman Charles Yatchak had starred in both football and basketball at Wakefield, earning all-U.P. honors in the early 1930s, then lettered in football, basketball and baseball at Iowa State Teachers College. He coached prep ball in Iowa, then at Highland Park in metro Detroit before returning to Wakefield. A year earlier, the Cardinals became members of the newly formed Western Upper Peninsula Football Conference, comprised of Class ‘C’ schools from Houghton, Hancock, L’Anse, Ontonagon, Lake Linden and Crystal Falls. The 1947 season would be the first during which each member played one game against all the other members.
“The squad has responded magnificently to his tutoring,” wrote the News near the end of Yatchak’s first gridiron season at the helm. Wakefield had posted a 5-2 mark heading into the season-ending contest with Bessemer, now a nonleague game. The Cardinals had faced the Speedboys on 17 occasions with minimal luck, winning only four contests since 1924 when the teams first met.
Bessemer again came out on top, 13-0. Still, the season featured a third-place finish in conference play and was deemed a success. Ten juniors were expected back for the 1948 season.
The Cardinals, under Yatchak and assistant Vern Carr, won the Western Upper Peninsula Conference title in the fall of 1948 and posted a 7-1 mark overall. The loss was 6-0 to Ironwood, an old M-W conference rival, in the season opener and was played on the road. At season’s end, eight Cardinals earned all-conference honors, with center Ed Kuivinen receiving first-team all-U.P. accolades and Bob Novack appearing on the second team honor roll.
It was Wakefield’s best mark since 1929. Yatchak’s squad finished the 1949 season with another league title and a 7-1 mark. Again, the loss was to Ironwood.
After a nine-year absence, in 1951 Wakefield and Hurley renewed their cross-border rivalry. It would continue uninterrupted until 1993.
The game was played beneath the lights at the new home of the Hurley Midgets before a crowd of 2,000.
“The Cards opened the season with a thriller but a heart-breaker,” wrote the sports editor of the school’s yearbook, The Echo.
Both teams opened scoring in the first quarter. Trailing 7-6, Wakefield grabbed a single point advantage with a safety secured late in the third by downing a Hurley back behind his own goal line. The 8-7 lead held until late in the fourth, when Hurley halfback Louis Grandelis “tossed a perfect pass to end Tony Cornolo,” who rumbled to the Wakefield 6-yard line. The play covered 51 yards. Fullback Bob Johnson plowed over his left tackle on the ensuing play for the touchdown with just over a minute to play. Johnson then “drove through center to tally the extra point” and a 14-8 victory.
The Cardinals romped over the Midgets 27-0 in 1952 on their way to their first 8-0 season. There were only three undefeated U.P. teams that year, and the Floyd Barber Trophy – symbolic of gridiron supremacy above the straits – was awarded by the U.P. Sportswriters Association to Menominee, which finished 7-0 and had won its last 15 games.
Wakefield fell to Hurley, 14-0, in 1953 and 38-14 in 1954. A 32-13 victory by the Cards in 1955 cemented the annual battle as a highlight of the schedule.
Attendance issues and stellar success
“Wakefield football teams seem to be a drawing card in every football stadium except their own,” wrote the Wakefield News in mid-September 1954. “The local populace has never really supported football as other range towns have. … This fact is surprising, especially since local teams have been extremely successful.”
In an attempt to improve local support, in 1957, Hurley and Wakefield again became conference rivals when the Cards returned to the Michigan-Wisconsin league from the Western Upper Peninsula Football Conference.
“The recommendation of the change of conferences was made by Coach Roman Yatchak to draw a larger attendance at football games,” stated the Globe. Contests with foes from the Western U.P. Conference, all 50 to 110 miles in distance from Wakefield, simply didn’t capture the attention of local fans. With the change, league contests would be no more than 50 miles away – the longest when they needed to travel to Ashland.
