By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
It's coach speak for sure, but true all the same: First, teams focus on winning the league title. And after that, bigger things tend to take care of themselves.
Many across Michigan started that quest last weekend. But for most of the rest, the first steps toward a conference championship will come tonight.
Need a game to watch? No problem. See below for what's playing near you. And remember to visit the MHSAA Score Center for updated scores and standings
(All are tonight unless noted. Go to Score Center for additional dates and kickoff times.)
Muskegon (2-0) at Rockford (1-1)
After four seasons of defining the O-K Red as arguably the best league in the state, these two are now split up as Muskegon moved to the O-K Black this fall. But there will continue to be a share of statewide eyes watching this one. The Big Reds put potential playoff opponents back on notice by opening with a 21-14 win over reigning MHSAA Division 3 champion Orchard Lake St. Mary, and Rockford came back from a tough opening loss to Lowell by shutting out Holt last week, 22-0.
Others that caught my eye: East Kentwood at Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central, Grand Rapids Christian at Grand Rapids Kenowa Hills, Grand Haven at Lowell, Montague at Muskegon Oakridge.
Dearborn Fordson (2-0) at Warren DeLaSalle (1-1), Saturday
The Detroit Catholic League Central also has annual claim as the state's toughest conference, so wins are at a premium for that league's teams -- and DeLaSalle has its work cut out tonight. Fordson has opened with victories over 2011 playoff teams Macomb Dakota and Redford Thurston, and fell to the Pilots only 31-28 a year ago. Quarterback Shane Morris and company will be hoping to shift momentum after last week's 49-13 loss to Cleveland St. Ignatius -- and with Birmingham Brother Rice and Detroit Catholic Central up next.
Others that caught my eye: Romeo at Macomb Dakota, Rochester Adams at Oak Park, Cincinnati Moeller at Detroit Catholic Central (Saturday), Detroit Renaissance at Detroit Cass Tech.
Hurley, Wis., (2-0) at Crystal Falls Forest Park (2-0)
Hurley actually plays more teams from Michigan than from its home state, and has opened by dominating two of them by a combined score of 90-13. Forest Park just missed a ninth-straight season with at least 10 wins last fall in part because it lost to Hurley 33-16 -- the Trojans' only loss of the regular season. In fact, Forest Park has lost two of its last three against the Midgets, which probably gives this the sense of a rivalry game for the home team located only a few miles from the border.
Others that caught my eye: Bessemer at Baraga, Iron Mountain at Iron River West Iron County, Calumet at Ishpeming, Stephenson at Norway.
Southwest and Border
Dowagiac (2-0) at Plainwell (2-0)
The upstart Trojans are hoping to break a six-game losing streak to Dowagiac, although for the first time during that string they are no longer in the same division -- the Wolverine B split into North and South this fall. Still, this would be significant for a few reasons: Plainwell is 2-0 for the first time since 2001 and after finishing 0-9 only two seasons ago, and a win tonight would give the team its first 3-0 start since 1998. For Dowagiac, it's a chance to be 3-0 for the first time since 2006, and this potentially is its toughest test until the Wolverine B South finale against Edwardsburg on Oct. 12 or a week earlier against Three Rivers.
Others that caught my eye: Sturgis at Battle Creek Harper Creek, Olivet at Schoolcraft, St. Joseph Michigan Lutheran at St. Joseph Lake Michigan Catholic, Coloma at Paw Paw.
Bay and Thumb
Millington (2-0) at Frankenmuth (2-0)
For a few decades, this was THE GAME in the Tri-Valley Conference East just about every season. But the Cardinals have won four straight and at least 10 games total in each of the last three seasons, and often that sort of one-sidedness drains some of the mystique. In this case, that's doubtful. This matchup decided the league title again last fall, and Frankenmuth is 2-0 for the first time since 2007. But if the Eagles score tonight, it will be a first against Millington this season. The Cardinals have outscored their first two opponents by a combined 92-0.
Others that caught my eye: Comstock Park at Bay City John Glenn, Lapeer East at Lapeer West, Saginaw at Midland Dow, Alma at Freeland.
Lower Up North
Cadillac (2-0) at Petoskey (2-0)
Petoskey has won three of the last four Big North Conference championships, with that lone lapse in 2009 -- when Cadillac finished one game ahead to claim the title. The Northmen were first and the Vikings tied for second last season, and this could be the decider again. Petoskey won big last season, 63-24, but Cadillac is 2-0 for the first time since 2006.
Others that caught my eye: Benzie Central at Frankfort, Manton at McBain, Johannesburg-Lewiston at Mancelona, Elk Rapids at Traverse City St. Francis.
Lansing Sexton (0-2) at Grand Ledge (2-0)
Sexton is anything but a typical 0-2 team; the Big Reds, who played in the Division 4 postseason in 2011, opened this fall with a loss to Division 1 power Plymouth before falling to Monroe by a point for the second straight season. Now comes another much larger school in Grand Ledge, which beat Sexton 14-0 last fall. The Comets began this season with a 40-30 loss to East Kentwood, but aren't having much trouble scoring -- the came back with a 31-10 win over Holland West Ottawa and are led by multi-talented quarterback Jalen Brady.
Others that caught my eye: Pewamo-Westphalia at Laingsburg, Portland at Corunna, Burr Oak at Portland St. Patrick, Morrice at Webberville.
PHOTO: Warren DeLaSalle quarterback Shane Morris attempts to break away from two Ann Arbor Pioneer defenders during their opening-night game, a 35-7 DeLaSalle win. (Click to see more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)