By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
What’s still at stake as we dive into Week 9 of this football season?
Heading into Thursday night’s games – there were 11 played – 23 of 91 leagues statewide still had title shares or outright championships up for grabs.
Meanwhile, 171 11-player teams had secured playoff berths – and 71 could win and get in, although there also are 10 matchups between 5-3 teams this weekend that will leave the defeated hoping for at-large bids. The 8-player picture is just a little clearer: At least eight teams appear to be in the running for the final 2-3 spots in that 32-team field.
You’ll see below many of those league-deciding games, and others with playoff implications perhaps taking higher priority this week over matchups between teams already qualified. All games below are tonight unless noted. Check out the MHSAA Score Center for the full schedule and results as games are completed.
MHSAA.tv will broadcast seven games this weekend, and be sure to tune in to FOX Sports Detroit at 7 p.m. Sunday for the “Selection Sunday Show” announcing fields and pairings for the 11 and 8-player brackets. Our “Drive for Detroit” previews are powered by MI Student Aid.
Bay & Thumb
Davison (7-1) at Lapeer (8-0)
The winner takes the Saginaw Valley League Blue title outright. The lone loss between these teams was Davison’s to Detroit Catholic League Central co-champ Warren DeLaSalle in Week 7. Davison has only one league loss in the last three years – to Midland last season, which left the Cardinals to eventually place second. But they went on to beat Lapeer the next week and again in a playoff opener. This year’s Lightning team has been more successful on both sides of the ball, and the defense has given up more than 19 points only once.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Swartz Creek (6-2) at Ortonville Brandon (7-1), Midland Dow (5-3) at Midland (5-3), Mount Pleasant (8-0) at Saginaw Heritage (5-3), Goodrich (5-3) at Croswell-Lexington (5-3).
Detroit Cass Tech (8-0) vs. Detroit Martin Luther King (7-1) at Renaissance
These two rolled through their divisions of the Detroit Public School League so thoroughly that there hasn’t been much to point out over the last six weeks. But their rematch will decide the PSL “A” playoff champion; King won last year’s PSL semifinal meeting 17-7, and both teams went on to reach MHSAA Semifinals. The Crusaders’ only loss this fall was Week 2 against Muskegon, by three – the closest game for the Big Reds this season. Cass Tech’s only close game was a Week 2 one-point win over Ohio power Lakewood St. Edward. The Technicians have outscored PSL teams the last six weeks by a combined 269-7.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Brighton (7-1) at Belleville (8-0), Oak Park (7-1) at Clarkston (7-1), Grosse Ile (8-0) at Dearborn Heights Crestwood (8-0), SATURDAY Warren DeLaSalle (6-1) vs. Detroit Catholic Central (5-2) at Ford Field, Detroit Public Safety Academy (7-1) at Sterling Heights Parkway Christian (8-0).
Williamston (7-1) at Pewamo-Westphalia (8-0)
This one means nothing in the standings but could tell a lot about two playoff hopefuls. The Pirates will try to add to back-to-back Division 7 championships starting next week after yet another incredible regular season where they’ve outscored their first eight opponents by a combined 447-34 – and that included a 38-0 Week 1 win over Ithaca, which hasn’t lost since. With a win tonight, Williamston would lock up its best regular-season record since 2010, when it went on to finish Division 4 runner-up. The Hornets’ only trip-up came against St. Johns in Week 4, but over the last month they’ve beaten three teams that still have playoff aspirations heading into tonight.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Montague (7-1) at Portland (8-0), East Lansing (7-1) at Okemos (6-2), Saginaw Swan Valley (8-0) at St. Johns (5-3), Holton (5-3) at Howard City Tri-County (4-4).
Northern Lower Peninsula
New Lothrop (8-0) at Traverse City St. Francis (8-0)
The Traverse City West/Petoskey game could have league implications, but it’s hard to not talk more about New Lothrop making the trip up north. The Hornets are hoping to finish their eighth perfect regular season over the last nine years, and beat an eventual league champion in Maple City Glen Lake on opening night before a perfect run through the first-year Mid-Michigan Activities Conference. St. Francis also has a victory over Glen Lake, and by a similar margin. But the Gladiators have yet to win by fewer than 35 points – making this an important test for them as well heading into the playoffs.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Traverse City West (6-2) at Petoskey (5-3), Frankfort (5-3) at Benzie Central (5-3), Manton (4-4) at Rogers City (7-1), Cheboygan (4-4) at Elk Rapids (6-2).
