The road to Ford Field begins now for 288 high school football programs in the state of Michigan. After nine weeks of regular season action, the postseason begins this coming weekend.
A quick refresher on the format, if you will. There are eight divisions of 11-player programs, with each division consisting of 32 teams. There is also two additional divisions for 8-player teams, those divisions each have 16 representatives; it's the first year there will be two 8-player divisions in the playoffs.
The eight 11-player divisions will vie for a state championship that will once again be held at Ford Field during Thanksgiving weekend. As for the two 8-player divisions, their state titles will take place the week prior at the Superior Dome, on the campus of Northern Michigan University in Marquette.
The entire playoff field was revealed Sunday night on Fox Sports Detroit Plus. Here are some quick hits and things you need to hone in on before the action begins.
1) Of the nine schools who took home state championships a year ago, eight have returned to the playoffs to defend their crown:
- Detroit Cass Tech | Division 1
- Detroit M.L. King | Division 2
- Grand Rapids Catholic Central | Division 4
- Grand Rapids West Catholic | Division 5
- Jackson Lumen Christi | Division 6
- Pewamo-Westphalia | Division 7
- Muskegon Catholic Central | Division 8
- Powers North Central | 8-Player Division
2) Orchard Lake St. Mary's is the odd man out in the group of defending champions listed above who will not have an opportunity to defend their title. The Eaglets finished 2-6 this season after compiling a 34-7 record and accumulating three state titles in the last three seasons.
3) Farmington Hills Harrison (6-3) is back in the playoffs once again. They've missed the p ostseason just six times since the 1980 campaign. They are led by long-time head coach John Herrington who collected coaching win No. 431 back on October 13 to become the state's winningest high school football coach. Herrington's Hawks play at Warren Fitzgerald in Division 3 to open the playoffs.(10.21.17): Divine Child TE/DE Aidan Hutchinson (8) powers past two Ann Arbor Fr. Gabriel Richard defenders down the sideline. Photo Credit: Alex Muller | MIPrepZone
4) Per 247Sports, the Michigan Wolverines have pledges from three of the top-5 prep players from the Class of 2018 in the state. The Michigan State Spartans, meanwhile, have four of the top 35. Perhaps an intriguing team to watch will be Dearborn Divine Child (8-1) in Division 3. The top-ranked in-state player for both U-M and MSU from the Class of 2018 hail from the Falcons: 4-star DE/TE Aidan Hutchinson (committed to Michigan) and 4-star QB Theo Day (committed to Michigan State).
5) Five programs extend active playoff appearance streaks that rank among the ten longest such spans in state history. Both Rockford (6-3) and Menominee (6-3) are in the postseason for a 22nd straight year, the longest current such streak and tied for the second-longest streak ever. Other schools that all move up one slot on that totem pole include Crystal Falls Forest Park (21 straight), Stevensville Lakeshore (20) and Lowell (19). Stevensville Lakeshore also extends their streak of 30 straight winning seasons, longest active streak in the state.
6) Conversely, Saint Louis (5-4 | Division 7) and Detroit Western (5-3 | Division 1) joining the playoff party for the first time ever. The Sharks finished with a winning record for the first time since 2009. Western, meanwhile, has collected at least five wins in consecutive years, a program first. Saint Louis will play at Beaverton (8-1), and the Cowboys will travel to Dearborn Fordson (8-1).
7) One of the most, if not the most, dominating program in recent history has been the Yellowjackets from Ithaca. They have started the year 9-0 for a remarkable eighth straight season and their 73 consecutive regular season victories is the longest-active streak in the state and second-longest all-time. They also have the second-longest win streak (incl. playoffs) ever, a 69-gamer that ran from 8/27/2010-11/21/2014. Ithaca opens up the Division 6 playoffs at home against Byron.
8) Traditional power Muskegon (9-0) has qualified for the playoffs every year since the turn of the century. This is the fifth undefeated regular season for the Big Reds in that span. This year, they've been blowing up the scoreboard. Through their first nine contests, they have amassed 501 points. Should they run the table under the scoring average they currently boast, Muskegon will hold a new state record for most points accumulated in a single season.
You can view all the playoff pairings here. Here is the schedule for the 2017 MHSAA Football Playoffs:
|Districts||October 27 & 28 (Semis) | November 3 & 4 (Finals)|
|Regionals||November 10 & 11|
|Finals||November 24 & 25|
|Regionals||October 27 & 28 (Semis) | November 3 & 4 (Finals)|
Second Half courtesy of MHSAA offers some very unique in-depth analysis has to how the pairings were set and how geography played a major factor this season.
— MHSAA (@MHSAA) October 23, 2017