By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
The MHSAA football season nearly stretches over four full months from the first practices until the final championship game ends at Ford Field in November.
But the regular season seems to fly by; just like that, we’re already halfway through and today a month away from the selection of this fall’s playoff divisions and brackets.
One team – two-time reigning Division 7 champion Ishpeming – can earn the first playoff berth of this fall with a win tonight and because it is playing only eight games during the regular season.
Read on for more of the most significant match-ups this weekend across the state.
Muskegon Oakridge (3-1) at Ravenna (4-0)
After three straight MHSAA Semifinal appearances from 2008-10, Ravenna fell back to the pack the last three seasons – finishing 4-5 each of the last two, even despite outscoring its opponents by 62 points in 2013. But the Bulldogs already have equaled that win total and can take another giant step back against Oakridge, a favorite in the West Michigan Conference that lost only on opening night to reigning Division 5 champion Grand Rapids West Catholic.
Others that caught my eye: Fruitport (2-2) at Muskegon Catholic Central (4-0), Rockford (4-0) at Caledonia (2-2), Grand Rapids South Christian (2-2) at Grand Rapids Catholic Central (2-2), Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern (4-0) at Ada Forest Hills Eastern (2-2).
Bay and Thumb
Richmond (4-0) at Almont (4-0)
The Blue Devils are back on the march in the Blue Water Area Conference after finishing the league schedule perfect in 2013. Only seven points kept Almont from that accomplishment instead, and the Raiders are surely raring for this rematch after falling 42-35 to Richmond a year ago and finishing second in the conference. Almont opened this fall with three shutouts before giving up six points last week to Capac.
Others that caught my eye: Burton Atherton (3-1) at Flint Hamady (4-0), Goodrich (3-1) at Montrose (4-0), Midland Dow (4-0) at Flint Powers Catholic (3-1), Flint Kearsley (2-2) at Fenton (4-0).
Southwest and Border
Plainwell (3-1) at Vicksburg (4-0)
Vicksburg will look to keep its best start since 2010 going in this Wolverine B Conference East opener that could end up deciding the league champion. Plainwell was the league runner-up last season to Paw Paw, which this fall moved to the Wolverine B West, and has beaten Vicksburg in three straight including 26-3 a year ago. Plainwell fell to Edwardsburg by two last week, but Vicksburg has beaten the Eddies and Paw Paw over the last two weeks, respectively.
Others that caught my eye: Edwardsburg (3-1) at Paw Paw (3-1), Stevensville Lakeshore (4-0) at Battle Creek Lakeview (2-1), Battle Creek Harper Creek (2-2) at Battle Creek Pennfield (1-3), Lawton (2-2) at Decatur (4-0).
Clarkston (4-0) at Oxford (4-0)
Clarkston is tied with three others for the highest playoff point average in Michigan as it seeks to repeat as MHSAA Division 1 champion. But first up is Oakland Activities Association Red play and a quest for a fourth straight league title – although new to the league this season is Oxford, which fell to the Wolves by a mere 30-27 in last season’s Division 1 playoff opener.
Others that caught my eye: Detroit Catholic Central (2-2) at Birmingham Brother Rice (4-0), Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central (4-0) at Carleton Airport (3-1), Farmington Hills Harrison (3-1) at Southfield (3-1), Orchard Lake St. Mary's (4-0) at Warren DeLaSalle (3-1).
Lower Up North
Traverse City St. Francis (3-1) at Boyne City (4-0)
St. Francis is back in a league – the first-year Northern Michigan Football Conference – for the first time since 2011, and draws its toughest opponent so far in Boyne City. The Ramblers finished Lake Michigan Conference runners-up to Grayling the last two seasons after St. Francis left that conference for football. All three teams are in the Leaders division this season, but Boyne City is the only Michigan team to not yet give up a point – it’s outscored its first four opponents by a combined 166-0.
Others that caught my eye: Traverse City Central (3-1) at Gaylord (4-0), Mancelona (3-1) at Indian River Inland Lakes (3-1), Manistee (3-1) at McBain (2-2), Lincoln Alcona (3-1) at Whittemore-Prescott (4-0).
Hanover-Horton (4-0) at Manchester (3-1)
Hanover-Horton is quickly advancing a turnaround after finishing 4-5 a year ago and a combined 14-31 over the last five seasons. The Comets already have avenged 2013 losses to Addison and Michigan Center over the last two weeks and now get Manchester, last season’s Cascades Conference co-champion and owner of six straight playoff berths.
Others that caught my eye: Fowler (4-0) at Dansville (3-1), Haslett (2-2) at DeWitt (4-0), Homer (4-0) at Jonesville (3-1), Newaygo (3-1) at Stanton Central Montcalm (3-1).
Marquette (3-1) at Gladstone (3-1)
The road to Gladstone’s first playoff berth since 2008 doesn’t get any easier after last week’s loss to reigning MHSAA Division 5 runner-up Menominee. Marquette put 63 points on Gladstone in 2013 – although the Braves defense has been impressive holding its other three opponents this fall to 19 or fewer points.
Others that caught my eye: Iron Mountain (2-2) at Ishpeming Westwood (3-1), Menominee (4-0) at Kingsford (2-2), Maple City Glen Lake (2-1) at Lake Linden-Hubbell (3-1), Hurley, Wis. (4-1) at Bessemer (3-1)
Posen (2-2) at Bellaire (4-0)
Bellaire on paper has looked more dominant during the season’s first half, outscoring three opponents 137-32 (the fourth win came as a forfeit). But the Eagles won’t look past Posen after falling to the Vikings 62-14 last season, a defeat that started a 1-4 skid to finish 2013. Posen’s two losses this season were to powerful Cedarville and Rapid River during the first two weeks.
Others that caught my eye: Waldron (3-1) at Webberville (3-1), Burr Oak (2-2) at Portland St. Patrick (4-0).
PHOTO: DeWitt defeated Lansing Waverly last week 56-12 and has won 30 straight league games dating to 2008. (Click to see more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com).