1st & Goal: 2021 11-Player Semifinals Review

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

November 22, 2021

The 11-Player Football Finals field is set. Ford Field, here we come.

MI Student AidAfter crisscrossing the Lower Peninsula on Saturday for Semifinals, all vehicles will be pointed toward downtown Detroit this weekend – including parades from a few communities we’ll be seeing for the first time.

Belleville, Warren Michigan Collegiate and Lawton, welcome to a Thanksgiving week like no other. The other 13 teams that will be making the trip Friday and Saturday have been to this point before – including three just 10 months ago – and surely they’d agree this trip to Detroit will be unforgettable.

Below is a glance at how all 16 took the final step to earn the opportunity.

(We’ll review Saturday’s 8-Player Finals – won by Adrian Lenawee Christian and Powers North Central – during a look back at all 10 football championship games next week.)

Division 1

Belleville 40, Sterling Heights Stevenson 26

In their fourth-straight Semifinal, the Tigers (12-1) earned their first Finals trip. Freshman quarterback Bryce Underwood threw three touchdown passes and ran for one more as Belleville scored the most points Stevenson (10-3) had allowed in a game since a Week 1 loss to Rockford. Click for more from the Detroit Free Press.

Rochester Adams 40, Grand Blanc 20

Adams (13-0) won a matchup of undefeated teams to reach the Finals for the first time since 2003, showing its defensive might again in shutting down a Bobcats offense that averaged 42 points per game entering the day. Grand Blanc finished its longest tournament run and winningest season at 12-1. Click for more from the Oakland Press.

Division 2

Traverse City Central 56, South Lyon 20

The Trojans (12-1) earned their first Finals trip since 1988. Central took a 42-7 lead into halftime as Josh Burnham scored three touchdowns, and blocked a field goal attempt too. South Lyon (12-1) was making its first Semifinal appearance since 2004. Click for more from the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

Warren De La Salle Collegiate 49, Livonia Franklin 14

The Pilots (12-0) will play in their fourth Division 2 Final in five seasons, with an opportunity to finish undefeated for the first time during the playoff era. Junior quarterback Brady Drogosh threw for two touchdowns and ran for two more, including a 73-yarder. Franklin finished 7-6 after entering the playoffs 4-5. Click for more from the Macomb Daily.

Division 3

Detroit Martin Luther King 46, Mason 7

The Crusaders (12-1) advanced to their fourth Final in six seasons and first since 2019. While topping 40 points for the seventh time in 11 games played on the field, King also lowered its playoff points-allowed average to 9.5 with a second-straight game giving up a single score. Mason completed its winningest season, and longest playoff run, at 10-3. Click for more from the Detroit Free Press.

DeWitt 43, St. Joseph 7

The Panthers (12-1) will return to Ford Field with an opportunity to repeat as Division 3 champions. DeWitt built a 29-0 halftime lead, as quarterback Ty Holtz threw three first-half touchdown passes, including 69 and 40-yarders to Tommy McIntosh. St. Joseph (8-5) was playing in its first Semifinal since 2007 after entering the postseason 5-4. Click for more from the Lansing State Journal.

Division 4

Chelsea 30, Freeland 27

For the second straight week, Chelsea came up with a big play at the end to advance. This time it was a near-goal line stand to stop a Freeland offense that had gotten two rushing and two passing touchdowns from quarterback Bryson Huckaby. The Falcons finished a second-straight Semifinal run 11-2. Click for more from the Ann Arbor News.

Hudsonville Unity Christian 58, Edwardsburg 8

The Crusaders (13-0) moved into second all-time for scoring in one season at 751 points with their 11th game putting up more than 50, and with a defensive showing to match – Edwardsburg (12-1) entered the game averaging 53 points per. Unity’s Abraham Rappuhn scored three first-half touchdowns, including an 81-yarder. Click for more from FOX 17.

Division 5

Grand Rapids Catholic Central 35, Frankenmuth 0

The rematch of last season’s Division 5 championship game saw Grand Rapids Catholic Central (13-0) go up 21-0 midway through the first quarter. Cougars quarterback John Passinault ran for three touchdowns and threw for the other two. Frankenmuth finished 12-1, its only losses the last two seasons to GRCC. Click for more from the Grand Rapids Press.

Marine City 27, Portland 7

The Mariners (13-0) are headed back to Ford Field for the first time since 2013 after another dominating defensive performance – they haven’t given up more than 14 points in a game, and lowered their per game defensive average to 9.1 allowed per contest. The Raiders finished 10-3. Click for more from the Port Huron Times-Herald.