The Cardinals finished 3-1 in the M-W Conference in 1957 and 6-2 overall that first year. In the fall of 1958, Wakefield ran the table, ending the year with the M-W crown and a flawless 8-0 record on the season, the best in school history. Wakefield outscored its opponents 234-26.
Yatchak’s team had included 13 returning lettermen including four regulars. Dick Koski, winner of 12 varsity letters at Wakefield, was much of the reason for the success. At season’s end, he was named to the Detroit Free Press’ Class C all-state team backfield. He netted 943 yards from scrimmage and finished as the third-highest scorer in the U.P. with 106 points. Teammate Jerry Bugni earned honorable mention recognition.
(Koski would go on to star at Northern Michigan College, then coach high school ball, guiding Ontonagon for three seasons and then Negaunee for 31 more. He retired following the 1999 season with a 211-113-1 record).
Despite the perfect mark, Wakefield finished the season ranked No. 7 in Class C-D by United Press International in its 1958 season-ending prep ratings. Charlevoix was the leading vote getter in the classification according to UPI’s panel of 21 top high school coaches. The Barber Trophy again went to Menominee. Wakefield, which finished second in the voting, was one of five undefeated U.P. teams that year.
A loss in the final 60 seconds of play, again to Ironwood, was the single flaw on the Cardinals’ 1959 slate. The team ended the year ranked 10th in the final UPI Class C-D rankings.
Maki’s favorite, the 1960 squad, included 12 seniors. Ontonagon, winner of one game in 1959, dropped from the schedule, leaving Wakefield with only seven games as the season opened. About a dozen schools in Michigan and Wisconsin had been contacted in an effort to secure an opponent for the early October date. Despite Yatchak’s best efforts, he couldn’t find a replacement.
A Friday night blockbuster kicked off the season. At Longyear Field in Ironwood, a crowd of 3,000 lined the grounds on a warm, humid night for the rematch between the ’59 Michigan-Wisconsin Conference co-champs. Tied at 7-7 at the end of the first quarter, Wakefield opened a 21-7 lead as the teams headed to the locker room for halftime. Ironwood took the opening kick of the second half 11 yards to its 28, and then mounted a 10-play, 72-yard drive for a touchdown. A low kick kept the margin at eight. 21-13.
“Shortly after that the Red Devils were unable to capitalize on two golden opportunities to score following the recovery of Wakefield fumbles,” stated the Globe in its coverage the following day.
Ironwood snagged the first bobble on the Cardinals’ 32-yard line, but Wakefield held firm, allowing only seven yards on four plays: “Ironwood lost a certain touchdown when an end dropped a pass just a few steps from the goal line.”
The Red Devils grabbed the second fumble at the Wakefield 13, but the Cardinals’ unrelenting defense drove Ironwood back to the 17-yard line. An attempted field goal on fourth down sailed beneath the crossbar. From there, “neither team made a serious threat.”
For Wakefield, there were really no other major threats for the remainder of the season.
The Cards topped a strong Houghton 11 on a beautiful sunny Saturday by a score of 20-7 before a home crowd of 1,000. Again, an inopportune fumble by the hosts at their own 21 was snuffed out in four downs by the staunch Wakefield defense.
Next came conference victories over Bessemer, 40-0, Ashland, 20-6, and Hurley, 46-6. The win at Hurley was highlighted by a 50-yard interception return by Bob Orlich and an 81-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Dewey Maki that opened the second half. Dave O’Leary, Hurley’s signal caller, picked up a Wakefield fumble and streaked 90 yards for the Midgets’ only points in the contest.
With the wins, the Cardinals secured the M-W championship and jumped from third place to first place in UPI’s weekly ratings, replacing Imlay City as the state’s top team in the Class C-D listings.
