This year's opening-night results worked out a little more predictably than in a lot of other years, perhaps. But the highlights are some of the most intriguing in recent memory as mid-Michigan's teams got rolling on another season.
1. Okemos 34, Mason 10 — The Chieftains looked to build on last season's 5-4 finish, but this came at least as a little surprise against the reigning CAAC Red co-champion. Next up, Haslett and a possible 2-0 start going into the CAAC Blue schedule.
2. Lansing Catholic 21, Madison Heights Madison 19 — The Cougars would've been excused for falling after making the trip to near Detroit and facing a team that also was coming off a great season. But Cooper Rush and company held on against a late charge.
3. St. Johns 35, Charlotte 26 — Redwings fullback Andrew Mullikin ran for 178 yards and four touchdowns, and Orioles receiver Aubrey Parrish caught nine passes for 181 yards and four scores.
4. Ithaca 44, Williamston 28 — The Division 6 state champs looked like they haven't missed a beat in toppling the reigning Division 4 state runner-up.
Game ball: Ithaca senior Garrett Miniard was my last cut when I picked the preseason all-area team — and I'm ready to admit, already, that I made a mistake. He's bigger and faster than last season, when he already was very good. He ran for a school-record 253 yards and two touchdowns, and also had nine tackles and an interception. Honorable mention to the Chieftains defense and also running back Evan Leski, who rushed for 131 yards and three touchdowns.
Upset alert: Okemos aside, let's go with Saranac 7, Fowler 6. The Eagles didn't lose a regular-season game last season, but it looks like the Redskins are continuing their rise under new coach Terry Johnson. Honorable mention to Webberville 22, Burton Atherton 20. The Spartans went 1-8 last season and returned little experience this fall, while Atherton is coming off a 5-4 season. First-year Webberville coach Bill McCarrick was the State Journal's Coach of the Year while at Morrice during the late 1990s, and he's got his new team riding high.
WOW factor: Lots of four-TD nights. Add in Everett receiver Jaleel Canty (three receiving, one rushing), Everett quarterback Lucas Barner (four passing) and Leslie quarterback Brendon Smith (three rushing, one passing). In typical DeWitt quarterback fashion, Ryan Wieber ran and threw both for more than 100 yards, scored three TDs on offense and a fourth after falling on a blocked punt. Owosso quarterback Jared Jackson ran for two scores and threw for two more.
Three more that caught my eye:
1. Sexton 36, Jenison 14 — Jenison lost by only a few points to some great teams last year including Rockford. But the Big Reds rode QB Willie Dillard to a solid opening-night win.
2. Dansville 27, Fulton 18 — Make that two years in a row the Aggies have stunned Fulton.
3. Bath 26, Portland St. Patrick 22 — The reports I was getting all night had the Shamrocks in the lead, but the Bees came back late in a game they needed to win as they go after a first playoff berth since 2000.
Final Five from the games I covered: Ithaca 44, Williamston 28; East Lansing 35, Haslett 10.
1. I guarantee that Williamston coach Steve Kersten would vouch that Ithaca has a number of players who would contribute for any of the bigger schools closer to Lansing. I mentioned Miniard above, and add two-way lineman Josh Capen, linebacker Lucas Slater and quarterback/cornerback David Brown to that list, among many others. Brown was hurt on his third TD run, but he and Travis Smith give the Yellowjackets two solid options at QB, and they don't need to replace Alex Niznak alone with a strong defense and Miniard there to carry heavier roles this fall.
2. Williamston is replacing a ton, obviously, but Jake Westphal is a lot of fun to watch. The Hornets' line had trouble especially getting push on the run, but Westphal never was sacked and did a great job rolling out of the pocket and getting the ball downfield. He's going to put up big numbers. Gus Grace and Jake Brandon also are new contributors whose names you should learn.
3. It's impossible to put a price, especially in early games, on having an experienced offensive line. Ithaca has three starters back there, and ran all over the place. East Lansing has back all five and owned the line of scrimmage, giving Elijah Hamilton-Wray lots of opportunities to show the speed he brings to the table.
4. Efe Scott-Emuakpor reminded me of Plaxico Burress the way the former Michigan State star used to physically dominate those who tried to stop him. Burress wasn't a burner, but he couldn't be covered because he out-jumped defenders or just ripped the ball from them. The 6-foot-5 Scott-Emuakpor is someone new quarterback Alex Carlson can just throw at, and he'll find the ball.
5. Haslett has enough expectations after finishing 4-5 last season, its first sub-.500 season since 1993. But there are pieces here for a quick turnaround, and taking care on three key drives would've swung this game significantly. Okemos, Owosso and DeWitt are the next three opponents, so time is short to get things sharp. But don't be surprised if the Vikings come out much smoother next week.
For all of this week's scores and highlights, go to our coverage on www.lsj.com.