By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
League play begins this week for many teams across Michigan – and with favorites facing off immediately in games that eventually could decide who wins those conference titles.
The highlighted matchups below include a few of those, but mostly some of the last titanic nonleague battles we'll see this fall – at least, until we reach the MHSAA playoffs.
All games below are tonight unless noted. Follow all of the results as they come in at the MHSAA Score Center. And keep an eye on Muskegon vs. Grandville; with their next win, the Big Reds will become the first program in state history with 800 victories.
Bay & Thumb
Millington (2-0) at Essexville Garber (1-1)
This might not seem the caliber of a “best game of the week” from this area, but it’s been a sneaky-good matchup the last few years as Garber won in 2013 and Millington came back with a 28-19 victory on opening night in 2014. The Cardinals’ opening-night victory over Vassar this fall was a solid start, and the Dukes have scored 80 points total despite splitting their first two matchups.
Others that caught my eye: Marine City (1-1) at Marysville (1-1), Sandusky (2-0) at Bad Axe (1-1), Ortonville-Brandon (2-0) at Clio (2-0), Corunna (2-0) at Goodrich (1-1).
Detroit East English (2-0) at Detroit Martin Luther King (2-0)
King is expected by many to be the team to beat from the Detroit Public School League this season, and its first five opponents include reigning Division 2 champion Warren DeLaSalle (a 12-10 win), now East English and in two weeks rival Cass Tech. East English has opened with victories over 2014 playoff teams Walled Lake Central and Detroit Renaissance.
Others that caught my eye: Southfield (1-1) at Farmington (2-0), Lincoln Park (2-0) at Trenton (2-0), Clarkston (1-1) at West Bloomfield (2-0), Farmington Hills Harrison (1-1) at Oak Park (0-2).
Grand Ledge (2-0) at Lansing Sexton (0-2)
While Grand Ledge looks early like possibly the Lansing area’s best team (Lansing Catholic is on the other side of that argument), the Comets can't look past an old rival. Sexton graduated a lot from last season’s Division 4 runner-up team, including the majority of its skill players on offense, but a new group is coming along – with the 0-2 start coming against two 2014 playoff teams.
Others that caught my eye: Lansing Catholic (2-0) at Williamston (2-0), Jackson (2-0) at East Lansing (0-2), Oscoda (1-1) at Vestaburg (2-0), Eaton Rapids (1-1) at Ionia (1-1).
Northern Lower Peninsula
Escanaba (2-0) at Gaylord (2-0)
There’s tons of excitement surrounding these programs as we head toward the middle of September. Escanaba is off to its first 2-0 start since 2011 and a win away from equaling its total from each of the last two seasons. Gaylord missed the playoffs a year ago and came back by starting this fall outscoring its first two opponents 94-6 – and won all three meetings the last time these teams had a series, from 2008-10.
Others that caught my eye: Lincoln Alcona (2-0) at Rogers City (2-0), Fife Lake Forest Area (1-1) at Indian River Inland Lakes (2-0), Grayling (1-1) at Maple City Glen Lake (2-0), Traverse City Central (2-0) at Traverse City West (0-2).
Southeast & Border
Saline (2-0) at Ann Arbor Skyline (2-0)
This might be the most highly-anticipated game in Michigan this weekend. Saline is playing like a team with arguably the state’s top quarterback (Josh Jackson) and coming off finishing runner-up in Division 1 – the Hornets then beat Rockford by 13 on opening night. And Skyline is playing like a team with two of the state’s most dynamic players in Daelin Hayes and Hunter Rison, opening with a pair of double-digit wins after entering the season with 12 straight losses.
Others that caught my eye: Morenci (2-0) at Petersburg-Summerfield (2-0), Hillsdale (1-1) at Brooklyn Columbia Central (2-0), Climax-Scotts (2-0) at Adrian Lenawee Christian (2-0), Homer (1-1) at Concord (2-0).
Portage Central (2-0) at Stevensville Lakeshore (2-0)
These Southwest Michigan Athletic Conference West rivals again kick off the league schedule against each other after last season’s 20-17 Lakeshore win in Week 3 eventually decided the title. Five of their six meetings since joining the same SMAC division have been decided by 10 points or fewer – and those six meetings have resulted in three wins for each team.
Others that caught my eye: New Buffalo (1-1) at Cassopolis (2-0), Battle Creek Pennfield (1-1) at Coldwater (2-0), Paw Paw (2-0) at Sturgis (1-1), Kalamazoo Loy Norrix (1-1) at Kalamazoo Central (2-0), Battle Creek Lakeview (1-1) at Battle Creek Central (0-2).
Negaunee (2-0) at Gladstone (2-0)
Gladstone likely was feeling similarly excited this time last fall when it ended a 22-game losing streak with a 3-0 start, only to drop its final six games. But the Braves have bounced back again and hope to follow last fall’s 24-19 win over Negaunee, which had to be considered an upset then and after as the Miners made the playoffs for the sixth time in seven seasons. They’re 2-0 after surviving a tough test last week from Calumet.
Others that caught my eye: Munising (2-0) at Felch North Dickinson (1-1), Ishpeming (2-0) at Calumet (1-1), Iron River West Iron County (2-0) at Iron Mountain (1-1), Marquette (0-2) at Sault Ste. Marie (1-1).
Rockford (1-1) at Muskegon Mona Shores (2-0)
The Rams are taking on their second 2014 MHSAA runner-up already this season, having fallen to Saline in Week 1 and now taking on the second-place team from Division 2. Rockford handed the Sailors their only pre-Ford Field loss in 2014, 10-7 in Week 3. But Mona Shores has had no problem putting points on the board despite replacing a Division I college quarterback – the Sailors have scored 55 in each of their first two games.
Others that caught my eye: East Grand Rapids (2-0) at Caledonia (2-0), Hudsonville (2-0) at Zeeland East (2-0), Grandville (2-0) at Muskegon (1-1), Scottville Mason County Central (2-0) at Whitehall (2-0).
Rapid River (2-0) at Cedarville (2-0)
Together these two have played in three of the first four MHSAA 8-player Finals, and they’ll continue this growing rivalry game despite playing in different leagues for the first time since making the format switch. Cedarville's only regular-season losses of the last three years have come, twice, to the Rockets, who won 20-19 a year ago and haven’t lost a regular-season game since Week 9 of 2012.
Others that caught my eye: Peck (1-1) at Kinde-North Huron (1-1), Powers North Central (2-0) at Bellaire (2-0) (Sat.).
PHOTO: Grand Ledge’s 2-0 start included a 38-7 win over Holland West Ottawa in Week 2. (Click for more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)