By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
The last week of the MHSAA football regular season is upon us. But Week 8 featured some significant firsts.
At Ypsilanti, visiting Lincoln beat the home team 27-20 to win the Southeastern Conference White for the first time. The league formed in 2000 and the Railsplitters were 0-9 only three seasons ago – and hadn't won a league title in any conference since 1987.
Further east Detroit Allen clinched its first playoff berth with a win over Ecorse. To the south, Adrian Lenawee Christian beat North Adams-Jerome for its sixth win, its most ever.
And those are just the program milestones. For the many high school players who enjoy just two seasons on varsity, every championship or playoff-qualifying win could be a first.
Here’s a look at some that surely were as we wrap up league title races and prepare for Sunday’s playoff selection.
Lowell 35, Grand Rapids Christian 34 (2 OT)
This season’s O-K White championship likely came down to a pair of overtimes between two teams that played at Ford Field last season. Reigning Division 2 runner-up Lowell (8-0) stopped a two-point conversion try by reigning Division 3 champ Grand Rapids Christian (6-2) after the game’s final score. The Red Arrows had fallen in two straight to the Eagles. Click to read more by the Grand Rapids Press.
Hudsonville 20, East Kentwood 9: Not only did the Eagles (5-3) give themselves an outside chance at sharing the O-K Red title, but they took a major step toward securing a first playoff berth since 2008. East Kentwood (5-3) can earn a league share too and also qualify for the playoffs by beating first-place Rockford this week.
Muskegon Reeths-Puffer 32, Muskegon Mona Shores 28: Reeths-Puffer (7-1) kept pace with Muskegon atop the O-K Black heading into their league-deciding matchup this week, while Mona Shore (6-2) fell out of contention but can prepare for its first playoff appearance.
Belding 35, Sparta 14: Belding (5-3) kept its playoff hopes alive as it works to secure its first birth since 2007, while Sparta (5-3) is left to beat O-K Blue frontrunner Comstock Park this weekend to qualify.
Byron Center 16, Holland Christian 9: Byron Center (6-2) earned its first playoff berth since 2010 and set itself up to face Zeeland West this week for the O-K Green title. Holland Christian (4-4) fell to third place and hopes to make the playoffs with an at-large bid.
Lower Up North
Traverse City St. Francis 28, Maple City Glen Lake 21
St. Francis (5-3) kept its playoff hopes alive by edging the Northwest Conference champion and avenged a heavy blow dealt last season by Glen Lake (7-1); the Lakers’ 26-20 win over St. Francis in 2012 was among the most painful reasons the Gladiators didn’t make the playoffs for the first time since 1989. Click to read more from the Traverse City Record-Eagle.
Boyne City 28, Elk Rapids 12: Boyne City (7-1) needed this one to set up this week’s Lake Michigan Conference-deciding game against Grayling; Elk Rapids (5-3) is tied for third, this week’s game in a must-win to automatically make the playoffs.
Grayling 33, East Jordan 26: See above for the Lake Michigan Conference race explanation, with Grayling now also 7-1 and East Jordan (4-4) hoping for a strong finish and at-large postseason bid.
Lake City 41, Evart 21: Lake City (7-1) looks good to finish second in the Highland Conference and Evart has locked down at least third, with a chance they’ll see each other again in the playoffs for the second straight year.
Traverse City Central 28, Ogemaw Heights 20: Four Big North Conference teams are 5-3, and these are two of them. Central faces Cadillac and Ogemaw Heights faces Petoskey this week in hopes of earning automatic playoff berths.
Southwest and Border
Portage Central 49, St. Joseph 28
Portage Central took advantage of a bevy of turnovers and got rolling during the second half to win the biggest game of the regular season in the southwest corner of the state. The Mustangs (8-0) clinched a share of the Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference West title with the win and can finish their first perfect regular season since 1993 by beating winless Benton Harbor this weekend. St. Joseph (7-1) remains among the top teams by playoff point average of those projected to make the Division 3 playoffs. Click to read more from the Kalamazoo Gazette.
