By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Week 7 has a couple of contrasting meanings in the grand scheme of Michigan high school football.
On one hand, we're drawing to a close of the regular season. On the other, we're just reaching the midpoint of the 14-week drive that carries us through the MHSAA Finals.
So here's where we sit. Fifty-one 11-player teams have qualified for the 11-player Playoffs. Another 94 are on the verge, needing one more victory. League titles will be decided all over Michigan again this weekend, and pairs of the best in all of the Upper Peninsula face off in both 11 and 8-player games.
Keep an eye on the statewide scene by following the MHSAA Score Center for scores as they come in tonight and Saturday, and check out MHSAA.tv for six live broadcasts – click here for the schedule. Drive for Detroit is powered by MI Student Aid.
Sidenote: With a win tonight against Oak Park (5-1) by his Hawks (4-2), Farmington Hills Harrison coach John Herrington would tie retired Birmingham Brother Rice coach Al Fracassa for the MHSAA record with 430 wins. Stay tuned.
Bay & Thumb
Frankenmuth (6-0) at Millington (6-0), Friday
This is the game, again, in the Tri-Valley Conference East as Frankenmuth has won 22 straight in the league dating to a loss to Millington in 2014. That season was the first of what is now four straight that these two have entered their annual meeting both undefeated. Coincidentally this time, both have scored 246 points this year, with Millington giving up 112 and Frankenmuth 102. And it gets closer still: In a projected Division 5 playoff field, Frankenmuth is third in playoff point average, with Millington next trailing by a mere 1.600. It’s fair to say a league title and possible home District Final are on the line.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Flushing (5-1) at Fenton (6-0), Lapeer (5-1) at Davison (5-1), Ortonville Brandon (4-2) at Linden (5-1), Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker (5-1) at Unionville-Sebewaing (4-2).
Detroit Central (5-1) at Detroit Martin Luther King (5-1), Friday
Detroit Central is much smaller than even a decade ago when it had more than 1,000 students; the Trail Blazers played in the Division 6 playoffs last season. But they’ve got a chance to take a share of the Detroit Public School League Black division title from King, which has three times as many students these days and is the two-time reigning Division 2 champion. Both have talented offenses, but defense may reign; King has given up six points total over four league games, Central just 25. King is coming off a 27-6 win over previously-undefeated Denby, which handed Central its lone loss, 12-6, in Week 3.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard (6-0) at Dearborn Divine Child (5-1), Warren Fitzgerald (5-1) at Madison Heights Madison (6-0), Clarkston Everest Collegiate (5-1) at Waterford Our Lady (4-1), Clarkston (5-1) at Rochester Adams (5-1).
DeWitt (5-1) at Haslett (5-1), Friday
For the first time in a decade, one of this region’s most heated rivalries is relevant again, as the Capital Area Activities Conference Red title is on the line. That’s hardly all. Six of these teams’ first 11 meetings this century were decided by seven or fewer points; only two of the last 10 have been that close, and DeWitt has won 16 straight. But Haslett is 5-1 for the first time since 2007 and already has one more win than all of last season, and DeWitt moves to the CAAC Blue next fall – making this the most significant regular-season meeting these two might enjoy against each other for a while.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Wyoming Godwin Heights (5-1) at Belding (5-1), Lansing Sexton (4-2) at Holt (3-3), Lake Fenton (5-1) at Corunna (3-3), Carrollton (5-1) at Alma (6-0).
Northern Lower Peninsula
Johannesburg-Lewiston (4-2) at Gaylord St. Mary (6-0), Friday
Despite a couple of nonleague losses, Johannesburg-Lewiston has bounced back nicely from last season’s 4-5 finish, which was its first below .500 since 2007. Although Harbor Springs could figure into the mix – both the Cardinals and St. Mary face the Rams over the final two weeks of the regular season – tonight’s matchup could go a long way in deciding the Northern Michigan Football Conference Legacy champ. St. Mary is enjoying that opportunity after starting 2016 5-0 and finishing it 1-4. But that one win was over Johannesburg-Lewiston and by 28 points, perhaps a bit of a confidence builder with these two now the main contenders.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Elk Rapids (5-1) at Grayling (4-2), Beal City (4-2) at McBain (5-1), Hillman (3-3) at Oscoda (4-2), Cheboygan (3-3) at Traverse City St. Francis (6-0).
