By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Sadly, thousands of Michigan high school football players will play the final game of their seasons – and in many cases their careers – this weekend.
The sunnier news: A few thousand more may still have control over whether they will suit up again for the MHSAA Playoffs.
Week 9, the last of this regular season, began Thursday with a handful of games and will conclude around 8 p.m. Saturday with the last of the Detroit Catholic League championship games. Entering Thursday, 166 teams had clinched playoff berths in the 256-team 11-player field – with 139 hopefuls still with a chance to advance. Of that 139, 60 simply need to win this weekend to qualify – but it’s also anticipated that a record number of additional qualifiers – with 5-4 or 4-4 records – will make the field when it is selected and introduced Sunday.
Our weekly preview below highlights many contests you might expect, and many you might not. There are still five league title races completely up for grabs, and 23 where one team has clinched but another (or more) may still share the championship. Games with league titles or playoff berths are on the line were given priority over otherwise great matchups that will still be fun to watch but won’t figure in as much into what happens beyond this weekend.
Remember to tune in to FOX Sports Detroit PLUS at 7 p.m. Sunday for the “Selection Sunday Show” announcement of brackets in every division for both 11 and 8-player. The show also can be viewed on FOXSportsDetroit.com or via FOX Sports Go! Additionally, 34 games will be streamed live Friday and Saturday on MHSAA.tv – click for listings and links.
"Drive for Detroit" is sponsored by MI Student Aid.
Bay & Thumb
Lapeer (7-1) at Davison (7-1)
Just like a year ago, the Saginaw Valley League Blue title comes down to this regular-season finale. Last season, Lapeer emerged with a 28-6 win and the outright league championship. The Lightning’s only regular-season loss the last two seasons came to Lake Orion this year in Week 1, and that’s looked better every week as the Dragons stand 7-1. Also for the second straight year, Davison’s lone loss heading into this game has come to Warren De La Salle Collegiate. The Cardinals also have a notable win over Flint Metro League “Upper” champion Fenton, while Lapeer beat SVL Red second-place Midland Dow and last week Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Ubly (7-1) at Cass City (7-1), Central Montcalm (7-1) at Millington (4-4), New Lothrop (8-0) at Frankenmuth (8-0), Midland (8-0) at Midland Dow (5-3).
Detroit Catholic Central (4-4) vs. Orchard Lake St. Mary's (7-1), Saturday at Eastern Michigan University
The Bishop division championship game at Rynearson Stadium will match up the co-champions from the Detroit Catholic League Central – but this means more than another trophy for the Shamrocks. DCC is one of two league champions statewide facing the prospect of ending with a sub-.500 overall record. And if history holds, DCC also would look good to qualify for the playoffs at 5-4 due to its strong schedule. But the Eaglets are not without added motivation too – they fell to DCC 20-14 two weeks ago to create that shared league title.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Dearborn Fordson (7-1) at Brighton (7-1), Birmingham Groves (7-1) at Brownstown Woodhaven (8-0), Detroit Martin Luther King (6-2) vs. Detroit Denby (7-1) at Detroit Renaissance, West Bloomfield (7-1) at Warren De La Salle Collegiate (5-3).
Pewamo-Westphalia (8-0) at Williamston (5-3)
The Pirates locked up the Central Michigan Athletic Conference title last week and can extend their regular-season winning streak to 26. One of the few close victories during that run came in Week 9 last season when P-W edged Williamston 28-27. The Hornets need this one to qualify for the playoffs automatically, and having that chance is impressive on its own considering they entered Week 7 with three undefeated teams left on the schedule. Williamston then fell close to still-unbeaten Mason, but last week handed Olivet its only loss, 35-28.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Okemos (1-7) at East Lansing (6-2), Lansing Waverly (3-5) at DeWitt (6-2), Grand Ledge (2-6) at Holt (6-2), Bath (3-5) at Perry (4-4).
Northern Lower Peninsula
Cadillac (5-3) at Traverse City Central (7-1), Saturday
The Trojans led the Big North Conference all season, winning all of their games since falling to DeWitt by five in Week 1. They claimed a share of the title last week, but a fifth-straight win over Cadillac to make the championship outright won’t be automatic by any means. The Vikings have bounced way back from going 1-8 last year after finishing 2-7 in 2017, and two of those three losses this fall were by a combined four points.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Charlevoix (5-3) at Harbor Springs (6-2), Clare (7-1) at McBain (5-3), Kingsley (8-0) at Boyne City (4-4), Johannesburg-Lewiston (8-0) at Indian River Inland Lakes (8-0).
