By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Week 2 of the MHSAA football season generally means the start of league play for schools across Michigan.
Five leagues were formed and nine reshuffled significantly for 2014 – so we’ll do our best to guide you through some of the new names and title chases as they unfold over the next two months.
Also new for this week’s look at the best games from every corner of the state – by request from one of our readers – a look at top 8-player games to be played (previously those were included in regional outlooks with the 11-player matchups.)
See below for the places to be this Friday and Saturday. All games are Friday unless noted.
Zeeland West (1-0) at Zeeland East (0-1)
These rivals – literally neighbors on the same piece of property – continued an intriguing trend in 2013 when for the second straight season Zeeland East won the regular-season matchup and West then eliminated the Chix in the playoffs with a victory of 30-plus points. West went on last season to win the MHSAA Division 3 championship.
Others that caught my eye: Caledonia (1-0) at Grand Rapids South Christian (0-1), Fruitport (0-1) at Muskegon Mona Shores (1-0), Montague (0-1) at Muskegon Oakridge (0-1), Grand Rapids Christian (1-0) at Muskegon (1-0).
Eaton Rapids (1-0) at Mason (0-1)
Eaton Rapids burst onto the scene in 2013, ending a streak of 19 losing seasons by making the playoffs for the first time and then winning a District championship as well. The positive vibes continued with a 34-14 win over Jackson Northwest last week, while Mason – an annual Lansing-area power with five playoff appearances in the last six seasons – fell to rival Okemos by two scores. The Bulldogs have won 20 straight over the Greyhounds, but this should be the best tilt between the two in some time.
Others that caught my eye: Holland West Ottawa (0-1) at Grand Ledge (1-0), Clare (0-1) at Beal City (1-0), Rockford (1-0) at Holt (0-1), Grandville (1-0) at Okemos (1-0).
Southwest and Border
Schoolcraft (1-0) at Constantine (1-0)
This is another pair with a history of multiple meetings in the same season. They are clear favorites in the Kalamazoo Valley Association again this fall – and also have faced each other in the playoffs four of the last eight seasons. Schoolcraft has won the last two regular-season meetings, including 37-28 in 2013. But Constantine has won all five times they’ve met in the postseason.
Others that caught my eye: Decatur (1-0) at Fennville (1-0), Gobles (1-0) at Hartford (1-0), Battle Creek Lakeview (0-1) at Portage Central (1-0), St. Joseph (1-0) at Richland Gull Lake (1-0).
Traverse City Central (1-0) at Escanaba (1-0)
These two faced off the last two seasons, and it wasn’t really close – Central won by 44 and 21 points, respectively. Another victory would put the Trojans in nice position heading into Big North Conference play after missing the playoffs a year ago. But Escanaba also won last week and would love to take another step toward a first winning season since 2011, especially with 2013 playoff teams Cheboygan, Detroit Country Day and Sault Ste. Marie still coming up on the nonleague schedule.
Others that caught my eye: Negaunee (1-0) at Calumet (1-0), DeWitt (1-0) at Kingsford (1-0), Munising (0-1) at Powers North Central (1-0), Alpena (0-1) at Sault Ste. Marie (0-1).
Macomb Dakota (0-1) at Clinton Township Chippewa Valley (1-0)
These Macomb Area Conference Red rivals are front-loaded this fall with high-profile games – Dakota opened with a three-point loss to reigning MHSAA Division 1 champion Clarkston, while Chippewa Valley survived a three-point victory over perennial power Lake Orion. And the Big Reds definitely have been waiting for this one, having lost the league title by falling to Dakota 52-7 in Week 8 last season, and then seeing their season end against Dakota 34-14 in the District Final.
Others that caught my eye: Detroit U-D Jesuit (1-0) at Detroit Country Day (0-1), Rochester Hills Stoney Creek (1-0) at Oxford (1-0), Utica Eisenhower (0-1) at Sterling Heights Stevenson (1-0), Detroit Douglass (0-1) at Detroit Mumford (0-1).
Lower Up North
Grayling (1-0) at Gaylord (1-0)
These two, located a mere 27 miles apart on I-75, were regular opponents for decades – but this is their first matchup since 1996. Back then, Grayling was in the midst of a decade-long string of losing seasons; now they’ve had 11 straight above-.500 finishes. Gaylord had a nice run of success soon after these two suspended their series – but more recently won a combined four games over the last five seasons. The Blue Devils equaled last fall’s victory total last week by beating Cheboygan 40-0.
Others that caught my eye: Pickford (1-0) at Indian River Inland Lakes (1-0), Hudsonville (1-0) at Traverse City West (1-0), Oscoda (1-0) at Whittemore-Prescott (1-0), McBain (0-1) at Traverse City St. Francis (0-1) on Saturday.
Bay and Thumb
Marine City (1-0) at St. Clair (1-0)
These two decided the MAC Gold title in Week 8 last season – St. Clair winning 43-33 – but they face off in the league opener this time. St. Clair renewed a series with Croswell-Lexington last week for the first time since 1993 and won 26-21, while the reigning MHSAA Division 4 champ Mariners continued their high-scoring ways beating Algonac 49-28.
Others that caught my eye: Yale (1-0) at Richmond (1-0), Harbor Beach (1-0) at Vassar (1-0), Lansing Catholic (1-0) at Saginaw Nouvel (0-1), Ovid-Elsie (0-1) at Freeland (1-0).
Carsonville-Port Sanilac (0-1) vs. Lawrence (1-0), Saturday at Webberville
The inaugural MHSAA champion in 2012, Carsonville-Port Sanilac was an early standard-setter for the 8-player game – and Lawrence, a semifinalist last season, has helped raise the level of play since joining the scene a year ago. CPS is coming off an opening loss to Morrice, a program new to 8-player this fall.
Others that caught my eye: Dryden (1-0) at Caseville (1-0), Burr Oak (1-0) at Waldron (1-0).
PHOTO: Bessemer’s Gogebic Miners opened this season with a 36-14 win over Hancock. (Photo courtesy of Norman Tesch/Wakefield.)