Despite continued efforts, no opponent could be found for the open date. When the team returned to action in mid-October, it squared off against Iron River. A 61-yard touchdown run by Tom Miheve on the second play of the game opened the scoring. Bob Erickson’s 31-yard TD dash followed. Then Dewey Maki “streaked 58 yards up the middle” in tallying the Redbirds’ third score. Miheve capped the scoring in the fourth quarter, whizzing 57-yards for his second TD as Wakefield grabbed a 27-0 road win before 2,500 at Nelson Field.
“Roman had the same personality traits as Coach Vince Lombardi of the Green Bay Packers. They were clones of one another,” said Russ Maki, describing the coach based on observation and conversations with former players in the years to come. “Yatchak was such a perfectionist. He’d have the players run a play, say an end sweep, over and over, six, seven times, maybe more, until it was perfect.”
The coach yelled and instructed and blew his whistle at afternoon practices audible to residents of the surrounding neighborhood.
“Mothers quickly learned to recognize signs to when practice was wrapping up, and the players were headed for the showers. It was time to cook the roast beef,” added Maki. “Their sons would be home in an hour.”
The season-ending contest with Calumet was a track meet, with the Cardinals steamrolling the Copper Kings 61-7 at Agassiz Field in Calumet on Friday, October 21.
According to the Globe:
“Shifty Tom Miheve registered three markers, Bob Erickson, power-driving fullback added three more, followed by Dewey Maki, Bob Koski and Tom Neznanski each with a TD apiece. Bob Orlich added three extra points and Miheve, Erickson, Bob Smith and Pete Petramek each posted one.”
Still topping the UPI rankings after the game, now all Wakefield could do was wait for the rest of the state to finish the schedule.
On Saturday, November 5, the Upper Peninsula Sportswriters Association gathered in Iron Mountain and awarded the Barber Trophy to Wakefield. The trophy was presented to Coach Yatchak and captain Bob Erickson at a special assembly at the high school on Monday.
The Cardinals had ranked No. 35 in Hal Schram’s Top 50 teams in the state, regardless of size, published in November in the Detroit Free Press. It was an impressive accomplishment for the little U.P. squad, especially when one considered 675 schools in Michigan sported prep football teams.
It would take until after Thanksgiving weekend – more than a month – before the UPI coaches panel would announce its final poll.
Word finally appeared in print in the SHORTS IN SPORTS column in the December 1 edition of the Wakefield News, which was published weekly.
“Congratulations this week go to: Wakefield Cardinal football team for being named top Class ‘C’ team in Michigan by United Press International.”
The city with a population of 3,231 celebrated its first (and only) mythical state football championship.
The annual Fourth of July parade included a red flatbed truck, adorned with an ornamental goal post and a large banner that read “State Class C Champs.” Four players, dressed in their uniforms, stood on the bed, carrying footballs.
Yatchak’s 1961 team extended the win streak to 14 games (and 25 wins in 26 dating back to 1957) with victories in its first two games before falling to Bessemer in a heartbreaker, 13-7. It would be the only loss of Wakefield’s seven-game season.
Following the 1961-62 school year, Yatchak departed Wakefield to help develop the athletic program at newly-opened Lansing Waverly High School. His Cardinals teams had posted 90 wins and two ties over his 15 years in charge, against only 25 losses.
The coming years saw plenty of regular-season success, but no team would match the accomplishment of the 1960 squad. Mythical state titles, where state championships were determined by press polls and media input, were replaced in 1975 by MHSAA championships decided by postseason play.
“The Sunday Lake mine closed in 1961. They employed 225 guys. It was a big deal,” recalled Maki. Between the mine’s first shipment in 1885 and closing, Sunday Lake had raised an estimated 17 million tons of ore. Between 1960 and 1970, Wakefield’s population plunged by nearly 15 percent to 2,757. “A lot of people left for mining work elsewhere in Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Arizona.”
Maki himself made honorable mention all-state in 1970 as a senior when the Cards went 6-2 with losses to Hancock and Hurley.