Cassopolis 35, Niles Brandywine 12: This turned the Lakeland Athletic Conference championship into a shared title between these two, with Cassopolis (5-3) dealing Brandywine (7-1) its first loss of the fall.
Edwardsburg 36, Dowagiac 0: This deciding game in the Wolverine B West turned into a big win for undefeated Edwardsburg (8-0) over Dowagiac (6-2), last season’s champion.
Battle Creek Lakeview 33, Battle Creek Harper Creek 14: Lakeview (8-0), which began the season with five straight shutouts, has given up just a few points over the last three games on the way to earning a share of the SMAC East title; Harper Creek (6-2), with 14 points, tied for the most success against the Spartans’ defense.
Battle Creek St. Philip 68, Portland St. Patrick 14: St. Philip (8-0) handed St. Patrick (7-1) its first regular-season 8-player loss in winning the Southern Michigan League title outright.
Lake Linden-Hubbell 16, Felch North Dickinson 8
Lake Linden-Hubbell’s quest to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2010 looked in doubt with the Lakes (5-3) needing two wins and North Dickinson and Crystal Falls Forest Park left on the schedule (they were a combined 13-1 entering last week). But the Lakes put the defensive clamps on North Dickinson (6-2), holding the Nordics to its fewest points since the 2010 playoffs. Click to read more from the Houghton Mining Gazette.
Crystal Falls Forest Park 38, Bessemer 20: The Eagles (8-0) avenged last season’s loss to the Miners (5-3) and in the process clinched a share of the Great Western Conference title.
Negaunee 38, Marquette 14: Negaunee (7-1) bounced back nicely after falling to Ishepming in Week 7, claiming the Diamond Jubilee Trophy, while Marquette (5-2) finishes with another tough one this week against Menominee.
Sault Ste. Marie 27, Kingsley 13: Sault Ste. Marie (5-3) has kept its playoff hopes alive over the last two weeks by beating teams with a combined record of 11-5. Kingsley (5-3) also needs a win this week to qualify.
Cedarville 21, Bellaire 16: Bellaire (5-3) looked like one of few that could beat Cedarville (7-1) this season, and the Eagles got close in a defensive battle.
Greater Detroit and Southeast
St. Clair 43, Marine City 33
St. Clair’s first win over Marine City since 2005 – and second in 22 seasons – earned a number of riches. The Saints (8-0) claimed the traveling Bell Trophy and also an outright Macomb Area Conference Gold championship, and guaranteed their best record since at least 1982. Marine City (7-1) still remains only a win away from its 16th straight season with at least eight. Click to read more from the Port Huron Times Herald.
Macomb Dakota 52, Clinton Township Chippewa Valley 7: The battle for the MAC Red title – and traveling Superintendent’s Trophy – ended up more of the same for Dakota (8--0), which has given up only 42 points this fall. With one more win, Chippewa Valley (7-1) still can equal its most since 2006.
Birmingham Seaholm 28, Birmingham Groves 22: Seaholm (8-0) earned its second straight Oakland Activities Association Blue title by defeating second-place Groves (7-1) in the final league game of the season.
Northville 42, Canton 30: This was significant for a few reasons for Northville (7-1), which moved on to the Kensington Lakes Activities Association championship game be beating Canton (7-1) for the first time in its last eight tries.
Waterford Mott 26, Port Huron 20: The Marauders (8-0) flipped last season's finish, when Mott lost to Port Huron by three and finished second in the MAC White; this time Mott is first and the Big Reds (5-3) are runners-up.
Lansing Sexton 27, Lansing Everett 14
Sexton (8-0) won the Capital Area Activities Conference Blue outright and the traveling Oak Chest trophy, and needs to beat its other city rival, Eastern High, to finish the regular season 9-0 for the first time since 1999. The Big Reds, a Class B schools with wins over seven Class A opponents, also has the highest playoff point average of teams projected to fall into Division 4 for the playoffs. Everett (5-3), last season’s CAAC Blue champion, must beat two-win Jackson this week to ensure a playoff spot. Click to read more from the Lansing State Journal.
