By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
A few scenarios remain unique to high school football’s opening weekend, the newest of which begins again tonight all over Michigan.
If the casual fan with no ties to a particular team is going to check out a game, this is probably the time.
And while there are great matchups and major storylines all nine weeks of the regular season, this first one features so many that East Grand Rapids vs. Grand Rapids Catholic Central – which eventually could be remembered as one of the best games in the state this entire season – arguably isn’t the biggest this weekend in the Grand Rapids area alone.
Each week, Second Half will give you an idea of top games to watch near your community, or the extended surrounding area.
I’ve broken down the state into seven regions – hopefully you’ll be able to figure out which is where by the nicknames, or at least the games I’ve listed under each. I’ve done so by where the game will be played.
Click on Score Center to see game dates and times, and after the clocks run out, final scores from all over the state.
Detroit Cass Tech vs. Birmingham Brother Rice
This Saturday night matchup is the final game of the Prep Kickoff Classic at Wayne State, which will host six Detroit-area matchups on opening weekend. And it will be tough for any game before November at Ford Field to match the prestige of this opener featuring the reigning MHSAA Division 1 and 2 champions. The last time Cass Tech quarterback Jayru Campbell dressed for the Technicians, he threw five touchdown passes as a freshman in last fall’s Division 1 Final win over Detroit Catholic Central. Brother Rice quarterback Cheyne Lacanaria also is back after leading the Warriors to the Division 2 title, although they must replace graduated standout running back Devin Church. But Brother Rice can counter Campbell and an offense loaded with Division I college prospects with linebacker Jon Reschke, who has committed to Michigan State.
Others that caught my eye: Midland at Canton, Dearborn Fordson at Macomb Dakota, Warren DeLaSalle at Ann Arbor Pioneer, Bloomfield Hills Andover at Bloomfield Hills Lahser, Rochester Adams at Clarkston.
Southwest and Border
Battle Creek Central at Kalamazoo Central
This is one of the longest-running football rivalries in MHSAA history and will move into a tie for eighth all-time with this 109th straight meeting. Battle Creek Central leads the series 59-45-4, although Kalamazoo Central won 28-22 last fall. The Bearcats are hoping to open with their first win since 2010, while the Maroon Giants have gone 4-5 in each of the last four seasons and hope to push for their first playoff berth since 2004.
Others that caught my eye: Carleton Airport at Adrian, St. Joseph at Marshall, Portage Central at Battle Creek Harper Creek.
Pewamo-Westphalia at Lansing Catholic
While the Saturday night game in Detroit features two teams that won titles at Ford Field last season, this matchup features two teams that finished as runners-up in their respective divisions – Division 7 and Division 5 – and are hoping to get back to Detroit with much different lineups. Both graduated standout quarterbacks and their best defenders from 2011, but both also will test new players early and often against top competition. Each plays in a tough league and will also face a reigning MHSAA champion later this fall. The Cougars get Division 7 champ Saginaw Nouvel next week, and the Pirates finish the regular season against Division 8 winner Mendon.
Others that caught my eye: Brighton at Novi, Jackson Lumen Christi at Chelsea, Mount Pleasant at DeWitt, Mendon at Fowler.
Lowell at Rockford
Last season, these two renewed a rivalry that previously had ended in 1973, before the playoff era had begun. These days, the Red Arrows and Rams are two of the state’s annual elite. Lowell won the 2011 game 28-7 on the way to its sixth straight season with at least 10 victories and the runner-up finish in Division 2. But Rockford won 11 straight after last season’s loss, and similarly has won at least that many games in seven of the last eight seasons.
Others that caught my eye: Grand Rapids Catholic Central at East Grand Rapids, Holt at Hudsonville, Orchard Lake St. Mary at Muskegon.
Bay and Thumb
Richmond at Marine City
New Marine City coach Ronald Glodich begins a new era but with hopes of similar success as had by retired coach Anthony Scarcelli, who led the Mariners to eight straight seasons of at least 10 wins and last season’s Division 4 runner-up finish. But Glodich will start with an immediate test in Richmond, which is coming off two straight losing seasons but improved by three wins from 2010 to 2011 and before the down streak made the playoffs 10 times in 11 seasons.
Others that caught my eye: Saginaw Swan Valley at St. Charles, Bay City Western at Flint Northern, Montrose at Reese.
Ishpeming at Iron Mountain
There was a not-so-recent past when Ishpeming struggled to win this annual opening night matchup – Iron Mountain has been the victor in 15 of the last 20. But these two have split the last four openers, and both won District championships last season after Iron Mountain won and Ishpeming finished second in the Mid-Peninsula Athletic Conference.
Others that caught my eye: Detroit Denby at Marquette, Ishpeming Westwood at Stephenson, Pittsford at Iron River West Iron County.
Lower Up North
Traverse City St. Francis at Kingsley
Traverse City St. Francis isn’t in a league this season, but is playing six of the same opponents as in 2011 – when it advanced to a Division 7 Semifinal. The Gladiators open against Kingsley after beating the Stags 57-8 in last season’s opener. But Kingsley won six of its next eight games after that loss to make the playoffs, and were only a combined 12 points from an 8-1 finish.
Others that caught my eye: Elk Rapids at Mancelona, Manistee at Ludington, St. Ignace at Charlevoix.
PHOTO: Mendon and Fowler played for last season's Division 8 championship at Ford Field, and meet again Friday at Fowler in the season opener for both. (See more at Terry McNamara Photography.)