The state semifinals are set for this weekend with the winners earning the right to play at Ford Field during Thanksgiving weekend for a state championship.
No. 2 and unbeaten Belleville (12-0) will face KLAA rival Brighton (10-2) in a Division 1 semifinal Saturday at Howell.
And while the teams haven’t played this season, they have played three times in the previous two years with Belleville winning each time, including season-openers in 2017 (34-31) and 2018 (40-35), and the KLAA championship game last year, 32-17.
Brighton earned its first regional title since 2005 with a 35-20 win over Hudsonville after district wins over Holt (26-7) and East Kentwood (48-26).
“We’ve played them three times in the last two seasons and two of those games came down to the very last play of the game, so our kids are familiar with what we’re facing, for sure,” said Brighton coach Brian Lemons. “Our guys are ready to go. Our whole town is excited, being in this situation is a big deal and I think the community is really coming out to support us.”
Brighton is led by quarterback Colby Newburg while linebacker Cole Riddle leads the defense, along with end Luke Stanton.
“Right now, he’s playing at the top of his game, which is great because we’re going to need him the most,” said Lemons of Newburg. “He’s had a really good season and has done a good job of throwing the ball. He’s been playing like a Brighton quarterback as of late, being able to move the ball on the ground with his feet.”
Newburg has rushed for 1,100 yards and 18 TDs and thrown for 1,600 yards and 17 TDs.
Lemons says Brighton will have to limit Belleville’s big plays in order to get the upset.
“They’re explosive on the offensive side of the ball so we’re going to have to do a good job of containing them and try to limit the amount of home runs we give up,” Lemons said. “They’re receivers are really talented, and the quarterback is phenomenal.”
Belleville junior quarterback Christian Dhue-Reid, a three-year starter, has thrown for more than 700 yards and 12 TDs during the postseason.
Pick: Belleville by 8.
More Division 1
Sterling Heights Stevenson (8-4) vs. Davison (10-2) at Troy Athens, 1 p.m. Saturday:
Stevenson has made a Cinderella run after entering postseason play with a 5-4 record after finishing fifth in the MAC Red.
Four-star junior two-way lineman Giovanni El-Hadi, a Michigan commit, and sophomore defensive back Jordan Ramsey have played at a high level during the postseason.
Now, El-Hadi and Ramsey will have to be at their best to slow down Davison junior quarterback Brendan Sullivan.
Pick: Stevenson by 2.
Muskegon Mona Shores (10-2) vs. No. 10 Walled Lake Western (11-1) at Okemos, 1 p.m. Saturday:
Walled Lake Western’s secondary – including two-way standout in Northwestern-bound Abdur-Rahmaan Yaseen, Northern Illinois-bound C.J. Brown and junior safety Sam Ahern – will be tested by talented quarterback Caden Broersma.
Western has an outstanding quarterback itself in junior Zach Trainor, who will be playing at a high level with Yaseen proving to be the difference.
Pick: Western by 6.
No. 12 Detroit King (10-2) vs. Birmingham Seaholm (9-3) at Novi, 3 p.m. Saturday:
Like Sterling Heights Stevenson, Seaholm has made a surprising run, avenging a regular-season OAA White Division loss to Birmingham Groves by beating its crosstown rivals in the district title game, then winning its first regional championship since 1997.
Seaholm will have trouble slowing down King’s explosive offense, which has a balanced attack in Maryland-bound running back Peny Boone and freshman phenom quarterback Dante Moore, who has thrown for 643 yards and 10 TDs during the postseason.
Pick: King by 10.
No. 14 River Rouge (11-1) vs. No. 20 Chelsea (12-0) at Dearborn, 1 p.m. Saturday:
Chelsea, which has postseason experience after losing to Edwardsburg in last year’s Division 4 state title game, has showed its ability to earn comeback wins in all three postseason games.
River Rouge has a punishing running back in 6-foot-1, 240-pound De’Andre Bulley (1,820 yards) and a physical defense that played well in a 49-14 regional final rout of Orchard Lake St. Mary’s.
Pick: River Rouge by 4.
