Playoffs: Semifinals in Review

December 16, 2011

It’s always hard to wave good-bye to another high school football season.

But stories of this fall’s playoffs will no doubt be retold a few times this winter -- especially after one of the most memorable Semifinals weekends in recent memory,

Nine of Saturday’s 16 games were decided by eight points or fewer. Two games were decided by three points, and three more games by just one. Twice, overtime was necessary to decide which team would advance to this weekend’s MHSAA Finals at Detroit’s Ford Field.

We’ll kick off Finals week with our regular round-up of the previous weekend’s playoff action – including the first 8-Player Final in MHSAA history. Later this week, we’ll take a brief look at every team hoping to finish by hoisting a championship trophy.

All eight games will be broadcast on Fox Sports Plus. Click for a full schedule and playoff scoreboard. And click here for a list of Fox Sports Plus channels in your area.

(Rankings are by The Associated Press’ panel of media voters.) 

1st and 10

Division 1: Detroit Catholic Central 23, Rockford 20 (OT) – Rockford kicked a field goal for a three-point lead to begin overtime, but No. 2 beat No. 1 when DCC running back Anthony Darkangelo ran in the game-winner from seven yards out. Read more in the Novi News.

Division 1: Detroit Cass Tech 6, Utica Eisenhower 3 – Here’s why they play the games. Unranked Cass Tech continued an impressive defensive stand (see lower in this post for more) in knocking off the No. 3 Eagles. Read more in the Detroit Free Press.

Division 2: Lowell 42, Walled Lake Western 35 (OT) – Walled Lake Western came back from 14 down in the third quarter and then took a lead, but couldn’t keep the Red Arrows from booking a third-straight trip to the Finals. Read more in the Grand Rapids Press.

Division 2: Birmingham Brother Rice 27, Detroit Martin Luther King 26 – The Crusaders fought back from an early 21-0 deficit, and Brother Rice scored all of its points during the first half. But the Warriors held on twice at the end – once on a two-point conversion try that would’ve given King the lead, and then once more on the Crusaders’ final possession. Read more from the Oakland Press.

Division 3: Mount Pleasant 38, East Grand Rapids 37 – The Oilers were probably thinking less about EGR’s 28-game playoff winning streak and more about how the Pioneers had knocked them out of the playoffs two of the last three seasons. Now, Mount Pleasant can focus on playing in its first MHSAA Final. Read more in the Mount Pleasant Morning Sun.

Division 5: Lansing Catholic 42, Grand Rapids West Catholic 35 – The teams exchanged shots until just about the end, with this season’s No. 1 taking down the reigning champion despite trailing twice during the first half. Read more in the Lansing State Journal.

Division 6: Constantine 45, Ecorse 44 – The Falcons have shown they are tough to stop when it matters most, winning their third playoff game by seven or fewer points to advance to their first Final since 2004. Read more in the Sturgis Journal.

Division 7: Pewamo-Westphalia 22, Hudson 14 – The Pirates, making their second Semifinal appearance ever, earned their first Finals berth by ending the 26-game winning streak of the reigning champion Tigers. Read more from the Lansing State Journal.

Division 8: Mendon 34, New Lothrop 13 – The No. 3 Hornets had given up 47 points over their first 12 games, but top-ranked Mendon nearly doubled that while holding a New Lothrop offense averaging 52 points to just a pair of touchdowns. Read more in the Sturgis Journal.

8-Player Final: Carsonville-Port Sanilac 59, Rapid River 20 – It’s arguable what was more impressive – the Tigers’ offensive might, or that its defense held Rapid River scoreless in the second half of the first-ever MHSAA 8-player Final. Read more in the “First Pitch” at MHSAA.com.

Numbers Game

16 – Number of points Detroit Cass Tech has given up during the postseason, including three to Utica Eisenhower in Saturday’ 6-3 victory. The Technicians have held opponents to seven or fewer points in nine of 13 games this fall.

34 – Number of minutes Constantine held onto the ball – and kept Ecorse’s offense off the field – in a 45-44 Division 6 win.

901 – Number of yards, combined, put up by Carsonville-Port Sanilac and Rapid River in the inaugural 8-player Football Final.

324 – Passing yards by Carsonville-Port Sanilac quarterback Hayden Adams, who likely will be remembered as this state’s first 8-player star. Five of his 12 completions went for touchdowns, and he also ran for 130 yards and two scores. 

More Fantastic Finishes

Division 3: Orchard Lake St. Mary 14, Battle Creek Harper Creek 10 – They were tied going into the fourth quarter. Harper Creek added a go-ahead field goal – and then St. Mary’s Grant Niemiec scored on an 11-yard run with 49 seconds left to take the final lead.

