By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Just like that, another MHSAA football regular season is done. But not without hoopla that lasted into the final moments of Week 9.
The best seasons, at least for fans, are those filled with drama from the opening kickoff of Week 1 until the moment playoff brackets are announced on the Sunday Selection Show. This fall, eight teams that had never made the playoffs earned first-time trips to the postseason. A number of league title races came right down to the end.
And many of those closing moments are covered below in this week's Drive for Detroit.
Zeeland East 40, Muskegon 39
The Big Reds (8-1) appeared relatively invincible this fall and may yet prove to be the rest of the season. But with the O-K Black championship on the line, Zeeland East was one point better and stopped Muskegon's two-point conversion attempt during the closing minutes. Click to read more from the Holland Sentinel.
Grand Rapids Christian 21, Lowell 7 – Last season, Christian (8-1) beat Lowell (7-2) in the O-K White opener and made it stand up the rest of the way. This time, the Eagles had to wait until the end to claim a second-straight league title.
Grand Rapids West Catholic 17, Grand Rapids Northview 14 – Although Northview (7-2) did earn its first playoff berth this fall, West Catholic (6-3) held on to the O-K Bronze title – its sixth-straight league championship.
Hudsonville Unity Christian 28, Hamilton 27 – Hamilton needed a win to get into the playoffs automatically, and Unity Christian needed a win to have a remote shot; after a weekend of close calls, both got in at 5-4.
Muskegon Catholic Central 21, Traverse City St. Francis 13 – Few small schools have had as much football success as these two; the Crusaders (6-3) won this time to earn a playoff berth, and in the process ended any hopes of extending the MHSAA-best 22-season postseason streak held by the Gladiators (4-5).
Detroit Martin Luther King 51, Detroit East English 48
A loss to Detroit Crockett (now part of East English) in last season's Detroit Public School League championship game started a string of four straight in the regular season including three to start this fall (one was a forfeit). But King (6-3) closed the regular season strong by avenging a Week 2 loss to East English (7-2), in the process gaining a playoff berth as well. Click to read more from the Detroit Free Press.
Orchard Lake St. Mary 27, Detroit Catholic Central 10 – A week after falling to the Shamrocks (5-4), which resulted in a three-way shared Detroit Catholic League Central title, the Eaglets (7-2) avenged the defeat by winning this Prep Bowl game.
Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard 17, Pontiac Notre Dame Prep 12 – Notre Dame (8-1) earned a 12-point win over Gabriel Richard in the first Catholic League AA game this season, but ended with a split after this Prep Bowl stunner.
Farmington Hills Harrison 48, West Bloomfield 20 – It’s true, the Hawks have missed the playoffs twice in the last decade. But it does feel like they get in every year, and Harrison (6-3) got in again by downing the Lakers (2-7).
Carleton Airport 11, Tecumseh 10 – After losing three of its last five, Airport (6-3) got into the playoffs by edging the Indians (7-2)
Lower Up North
Grayling 21, Boyne City 0
Only one of these teams could finish unbeaten. And thanks mostly to a stout defense, it was Grayling. The Vikings finished 9-0 for the first time and also won the Lake Michigan Conference championship for the first time. Boyne City dropped to 8-1 and finished second in the league. Click to read more from the Traverse City Record-Eagle.
Bellaire 28, Rapid River 16 – The Eagles (6-3) opened this season with two losses and suffered another in Week 8, but regained some momentum by downing the reigning MHSAA 8-player runner-up Rockets (7-2).
Mancelona 40, Indian River Indian Lakes 8 – The Ironmen iced their second-straight 9-0 regular season finish, while dropping Inland Lakes to 4-5.
Traverse City Central 42, Cadillac 21 – After opening this fall with a loss, the Trojans (8-1) have won eight straight and put the finishing touch on the Big North Conference title by beating the Vikings (6-3).
West Branch Ogemaw Heights 42, Alpena 13 – The Falcons (6-3) finished the bounce-back from its 4-5 finish in 2011 by making the playoffs thanks to this win over Alpena (1-8).
Southwest and Border
Lawton 33, Watervliet 26
The Southwestern Athletic Conference South has been one of the state's most competitive leagues all season, with four of six teams contending for the title and a fifth just missing joining them in the playoffs. Watervliet (8-0) looked good to finish off the championship run for the second straight season. But Lawton (8-1) forced a share by avenging its 33-0 loss to the Panthers that cost it a share of the title last season. Click to read more from the St. Joseph Herald-Palladium.
Paw Paw 46, Edwardsburg 36 – The Redskins finished 9-0 for the first time since 2005, but gave up a season-high number of points to the Eddies (6-3).
