By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Starting tonight, the playoff field begins to take shape.
Last week, AuGres-Sims – 5-0 but playing only eight games this regular season – clinched the first playoff berth of the 2017 MHSAA Playoffs. This weekend, 63 more teams can qualify for the 11-player tournament.
Below are the games of most intrigue in every region of the state, not counting 21 games played Thursday night. Go to the MHSAA Score Center to find those and for scores as they come in tonight and Saturday (and for links to each team’s schedule, league standings and playoff points average). Check out MHSAA.tv for six live broadcasts – click here for the schedule.
Bay & Thumb
Almont (4-1) at Richmond (5-0), Friday
The Blue Water Area Conference appears to be a two-team race with Richmond and Algonac tied at 4-0 in league play. But Almont can make it a three-team race again by avenging last season’s 34-21 loss to the Blue Devils. Almont already fell to Algonac in Week 2 28-7; Richmond gets its turn against the Muskrats in Week 8.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Corunna (3-2) at Goodrich (4-1), St. Clair Shores Lake Shore (3-2) at Port Huron Northern (4-1), Unionville-Sebewaing (3-2) at Reese (3-2), SATURDAY Bay City Central (3-2) at Flint Carman-Ainsworth (3-2).
Belleville (5-0) at Dearborn Fordson (5-0), Friday
Not only are these teams tied for first in the Western Wayne Athletic Conference Red, but Belleville has the second-highest playoff points average among teams projected to be in Division 1, and Fordson’s average is tied for fourth-highest. Fordson won the WWAC Blue last season and has given up no more than 14 points in a game this fall. The Tigers came into the Red from the Blue with Fordson after finishing second to the Tractors in that league last season – the result of a 34-25 loss in their meeting. The Tigers are riding a streak of three straight shutouts and after giving up only six points in Week 2.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Detroit Martin Luther King (4-1) at Detroit Denby (4-0), Canton (4-1) at Livonia Stevenson (4-1), Southfield Arts & Technology (3-2) at Rochester Adams (4-1), Dearborn Divine Child (5-0) at Warren DeLaSalle (4-1)
Freeland (4-1) at Alma (5-0), Friday
The Falcons’ 24-game regular-season win streak came to an end in Week 4, and Alma will now try to end Freeland’s Tri-Valley Conference Central title streak at two in a row after finishing second in the league last year because of a 12-6 loss when these teams last met. The Panthers have the highest playoff point average among teams projected to play in Division 4 and sit tied for first in the Central with Saginaw Swan Valley, which downed Freeland two weeks ago.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian (5-0) at Belding (4-1), Laingsburg (4-1) at Pewamo-Westphalia (4-1), Lansing Sexton (3-2) at Okemos (4-1), Olivet (5-0) at Lake Odessa Lakewood (5-0).
Northern Lower Peninsula
Frankfort (4-1) at Maple City Glen Lake (2-2), Friday
After finishing Division 6 runner-up last season, Glen Lake loaded up the schedule for this fall – and its losses are to undefeated Traverse City St. Francis and Watervliet. The Lakers came back from an open Week 4 to shut out Charlevoix last week, and they remain the biggest obstacle to Frankfort winning a third straight Northern Michigan Football Conference Leaders division title. The Panthers claimed last year’s championship thanks to a 26-21 win over Glen Lake. They also have only eight regular-season games, with an open date in Week 9, and this looks like the toughest test left before a potentially promising playoff run.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Lincoln Alcona (4-1) at Oscoda (4-1), Benton Harbor (2-3) at Traverse City West (5-0), AuGres-Sims (5-0) at Whittemore-Prescott (2-3), SATURDAY Grayling (4-1) at Traverse City St. Francis (5-0).