Division 4: Zeeland West 30, Comstock Park 6 – The Dux moved to 13-0 to tie the school record for wins and make a second MHSAA Final – in just seven seasons of existence.

Division 4: Marine City 45, Grosse Ile 6 – The Mariners shut down Grosse Ile until the final five minutes of the game to earn their second Finals berth in five seasons.

Division 5: Flint Powers Catholic 27, Almont 10 – Why they play the games, Part II. Powers is the latest to make the rare trek from 5-4 qualifier to potential MHSAA champion after taking out Nos. 2 and, most recently, 4 from the final AP regular-season poll.

Division 6: Ithaca 28, Iron Mountain 0 – The Yellowjackets returned to the Superior Dome and beat Iron Mountain for the second straight season to advance to Detroit.

Division 7: Saginaw Nouvel 14, Traverse City St. Francis 3 – The Panthers’ defense also has been awesome during this postseason, giving up just 23 points over four games.

Division 8: Fowler 45, St. Ignace La Salle 8 – The Eagles have gone from losing their coach the weekend before practice began in 2010 to making their first Final since winning Class D in 1998.

Up Next: MHSAA 11-player Finals

FRIDAY

Division 8: Mendon (13-0) vs. Fowler (11-2), 10 a.m. – These are two of the most storied small-school programs in state history, both ranking among the top 14 in the state in winning percentage since 1950 according to Michigan-football.com. Mendon was expected to be here, but surprise Fowler has been to this point plenty of times as well.

Division 2: Birmingham Brother Rice (9-4) vs. Lowell (12-1), 1 p.m. – Brother Rice’s tough schedule always gives it a decent shot of making the playoff field even at 5-4, but getting to the Final after coming in with that record is new ground for the Warriors (they made the Semifinals in 2009 after entering 5-4). Lowell was just about everyone’s pick to get this far – and will try to make it two titles in three seasons after losing in the 2010 championship game.

Division 6: Constantine (11-2) vs. Ithaca (13-0), 4:30 p.m. – Constantine’s 1-2 start is a distant memory as the Falcons go for their first championship in seven seasons. Ithaca made its first Final just a year ago, but can further its reputation as an elite power but claiming two titles in a row and extending its winning streak to 28.

Division 4: Marine City (13-0) vs. Zeeland West (13-0), 7:30 p.m. – It’s rare for the combination of bracket assignments and rankings to play out like this, but Marine City entered the postseason No. 1 and Zeeland West No. 2. The Mariners last won a championship in 2007, but have the chance to also finish 14-0 this time. Same story as the Dux try to improve just that little bit on their 2006 title run. 

SATURDAY

Division 7: Pewamo-Westphalia (13-0) vs. Saginaw Nouvel (12-0), 10 a.m. – The Panthers are going for their third MHSAA championship in six seasons and have no problem raising their game; not counting two against Canadian teams, Nouvel played 10 games this season against teams that qualified for the playoffs. P-W joins Fowler as finalists from the Central Michigan Athletic Conference, and is led by a senior class that might be one of the best in the program’s successful history.

Division 1: Detroit Cass Tech (10-3) vs. Detroit Catholic Central (12-1), 1 p.m. – The Technicians seemingly have been building toward this weekend after making their first Semifinal appearance in 2010, and after losing by three in that game before going on to win by three in last week’s semi. Now they get the Shamrocks, who can move into a third-place tie with 11 MHSAA football championships.

Division 5: Flint Powers Catholic (9-4) vs. Lansing Catholic (13-0), 4:30 p.m. – The Cougars defeated Powers 37-17 in Week 2, but it’s fair to say much has changed. The Chargers haven’t given up that many points in a game since – but Lansing Catholic also hasn’t scored that few.

Division 3: Mount Pleasant (13-0) vs. Orchard Lake St. Mary (11-2), 7:30 p.m. – The Eaglets lost the last two Finals to East Grand Rapids by eight and three points, respectively. No matter what happens in this finale, there will be a new Division 3 champion for the first time in five seasons.

(Photo courtesy of Sharon Weber via the Lansing State Journal.)

Record-Setting Viney Gained Lifelong Confidence at Marine City

By Paul Costanzo
Special for MHSAA.com

July 17, 2024

Olivia Viney didn’t have to look far for inspiration while taking on the challenge of applying to veterinary school.

Made In Michigan and Michigan Army National Guard logosThe 2015 Marine City graduate and record-setting placekicker simply drew from her own experience as a high school athlete.

“It just really taught me that I could do hard things,” Viney said. “I was very involved when I was in school. I did soccer, theater, travel soccer and then football. Especially with football, I learned that if I put my mind to it, I can do it. That helped me to excel in undergrad. When it came time to get accepted to vet school, it was like, ‘This is what I have to do,’ and I did it. That was very confidence-building. It taught me that I really can do hard things.”

