Monday, October 20, 2008

Week Nine, Rivalries Renewed & The Paul Bunyan Game!

In a perfect world, this is what Week Nine of every high school football season would look like every fall.

Even in metro Detroit, with all the unemployment, foreclosure and economic uncertainty (which seems to be the only thing certain of late), this week of high school and college football is sweet. On Friday, a school's gridiron success is measured by either qualifying for the playoffs, beating your traditional rival, or quite possibly both. Saturday, Michigan State's Spartans meet Michigan's Wolverines in historic Michigan Stadium in the annual Paul Bunyan Trophy game.

Michigan-Michigan State should always be played in Week Nine of the prep season to highlight the traditional rivalry week, and on the eighth day, God created football, right? Plus anything would beat this past weekend, where four of the state's five BCS-eligible schools lost, and the only reason there was a win at all was because Western Michigan and Central Michigan played each other.

Tom Markowski's morning column in The Detroit News illuminated the logjam possible with the Michigan High School Athletic Association's football tournament, which has a 256-school ceiling. Markowski has counted 184 schools who've already earned the needed six wins to play a 10th game. 80 schools need one more win to join the previous 184. Four games feature a match-up of 5-3 teams, so 186 schools will have earned a tournament invite outside of the other schools not playing a pseudo playoff game.

I don't think Andy Frushour's declaration that there will be a day when there will be more teams with six wins than available playoff spots (256) is here yet, but stranger things have happened and I do think that day is coming, when a 6-3 team doesn't earn a playoff spot. Mathematically speaking, it's possible but not probable this season.

Before I go further, I can't think of a team or school to keep in your prayers or well wishes more than Detroit Henry Ford High. You can't tell me the Trojans were thinking about football in their 36-0 loss last week to Detroit Southeastern. If you ever need to call upon courage for yourself, think of the kid who pulls himself out of bed to play football a day after a four-person shooting in front of his school. There's a great history, pride and tradition at Henry Ford and the Trojans have done football better than most in the entire state. Here's to hoping the Trojan family can find some peace within the events that have enveloped the school.

In metro Detroit, it's an old-fashioned rivalry game week. Here's five of the more historic games that will go down Friday night.

Vikings - Eagles: Hazel Park (4-4) owns wins over teams with a combined six wins so for all purposes, this is probably the playoff game to end the season for the Vikings if they can upset their longtime counterparts from neighboring Ferndale (7-1). The two schools have played 78 times with Ferndale holding a 39-33-6 advantage, and in games since 1950, the Eagles hold a slight 29-28 count advantage. Perhaps no two schools in Oakland County share more common history than Hazel Park and Ferndale.

Chieftains - Bulldogs: It's been a great season for the 'Dawgs as Romeo (6-2) is playing their first season in the rugged MAC Red, while Utica hasn't seen the left side of the win-loss ledger this season. Nothing would make the season more memorable for the Chieftains than upsetting Romeo in the Brown Jug Game this Friday. The two Macomb county rivals meet for the 58th time this Friday, with Romeo holding 30 wins to Utica's 22. Four games have ended in a tie and one game's result is unconfirmed.

Dragons - Wolves: Clarkston (6-2) and Lake Orion (7-1) are once again marching towards each other for a Week Nine throwdown that has become a game circled in red by players, coaches and fans alike for the last several years. The two schools, who didn't play for two decades from 1957 to 1976, have a 38-game spread of 20-18 between each other, with Clarkston holding the slim edge. Both the green 'n white (LO) and maize 'n blue (CHS) are playoff-bound. Rumor has it that for the first time, there might be a physical trophy awarded to the winner of the annual tilt. The Battle For The Paddle, maybe?

Bulldogs - Lions: One of the few rivalries that cross county lines in metro Detroit. Oakland County's South Lyon and Livingston County's Brighton High have played nearly every fall since before World War II. This year the game features a South Lyon team that has split eight games while Brighton has struggled to a 2-6 record. Nevertheless, neither team will lack motivation for each other come Friday.

Abes - Panthers: Polar opposites in 2008 meet for the 59th time since 1950, as Warren Lincoln (7-1) battle their longtime adversary from Center Line (1-7). The Abes are going to the playoffs but Macomb County's other Brown Jug Game has been split down the middle since '50, 29 wins apiece. Center Line used to be known as Busch High a long time ago, and the game's trophy still carries that moniker. The game is a east side classic and the potential for an upset is always looming in October's dusk and chill.

Here's the best of the rest, with a few notes to boot.

Troy - Troy Athens: 41st game in the series, Troy (5-3) holds a 23-17 lead over Athens (2-6) and needs a win to qualify for the tournament, which the Colts won in '94... Southfield - Southfield Lathrup: The Blue Jays would be undefeated save for a gritty two-point setback with Rochester Adams while Lathrup upset Clarkston 46-45... Milford - Lakeland: Lakeland (6-2) just missed the KLAA title last week versus Howell and Milford (5-3) needs a win to qualify... Livonia Churchill - Livonia Stevenson: Two playoff contenders a year before, the Chargers (3-5) would like to take the shine off Stevenson's (6-2) fifth-consecutive playoff berth... Farmington - North Farmington: A role reversal for sure as the Farmington (5-3) needs a win versus the neighboring Raiders (2-6) to qualify for the MHSAA tournament for the fifth time in school history. A Falcon would be their sixth-straight win... Birmingham Seaholm - Birmingham Groves: Not the season either school envisioned, the Falcons (3-5) and Maples, aka the old Birmingham High (1-7), have split the last eight contests since 2000... Redford Union - Redford Thurston: Union (3-5) and Thurston (6-2) going in opposite directions... Taylor Kennedy - Taylor Truman: Neither Truman (2-6) or Kennedy (1-7) had a year to remember... Bloomfield Hills Lahser - Bloomfield Hills Andover: The Lahser Knights (7-1) are playoff bound while Andover (1-7) hopes for a chance to ruin a possible home game for their rival... Rochester - Rochester Adams: It doesn't seem so long ago that the two teams played their annual game each sporting 8-0 records (1993), but the Highlanders (7-1) have kept the Adams tradition rolling while the Falcons (1-7) haven't had the success they hoped for in '08... Pontiac Central - Pontiac Northern: The old Pontiac High Chiefs are winless while Northern is 3-5. The games does hold a special significance -- it means there's just 97 days until Pontiac's two basketball super-rivals meet on the hardwood pines on January 29th at Northern High! The rematch is March 3rd at Central.

It feels weird there's no longer an Oak Stump Game to end the year. For the past few years it feels a little empty on this weekend. Where have you gone, Prentice 'Pin' Ryan and Iverson Littleton Loftin? To quote our former big brother on North Washington Avenue, we'll always 'Remember November'.

Finally, good luck to all the schools this weekend no matter if your game is big or small, especially the players, coaches, cheerleaders and marching bands. Thanks for another memorable season!

~T.C. Cameron is the soon-to-be author of Metro Detroit's High School Basketball Rivalries, a follow-up to Metro Detroit's High School Football Rivalries, released this past August.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home