“Dick Koski had a brother who was the same age as me. He was as good as Dick, maybe better. The Koski family left. There’s no doubt in my mind that we would have won some basketball state titles, maybe another Barber Trophy if they stayed. You just don’t know.”
The Gogebic area did see its fortunes improve, but the reprieve wouldn’t last.
“White Pine, a little town about 35 miles northeast of Wakefield, had a small copper mine. Digging deeper they found new veins of copper. All of sudden, they (needed workers). I remember five charter busses would line up near the football field each morning to take people to work there. That was happening all around the area.”
“Of the more than 3,000 workers at White Pine Copper Mine, less than 1,000 live here,” noted the Ironwood Daily Globe in September 1971. “Many workers commute great distances – some up to 90 miles each day.”
However, uncertainty and layoffs began in 1975 and 1976. Employment dropped in half or more. In 1995, the mine shut down completely.
Wakefield’s 1991 football team was the first to qualify for the MHSAA postseason and won its opening-round contest with Central Lake before falling to Lake Linden-Hubbell in Class DD. The 1998 and 2000 teams also qualified.
Dropping student enrollment was impacting athletic programs at schools across upper and lower Michigan, including at Wakefield. Between 1985 and 2003, enrollment had fallen from 225 to 100. Following the 2003-04 school year, Wakefield consolidated with Marenisco, a district located 15 miles southeast. Still, for a variety of reasons, enrollment continued to drop. In 2009, Wakefield-Marenisco entered a co-op with Bessemer for football, and that fall, the Gogebic Miners were formed. Past rivals became teammates.
The rivalry with Hurley had been resurrected in 2000 and continued through the 2017 season. That school year, Ironwood joined the co-op, supplied the football schedule and its home field for the games.
In 2018, games were played at Bessemer. With enrollment now determined by combined school totals, the Wisconsin schools on the Gogebic schedule were replaced with games against Negaunee, Ishpeming Westwood and Iron Mountain, each with similar-sized enrollments.
The Dick Koski Trophy, a new entry in the state’s collection of rivalry hardware, also was created in 2018. Awarded annually to the winner of the Negaunee-Gogebic game, it celebrates Koski’s connection to Wakefield and Negaunee.
This season, home contests are staged at Ironwood. In 2020, the games are scheduled to move to Wakefield.
Maki hopes a lesson in history may help inspire future kids, so he’s been doing his homework.
“They have banners honoring conference champions,” he said.
If all goes as hoped, a new banner could be unfurled in time to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the 1960 championship.
“I am scheduled to speak at the next Wakefield school board meeting in late October to try to get this team some recognition such as a pennant to hang in the gym,” added Maki, also noting a desire for a public dedication, perhaps during Wakefield’s annual Independence Day celebration. “A lot of people come back to watch the fireworks.”
Now, wouldn’t that be a blast!
Ron Pesch has taken an active role in researching the history of MHSAA events since 1985 and began writing for MHSAA Finals programs in 1986, adding additional features and "flashbacks" in 1992. He inherited the title of MHSAA historian from the late Dick Kishpaugh following the 1993-94 school year, and resides in Muskegon. Contact him at [email protected] with ideas for historical articles.
PHOTOS: (Top & 5) The 1960 Wakefield team is celebrated in the school’s yearbook for the 1960-61 school year. (2) An Ironwood Daily Globe advertisement announced a local store would guarantee a ham to every Wakefield player for a win over Hurley in 1929. (3) Roman Yatchak and Vernon Carr led Wakefield to its greatest football glories. (4) Dick Koski starred on the field for Wakefield before becoming a legendary coach. (6) Wakefield earned the Barber Trophy as the Upper Peninsula’s best team of 1960. (7) The Dick Koski Trophy is awarded annually to the winner of the Negaunee/Gogebic football game. (Photos gathered by Ron Pesch.)
We have our first league champions of the 2023 football season, and setups for several deciding matchups to come over the next week or two.