Viney, who graduated from Saginaw Valley State University in 2019 and Michigan State Veterinary School in 2023, is now working as an associate veterinarian at Deporre Veterinary Hospital in West Bloomfield. 

Accomplishing her goals is nothing new to Viney, and not at all a surprise to those who watched her come through the Mariners athletic program.

“She was very serious, she was focused and she was dialed in,” said Dave Frendt, who coached Viney in both football and soccer at Marine City. “She knew what she wanted to accomplish, and she set out to do that. She was a fierce competitor and very driven. She was a good leader in that way where she was kind of feisty, but the team would follow that.”

Viney was an all-state soccer player for the Mariners, leading them to a pair of District titles and a Macomb Area Conference Gold title during her four years as a varsity player. It’s the sport she grew up playing, but the one she was most known for after graduation was football. American football.

The 5-foot-1-ish center attacking midfielder found herself in the MHSAA football record book after hitting all seven of her extra point attempts in the Mariners’ 2013 Division 4 Final victory against Grand Rapids South Christian.

“I think it makes sense,” she said. “There were lots of great soccer players, even that I played with. Great players that had gone through school, so I don’t think it’s weird that people remember me for that. When I talk with people, they’ll connect the dots – ‘Oh, you played football.’

“I was more accomplished as a soccer player and had more accolades. But I’m prouder of my football accomplishments, because it was really setting a pathway for girls that wanted to get into that. It’s so much more common now, or accepted. Even though it’s been almost 11 years since we won at Ford Field, I’m so proud of high school Olivia and what she did, the courage she had. She wasn’t scared of anything.”

Viney graduated from MSU’s Veterinary School in 2023. Viney joined Marine City’s football program as a sophomore, playing on the junior varsity squad. While she was there only to kick, she was all in when it came to practicing.

“Coach (Joe) Fregetto made me do tackling drills and drills in the mud – I really did earn my spot on the team,” Viney said. “I think it was mostly because he didn’t know what to do with me, so I guess just do everything that the guys do.”

She handled varsity kicking duties the next two years, setting the school record in 2013 for most extra points made during a single season – a record that still stands. Former Mariners coach Ron Glodich said that Viney actually never missed an extra point that season, as the four failed attempts were never even kicked.

It was her performance in the Division 4 Final that gained her statewide acclaim, as she hit 7 of 7 attempts, tying a record for most extra points made in a Finals game. It stood until a pair of kickers hit eight in 2022.

One record that never will be broken, however, is Viney becoming the first female to score a point at the Finals.

“Everything was so surreal, I was so nervous,” Viney said. “One of my most vivid memories was that day, or maybe the day before, Coach Glodich said, ‘Just so you know, when you get to the field, the goal posts are two feet narrower on each side. But that doesn’t matter if you kick it in the middle.’

“We got there and watched the team before us so we could get used to it, and I remember thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, they’re so narrow.’ … Seeing myself up on the big screen was kind of almost a little embarrassing, because I knew people were talking about me being the girl. But once we were in the game, it was a lot like any other game. I was just waiting for my turn to go on the field and do my job.”

Viney later was featured in Sports Illustrated’s “Faces in the Crowd” – ironically, right below current U.S. Women’s National Team forward Mallory Pugh – but she wasn’t looked at any differently by her teammates, and she wouldn’t have wanted to be.

“That team was all about sacrifice for the team,” Frendt said. “For them to realize, ‘None of us can do what she does, so we better embrace it, because no one else can do it.’ They really made her feel like part of the team. They wanted to protect her, too. But she was tough. She wasn’t going to take anything.”

Viney went to SVSU to study biology and played for its club soccer team. During her time there, she volunteered at an animal shelter and made the decision she wanted to help animals in her career. She works in general practice at Deporre, and would eventually like to work in shelter medicine.

She and her husband Matt, who were married in May, live with their three dogs. She’s not far from home, and in the spring of 2023 she visited Frendt’s college and career readiness class to speak with students at her alma mater. Her presentation and the attention to detail and hard work she put into it, Frendt said, blew his students away. Not that it surprised him.

“That’s poured into her life after sports,” he said of her work ethic. “She just kept plugging away. She’s awesome.”

July 11: High School 'Hoop Squad' Close to Heart as Hughes Continues Coaching Climb - Read
July 10: 
Nightingale Embarking on 1st Season as College Football Head Coach - Read
June 28:
 E-TC's Witt Bulldozing Path from Small Town to Football's Biggest Stage - Read

PHOTOS (Top) Marine City’s Olivia Viney kicks at the 2013 11-Player Football Finals, also during her spring soccer season, and cares for one of her patients as an associate veterinarian. (Middle) Viney graduated from MSU’s Veterinary School in 2023. (Photos courtesy of Olivia Viney.)