By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
With 600 high school teams in Michigan and good games always to be found, just about any week could be called “Rivalry Week” as the term is often hyped at the college and pro levels.
But this week in this state is a little more special this fall.
A number of the best rivalries – longtime or emerging – will be played out over the next two days, and we offer a glance at a number of those games below. You’ll have a chance to check out a bunch, as seven of the games mentioned in this preview are among the 32 that will be broadcast live on MHSAA.tv – click here for the schedule.
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Bay & Thumb
Grand Blanc (4-0) at Davison (4-0)
These teams entered this game last season under almost identical circumstances – and Davison exited with a 49-7 win on the way to finishing second to Lapeer in the Saginaw Valley League Blue. Those three appear to be the main title contenders again, and Davison has won its first two Blue games by a combined 104-0 while Grand Blanc also opened league play last week with a shutout. Last season’s loss started a rough finish for the Bobcats, and they face a tough regular-season second half again with Lapeer, Flint Powers Catholic and Saline coming up. Obviously, a win tonight would provide a sizable lift heading into that string.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Harbor Beach (4-0) at Ubly (4-0), Saginaw Swan Valley (3-1) at Frankenmuth (4-0), Fenton (3-1) at Flint Kearsley (4-0), Breckenridge (3-1) at Merrill (3-1).
Macomb Dakota (3-1) at Clinton Township Chippewa Valley (4-0)
One of the best rivalries in the state again matches up the teams tied for first in the Macomb Area Conference Red. Chippewa Valley is riding an 18-game winning streak after claiming last season’s Division 1 championship and has won four straight over Dakota – with victories over the Cougars during the playoffs as well the last two seasons. Dakota’s only slip-up this fall came Week 1 against still-unbeaten Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, and it will be interesting to see how this meeting shakes out. The Big Reds won by only seven, 24-17, the first time they played in 2018 but 51-10 in the District Final rematch.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY West Bloomfield (3-1) at Lake Orion (4-0), Brownstown Woodhaven (4-0) at Allen Park (3-1), North Farmington (4-0) at Auburn Hills Avondale (3-1), Warren De La Salle Collegiate (2-2) at Orchard Lake St. Mary's (4-0).
Portland (4-0) at Lansing Catholic (4-0)
This one gets top billing by just a smidge over East Lansing/DeWitt, as Portland can claim supremacy in the Lansing area so far thanks to its two-point Week 2 win over the Panthers. The Raiders have otherwise dominated coming off last year’s Division 5 runner-up finish, but Lansing Catholic surely has been looking forward to this opportunity. Not only will tonight’s game likely eventually decide the Capital Area Activities Conference White champion, but Portland handed the Cougars their only two losses last season – by a combined 12 points.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY East Lansing (3-1) at DeWitt (3-1), Sanford Meridian (4-0) at Clare (4-0), St. Johns (3-1) at Mason (4-0), Laingsburg (3-1) at Pewamo-Westphalia (4-0).
Northern Lower Peninsula
Johannesburg-Lewiston (4-0) at Tawas (3-1)
The Cardinals are tied for first in the Northern Michigan Football League Legacy division after winning the title outright a year ago, and they’ve dominated for most of 2019 so far. But this nonleague meeting starts a string of games against four straight playoff hopefuls. Tawas was a qualifier last season and this fall is just a two-point opening-night loss to Alcona from a perfect start as well.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Charlevoix (3-1) at Frankfort (2-2), Mancelona (2-2) at Elk Rapids (2-2). SATURDAY Alpena (2-2) at Traverse City West (2-2), Gaylord (2-2) at Traverse City Central (3-1).