Southeast & Border
Hudson (6-0) at Ida (5-1), Friday
The Tigers are looking to run through the Lenawee County Athletic Association schedule undefeated for the fifth time in nine seasons, but 2015 league champion Ida is standing in the way after both teams also shared last season’s title – Ida fell to Hudson by a point (and Hudson fell to Hillsdale). After a pair of impressive nonleague wins, the Tigers have won every LCAA game so far by at least 22. The Bluestreaks took an eight-point loss to Brooklyn Columbia Central two weeks ago and surely won’t mind sharing the title again as a result of handing Hudson its first defeat tonight.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Ann Arbor Pioneer (3-3) at Saline (5-1), Athens (5-1) at Pittsford (5-1), Parma Western (4-2) at Jackson Lumen Christi (5-1), Grass Lake (4-2) at Addison (5-1).
Edwardsburg (6-0) at Three Rivers (5-1), Friday
Edwardsburg’s 34-game Wolverine B Conference winning streak just keeps growing, but a few challengers are lined up. Three Rivers fell to the Eddies 38-0 just a year ago, but already has avenged its other 2016 league loss this season, flipping a 29-point defeat to Plainwell into a 20-point win on opening night. Granted, the Wildcats followed that with a 14-point loss to Dowagiac, which fell to the Eddies by eight two weeks later in giving them their first significant league challenge in two years. But if nothing else, this should be closer than a year ago – and Vicksburg (5-1) will be waiting for Edwardsburg in Week 8.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Coldwater (4-2) at Battle Creek Harper Creek (6-0), Schoolcraft (5-1) at Coloma (4-2), Cassopolis (6-0) at Hartford (5-1), Decatur (4-2) at Mendon (6-0).
Gladstone (6-0) at Escanaba (5-1), Friday
It’s an interesting coincidence that the season these two are considered arguably the best teams in the Upper Peninsula is also the first time they aren’t in the same league since the mid-1980s, but that hardly lessens the significance of this matchup. The Eskymos are laying claim to the top spot after doubling up annual top U.P. team Menominee last week. Gladstone is staring down its best season since at least 2008 – and it can only get better with this opportunity against its old Great Northern Conference foe.
Others that caught my eye: FIRDAY Newberry (3-2) at Norway (6-0), Calumet (3-3) at L'Anse (4-2), Charlevoix (2-4) at Munising (3-3), Bark River-Harris (3-3) at Bessemer Gogebic (2-4).
Rockford (4-2) at Holland West Ottawa (5-1)
Pick a league, any league, on the west side and it seems like there is a game that will determine a league champion either this week or eventually. These are the best from the elite Ottawa-Kent Conference Red; Rockford is 3-0 in the league and West Ottawa is 4-0. The Panthers especially have to be thinking historically; they haven’t beaten the Rams since 2002. But West Ottawa also has more wins this fall than the last two seasons combined and has yet to give up more than seven points in a league game – an impressive enough feat to make this look like a much closer matchup than last year’s 51-14 Rockford win.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Lowell (4-2) at Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central (6-0), Comstock Park (4-2) at Grand Rapids Catholic Central (6-0), Wyoming Kelloggsville (6-0) at Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian (5-1), Muskegon Oakridge (5-1) at Montague (6-0).
Stephenson (6-0) at Rapid River (6-0)
Similar to Powers North Central and Crystal Falls Forest Park in 2016, these two have an argument that they are the best in all of 8-player football even as relative neighbors. But only one (most likely) will finish as champion of the Western Eight Conference – although at this point, both could have a chance to finish as MHSAA champions as they project to play in different playoff divisions. Stephenson has two straight wins over the Rockets and hasn’t allowed an opponent closer than 24 points this season. Rapid River certainly has more experience in close games – with three wins by eight or fewer – and that could pay off.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Engadine (4-2) at Cedarville (6-0), Marion (5-1) at Manistee Catholic Central (2-3), Kingston (4-2) at Morrice (6-0), Pickford (6-0) at Onaway (3-3).
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PHOTO: DeWitt, here against Grand Ledge in Week 2, will try to win its 17th straight over rival Haslett. (Click for more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)