Southeast & Border
Grass Lake (8-0) at Reading (8-0), Saturday
The Cascades Conference champion meets the Big 8 Conference title winner in one of five matchups pitting undefeated teams this week. The Warriors got here with defense – they have yet to give up more than 16 points in a game – while Reading, as noted last week, has had one of the most impressive defensive showings in the state. The Rangers gave up 14 in clinching the league title last week to bring their total number of points allowed to 33 this fall.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Dundee (5-3) at Hillsdale (7-1), Michigan Center (7-1) at Springport (7-1), Brooklyn Columbia Central (7-1) at Hudson (4-4), Ida (6-2) at Blissfield (5-3).
Cassopolis (8-0) at Centreville (8-0)
The Southwest 10 Conference championship comes down to this matchup of a team that’s had its share of recent success and another that is one of this season’s best turnaround success stories. Cassopolis was runner-up in the conference a year ago and won its old Berrien-Cass-St. Joseph Red in 2016. Centreville, meanwhile, will finish with its first winning record since 2008 and after claiming a total of five victories over the last three seasons. And talk about defense, the Bulldogs have given up 34 points this fall – and these Rangers have given up a mere 24.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Schoolcraft (7-1) vs. Kalamazoo United (8-0) at Vicksburg, Portage Northern (6-2) at St. Joseph (5-3), Plainwell (5-3) at Otsego (5-3), Napoleon (5-3) at Quincy (5-3).
Gaylord (5-3) at Sault Ste. Marie (5-3)
Sault Ste. Marie has bounced back from two straight two-win seasons and a 1-2 start to this one to reach the verge of returning the postseason despite scoring only 123 points over seven games – they’ve made it by giving up only 15 per game. Gaylord is looking to take the next step after missing the playoffs last season as a 5-4 finisher. Speaking of “so close,” the last two weeks have been excruciating for the downstate Blue Devils with two one-point losses that would’ve meant a league title had they gone the other way.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Kingsford (4-4) at Escanaba (6-2), Norway (4-4) at Iron River West Iron County (6-2), Gwinn (5-3) at Munising (4-4), Marquette (4-4) at Menominee (1-7).
Rockford (5-3) at East Kentwood (7-1)
A share of the Ottawa-Kent Conference Red championship is at stake. So is a lot more. The Falcons have clinched at least a share of the league title. But Rockford can earn a share as well with a third-straight win in this series – and although the Rams would be a strong at-large candidate at 5-4, they must win to guarantee continuing a 23-year playoff streak. It’s the longest active postseason football streak in the state, and also tied for the longest all-time.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Zeeland East (7-1) at Hudsonville Unity Christian (7-1), Saugatuck (7-1) at Fennville (7-1), Berrien Springs (7-1) at Muskegon Oakridge (7-1), Hudsonville (5-3) at Holland West Ottawa (6-2).
Wyoming Tri-unity Christian (8-0) at Colon (8-0)
The Magi can finish their first perfect regular season since 1957 (according the Michigan-football.com), and have picked it up the last three weeks outscoring those opponents by a combined 150-6 – despite the fact two of those teams are possible playoff qualifiers. For Tri-unity Christian, this would be a second perfect regular season in three years. But that hardly makes it less significant. The Defenders have reached three straight playoffs and advanced to the Semifinals two years ago. A win of this magnitude would be the best way to keep things rolling into their next postseason trip.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Powers North Central (7-1) at Stephenson (5-3), Tekonsha (5-3) at Bellevue (7-1), Pickford (8-0) at Cedarville (5-3), Peck (5-3) at Deckerville (6-2).
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PHOTO: Saginaw Heritage, here against Arthur Hill this fall, is among 71 teams hoping to qualify for the MHSAA Playoffs with a win this weekend. (Click for more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)