Division 6

Lansing Catholic 18, Standish-Sterling 7

The Cougars will be returning to Ford Field seeking a second championship in three seasons to go with a 2019 title in Division 5. The Cougars (12-1) matched defense with defense, scoring their second-fewest points this fall but holding Standish-Sterling to a tie for the latter’s lowest output. The Panthers finished 10-3, making an incredible jump from last season’s 1-6 record. Click for more from the Lansing State Journal.

Warren Michigan Collegiate 36, Michigan Center 29

Michigan Collegiate (11-2) earned its first trip to the Finals, thanks in part to a series of big plays by Deion Black on both sides of the ball. The teams were tied after three quarters, and traded scores in the fourth with the Cougars reaching the end zone last. Michigan Center finished 11-2, setting a program record for wins. Click for more from MLive-Detroit.

Division 7

Lawton 21, Jackson Lumen Christi 20

The Blue Devils are headed to the Finals for the first time after following up a memorable Regional Final win with perhaps an even more unforgettable Semifinal finish. Landon Motter’s two-point conversion with 46 seconds to play put Lawton (13-0) up for good. The Blue Devils had jumped out to a 13-0 first-half lead but found themselves trailing Lumen Christi (11-2) by a point heading into the fourth quarter. Click for more from the Kalamazoo Gazette.

Pewamo-Westphalia 28, Traverse City St. Francis 21

The Pirates (13-0) will have a chance to win a second Division 7 title in three years after holding off last season’s runner-up St. Francis (12-1). The teams were tied 14-14 heading into the final quarter, and P-W’s defense was able to slow St. Francis’ offense for most of it, for the game holding the Gladiators to their fewest points this season and well below their average of 50 per game. Click for more from the Lansing State Journal.

Division 8

Beal City 12, Ubly 7

The Aggies (12-1) will return to the Finals for the second time in three seasons thanks to the latest of a string of strong defensive showings. Beal City lowered its points-allowed average to 8.3 per game by stopping an Ubly offense that had averaged 45 per game entering Saturday. The Bearcats (12-1) were last season’s Division 8 runners-up up. Click for more from the Mount Pleasant Morning Sun.

Hudson 28, Ottawa Lake Whiteford 22

The Tigers (13-0) advanced to their first championship game since 2010 relying again on an excellent defense to slow down a Whiteford offense averaging 51 points per game, but also on the legs of Bronson Marry – who ran for four second-half touchdowns as Hudson came all the way back from a 22-0 halftime deficit. It was the only loss to an in-state opponent this fall for the Bobcats (11-2). Click for more from the Adrian Daily Telegram.

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PHOTO Traverse City Central's Carson Bourdo (11) tries to break away from a South Lyon defender during Saturday's Division 2 Semifinal win. (Photo by Jamie McNinch.)

Mendon 8-Player Championship Game Run Paced by Record-Setting Rushing

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

May 26, 2023

Mendon’s run to the Division 2 Final last fall included some of the strongest rushing performances over the history of 8-player football.

The Hornets ran for 4,317 yards, second-most all-time, on the second-most attempts (520) and with a record-setting 682 yards Oct. 14 against Marcellus. Mendon also set the record for total offense with 692 total in that game, and made the single-season touchdowns list with 76 including 66 rushing (also second on that list).

Junior Jack McCaw made the single-season scoring list with 212 points, most coming on 29 touchdowns, and Evan Lukeman made the single-game rushing list with 401 yards against Marcellus. Mendon’s defense also earned praise, twice making the fewest-first-downs-allowed list with a low of three.

See below for more recent additions to the 8-player portion of the football record book:

8-Player Football

Athens’ Landon Bennett earned a pair of record book entries after reaching the end zone seven times during his team’s 72-0 win over Burr Oak on Sept. 8. His seven scores are tied for third-most in 8-player history and included three rushing, three on punt returns and one on an interception return. The three punt return touchdowns are a record. Bennett is a junior.

On the night Powers North Central broke its 8-player record for consecutive wins, claiming its 28th straight, senior Luke Gorzinski tied Jets great Jason Whitens for the record for interception touchdowns in a game with two, scoring on returns during the second and fourth quarters. Gorzinski has signed with Michigan Tech, and North Central’s winning streak is 37 games and counting.

A pair of Atlanta offensive playmakers and a top defensive lineman earned a total of seven entries in the record book for achievements last fall. Senior quarterback Tyler Currie threw for 30 touchdowns over eight games, and also made the records for six touchdowns and 419 passing yards against Whittemore-Prescott on Sept. 23; the passing yards are second-most for one 8-player game. Sophomore Landon Galea was added for 263 yards and five of those touchdowns against the Cardinals, and also for 1,418 yards receiving and 23 touchdowns over nine games. Junior teammate Tucker Kendrick made the tackles for loss list with five against Hillman on Oct. 6.

