By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
After a slight delay, we’re back – and landing right in the heart of the 2020 Michigan high school football season.
After missing the previously-scheduled first three weeks due to COVID-19 precautions, there’s no time for teams to ease into the action. This week’s schedule is loaded with some of the major matchups we circle every fall.
Below is a look at storylines coming out of every region of the state and 8-player for this opening weekend (we’re going to continue calling it Week 4). We’ll again be tracking scores in real time with the MHSAA Score Center. And remember, attendance limits are in place – but we’ll have at least 32 games broadcast Friday and Saturday on MHSAA.tv. (Nine games kicked the varsity season off Thursday night, and you can catch one of those as well on demand.)
Records below are for the 2019 season.
Bay & Thumb
Beaverton (10-1) at Sanford Meridian (8-4)
The Beavers are coming off their best season ever, after claiming the Jack Pine Conference championship and closing the regular season with four straight shutouts. The zero streak began with a 20-0 win over Meridian, which went on to finish third in the JPC but then claimed a District title. The Mustangs are hoping to next beat Beaverton for the first time since their best season ever, in 2015.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Linden (4-5) at Flushing (5-5), Frankenmuth (9-2) at Freeland (9-3), Flint Carman-Ainsworth (2-7) at Grand Blanc (5-5), Ubly (10-3) at Harbor Beach (10-1).
Detroit Martin Luther King (11-3) at Detroit Cass Tech (7-5), Saturday
The Detroit Public School League kicks off with its annual game of the year. These rivals will play in different divisions of the PSL again and could meet a second time, as is frequent, in the PSL championship game in five weeks. King is coming off a big win in last season’s matchup after a similar Cass Tech victory in 2018 – so another classic may be due.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Macomb Dakota (6-5) at Clinton Township Chippewa Valley (9-1), West Bloomfield (10-2) at Oak Park (8-2), Utica Eisenhower (9-3) at Sterling Heights Stevenson (8-5) SATURDAY Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice (6-5) at Warren De La Salle Collegiate (5-5).
Portland (8-3) at DeWitt (10-3)
Both will look to hit the ground running in what should again this season be one of the best matchups in the Lansing area. The Panthers’ three losses last year came by a combined 28 points, and their closest was a 29-27 defeat to the Raiders in Week 2. Portland scored the most points DeWitt gave up last fall, but arrived in a similar spot later with three losses over its final four games and by a combined 29 points.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Williamston (5-5) at Fowlerville (7-4), Pewamo-Westphalia (14-0) at Laingsburg (6-4), Saginaw Nouvel (7-5) at Ithaca (8-2), Saginaw Swan Valley (8-4) at Alma (4-5).
Northern Lower Peninsula
Traverse City West (7-3) vs. Traverse City Central (8-2) at Thirlby Field
Talk about a different look this season. The “Patriot Game” between these rivals generally brings about 10,000 fans to downtown Traverse City. But this region is allowed a maximum of 500 people (including players) at outdoor games under Phase 5 of the MI Safe Start Plan. Still, smaller crowds won’t change the meaning for the teams on the field. Central’s 32-0 win last year was the first double-digit victory in the series since 2012, and it decided the Big North Conference title.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Kingsley (12-1) at Cheboygan (4-5), Boyne City (4-5) at Maple City Glen Lake (12-2), Lake City (6-4) at McBain (6-5) SATURDAY Sault Ste. Marie (7-4) at Traverse City St. Francis (8-4)
Southeast & Border
Dexter (8-2) at Chelsea (12-1)
Dexter – remember one of the great stories of 2018 when it made the playoffs for the first time – continued its surge last fall with its most wins during at least the MHSAA playoff era. And the Dreadnaughts were close to accomplishing possibly much more, with last year’s defeats by a combined seven points. Chelsea’s 22-17 win over Dexter in Week 1 ended up deciding the Southeastern Conference White title, making this rematch potentially another of the “right into the fire” moments of this season’s start.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Ida (4-5) at Clinton (9-1), Hanover-Horton (4-5) at Michigan Center (4-5), Pittsford (4-5) at Sand Creek (8-3), Dundee (5-5) at Blissfield (6-4).
Constantine (8-3) at Schoolcraft (10-2)
These were two of three teams that shared the Southwestern Athletic Conference Lakeshore title last season, thanks to Schoolcraft’s 27-24 win of their matchup. The Eagles have won six straight meetings with Constantine, including two in the playoffs – and this game will still mean a lot to both although the teams are in different divisions of the SAC this fall.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Portage Northern (10-2) at Stevensville Lakeshore (4-5), East Lansing (7-3) at Portage Central (5-5), Fennville (4-5) at Lawton (10-1), Jackson Lumen Christi (12-1) at Marshall (6-5).
Menominee (7-4) at Marquette (5-5)
This rematch could be one of the best regular-season games north of Mackinac Bridge this fall. Marquette is the reigning Great Northern Conference champion as both of these teams made the postseason a year ago. Marquette’s 28-21 win over the Maroons broke a seven-game losing streak against the annual league foe.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Harbor Springs (6-4) at St. Ignace (5-5), Kingsford (4-5) at Calumet (10-2), Gwinn (1-8) at Hancock (5-4), Manistique (3-6) at Negaunee (6-4).
Hudsonville (8-4) at East Kentwood (6-5)
The Eagles have had to wait all offseason and then some for a chance to avenge a painful 2019 loss. Despite falling to Rockford the previous week last season, Hudsonville came into last year’s matchup with East Kentwood still tied for first in the Ottawa-Kent Conference Red – and then was upset 31-20 by the eventual fourth-place Falcons. Maybe it wasn’t an upset though, as East Kentwood has beaten Hudsonville in three straight and picked up a playoff win over Rockford at the end of last fall.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central (8-3) vs. Grand Rapids Christian (7-3) at Forest Hills Eastern, Muskegon Mona Shores (12-2) at Muskegon Reeths-Puffer (5-4), Jenison (4-5) at Rockford (8-2), East Grand Rapids (5-5) at Lowell (1-8).
Deckerville (10-1) at New Haven Merritt (8-2)
Deckerville’s only loss last season came in a Regional Final, and the Eagles yearly are one of the strongest statewide contenders. Merritt is looking to make that jump. The Mustangs have reached the playoffs five of the last six seasons, and they’ll get two serious tests – plus major postseason prep – right away this month in Deckerville and Morrice as a new member of the North Central Thumb League Stars.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY
Camden-Frontier (6-4) at Climax Scotts (9-3), Martin (10-1) at Wyoming Tri-unity Christian (5-5), Cedarville (6-5) at Engadine (8-2), Bellevue (6-4) at Colon (13-0).
PHOTO by Robert Batzloff.