Explanations of many of those make up most of our “Week 6 Review” – but with playoff selection now just three weeks away, you’ll notice our attention has become focused as well on those races for the 32 qualifying spots in our MHSAA 11-player divisions and top 16s that make the 8-player brackets.
The state rankings mentioned frequently below are Michigan High School Football Coaches Association polls. The playoff-point averages are tracked by the MHSAA and used to determine the postseason fields – and discussion of movement on those lists will be prevalent through the rest of the regular season.
Bay & Thumb
HEADLINER Almont 30, Croswell-Lexington 20 Almont set itself up to clinch a share of the Blue Water Area Conference title this week or next by moving into first place alone in this matchup of co-leaders heading into the weekend. The Division 6 No. 2 Raiders (6-0) also tied their win totals of both of the last two seasons as they made another move toward potentially their best finish since 2019. Croswell-Lexington (5-1), No. 8 in Division 4, will be rooting for Richmond this week and Yale next to deal Almont a loss that would set up a possible shared league title. Click for more from the Port Huron Times Herald.
— WXYZ Detroit (@wxyzdetroit) September 30, 2023
Watch list Fenton 40, Linden 32 After sharing the Flint Metro League Stripes title with Linden and Swartz Creek last season, Fenton (5-1) clinched a share of this season’s championship and left Linden (4-2) holding out hope for a share if Flushing can upset the Tigers this week.
On the move Chesaning 28, Ovid-Elsie 19 Chesaning (5-1) can clinch a share of the Mid-Michigan Activities Conference title this week or next after stopping Ovid-Elsie (3-3) in its attempt to reset the standings. Marine City 36, Madison Heights Lamphere 13 Marine City (5-1) clinched a share of the Macomb Area Conference Silver championship with one more league game to play, sending Lamphere to 4-2. Grand Blanc 44, Lapeer 26 The Saginaw Valley Red is a two-team race with Grand Blanc (4-2) and Davison the only teams left undefeated in league play, and Lapeer (4-2) joining Saginaw Heritage with a second league loss and tied for third.
HEADLINER Macomb Dakota 31, Romeo 19 The Macomb Area Conference Red is one of the most monitored leagues in the state every season because of the powerful Division 1 contenders that traditionally emerge – and four have a chance to emerge as league champion this month. Romeo entered the weekend alone in first, but now four teams are 3-1 in league play with one game to go and co-champions guaranteed with those four teams facing off across two matchups this week. Click for more from the Macomb Daily.
Watch list Gibraltar Carlson 28, Trenton 23 Carlson (5-1) lined itself up to face Allen Park in Week 8 for some piece of the Downriver League title, as those two teams are left as undefeated in league play – although Trenton (4-2) could break things up a bit as the Trojans face Allen Park this week.
On the move Belleville 35, Westland John Glenn 8 Belleville (6-0) and Week 8 opponent Dearborn Fordson remain alone atop the Kensington Lakes Activities Association East after the Tigers dealt John Glenn (5-1) this first loss. Clarkston 44, West Bloomfield 36 After an 0-2 start, Clarkston (4-2) has won four straight and set itself up to face Lake Orion this week for a winner-take-all matchup in the Oakland Activities Association Red. The win also pushed the Wolves from 10 spots behind West Bloomfield (4-2) to three ahead on the Division 1 playoff points list. Detroit Voyageur 34, Detroit Edison 32 The Cougars (4-2) bounced back from a Week 5 loss to deal a second straight to Edison (4-2), which entered the week ranked No. 9 in the Division 6 coaches poll. The win also brought Voyageur back into the Division 6 playoff picture at No. 25 on the playoff points list after it had fallen back to No. 34.
HEADLINER Corunna 35, Goodrich 7 This has to rank at or near the top of the wins Corunna (6-0) has piled up over its recent resurgence, as it not only guaranteed the Cavaliers a share of the Flint Metro League Stars title but also handed the first loss to the No. 2-ranked team in Division 4. Corunna, ranked No. 5 in Division 5, led 28-0 at halftime on the way to its first win over the Martians (5-1) since 2016. Click for more from the Flint Journal.
