By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Here's what we got from Saturday's MHSAA 11-player Semifinals:
Four reigning champions headed back to Ford Field. Two rematches of 2011 championship games. And three teams – welcome Grand Rapids Christian, Portland and Detroit Loyola – that earned the opportunity to play on Thanksgiving weekend for the first time.
There's plenty more to come on all of that later this week (tune in Thursday for some holiday reading). Below are links to coverage from all 16 Semifinals, plus ours from the second-ever 8-player Final, a Deckerville triumph over Bellaire.
Detroit Cass Tech 34, Lake Orion 27
The Technicians (11-2) are headed back to Ford Field to defend their 2011 championship thanks in part to two touchdown passes by sophomore Jayru Campbell, the star of that Final, and a late go-ahead score by sophomore Mike Weber. Lake Orion, in its third Semifinal in five seasons, finished 11-2. Click to read more from the Detroit Free Press.
Detroit Catholic Central 35, Rockford 6
Despite expectations it might be, this didn't turn out to be as close as DCC’s three-point win over the Rams (10-3) that sent the Shamrocks to last season’s Final. This time, DCC (9-4) led by two scores going into halftime and didn't allow another point. Click to read more from MLive Detroit.
Birmingham Brother Rice 31, Wyandotte Roosevelt 3
Not that the Warriors haven't been cruising all season, but Brother Rice (11-2) always seems to hit another gear in the playoffs and now will play for a second-straight MHSAA championship. Roosevelt (11-2) finished its first Semifinal run since 2001 with its best record ever. Click to read more from the Detroit News.
Muskegon 34, Caledonia 21
Believe it or not, the Big Reds (12-1) haven’t been to a championship game since 2008. But they’re headed back for the fourth time in nine seasons after a couple of late defensive stops doomed the Fighting Scots (9-4). Click to read more from the Muskegon Chronicle.
Grand Rapids Christian 52, DeWitt 28
Grand Rapids Christian (12-1) got off to an incredible start and never looked back, scoring on six of their first seven possessions to earn their first championship game berth. DeWitt, making its eighth Semifinal appearance in 12 seasons, finished 10-3. Click to read more from the Grand Rapids Press.
Orchard Lake St. Mary’s 28, Battle Creek Harper Creek 7
St. Mary’s (11-2) is headed back to Ford Field for the fourth straight season and hopes to win its second straight MHSAA title after beating Harper Creek (10-3) in the Semifinals for the second straight season. Click to read more from the Detroit Free Press.
Grand Rapids South Christian 21, Comstock Park 7
South Christian (10-3) is headed back to the Finals for the fifth time, but first since winning Division 4 in 2002, after keeping Comstock Park (11-2) scoreless until the final minute. Click to read more from the Grand Rapids Press.
Detroit Country Day 38, Saginaw Swan Valley 0
Country Day (11-2) earned its third trip to the MHSAA Finals in six seasons in dominating fashion. Yellowjackets running back Richard Wilson scored four times while his teammates contained the strong running attack of the Vikings (10-3). Click to read more from the Oakland Press.
Grand Rapids West Catholic 20, Menominee 17
The Falcons (10-3) can earn their second championship in three seasons after scoring a late touchdown to edge Menominee at the Superior Dome. The Maroons (11-2) led late in the third quarter and again in the fourth before falling. Click to read more from the Grand Rapids Press.
Portland 28, Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard 23
The Raiders (12-1) waited a long time to return to the Semifinals – their only other appearance was in 1975, the first year of MHSAA playoffs. But now they’ll continue on to their first championship game after coming back from an 11-point deficit to Gabriel Richard (11-2). Click to read more from the Lansing State Journal.
Constantine 36, Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central 14
Constantine is headed back to Ford Field after finishing runner-up last season, thanks to its best defensive performance of the playoffs. Constantine (11-2) limited St. Mary (10-3) to its fewest points of the season. Click to read more from the Kalamazoo Gazette.
Ithaca 31, Shelby 14
Ithaca quarterback Travis Smith may have thrown three interceptions, but he also was part of four touchdowns (one run, three pass) as the Yellowjackets (13-0) earned their third-straight Final berth. Shelby (10-3) finished with 10 wins for the first time and made its first Semifinal appearance. Click to read more from the Lansing State Journal.
Ishpeming 8, Pewamo-Westphalia 7
A made two-point conversion plus a number of defensive stops including two deep in its own territory were the difference as Ishpeming (12-1) earned a trip to Ford Field for the second time in three seasons. P-W, last season’s Division 7 runner-up, finished 9-4. Click to read more from the Marquette Mining Journal.
Detroit Loyola 54, Flint Beecher 6
Loyola’s Keymonn’e Gabriel scored three more touchdowns plus four two-point conversions to carry the Bulldogs (13-0) to their first MHSAA Final and give him 314 points this season – the second most in MHSAA history for one fall. Beecher, which made its first Semifinal appearance, finished 8-5. Click to read more from the Detroit Free Press.
Beal City 25, St. Ignace 7
Six days after its volleyball team played for an MHSAA championship, Beal City’s football team will do the same after moving to 13-0 to tie its record for wins in a season and get back to Ford Field for the first time since 2009. St. Ignace ended 12-1 for the second straight season. Click to read more from the Mount Pleasant Morning Sun.
Harbor Beach 32, Muskegon Catholic Central 27
The Pirates (12-1) earned their first trip to an MHSAA football championship game since 1991 and tied a school record for wins. Perennial power Muskegon Catholic Central finished 9-4. Click to read more from the Blue Water Sports Network.
Deckerville 14, Bellaire 12
The Eagles capped their first season in 8-Player football with their first MHSAA championship, thanks in part to a two-point conversion run stop with less than a minute to play. Click for our Second Half coverage.
PHOTO: Detroit Cass Tech running back Mike Weber stretches for the go-ahead touchdown in the Technicians' Semifinal win Saturday at Troy Athens. (Click to see more at Terry McNamara Photography.)