Mattawan 20, Portage Northern 14 – This only meant second place in the Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference West, but Mattawan (8-1) and Portage Northern (7-2) both will continue this week.
Mendon 15, Pewamo-Westphalia 12 (OT) – The Hornets won their 23rd straight game, but P-W (6-3) gave them the closest of the streak (not counting a 1-0 forfeit win earlier this fall).
Bridgman 34, Wyoming Tri-unity Christian 18 – Not only did the Bees (6-3) complete their best regular season since 1997, but they made the playoffs for the first time since 1977.
Thumb and Bay
Montrose 22, Lake Fenton 21
The Genesee Area Red Conference title came down to the final play of double overtime in the final game of the regular season. Montrose (8-1) stopped Lake Fenton's attempt and claimed the championship for the second straight season, while the Blue Devils (7-2) finished runners-up for the second straight. Click to read more from the Flint Journal.
Midland 21, Midland Dow 6 – The Chemics (9-0) made it 10 wins in 11 games against the rival Chargers (5-4), and also won the Saginaw Valley Association North title outright.
Linden 43, Swartz Creek 0 – The Eagles (8-1) claimed half of the Flint Metro League championship while denying the Dragons (7-2) of the same.
Fenton 30, Lapeer West 21 – Same for Fenton (8-1), which won the other half of the Metro League title while knocking Lapeer West (6-3) out of the running.
Deckerville 24, Peck 18 (3 OT) – The Eagles (8-1) needed a third overtime to win the North Central Thumb 8-Man League title against runner-up Peck (7-2).
Manistique 12, Harbor Springs 6 (2 OT)
The Emeralds, winners of one game each the last two seasons, won six of their last seven this fall to finish 6-3 and earn a first playoff berth since 2008; Harbor Springs finished 3-6. Click to read more from the Marquette Mining Journal.
Iron Mountain 34, Norway 13 – The Mountaineers needed this one to squeak into the playoffs at 5-4; Norway finished 3-6.
St. Ignace 14, Cheboygan 10 – The Saints capped their second straight 9-0 regular season against a Cheboygan team that also made the playoffs at 6-3.
Stephenson 35, Powers North Central 6 – The Eagles (7-2) were already in the playoffs, and Powers North Central (5-4) still got in despite the loss.
Calumet 36, Gladstone 12 – The Copper Kings (6-3) got the necessary win to keep an eight-season playoff streak alive, while dropping Gladstone to 2-7.
Crystal Falls Forest Park 33, Lake Linden-Hubbell 14 – Forest Park (7-2) won its third straight over the rival Lakes (4-5), which may have lost out on an opportunity to reach the playoffs at 5-4.
Howell 24, Jackson Lumen Christi 21
The Highlanders (6-3) drilled a late field goal to earn a playoff berth and keep the Titans (8-1) from a perfect regular season. Lumen Christi still made the playoffs for the 15th straight season. Howell didn't make it in 2011, but this will be its sixth appearance in seven years. Click for more from the Livingston Daily Press & Argus.
DeWitt 21, Fruitport 20 – The Panthers (7-2) bounced back from a Week 8 loss to Portland by handing Lakes 8 Conference champion Fruitport (8-1) its only loss of the regular season.
Lansing Waverly 41, Fowlerville 14 – The Warriors (6-3) earned their first playoff berth since 2002, but more impressively finished their finest regular season since 1982; Fowlerville ended 1-8.
Grass Lake 28, Leslie 14 – The Warriors (8-1) made it three straight over two seasons against the Blackhawks (8-1) while handing them their only regular-season loss.
Portland St. Patrick 34, Waldron 26 – The Shamrocks (9-0) won the Southern Michigan 8-Man Football League title by beating the second-place Spartans (6-3).
Every week, the MHSAA highlights trophy games played around the state. Here are three from Week 9:
Little Brown Jug – This trophy, contested by Sault Ste. Marie and Newberry, was established in 1923 and is the oldest jug game we know of in Michigan. It might possibly be the oldest trophy game in high school football in our state. Final: Sault Ste. Marie 38, Newberry 6.
Copper Bowl – Hancock and Houghton have waged this game since 1953. Houghton ended a two-game losing streak. Final: Houghton 29, Hancock 14.
The Curb – This was the first-year of this trophy game between Royal Oak and Berkley, with the prize a 30-pound piece of Woodward Avenue curb. Final: Berkley 42, Royal Oak 29.
PHOTO: Livonia Churchill's Romello Brown (13) sprints down the sideline away from the grasp of a Livonia Stevenson defender as Churchill won Friday 49-10. (Click to see more at Terry McNamara Photography.)