Southeast & Border
Marshall (3-1) at Jackson Lumen Christi (4-0)
By nature of this kind of success, as Lumen Christi’s state-best 27-game winning streak continues to grow, every matchup will be scrutinized that much more. The Titans have beaten Marshall in three straight but scored a season low in last year’s 21-0 shutout of the Redhawks. And this is a better Marshall team; after three straight seasons winning three or four games, Marshall is a one-point opening-night loss to Freeland from 4-0. Meanwhile, another win could just about seal up the Interstate 8 Athletic Conference title for Lumen – its final three league opponents are a combined 3-9.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Chelsea (4-0) at Jackson (3-1), Britton Deerfield (3-1) at Sand Creek (3-1), Hillsdale (4-0) at Hudson (2-2), Brooklyn Columbia Central (3-1) at Onsted (2-2).
Battle Creek Lakeview (4-0) at Kalamazoo Central (2-2)
Lakeview has had a nice run through the 2010s with five playoff appearances in a row from 2012-16. But last season the Spartans won two games, their fewest since 2002 – although that should be fading from memory with this start. A win tonight would bury it further, as defeating reigning champion Kalamazoo Central would earn Lakeview a share of the Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference East title – its first since 2015. But making it happen might take the Spartans’ best performance so far. The Maroon Giants have suffered their two losses by just a combined seven points, and the last three meetings with Lakeview all have been decided by eight points or fewer.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Cassopolis (4-0) at Decatur (2-2), Portage Central (2-2) at Stevensville Lakeshore (2-2), Benton Harbor (2-2) at Battle Creek Central (1-3). SATURDAY Delton Kellogg (3-1) at Schoolcraft (4-0).
Lake Linden-Hubbell (3-1) at L'Anse (3-1)
These teams are enjoying similar jumpstarts this fall but with this nonleague matchup key to their postseason hopes. The Lakes were 10-1 as recently as 2016, but won just two games last season. A two-point Week 2 loss to Ishpeming is all that’s kept them from 4-0, but their next two games are against the leaders of their Western Peninsula Athletic Conference Iron division. Despite opening with a loss to Hancock, the Purple Hornets have equaled their win total from all of last season as they pursue a first playoff berth since 2013 – but with a tough slate of West PAC Copper games coming up to finish the regular season.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Escanaba (3-1) at Kingsford (2-2), Iron Mountain (4-0) at Bark River-Harris (3-1), Boyne City (2-2) at Menominee (3-1), Ogemaw Heights (3-1) at Sault Ste. Marie (3-1).
Muskegon Oakridge (4-0) at Montague (4-0)
This has as much claim to being Michigan’s best matchup of the weekend as any listed above or below, after Montague won last year’s meeting 25-24 on a touchdown and 2-point conversion with no time left. Oakridge went on to win out before falling by three to eventual Division 5 champion Hudsonville Unity Christian in the District Final – meaning the Eagles’ two defeats were by a combined four points to teams that ended up at Ford Field. Montague was runner-up in Division 6 and opened 2019 by avenging last season’s loss to Reed City.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Hudsonville Unity Christian (3-1) at Grand Rapids South Christian (3-1), Byron Center (4-0) at Zeeland West (4-0), East Kentwood (3-1) at Grandville (4-0), Manistee (3-1) at Muskegon Orchard View (4-0).
Colon (4-0) at Climax-Scotts (4-0)
As expected, things got a little more competitive last week for Climax-Scotts as it continued to march through its first season of 8-player. But a 16-12 win over Camden-Frontier set the Panthers up to take on reigning Southern Central Athletic Association A champion Colon with an opportunity to win a share of the league title. The Magi have outscored their opponents by a combined 197-18 and have a few reasons to be amped. Not only does this stack up as one of the top 8-player matchups of the regular season statewide, but Climax-Scotts beat Colon in 11 straight 11-player games from 2008 through 2017.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Vestaburg (4-0) at Portland St. Patrick (4-0), Mio (3-1) at Hillman (4-0), Cedarville (2-2) at Brimley (4-0), Martin (4-0) at St. Joseph Lake Michigan Catholic (2-2).
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PHOTO: Portland edged DeWitt 29-27 in Week 2. Both play this weekend in games that eventually could decide their leagues’ champions. (Click for more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)