Clarkston begins and ends the season at No. 1
Clarkston (14-0): It’s been quite a run for the Wolves. They own the state’s longest winning streak (27) and met every challenge this season. This team had no weakness and quarterback D.J. Zezula was the one his teammates rallied around.
2. Orchard Lake St. Mary’s (12-2): Defensively the Eaglets answered the call once again in defeating Muskegon 7-0 in the Division 3 final. The last time Muskegon was shutout was in 1997. St. Mary’s, led by junior quarterback Brendan Tabone, will be a top five team again next year.
3. Warren De La Salle (11-3): The Pilots rolled through their final two playoff games allowing just 15 points. Their 26-21 upset victory over Brother Rice in the region final might not have been such a big surprise after all. The Pilots showed they were as good as any team this season.
4. Birmingham Brother Rice (11-1): After losing to De La Salle, the Warriors are left wondering what if? Look for Brother Rice to experience some lean years in the near future.
5. Muskegon Mona Shores (12-2): We’re left wondering how well the Sailors would have played in the Division 2 final had quarterback Tyree Jackson been 100 percent. Injuries are a part of the game but this one was especially tough to take. Nevertheless Mona Shores proved it was one of the state’s best teams all season.
6. Saline (12-2): The Hornets can hold their heads high after taking Clarkston to the limit in the Division 1 final. They should be good again next season as they return one of the top quarterbacks in Josh Jackson.
7. Muskegon (12-2): Three turnovers proved costly in the state final. The Big Reds needed to win the turnover battle with St. Mary’s to be victorious.
8. Detroit Cass Tech (12-1): The Technicians ran out of gas against Saline in a semifinal as running back Mike Weber, Jr., was held to under 150 yards. Still a great season for Cass Tech, the only program to reach the semifinals each of the last five seasons.
9. East Kentwood (11-2): The Falcons ran into a powerhouse (Clarkston) in the semifinals. No shame in losing to the two-time defending Division 1 champs.
10. Zeeland West (12-1): West met its match in the semifinals against Muskegon. The 2013 Division 3 champions boast a 25-2 record in the last two years.
11. Farmington Hills Harrison (10-3): A two-point conversion, that’s all that kept Harrison from playing in the Division 2 final. Oh so close for coach John Herrington and his program.
12. Canton (9-3): The Chiefs came so close to reaching the semifinals for the first time since 2006. They represented the Kensington Lakes Activities Association well and was the best team in this competitive conference.
13. Lowell (10-2): The Red Arrows overachieved this season and this fact is a testament to coach Noel Dean and his staff. Look for Lowell to make an even deeper run in the playoffs next season.
14. Hudsonville (7-5): The Eagles couldn’t match East Kentwood’s quick start in a region final but that loss (31-14) doesn’t take away from all of Hudsonville’s accomplishments. For the second straight season the Eagles reached the Division 1 regional finals.
15. Walled Lake Central (9-3): Like Hudsonville, Central got on a roll late in the season. After a disappointing 2013 season the Vikings can be proud of this one.
16. Southfield (9-4): The Bluejays couldn’t get into an offensive rhythm against De La Salle. Still, Southfield getting to the semifinals for the second time in school history is impressive.
17. Clinton Township Chippewa Valley (8-4): Like many teams this season, the Big Reds couldn’t contain Weber of Cass Tech but its regional loss doesn’t diminish the program’s best season since 2003.
18. Dearborn Fordson (10-1): The Tractors nearly knocked off Cass Tech. One mistake too many in the fourth quarter proved to be too much to overcome.
19. Macomb Dakota (8-3): A blocked conversion kick, that’s all the kept the Cougars from playing overtime in a district final and possibly advancing to the regionals. It was a tough way to go out.
20. Lapeer (10-1): A tremendous season for the Lightning despite a 3-point loss at Clarkston in a district final. Coach Mike Smith and this first-year program (after the merger) accomplished much.
21. West Bloomfield (9-2): The Lakers opened many eyes this season to the job coach Ron Bellamy has done here. Now the program must continue to make positive steps if it expects to gain consistency.
22. Grand Rapids South Christian (12-2): Quite a run for the Sailors and quarterback Jon Wassink. South Christian won its last 12 games and Wassink started in three state finals. Two state championships in three season is impressive.
23. Lansing Sexton (13-1): The Big Reds reached the finals for the first time. The one-point loss to South Christian will sting for a while but this program is in good hands with coach Dan Boggan.
24. Midland Dow (10-1): Dow and Lapeer were the pride of the Saginaw Valley this season. This league had five playoff representatives and all five won first-round games including Dow’s 35-0 victory over Traverse City Central.
25. Walled Lake Western (9-2): The Warriors benefitted from a missed extra point in its playoff opener (14-13 over South Lyon) then lost to Harrison (10-9) because of a missed conversion.