Adrian Lenawee Christian senior Brady McKelvey became the first to make the career extra points list in 8-player football this past fall. He bettered his previous single-season record making 64 of 66 extra-point attempts over 11 games and finishing his two-year varsity career with 123 extra points in 127 tries.

Sam McKissack reached the record book showcasing multiple skills for Crystal Falls Forest Park during the 2021 season – twice for rushing attempts in a game including with a record 59 against Ontonagon that Sept. 10, and then with a record 70-yard punt Oct. 30, 2021, against Lake Linden-Hubbell. Teammate Devon Basirico also made the record book with six fumble recoveries over 11 games that season. As a team, Forest Park was added twice for single-game rushing attempts – including 73 total in that Ontonagon game – and for 424 rushes over 11 games for the season. McKissack and Basirico are seniors this spring.

Nikolaus Lewis tied for eighth-most rushing touchdowns in an 8-player game when he reached the end zone six times for Carsonville-Port Sanilac in its win over Caseville on Oct. 7. He’s a senior this spring.

Bridgman has won 24 straight games over the last three seasons, and an exceptional offense – and exceptional offensive star – have played major roles. The Bees were added for 658 total yards in a win over Lawrence last season, that total ranking third all-time, and also 613 yards in a win over Eau Claire. Those included totals of 575 and 547 rushing yards, respectively, and Bridgman was added for 3,598 rushing yards (sixth on the list), 59 rushing touchdowns (fourth) and 76 total touchdowns (seventh). Senior Reid Haskins capped his four-year, 32-game varsity career with 13 record book entries, including for 254 points last season over nine games (tied for fifth all-time) and a record 620 career points, 41 touchdowns last season (fifth) and a record 95 for his career, 2,344 rushing yards last season (third) and a record 5,206 for his career, and 41 rushing touchdowns last season (third) and a record 94 for his career. Senior teammate Tanner Peters made the records three times including for 50 extra points last season (fourth) and 99 over 26 games and three seasons (second on the career list).

Mio's Austin Fox rewrote the 8-player passing record book this past fall, with his 621 yards in a game against Whittemore-Prescott setting a single-game record as he totaled four of the five-highest passing yardage totals. He also set a record with 3,516 over nine games for the season, another record with 289 passing attempts over those nine games and a third record for nine touchdown passes in that game against the Cardinals. His 41 touchdown passes total rank fourth. Teammates Gage Long and Nathan Hurst also earned several record book entries on the receiving end of those passes. Long’s 297 receiving yards against Whittemore-Prescott were tied for third most, and Hurst’s 266 against Alcona rank eighth. Long set a single-season record with 1,739 receiving yards, with Hurst sixth all-time at 1,321, and Long’s 14 receptions against the Cardinals and 70 for the season also rank second on those respective lists. Hurst set a record for longest 8-player kickoff return with a 99-yarder against St. Helen Charlton Heston. All three are seniors.

Peck was one of the first MHSAA 8-player champions, claiming the title in 2013, and Cody Abrego one of the state’s first 8-player stars. The Pirates were added to the MHSAA record book 52 times, and Abrego 14 times individually. Among the most notable entries for the 2015 graduate were for 462 points scored over his two-season career (ranking sixth all-time), 74 career touchdowns (sixth), 2,202 rushing yards in 2013 (fifth) and 35 rushing touchdowns in 2013 (sixth). Current senior Caleb Lentner was one of the stars statewide this past season, and he was added eight times including for 50 points scored in a game (ranking second), 272 points for a season last fall (fifth), eight touchdowns in a game (tied for second), 42 touchdowns in a season (fifth), an 8-player record of 2,694 rushing yards from last season, and 38 rushing touchdowns also last fall (fourth). Others to make the individual lists were Nathan Robar, Caleb Dudley, Steven VanConant, Kyle Abrego and Nathan Neihaus, Dudley for a record 20 career interceptions over two seasons and VanConant for a record 12 tackles for loss in a 2022 game and 36 tackles for loss for the season last fall. The Pirates also are all over the 8-player team record book, including for a record 97 touchdowns in 2013, a record 5,895 yards of total offense that season, 528 carries, 4,346 rushing yards and 73 rushing touchdowns in 2013 (all ranking second); and 24 interceptions in 2014, which ranks second on that list.

Senior quarterback JR Hildebrand was one of the most dynamic players in 8-player football in the fall in leading Martin to the Division 1 title. He had one of his most exciting nights in a playoff opener against Tekonsha, making the single-game touchdown pass list with six in a 68-6 victory.

PHOTO Mendon’s Jack McCaw (21) eludes a tackle during the 8-Player Division 2 Final in November at Northern Michigan University. (Photo by Cara Kamps.)