Southeast & Border
Livonia Clarenceville (5-3) at Whitmore Lake (6-2)
The Trojans moved into the Michigan Independent Athletic Conference this fall after decades in the Tri-County Conference, and they couldn’t have hoped for a better football outcome. Whitmore Lake is guaranteed its first winning regular season in this sport since 2013, and it claimed a share of the MIAC title last week. But that could turn into a three-team shared championship if Clarenceville – tied with Auburn Hills Oakland Christian for second place – downs Whitmore Lake in this league finale.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Jonesville (6-2) at Grass Lake (7-1), Hillsdale (8-0) at Dundee (5-3), Homer (6-2) at Manchester (5-3). SATURDAY Reading (7-1) at Addison (7-1).
Edwardsburg (8-0) at Paw Paw (8-0)
The reigning Wolverine Conference and statewide Division 4 champion Eddies are putting a 22-game winning streak on the line, having last lost in the 2017 Division 4 Final. In fact, Edwardsburg has only two league defeats since joining the Wolverine in 2012. The Eddies defeated Paw Paw twice last season, also in a District Final – but the Redskins rarely have been slowed this fall and enter this matchup with nearly the same defensive points-against average as Edwardsburg after playing the same opponents. Not counting South Haven, which forfeited to Edwardsburg and fell to Paw Paw 56-0, the Eddies are scoring 52 points per game and giving up 6.4. Paw Paw is scoring 39 points and giving up 6.9.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY St. Joseph (6-2) at Portage Northern (7-1), Stevensville Lakeshore (4-4) at Mattawan (4-4), Kalamazoo United (4-4) at Schoolcraft (8-0), Vicksburg (5-3) at Otsego (5-3).
Kingsford (4-4) at Marquette (4-4)
Marquette joins Detroit Catholic Central as the other league champion also playing for an overall winning record and playoff berth this week. The Redmen have earned a share of the Great Northern Conference title and can clinch it outright against the Flivvers. But Kingsford has a lot to play for as well – a win could mean an additional qualifier playoff berth after the team just missed the postseason a year ago. Additionally, Escanaba would claim a share of the league title as well if the Flivvers are victorious.
Keep an eye on these: THURSDAY Bark River-Harris (5-3) at Ishpeming (6-2). FRIDAY L'Anse (4-4) at Calumet (7-1), Negaunee (6-2) at Ishpeming Westwood (6-2), Bessemer (0-8) at Iron Mountain (8-0).
East Kentwood (5-3) at Rockford (7-1)
The Ottawa-Kent Conference Red is full of possibilities after Grandville defeated Rockford 30-3 last week to move into a tie for first place with the Rams. The first option would see Rockford win this game and Grandville defeat Caledonia so they would share the title – or just one of the two could win tonight and claim the championship outright. Or, East Kentwood and Caledonia could win this weekend, with the Falcons and then perhaps Hudsonville (with a win over last-place Holland West Ottawa) making it a four-team shared championship. East Kentwood defeated Rockford 28-17 last season, and fell to Grandville by just a point four weeks ago.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Portland (7-1) at Montague (6-2), Traverse City St. Francis (6-2) at Muskegon Oakridge (8-0), Hudsonville Unity Christian (5-3) at Zeeland East (5-3), Grandville (7-1) at Caledonia (3-5).
Martin (8-0) at Climax-Scotts (7-1)
At one point in Martin history, the Clippers posted six straight 0-9 seasons from 2008-13. It’s only worth bringing those up because Martin this weekend can finish the regular season undefeated for the first time since 1987, when it won the 11-player Class D title. Climax-Scotts, like Martin, is enjoying an excellent first year of 8-player – and if the playoffs started today, they’d both be considered MHSAA championship contenders with the Clippers in Division 1 and the Panthers in Division 2.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Gaylord St. Mary (3-5) at Brethren (5-3), Suttons Bay (8-0) at Mesick (7-1), Burr Oak (5-3) at Portland St. Patrick (8-0), Pickford (7-1) at Brimley (5-3).
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PHOTO: Southfield Arts & Technology defenders, in red, stop an Oxford ball carrier during a Week 7 win. The Warriors are among teams needing a victory this weekend to potentially qualify for the playoffs. (Photo by Terry Lyons.)