A Flint Metro League-Stars collision! Both teams came in undefeated on the season, but Goodrich had a number on the Cavs since 2016.
Corunna would dominate on home turf, and take first place in the league. Final score, 35-7. pic.twitter.com/SSLb3VkGZz
— Miriam Bingham (@MiriamBingham) September 30, 2023
Watch list Pewamo-Westphalia 27, Fowler 14 After losing its opener to still-undefeated North Muskegon, P-W has won its last five and sits atop the Central Michigan Athletic Conference standings with two league games to play. Fowler (5-1) had defeated the Pirates last season to create a three-way CMAC shared title between those two and Laingsburg.
On the move DeWitt 41, Grand Ledge 38 The last two meetings between these two have come down to seven points or fewer, with last year’s Grand Ledge win helping the Comets (5-1) share the Capital Area Activities Conference Blue title and this year’s DeWitt win knocking Grand Ledge out of first place while keeping the Panthers (3-2) in the mix. Beal City 30, Evart 16 The matchup for first place in the Highland Conference went to Beal City (6-0), which can clinch with another win over the next two weeks while second-place Evart (4-2) will need help to get a share. New Lothrop 34, Montrose 8 New Lothrop’s MMAC title hopes dimmed with a Week 2 loss to Chesaning, but the Hornets (5-1) are up to No. 9 in Division 8 playoff-points average with two wins over Division 6 schools and this one over the Division 7 Rams (4-2).
Northern Lower Peninsula
HEADLINER Charlevoix 30, Elk Rapids 7 The Division 7 No. 9 Rayders (5-1) continued to roll through Northern Michigan Football Conference Leaders play, clinching a share of the league title with their fifth-straight win overall this season. Charlevoix can finish the championship outright in Week 8 at Tawas, and its final three regular-season opponents are combined 3-15 – making a fourth-straight season reaching eight wins look like a growing possibility. Click for more from the Petoskey News-Review.
Watch list Petoskey 36, Cadillac 21 There’s definitely work to do over the next three weeks for Petoskey (4-2) to make the playoffs, but the Northmen have guaranteed their best finish since 2018 – the last time they’d defeated Cadillac (3-3). They sit No. 23 on the Division 3 playoff points list.
On the move Benzie Central 31, Boyne City 24 The Huskies (3-3) will need Tawas’ help to catch a share of that Leaders title, but in avenging last season’s 51-35 loss to Boyne City (2-4) they’ve moved closer to possibly earning their best finish since 2018. Lake City 28, McBain 22 (2OT) The Trojans (4-2) defeated McBain (4-2) by six points for the second-straight season, this time helping them hold steady at the No. 23 spot on the Division 6 playoff points list. Ogemaw Heights 47, Flint Powers Catholic 9 Ogemaw Heights (5-1) ran its winning streak to five as it heads into this week’s NMFC Legends decider against Kingsley.
Southeast & Border
HEADLINER Michigan Center 32, Grass Lake 27 Michigan Center’s next two weeks will be massive, but the Cardinals earned that billing. By avenging last season’s 36-29 loss to Grass Lake (4-2), Michigan Center (5-1) upped what’s at stake in this week’s matchup with Napoleon as those share the lead in the Cascades Conference East – and with third-place Manchester waiting in Week 3 with its only loss to Napoleon. Click for more from JTV.
Watch list Parma Western 21, Battle Creek Harper Creek 6 The Panthers (6-0) also have set up a matchup of league co-leaders, downing third-place Harper Creek (4-2) on the way to this week’s meeting with Hastings for first in the Interstate 8 Athletic Conference.
