Breaking down the Bears 2018 Varsity Schedule…
Week 1, Friday, August 24 – Battle Creek Central – Home – Season Opener
Battle Creek Central returns to the Bears schedule after two years and the game will be the Bears inaugural game on the brand new Steve Upton Family Field at Dickinson Stadium. St. Joe last faced the Bearcats in week 5 of the 2015 season, with the Bears winning 27-21 on the road at C.W. Post Field. The Bearcats won their last time at St. Joe, a 21-10 win over the Bears in 2014. The Bearcats were 3-6 last season, they have not made the MHSAA Playoffs since 2008.
Week 2, Thursday, August 30 – Niles – Road
It’s an early season showdown between the two charter members of the SMAC. With a new schedule format in place for the conference, it’ll be the earliest the Bears and Vikings have faced each other since the 1990 and 1991 seasons. St. Joe has a 3-game winning streak in the series with the Vikings and won the last game by the score of 47-0 at Dickinson Stadium. Niles was 2-7 a season ago and have not made the MHSAA postseason since 2003. The last time the Bears were at Niles, St. Joe won 30-0 in the 2016 season.
Week 3, Friday, September 7 – Mattawan – Home – Future Bears Night
The Bears return home for week 3 and it’s a return to the SMAC West for Mattawan. Mattawan leaves the SMAC East for the SMAC West this season. The Bears beat Mattawan 42-7 in week 5 last year on the road. Mattawan comes in as the defending SMAC-East Division champions, going 7-3 last year. The Wildcats were 5-0 in East Divison games. Mattawan’s last game in St. Joe was a 28-21 loss in 2016.
Week 4, Friday, September 14 – Lakeshore – Away
Not much really needs to be said about this one. It’s the annual War On The Shore as the Bears travel to Lakeshore. St. Joe faced the Lancers twice last season, once in the regular season at St. Joe and a rematch in the first round of the playoffs. Both won by Lakeshore (14-6 & 12-10). Lakeshore finished with a 9-2 record a season ago, falling in the second round of the playoffs to Harper Creek.
Week 5, Friday, September 21 – Kalamazoo Loy Norrix – Away
It’s a second straight road game for the Bears with St. Joe traveling to old Big 8 foe Kalamazoo Loy Norrix. St. Joe hold a commanding 33-13-1 edge in the series. It’s one of the few teams the Bears have tied with, a 0-0 tie in 1968. The Bears most recent game with the Knights was a 41-12 win for St. Joe at Dickinson Stadium. St. Joe won at Loy Norrix 48-6 in 2016. The Bears and Knight’s have met the fewest times of any two current members of the SMAC since the league expanded from the Big 8 to Big 16 in 2001. The Bears and Knights only met 6 times since the league’s first expansion. St. Joe and Loy Norrix met in 2001 and 2002. Then wouldn’t meet until 2009 and 2010 before finally meeting again in 2016 and 2017. Loy Norrix finished at 2-7 last year.
Week 6, Friday, September 28 – Portage Central – Home – Team Up Against Cancer Night
It’s back home for the Bears and a game against old rival Portage Central. The Bears closed out Portage Central’s McCamley Field last year with a 17-14 win in the final game at the Mustangs field. Portage Central was 7-3 a year ago, falling to Muskegon Mona Shores 45-17 in the opening round of the playoffs. Portage Central won the last time they were at St. Joe, a 21-14 win to close out the 2016 season.
Week 7, Friday, October 5 – Battle Creek Lakeview – Away
Lakeview is one of two SMAC schools that will be under the direction of a new head coach in 2018. (Kalamazoo Central is the other), the new coach hasn’t been named yet. St. Joe’s last game at Spartan Memorial Field was a 35-0 loss in week 8 of the 2014 season. St. Joe won the most recent game, a 45-21 win at Dickinson Stadium in 2015. Lakeview finished 4-5 last season and missed the playoffs for the first time in 5 seasons. Lakeview has an 8-7 lead in the series, although they claim it’s 9-6. The 2004 season opener is in question because Lakeview won the game, but the MHSAA ruled Lakeview had to forfeit the game because they used an ineligible player.
Week 8, Friday, October 12 – DeWitt – Home – Homecoming
A huge test awaits the Bears as they return home. The DeWitt Panthers. DeWitt is the Bears non-conference “bye week” opponent this season, taking the slot of what would have been Benton Harbor on the schedule. DeWitt went 10-2 last season, including a 49-14 win over SMAC opponent Portage Northern in week 9. DeWitt has 12 straight playoff appearances and had not had a sub .500 season since 1999. Dewitt has won the won their Conference’s Division Championship each year since 2006. (Capital Area Activities Conference). The Panthers also have won two straight District Championships.
Week 9, Friday, October 19 – Portage Northern – Home – Senior Night
The regular season concludes with a home game with Portage Northern. The Bears have won the last 5 straight against the Huskies, including a 20-15 decision at McCamley Field last year in their final season at Portage Central’s field. The Huskies will open their brand new Huskie Stadium this season, a field they will share with Portage Central for one year before Portage Central’s new field opens in 2019. Portage Northern has not won at Dickinson Stadium since 2005.
St. Joseph will not play Kalamazoo Central or Gull Lake this season.