By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Week 6 annually is one of celebration and sadness for Michigan high school football teams.
A total of 66 can clinch automatic playoff berths with a victory this weekend, joining Ishpeming, which qualified by winning the fifth game of its eight-game schedule a week ago. Meanwhile, 122 teams are 2-3 and can't afford another loss as they attempt to win out and clinch an automatic berth.
See below for some of the most intriguing games from each region of the state, and as always, follow results as they come in on the MHSAA Score Center.
Bay & Thumb
Ithaca (5-0) at Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary (5-0)
Ithaca’s regular-season challenges are generally few; the Yellowjackets haven’t lost a regular-season game since Week 8 of 2009. But Michigan Lutheran Seminary gave Ithaca an early challenge last fall on the way to playing in a Division 7 Semifinal and is especially strong on defense again – Ithaca is one of only three teams over the last two seasons to score more than 15 points on the Cardinals.
Others that caught my eye: Flint Beecher (4-1) at Lake Fenton (4-1), Sterling Heights (4-1) at Marine City (3-2), Flint Carman-Ainsworth (3-2) at Midland (5-0), Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker (3-2) at Unionville-Sebewaing (4-1).
Detroit Cass Tech (4-1) at Detroit East English (5-0)
The Technicians are looking to bounce back from their first regular-season loss since 2012, by three last week to Detroit Martin Luther King. East English is no doubt ready to extend Cass Tech's new streak to two. The Bulldogs, who fell to King in Week 3 by five points, lost to Cass Tech twice last season by a combined 12 points – and like Cass Tech have had little trouble this season aside from the Crusaders.
Others that caught my eye: Walled Lake Northern (4-1) at Walled Lake Western (5-0), Allen Park (4-1) at Trenton (5-0), Northville (5-0) at Livonia Stevenson (5-0), Romeo (5-0) at Macomb Dakota (4-1).
DeWitt (5-0) at Haslett (3-2)
This grand rivalry hasn’t been as much with DeWitt winning the last 12 meetings including multiple during the playoffs. But despite the Panthers’ 39-0 victory a year ago, the 2015 version should be much closer. Rebuilt DeWitt has done well against a solid schedule, but Haslett hasn’t been far behind with losses the last two weeks by a combined seven points. The Vikings should slow the tempo enough to stay within striking distance.
Others that caught my eye: Brighton (5-0) at Hartland (3-2), Lansing Sexton (1-4) at Holt (3-2), Olivet (3-2) at Stockbridge (4-1), Eaton Rapids (2-3) at Portland (5-0).
Northern Lower Peninsula
Beal City (4-1) at McBain (4-1)
Beal City has owned the Highland Conference for most of the last four seasons with 21 straight wins dating to a 2011 loss – to McBain. The Ramblers are hoping to break that streak as they continue toward what should be their best finish since at least 2011 – they’ve already equaled last season’s win total and avenged two of its five losses.
Others that caught my eye: Traverse City St. Francis (5-0) at Grayling (4-1), Boyne City (4-1) at Maple City Glen Lake (4-1), Lincoln Alcona (4-1) at Oscoda (4-1), Traverse City Central (5-0) at Petoskey (4-1).
Southeast & Border
Ann Arbor Pioneer (5-0) at Saline (5-0)
The last two meetings between these two haven’t been competitive, with Saline winning both by a combined score of 68-10. The Hornets haven’t given up a point in two weeks and can clinch a share of the Southeastern Conference Red title with a victory tonight. But this is Pioneer’s best team since 2012, when it split two games with Saline. The Pioneers have equaled last season’s five wins and come through in a pair of close games – good experience if this one goes to the wire as well.
Others that caught my eye: Pontiac Notre Dame Prep (4-1) at Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard (4-1), Ida (5-0) at Dundee (3-2), Homer (4-1) at Springport (3-2), Ypsilanti Lincoln (2-3) at Ypsilanti Community (2-3).
Pittsford (4-1) at Climax-Scotts (5-0)
Climax-Scotts has won an incredible 42 straight games in the Southern Central Athletic Association, dating to a 2008 loss to Pittsford. The Wildcats are the team that most recently has come close to snapping that streak, in 2013, and fell to Climax-Scotts twice a year ago – but might be the only league team capable of slowing a Panthers attack averaging nearly 53 points per game.
Others that caught my eye: Jackson Lumen Christi (4-1) at Coldwater (5-0), Watervliet (4-1) at Constantine (3-2), Dowagiac (3-2) at Plainwell (3-2), Benton Harbor (3-2) at St. Joseph (4-1).
Kingsford (3-2) at Marquette (2-3)
The Flivvers last week become one of the few of the past few seasons to come close to beating Menominee. But despite that three-point loss, Kingsford is driving toward a return to the playoffs after a season away and needs only one more win to equal last season’s total. Marquette has won two straight over the Flivvers, but this meeting is the most urgent of late because of an 0-3 start and tough games to finish against Negaunee and the Maroons.
Others that caught my eye: Escanaba (2-3) at Menominee (5-0), Hurley, Wis. (5-1) at Bark River-Harris (5-0), Iron River West Iron County (1-4) at Calumet (3-2), Sault Ste. Marie (3-2) at Gladstone (2-3).
Reed City (5-0) at Big Rapids (4-1)
Reed City gets overlooked a bit at the intersection between the Grand Rapids powers and the Big North Conference. But the Coyotes have won 36 of their last 37 games in the Central State Activities Association and can keep step with a sixth straight win over Big Rapids. That won't be as easy a task this fall, however; the Cardinals won four games total over 2013 and 2014, but are only a seven-point loss to Bay City John Glenn last week from perfection in 2015.
Others that caught my eye: East Grand Rapids (4-1) at Grand Rapids Christian (3-2), East Kentwood (4-1) at Hudsonville (4-1), Muskegon Reeths-Puffer (3-2) at Muskegon Mona Shores (5-0), Zeeland East (3-2) at Muskegon (5-0).
Cedarville (4-1) at Posen (5-0)
Cedarville has lost only four games in five seasons of 8-player football, and to no one but rival Rapid River since 2011. But Posen could change things up in the Bridge Alliance Conference if it can continue a defensive performance rare for the 8-player game – the Vikings give up only 15 points per – and come back from the 52-0 loss to Cedarville on opening night a year ago.
Others that caught my eye: Deckerville (5-0) at Morrice (4-1), New Haven Merritt (4-1) at Owendale-Gagetown (5-0), Webberville (4-1) at Battle Creek St. Philip (5-0).
PHOTO: Ithaca’s Jake Smith tries to break the grasp of a Breckenridge tackler during a Week 4 win over the Huskies. (Click for more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)