On the move Jackson Northwest 23, Ann Arbor Father Gabriel Richard 14 Northwest (3-3) has made massive strides the last two seasons, and this win has to rank up there as AAGR (5-1) had dominated its first five opponents. Adrian 22, Jackson 9 This Adrian win, along with Chelsea’s over Tecumseh, gave Chelsea a share of the Southeastern Conference White title – although if Jackson (4-2) defeats Chelsea this week, those two and possibly Adrian all could share the championship. Saline 43, Ann Arbor Huron 7 Saline (6-0) held onto its one-game lead in the SEC Red and sent Huron (3-3) into a third-place tie. The Hornets finish the league schedule with the seventh and eighth-place teams as they look to claim what would be a ninth Red title over the last decade but after finishing second a year ago.
HEADLINER Constantine 50, Allegan 14 Five of six teams in the Southwestern Athletic Conference Lakeshore are .500 or better, and Constantine is leading the way at 5-1 and as one of three contenders that have started league play 2-0. The Division 6 No. 7 Falcons scored their season high in bringing some separation to the league standings by sending Allegan to 4-2. Click for more from the Kalamazoo Gazette.
— FOX 17 Blitz (@FOX17Blitz) September 30, 2023
Watch list Niles Brandywine 30, Dowagiac 7 Brandywine may be only 2-4, but the Bobcats moved up from No. 46 to 33 on the Division 7 playoff-points list by stunning Division 5 Dowagiac (4-2). Brandywine has another Division 5 opponent next in Benton Harbor.
On the move Berrien Springs 35, Buchanan 14 This win, combined with Brandywine’s over Dowagiac, put Berrien Springs (3-2) alone in first place in the Lakeland Conference – and after a 20-14 loss to Buchanan (3-3) last season cost the Shamrocks the league title. Richland Gull Lake 27, Benton Harbor 16 Gull Lake (4-2) already has bettered its record from a year ago, and with two wins over the next three weeks would post its best finish since 2009. Paw Paw 35, Edwardsburg 0 The Red Wolves (6-0) ended a 15-game losing streak against the rival Eddies (3-3) sending them out of first place in the Wolverine Conference while maintaining a tie for the top spot with Niles.
HEADLINER Menominee 44, Gladstone 26 One down, two to go as Western Peninsula Athletic Conference leader Menominee began a difficult three-game run against the three teams that entered the weekend tied for second in the league. Following Landan Bardowski among others, the Maroons (6-0) scored the most points Gladstone had given up in a game since 2017 – although Gladstone (4-2) also did some fine work offensively against a Menominee defense that had allowed just six points total over the first five weeks. Click for more from RRN Sports.
Trevor Theuerkauf passes to Aaron Brunelle for the Menominee touchdown tonight against Gladstone. pic.twitter.com/u1XZ8PGE4I
— Jack Hall (@JackHall600) September 30, 2023
Watch list Marquette 38, Escanaba 20 After playing an old rival as part of a new league, Marquette (3-2) is tied for second in the Big North Conference but more notably has equaled last season’s win total and sits among the top 32 on the Division 3 playoff-points list for the second-straight week.
On the move Calumet 17, Houghton 16 The Copper Kings (2-4) broke a three-game losing streak and now have 10 spots to climb to qualify for the Division 6 playoffs, but with some valuable opportunities to do so. Iron Mountain 55, Manistique 14 The Mountaineers (6-0) clinched a share of the West-PAC Iron championship with another big performance; they have won all of their games by at least 40 points. Sault Ste. Marie 50, Maple City Glen Lake 7 Sault Ste. Marie (4-2) bounced back from a Week 5 loss to Marquette to hold steady among the top 32 on the Division 4 playoff-points list, while Glen Lake (3-3) remains among the qualifying group in Division 8.
HEADLINER Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central 20, East Grand Rapids 0 There was notable reshuffling in the Ottawa-Kent Conference White over the weekend, as the league has six teams 4-2 or better and four tied for first thanks in part to FHC’s shutout of the Pioneers. The Rangers (5-1), No. 2 in Division 3, now share the top spot with EGR (5-1), Lowell and Byron Center. Click for more from the Grand Rapids Press.