DeWitt (10-2) vs. No. 1 Muskegon (12-0) at East Kentwood, 1 p.m. Saturday:
DeWitt was ranked No. 13 in The Detroit News preseason rankings for a reason, having an outstanding dual-threat quarterback in Andrew Schorfhaar.
Schorfhaar has played well but Muskegon’s defense is too fast and physical in this one.
Muskegon quarterback Cameron Martinez, an Ohio State commit, is one of the most exciting players in the state.
Pick: Muskegon by 12.
Detroit Country Day (12-0) vs. Flint Powers Catholic (10-2) at Howell Parker Middle School, 1 p.m. Saturday:
Country Day has been winning with defense, giving up a total of 18 points during the postseason, including a 24-6 regional final win over previously unbeaten Milan.
Look for Country Day to score early and often in this one.
Pick: Country Day by 12.
Hudsonville Unity Christian (9-3) vs. Grand Rapids Catholic Central (11-1) at Jenison, 1 p.m. Saturday:
Grand Rapids Catholic Central opened up the season with an impressive 17-14 win over River Rouge and has only gotten better, limiting its opponents to a total of 21 points the last five games, including a dominating 42-7 rout of Cadillac in the regional final.
Unity Christian knows what it takes to get to Ford Field, winning the Division 5 state title last year.
Pick: GRCC by 8.
Detroit Denby (10-2) vs. Almont (12-0) at Walled Lake Central, 1 p.m. Saturday:
Denby is enjoying its finest season, winning its first regional championship and a program-high 10th win in a 40-18 regional final over Dearborn Heights Robichaud.
Look for Denby’s season to come to a halt with Almont linebacker Jacob Hausmann playing at a high level in this one.
Pick: Almont by 2.
Lansing Catholic (11-1) vs. Kingsley (12-0) at Greenville, 1 p.m. Saturday:
Lansing Catholic has played at Ford Field in state title games multiple times this decade, but it’s Kingsley’s time to make the trip this time around.
Pick: Kingsley by 4.
Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central (10-1) vs. Onsted (10-2) at Ypsilanti Lincoln, 1 p.m. Saturday:
MSMCC has averaged 370 yards rushing, led by the hard running of Alex Morgan.
There’s no reason to think Morgan will be stopped in this one.
Pick: MSMCC by 12.
Montague (10-2) vs. Maple City Glen Lake (11-1) at Clare, 1 p.m. Saturday:
Montague advanced to the state title game last year, falling to Jackson Lumen Christi.
Maple City Glen Lake will be Montague’s roadblock this year.
Pick: Glen Lake by 2.
Jackson Lumen Christi (11-0) vs. Cass City (11-1) at Novi, 11 a.m. Saturday:
Lumen Christi coach Herb Brogan is looking for his 10th state championship in his 40 years of guiding the program.
Lumen Christi, which won three straight Division 6 state titles, is looking to get one in Division 7 this time around and its ninth championship since 2000.
Pick: Lumen Christi by 6.
Pewamo-Westphalia (12-0) vs. Iron Mountain (12-0) at Northern Michigan Superior Dome, 7 p.m. Friday:
P-W defeated defending state champion New Lothrop and Grand Valley-bound quarterback Avery Moore 36-35 in a regional final. Its reward is a long trip to the U.P. to play Iron Mountain for a spot in the state championship game.
Expect P-W to make the most of its trip.
Pick: P-W by 10.
Fowler (11-1) vs. Reading (11-1) at Battle Creek Harper Creek, 1 p.m. Saturday:
Defending state champion Reading has won 11 straight since a season-opening loss to Pewamo-Westphalia.
Reading has won with defense, allowing a total of 12 points in a six-game stretch before a hard-fought 26-21 regional final win over Adrian Lenawee Christian.
Pick: Reading by 2.
Ubly (10-2) vs. Beal City (11-1) at Mount Pleasant, 1 p.m. Saturday:
Ubly’s Carson Heleski is having an all-state season, including a 347-yard, six-TD performance in a 56-36 regional final win over Saginaw Nouvel.
Pick: Ubly by 1.