Southeast & Border
Ottawa Lake Whiteford (5-0) at Morenci (3-2), Friday
Whiteford hasn’t lost a regular-season game since 2015 and has yet to be challenged since finishing runner-up in Division 8 last season. The Bobcats have outscored their opponents 281-52 and handed Petersburg-Summerfield its only loss in their Tri-County Conference opener. Morenci joins Whiteford as undefeated in the league and with a deceptive overall record – those losses came the first two weeks by a combined three points against Pittsford and Hudson teams that together are 9-1. The Bulldogs have lost twice to Whiteford the last two seasons and beat Whiteford twice in 2014, meaning this could be only chapter one of two again for these rivals.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Climax-Scotts (4-1) at Adrian Lenawee Christian (4-1), Tecumseh (3-2) at Pinckney (4-1), Clinton (3-2) at Petersburg-Summerfield (4-1), Adrian (3-2) at Ypsilanti Lincoln (3-2).
Plainwell (4-1) at Edwardsburg (5-0), Friday
As noted earlier this season, Edwardsburg hasn’t lost a Wolverine B Conference game since 2012 (and now has 29 straight regular-season wins overall). But three teams have only one loss in the league this fall and are ready to pounce – and the Eddies face those three teams over the next three weeks. First up is Plainwell, followed by Three Rivers and then Vicksburg in Week 8. The Trojans have beaten Vicksburg and lost to Three Rivers so far, but given up only 33 points since falling to the Wildcats on opening night. Edwardsburg has given up only 34 points this season – and scored 290.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Parchment (4-1) at Berrien Springs (4-1), Jackson Lumen Christi (4-1) at Coldwater (4-1), Schoolcraft (4-1) at Constantine (3-2), Paw Paw (3-2) at Vicksburg (4-1).
Escanaba (4-1) at Menominee (4-1), Friday
This will be the 121st meeting between the Great Northern Conference rivals, and Menominee holds a 66-51-3 edge in the longtime rivalry. The Maroons swung the advantage their way with 18 straight wins over the Eskymos, including by 28-14 last year in the game that ended up deciding the league title. This will be Menominee’s first game against an in-state opponent after five versus Wisconsin teams to start the fall. It may be the Maroons’ toughest remaining before the playoffs; Escanaba’s lone loss was to much-improved Petoskey in Week 2.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Hurley, Wis. (4-2) at Hancock (4-1), Calumet (3-2) at Iron River West Iron County (4-1), Negaunee (2-3) at Ishpeming (2-3), Norway (5-0) at Munising (3-2).
East Grand Rapids (5-0) at Grand Rapids Christian (5-0), Friday
The west side of the Lower Peninsula is loaded with outstanding matchups this weekend. But this one rises to the top as a rematch of last season’s decider in the Ottawa-Kent Conference Gold in addition to featuring one of the best rivalries in the Grand Rapids area. Christian and EGR rank third and fourth, respectively, in playoff point average among teams projected to play in Division 3. Christian also started 5-0 last year before falling to the Pioneers 28-7 in Week 6, and this time East Grand Rapids has been more dominating with two straight shutouts while giving up only 42 points total so far.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Wyoming Kelloggsville (5-0) at Wyoming Godwin Heights (5-0), Remus Chippewa Hills (4-1) at Reed City (4-1), Rockford (3-2) at Grandville (4-1), Morley Stanwood (5-0) at Kent City (5-0).
Deckerville (5-0) at Morrice (5-0), Friday
From a numbers standpoint, these North Central Thumb League Stars contenders are nearly even; both are 4-0 in league play, Deckerville outscoring its opponents 214-40 this season and Morrice by a 223-46 margin. But the Eagles are the team to beat in at least the Lower Peninsula until proven otherwise, with 16 straight regular-season wins and after finishing 8-player runner-up a year ago – when they also beat Morrice 46-6. That said, the Orioles handed Flint International Academy its first loss last week and should make this game much more even as well.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Camden-Frontier (5-0) at Bellevue (5-0), Flint International Academy (4-1) at Lawrence (3-2), Ontonagon (3-1) at Stephenson (5-0), SATURDAY Suttons Bay (3-2) at Central Lake (5-0).
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PHOTO: Alma defenders wrap up a Birch Run ball carrier during a 21-10 win on opening night. (Click for more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)