DeWitt 13, Portland 7: DeWitt (8-0) no doubt was up for this one after losing two straight to the Raiders (7-1). Both are champions of their divisions of the CAAC, DeWitt in the Red and Portland in the White.
East Lansing 3, Grand Ledge 0: The Comets (4-4) needed to win out to make the playoffs automatically after an 0-3 start, but instead East Lansing (4-4) kept its slim hope alive after three straight losses.
Olivet 28, Constantine 14: The Eagles (7-1) kept themselves in the three-team mix atop the Kalamazoo Valley Association, with reigning Division 6 runner-up Constantine (5-3) now needing a win this week to qualify automatically for the postseason.
Ovid-Elsie 21, Freeland 15: The Marauders (6-2) quietly have bounced back from a 3-6 finish in 2012 to finish second in the Tri-Valley Conference Central. Third-place Freeland (6-2) also has made the playoffs, and they could meet again.
Bay and Thumb
Harbor Beach 56, Marlette 7
The deciding game for the Greater Thumb Conference East title belonged to Harbor Beach (7-1) early, as it scored the first two touchdowns and after Marlette’s score ran off 44 unanswered points. The Pirates pushed their league winning streak to 16 straight, while Marlette (7-1) still can equal its best finish of at least the last half century, 8-1 in 1975. Click to read more from the Port Huron Times Herald.
Millington 15, North Branch 7: The Cardinals (6-2) were at risk of missing the playoffs for the first time since 2003 before edging already-qualified North Branch (6-2).
Richmond 42, Yale 28: The Blue Devils (7-1) finished a perfect run through the Blue Water Area Conference and forced Yale (5-3) into a must-win situation to qualify for the playoffs automatically.
Flint Powers Catholic 48, Climax-Scotts 13: The Chargers (4-4) are hanging on to a hope of making the playoffs with an at-large bid, and handing Climax-Scotts (7-1) its first loss should help.
Vassar 35, Cass City 8: The Vulcans (5-3) moved one win closer to a fifth straight playoff berth, while dropping Cass City (4-4) into a much less favorable position.
Each week, the MHSAA highlights trophy games around the state. Here are a few more in addition to those mentioned above:
Little Brown Jug: Warren Lincoln vs. Center Line. Lincoln made it two in a row and five of six over its MAC Bronze rival. Final: Lincoln 26, Center Line 19.
Sugar Bowl: Unionville-Sebewaing vs. Reese. The Rockets have owned this series of late, winning every season dating to 2006. Final: Reese 47, USA 0.
Spirit Bell: St. Louis vs. Ithaca. This one changes hands every time these schools meet in any varsity sport – which means the Sharks’ highly-ranked volleyball team could win it back tonight. Final: Ithaca 76, St. Louis 0.
Battle of the Panthers: Detroit University Prep vs. Detroit Plymouth Educational Center. This one is relatively new, with Detroit PEC playing football only since 2010 and University Prep since 2006. Final: University Prep 37, PEC 6.
The Curb: Berkley vs. Royal Oak. A piece of pavement was first awarded to the winner of this matchup in 2012. Final: Berkley 20, Royal Oak 18.
Ted Heusel Bowl: Ann Arbor Huron vs. Ann Arbor Pioneer. This trophy is named for the late longtime area broadcaster who also served as the district's school board president. Final: Pioneer 9, Huron 6.
Kiwanis Trophy: Madison Heights Madison vs. Madison Heights Lamphere. A quick 2-mile drive down John R Road is nearly all that separates these MAC Silver rivals. Final: Madison 30, Lamphere 0.
Colvin Cup: Grosse Ile vs. Riverview. Not since 1998 and 1999 has either team won this game two seasons in a row. Final: Riverview 45, Grosse Ile 42.
PHOTO: Lowell (in gray) needed two overtimes to edge Grand Rapids Christian 35-34 in Week 8. (Click to see more from High School Sports Scene.)