The state football playoffs get underway Oct. 26-27.
For many teams, playoff mentality was put in place weeks ago, including Utica Eisenhower, which entered the season as the two-time Macomb Area Conference champion before starting the season 1-3. It reeled off four straight wins, including a 21-13 victory over No. 12 Macomb Dakota on Friday night.
Eisenhower (5-3) can lock up a playoff spot with a win over Utica Ford (3-5) this Friday.
The spotlight also is on John Herrington — the state’s all-time winningest coach — and Farmington Hills Harrison with the school closing its doors for good at the end of the 2018-19 school year. Harrison’s season could come to a close as soon as Friday if it fails to get a win at crosstown-rival Farmington (6-2).
Things were going well for Harrison (5-3) before losses to Rochester Adams (24-17) and Birmingham Groves (25-6).
Harrison has won eight straight in the rivalry.
“Groves played well, did a great job, have beat us now four years in a row,” said Herrington, who has guided Harrison to 440 wins and 13 state championships. “We’ve got to beat Farmington to get in.”
Herrington said junior quarterback Max Martin returned to the lineup after a knee injury sidelined him against Adams, but Herrington used him at tight end, keeping Detroit Delta transfer Keel Watson at QB.
Eisenhower coach Chris Smith replaced the majority of his starters from last year’s team which finished 11-1,.
After early season losses to Oak Park (31-13), Chippewa Valley (45-24) and Romeo (21-14), Eisenhower has won four straight, and none was bigger than the upset of Dakota.
“We talked all week with the players on how this was a playoff game for us, playing a 61 team which is kind of the teams you’ll see in the playoffs anyhow,” Smith said of Dakota. “We know we still have to win this week.”
Smith made a big move in Week No. 7 that has proven to be a game changer, putting receiver Ian Kennelly at quarterback.
“I think he had 165 yards rushing and then (against Dakota) he had 366 yards rushing,” Smith said. “He’s dynamic, just fun to watch. He’s like 6-foot-3 and 195, real tough.”
Kennelly, who has FCS offers, rushed for a school-record 366 yards on 31 carries.
Birmingham Brother Rice improved to 5-3 with a tough 24-21 win over Orchard Lake St. Mary’s on Saturday, putting it in position to get into the playoffs while sending OLSM to the sidelines early for the second straight year after winning three straight Division 3 state championships (2014-16).
Brother Rice will play Detroit Mumford (5-3) on Thursday night at Hurley Field in Berkley.
Brother Rice second-year coach Adam Korzeniewski is thrilled with the play of his offensive line, helping running back James Donaldson rush for 570 yards in the last four games.
“Our offensive line has been fantastic in the run game,” Korzeniewski said. “James Donaldson has played well and we have a receiver named Patrick Balow who is doing a good job. On the defensive side of the ball, (defensive lineman and CMU commit) Max Saylor has played well and Daron Gilbert forced two turnovers this weekend.”
Meanwhile, Livonia Franklin head coach Chris Kelbert can’t wait to get back on the sidelines after serving a two-game suspension (for undisclosed reasons) while his team lost consecutive games to Dearborn Fordson (35-31) and Belleville (56-6) to fall to 4-4. It needs a win over Howell (4-4) on Friday to get in the playoffs.
“It’s great to be back,” said Kelbert, who declined to talk about his suspension. “We can get in at 5-4 and it’s big to the players to continue to build on what we’ve done the last few years (three straight playoff appearances). Howell is in a similar position at 4-and-4.
“We feel we’ll have a good chance to win if we eliminate giving up the big plays.”
Ypsilanti Lincoln coach Chris Westfall has no idea if his team can get in at 5-4, but he certainly would like to see his team end a three-game losing streak with a win over Milan (6-2) to find out.
“I haven’t done all the math yet, but it will be close,” Westfall said. “We’d have wins over likely 7-win Chelsea and 6-win Milan.”
Lincoln lost to Dexter, 48-42, on Friday, leading to Dexter’s first-ever state playoff appearance at 6-2. Dexter’s six wins surpasses its combined total (five) during the previous six years. Dexter ended its 42-game losing streak in Week No. 2.
Detroit Mumford is 5-3 and needs a win over Brother Rice to get in.
Mumford has earned consecutive state playoff appearances and felt like it had let one get away in last year’s district-title game, a 7-0 loss to Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook.
Mumford defeated Detroit Cody, 28-22, in Week 5, but lost in the rematch Friday in the PSL B Division semifinal game, 20-14, and now needs a win over Brother Rice to get in.
“Tahj Stewart is my best player and he’s been playing awesome all year,” Mumford coach Donshell English said. “He’s done a great job at quarterback, just making athletic plays and is a shut-down corner on defense. I have two big linemen who have been playing well too, a sophomore in Jonathan Scott and a junior in James Toles.
“We’re young, only had five starters back, so that’s why we’ve lost some close games. I hope we can find a way to squeak into the playoffs because next year we’ll have 14 starters back.”
Cranbrook is in the playoffs, defeating Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard, 42-7, to improve to 5-3, ending two-game losing streak. Cranbrook will get in due to a forfeit win over Delta Prep, its Week No. 9 opponent.
Harper Woods first-year coach Rod Oden can concentrate on the rest of the season — and postseason now knowing the Michigan High School Athletic Association has ruled senior quarterback Corey Graham eligible.
Graham, a transfer from Oak Park, played in Friday’s 45-12 win over Hamtramck to help Harper Woods improve to 6-2 and earn the school’s first playoff spot since 2009.
“Graham has been cleared,” said Oden, who took over as Harper Woods coach this season after long stops at Detroit East English and Detroit Crockett. “He was never not eligible, but people challenged it Week No. 5 before the River Rouge game.
“Really, when you have a player that’s challenged with eligibility, basically they are off the field until a ruling is made. We thought we’d find out that he was cleared the morning of the Rouge game, but we found out from the state (MHSAA) at 5:08, ‘Sorry, but we’ll get to you guys over the weekend,’ so it was heartbreaking because we practiced all week with him.
“Now, we have paperwork in hand that he’s eligible. He’s been playing and we’re 6-2 so we’re in the playoffs.”
Graham threw for three TDs in the win over Hamtramck. Harper Woods will play at Ecorse (7-1) on Friday.
Detroit Central returned just one starter from its PSL B Division championship team and was hoping it could make another state playoff appearance.
Central beat Detroit Collegiate-Prep Northwestern, 35-0, to get to 4-4, setting up a home game against Douglass (1-7) on Thursday afternoon.
“It’s a possibility that we can get in the playoffs with a win, we’ve gotten in at 5-4 before,” Central coach Jimmie Macon.
Central is led by senior QB Terrence Ealy (1,628 yards passing, 10 TDs; 316 yards rushing, five TDs), junior running back Orlando Clarkston (1,035 yards rushing, 11 TDs; 16 receptions, 361 yards, three TDs) and receivers Kenyetta McKeaver (21 receptions, 381 yards, four TDs) and Jus’Tyz Tuggle (18 receptions, 426 yards). Victor Nelson has nine sacks.