Check out the moments from Forest Hills Central's win over East Grand Rapids on September 29th, 2023! JT Hartman's performance led to a rushing touchdown and an fumble return for a touchdown in the 20-0 victory. Powered by @lawrencetechu. Visit https://t.co/Uq6Fmk66eG pic.twitter.com/1Yp6eDpknW
— STATE CHAMPS! Michigan (@statechampsmich) October 1, 2023
Watch list Spring Lake 35, Allendale 28 The O-K Blue has five teams at 4-2 or better, with Grand Rapids West Catholic alone at the top after Spring Lake (5-1) rebounded from a Week 5 loss to GRWC to hand Allendale (5-1) this defeat. But Spring Lake also just became Allendale’s biggest fan – Allendale gets West Catholic this week.
On the move Lowell 38, Byron Center 28 Matching Forest Hills Central, Lowell also fought back into the O-K Blue race as these two join FHC and EGR as 3-1 in the league and 5-1 overall. Muskegon 49, Zeeland East 14 The Big Reds (4-2) have won four straight to start the O-K Green schedule and set up this week’s meeting with co-leader Zeeland West. Impressive as well, Muskegon’s last three opponents, including East, are 4-2. Caledonia 30, Hudsonville 0 Division 2 top-ranked Caledonia (5-1) has followed up its loss to Rockford two weeks ago with two power-packed wins, in this one handing Hudsonville (4-2) its first shutout since 2012.
HEADLINER Adrian Lenawee Christian 73, Mendon 20 Lenawee Christian (6-0) put up 63 of those points in the first half, fully justifying its top ranking in Division 2 – and the Cougars could be considered the top team in all of 8-player as Division 1 top-ranked St. Ignace joined No. 2 Mendon (5-1) in losing for the first time over the weekend. Sam Lutz ran for four touchdowns and threw for four more for the Cougars, while Jack McCaw ran for 210 yards and three scores for Mendon. Click for more from the Adrian Daily Telegram.
Watch list Newberry 46, St. Ignace 40 Newberry (5-1) has won a playoff game each of the last three seasons and is hardly an unknown – but St. Ignace (5-1) had won all but one of its games this fall by double digits, making this an even more impressive result.
On the move Brown City 60, Mayville 0 This was another matchup of undefeated teams, and Brown City now sits alone atop the North Central Thumb League Stars with Mayville (5-1) and Kingston a game back. Crystal Falls Forest Park 36, Lake Linden-Hubbell 28 With Lake Linden-Hubbell (3-3) dealing Powers North Central a loss two weeks ago, the Great Lakes Eight Conference West has a different look at the top for the first time in a while with Norway leading the way but Forest Park (5-1) also in the mix if the Knights trip up. Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart 25, Fulton 18 The Irish (6-0) have a one-game lead on Portland St. Patrick in the Mid-State Activities Conference with this win over Fulton (4-2) joining a Week 3 one-pointer over the Shamrocks as key reasons why.
Second Half’s weekly “1st & Goal” previews and reviews are powered by MI Student Aid, a part of the Office of Postsecondary Financial Planning located within the Michigan Department of Treasury. MI Student Aid encourages students to pursue postsecondary education by providing access to student financial resources and information. MI Student Aid administers the state’s 529 college savings programs (MET/MESP), as well as scholarship and grant programs that help make college Accessible, Affordable and Attainable for you. Connect with MI Student Aid at www.michigan.gov/mistudentaid and find more information on Facebook and X (Twitter) @mistudentaid.
PHOTOS (Top) Grand Blanc's Jimmy Lacy (13) applies pressure as Lapeer takes to the air Friday. (Middle) Negaunee's Ian Engstrom (5) tries to catch a pass just a little bit out of his reach. (Top photo by Terry Lyons, middle photo by Cara Kamps.)