GIBRALTAR — The more things change, the more they stay the same.
A year after the 2011 state football finals came to their grand conclusion, many sequels are set to kick off.
Of the eight championship battles ready to take place during Thanksgiving weekend, five games feature teams that were there a year ago, and two — the Division 1 and Division 6 contests — are rematches.
A chance at history
In the history of Michigan high school football, he’s won more games than anyone else.
But Al Fracassa has never won consecutive state finals.
He has that chance now.
“It’s hard to express,” Fracassa said when asked what it means to play for a second straight championship this fall. Rice earned a spot in the Division 2 final after beating Wyandotte Roosevelt 31-3 Nov. 17 at Gibraltar Carlson. “I’ve never (won) two straight years, so this would be something special.”
The defending champs take on Muskegon High at 1 p.m. Nov. 23 at Ford Field.
“He’s the main reason we want to win this all,” senior linebacker Jon Reschke said. “It’s not about us seniors, or the team or whatever. We want to get coach that back-to-back title.”
Muskegon (12-1) is fresh off a 34-21 victory against Caledonia High in the semifinals.
The Big Reds are averaging 37 points per game, while allowing just 18, and they have won each of its four playoff games by an average of two touchdowns.
The teams last met in Week 2 of the 2008 season, a 42-27 Muskegon win.
It’s getting pretty routine for the guys at Orchard Lake St. Mary’s to schedule a trip downtown for the season’s final weekend.
The defending D-3 champs are heading back for the fourth straight year and fifth time since 2007.
The Eaglets (10-3) beat Battle Creek Harper Creek 28-7 Nov. 17.
As has been the case all year, power football was the name of the game.
St. Mary’s rushed for nearly 300 yards, building a 21-0 lead late in the game, before each team scored once in the final six minutes.
Grant Niemiec finished the game with 158 yards on 15 carries and two touchdowns.
Parker McInnis added 128 yards on 19 carries and one touchdown.
The win sets up a St. Mary’s-Grand Rapids Christian (12-1) final at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 24.
When the 2012 season began, Beverly Hills Detroit Country Day coach Dan MacLean talked about a team that had a ton of potential and the right attitude to do something special.
His guys are one win away from exactly that.
Country Day (11-2) clinched a spot in the D-4 final with a convincing 38-0 win against Saginaw Swan Valley, setting up a championship contest with Grand Rapids South Christian (10-3) at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 23.
“We’re excited,” said MacLean, whose Country Day team has reached the final for the first time since losing consecutive championship games in 2007 and 2008. “This is such a hard-working team, a group of guys that has earned everything they’ve gotten. We don’t know too much about South Christian at all right now, but you have to assume they are a good team.”
As for the 38-0 win in the semis?
“I was surprised, I really was,” MacLean said of the margin of victory. “We were geared up for a for a great battle, and the guys were ready to go. They were dialed in.”
The Division 1 championship features the same two teams that played for it a year ago.
After qualifying for the playoffs at 5-4, Novi Detroit Catholic Central steamrolled its way back to the final, capping the journey to Ford Field with a 35-6 victory against Rockford High last weekend.
The Shamrocks (9-4) now face the same Detroit Cass Tech (11-2) team that won the 2011 crown 49-13.
The D-1 rematch begins at 1 p.m. Nov. 24.
In the D-6 final, Ithaca High (13-0) has a shot at its third straight championship, but must beat Constantine High (11-2) for the second straight year to accomplish that feat.
Ithaca won last year’s final 42-12.
The D-6 game kicks off at 4:30 p.m. Nov. 23.
And the rest
In D-5, Grand Rapids West Catholic (10-3) takes on Portland High (12-1) at 4:30 p.m. Nov. 24.
In D-7, Ishpeming High (12-1) faces Detroit Loyola (13-0) at 10 a.m. Nov. 24, and in D-8, Beal City High (13-0) meets Harbor Beach High (12-1) at 10 a.m. Nov. 23.