By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
How much does each game of the MHSAA football season count?
It’s only Week 4. But on one hand, 108 teams enter this weekend winless and one more loss from missing their chance at automatic playoff qualification. On the other hand, the elite already are beginning to separate – with six of our eight featured matchups pitting a pair of 3-0 teams.
That said, each of the last five weeks of the regular season matter just as much as well – little is decided before the midpoint. But the following should help set the paths for many as we reach halfway next week.
Rockford (3-0) at Hudsonville (3-0)
From 2003-08, this was one of the best matchups in the entire Ottawa-Kent Conference and on more than one occasion THE game in West Michigan for that particular season – all six were decided by eight or fewer points, with Hudsonville claiming a 4-2 advantage. Rockford has won the last four meetings, all by multiple scores – but this one has the feel of another potential classic.
Others that caught my eye: Grand Haven (3-0) at Holland West Ottawa (2-1), Whitehall (3-0) at Mason County Central (2-1), Caledonia (2-1) at Muskegon Mona Shores (2-1), Muskegon Catholic Central (3-0) at Spring Lake (2-1).
Plymouth (3-0) at Livonia Churchill (3-0)
This pair of Kensington Lakes Activities Association South foes has played a pair of classics over the last two seasons – Plymouth winning 23-22 last season and Churchill claiming a 35-31 victory in 2012. Churchill is surging again after winning two games last season, beating returning playoff teams Brighton and Westland John Glenn over the last two weeks. Plymouth also missed the playoffs last season but owns an impressive three-point win over Pinckney.
Others that caught my eye: Birmingham Brother Rice (3-0) at Warren DeLaSalle (3-0), Detroit Cody (2-1) at Detroit Martin Luther King (3-0) on Saturday, Warren Michigan Collegiate (3-0) vs. Detroit University Prep (3-0) on Saturday at Detroit Osborn, Lake Orion (2-1) at Oxford (3-0).
Coldwater (3-0) at Parma Western (2-1)
This matchup is overflowing with storylines. Parma Western has had two winning seasons over its last 24 and few games of consequence over that time – but has blown into 2014 with two early wins including over Battle Creek Pennfield, and the Panthers barely fell to Marshall last week, 45-44. Parma Wester also has never made the MHSAA playoffs, even starting 5-1 in 2009 before finishing 5-4. Enter this week’s opponent, Coldwater, coming off its first playoff berth ever last season and outscoring its first three 2014 opponents – including Pennfield and Marshall as well – by a combined 97-6.
Others that caught my eye: Mason (1-2) at St. Johns (3-0), Eaton Rapids (2-1) at Williamston (3-0), Portland (2-1) at Ionia (2-1), Grand Ledge (1-2) at Okemos (2-1).
Ishpeming (3-0) at Ishpeming Westwood (3-0)
This game has been similarly highly anticipated a few other times in recent history – although Ishpeming won the 2008, 2009 and 2011 games, Westwood entered all of those undefeated. This one has to have Patriots supporters just as amped – Westwood hasn’t beaten Ishpeming since 1998, is coming off two losing seasons and has outscored its first three opponents by a combined 140-30. Ishpeming? The two-time reigning MHSAA Division 7 champion has run its winning streak to 24 while beating this season’s first three opponents by a combined 126-32.
Others that caught my eye: Lake Linden-Hubbell (2-1) at Bessemer (3-0), Escanaba (1-2) at Marquette (2-1), Gladstone (3-0) at Menominee (3-0), Newberry (1-2) at Munising (2-1).
Lower Up North
Detroit Catholic Central (1-2) at Traverse City Central (3-0)
The Trojans have momentum after last week’s 20-13 win over rival Traverse City West, and this week could claim arguably their most impressive nonleague win since the schools split in 1997. Detroit Catholic’s Central’s lone win this fall came against a Canadian team, but its losses are to Muskegon by seven and Ohio power Toledo Whitmer – and there’s no reason to think the Shamrocks won’t be in Division 1 title contention again in two months.
Others that caught my eye: Traverse City West (1-2) at Petoskey (2-1), Alpena (2-1) at Cadillac (3-0), Charlevoix (2-1) at Grayling (1-2), Standish-Sterling (1-2) at Whittemore-Prescott (3-0).
Southwest and Border
St. Joseph (3-0) at Stevensville Lakeshore (3-0)
Niles also is undefeated to give the Southwest Michigan Athletic Conference West three 3-0 teams to open the season, but St. Joseph and Lakeshore are annual favorites and own the most impressive victories so far. St. Joseph, last season’s league runner-up, got a leg up last week by beating 2013 third-place Portage Northern by 10. Lakeshore, last season’s fourth-place team and an eventual District winner, beat reigning league champ Portage Central last week 20-17.
Others that caught my eye: Parchment (1-2) at Constantine (3-0), Gobles (3-0) at Decatur (3-0), Plainwell (3-0) at Edwardsburg (2-1), Vicksburg (3-0) at Paw Paw (3-0).
Bay and Thumb
Millington (3-0) at Frankenmuth (3-0)
Frankenmuth has turned a four-game losing streak to the Cardinals into a two-game winning streak, with the victor going on to claim the Tri-Valley Conference East championship the last four seasons. Millington’s opening-night win over Essexville-Garber is the most impressive by either so far, but Frankenmuth did avenge last season’s loss to Hemlock and beat a returning playoff qualifier in North Branch.
Others that caught my eye: Flint Beecher (3-0) at Goodrich (3-0), Brighton (2-1) at Grand Blanc (2-1), Mount Pleasant (2-1) at Midland (2-1), Grosse Pointe South (2-1) at Port Huron (2-1).
Dryden (3-0) at Peck (3-0)
Dryden is a Class C school and as such cannot qualify for the MHSAA playoffs in 8-player. But the Cardinals are making a run at the North Central Thumb 8-Man League title as one of three undefeated teams atop the league – Peck and Deckerville are the others. Dryden has scored an incredible 176 points in three games; Peck, however, is the reigning MHSAA champion and has outscored its first three opponents by a combined 149-0.
Others that caught my eye: Engadine (2-1) vs. Cedarville (3-0) at DeTour, Morrice (2-1) at Deckerville (3-0), Burr Oak (2-1) at Battle Creek St. Philip (3-0) on Saturday.
PHOTO: Beal City (carrying the ball) hopes to be among those moving to 4-0 this week after earning its second win two weeks ago, 15-14 over Clare. (Click to see more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com).