1st & Goal: 2021 8-Player Finals Preview

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

November 17, 2021

Saturday’s 8-Player Football Finals would struggle to feel more familiar.

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After a year away, the Division 1 and 2 championship games will be returning to Superior Dome at Northern Michigan University. Three of four finalists will be playing for titles for the second-straight season – Adrian Lenawee Christian and Powers North Central are returning champions, and Suttons Bay a returning runner-up – while Colon also will play again on the final day after making the Finals in 2019.

Lenawee Christian (12-0) and Suttons Bay (12-0) will kick off the day in Division 1 at 11 a.m., followed by North Central (12-0) and Colon (11-1) approximately 2 p.m. Both games will be broadcast live on MHSAA.tv, and replayed on Bally Sports Detroit’s primary channel Nov. 25 beginning at 7 p.m. Audio of both games will be streamed live on MHSAANetwork.com.

Below is a look at all four finalists. Team “rankings” are based on their playoff-point averages heading into the postseason. Statistics are through Semifinals unless noted.

Division 1

Record/rank: 12-0, No. 1
Coach: Bill Wilharms, ninth season (69-24)
League finish: First in Southern Central Athletic Association A
Championship history: 8-Player Division 1 champion 2020.
Best wins: 36-14 over No. 3 Martin in Semifinals, 41-0 (Regional Final) and 41-20 over No. 6 Britton Deerfield, 47-21 over Division 2 No. 7 Colon.
Players to watch: QB/CB Ashur Bryja, 5-8/150 sr. (1,862 yards/27 TDs passing, 681 yards/15 TDs rushing); RB/DB/K/P Clay Ayers, 5-10/170, sr. (816 yards/16 TDs rushing, 395 yards/5 TDs receiving); WR/LB Elliott Addleman, 6-5/195, sr. (777 yards/12 TDs receiving). OG/DL Jacobus Kegerreis, 5-9/185, sr.
Outlook: Lenawee Christian has yet to lose an 8-player game since switching from 11-player, building a combined 23-0 record over the last two seasons that includes a 47-0 win over Suttons Bay in last season’s Division 1 Final. The closest an opponent has come over those two seasons is 16 points. The Cougars graduated last season’s standout running back and quarterback and haven’t missed a beat, outscoring their opponents by an average score of 51-8. The offense is easy to praise and understandably so, but the defense deserves substantial credit – through the Regional Final, Lenawee Christian was allowing 2.6 yards per rush and teams to complete only 31 percent of their pass attempts. Kegerreis and Ayers were all-state first team selections as juniors, Ayers as a kicker.

Record/rank: 12-0, No. 2
Coach: Garrick Opie, fourth season (43-4)
League finish: Does not play in a league.
Championship history: 8-player Division 1 runner-up 2019 and 2020, 11-player Division 6 runner-up 2004.
Best wins: 42-36 (OT) over No. 12 Rudyard in Semifinal, 53-18 over No. 4 Indian River Inland Lakes in Regional Final, 49-8 (Regional Semifinal) and 48-18 over No. 16 Mesick, 46-0 over No. 7 Munising, 45-0 over Division 2 No. 3 Marion.
Players to watch: RB/DB Hugh Periard, 6-0/175, sr. (1,028 yards/19 TDs rushing); RB/DB Shawn Bramer, 6-2/200, jr. (1,725 yards/24 TDs rushing, 892 yards/8 TDs receiving); QB/DB Dylan Barnowski, 6-0/155, jr. (1,570 yards/24 TDs passing); OL/DL Cameron Alberts, 6-1/290, sr.  
Outlook: Suttons Bay will be playing in the Division 1 championship game for the third-consecutive season, and its only losses over the last two seasons have been in those previous two Finals. The Norseman are coming off their closest game over the last two years, with a late hook-and-ladder play helping to save the day in last week’s overtime win over Rudyard. But even counting the 36 points scored by the Bulldogs, Suttons Bay’s defense is again imposing giving up 12 points per game and no more than 18 to any other opponent. The Norseman had intercepted 12 passes this season heading into the Semifinal; meanwhile, Suttons Bay has thrown for 26 touchdowns with only one interception. Senior tight end Brayden Opie is the most sizable target at 6-3 and has caught seven touchdown passes.

Division 2

Record/rank: 11-1, No. 7
Coach: Robbie Hattan, sixth season (48-17)
League finish: Second in Southern Central Athletic Association A
Championship history: 8-player Division 1 champion 2019.
Best wins: 42-6 over No. 4 Au Gres-Sims in Semifinal, 29-22 over No. 1 Morrice in Regional Final, 35-13 over No. 6 Portland St. Patrick in Regional Semifinal, 44-24 over No. 12 Climax-Scotts.
Players to watch: QB/DB Simon Vinson, 6-3/185, jr. (1,212 yards/24 TDs rushing, 2,253 yards/37 TDs passing); RB/LB Kaleb Johnson, 5-8/160, sr. (727 yards/10 TDs rushing, 377 yards/3 TDs receiving); WR/DB Justin Wickey, 5-11/160, jr. (1,454 yards/21 TDs receiving).
Outlook: Colon’s first three playoff wins have doubled as the lone losses this season for those opponents, and the Magi face one more opportunity against an undefeated foe Saturday. Their only loss was to Division 1 unbeaten Lenawee Christian, and otherwise only Morrice has come closer than 12 points. Vinson earned an all-state honorable mention last season and has put up passing numbers that rank among the best in MHSAA 8-player history – his 2,253 yards and 37 touchdowns both rank fourth for a single season in their respective categories. Senior Kody Dovey joins Vinson, Johnson and Wickey among two-way starters and has 544 yards and eight touchdowns receiving.

Record/rank: 12-0, No. 2
Coach: Leo Gorzinski, fourth season (41-3)
League finish: First in Great Lakes Eight Conference West
Championship history: Three MHSAA titles (most recent 2020).
Best wins: 73-8 over No. 3 Marion in Semifinal, 65-8 (Regional Final) and 42-0 over T-No. 9 Crystal Falls Forest Park, 64-14 over No. 11 Pellston in Regional Semifinal, 65-0 over T-No. 9 Lake Linden-Hubbell.
Players to watch: QB/LB Luke Gorzinski, 5-9/175, jr. (1,009 yards/17 TDs rushing, 926 yards/12 TDs passing); RB/DT Wyatt Raab, 5-7/170, sr. (925 yards/23 TDs rushing, 3 TDs receiving); RB/LB Alex Naser, 5-8/155, sr. (159 yards, 3 TDs receiving); OT/DE Lane Nehring, 6-0/280, sr.
Outlook: North Central dominated Division 2 in winning the championship last season, and has been even better this fall. Last week’s Semifinal win over Marion pushed the Jets’ average score this season to 62-4, and only Pellston three weeks ago has put up more than eight points on a defense that starts six seniors. The playmakers will be plenty familiar to anyone who watched last season’s championship games. Luke Gorzinski made the all-state first team last season and set a record for total offense in an 8-Player Final with 455 yards passing and rushing combined – also running for four touchdowns and throwing for three more – and Raab scored four times as the Jets set an 8-Player Finals record for scoring in the 70-48 win over Portland St. Patrick.

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Ubly Offense, Kicker Pile Up Record Book Listings During Championship Run

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

April 12, 2024

Ubly finished a combined 27-1 over the last two seasons, following up a Division 8 runner-up run in 2022 with its first MHSAA Finals championship this past November. And the Bearcats stacked plenty of record book performances along the way.

Individually, senior Brett Mueller made the single-season extra point list again this past season with 76 in 81 tries, and he set the MHSAA career record with 220 extra points over 232 attempts, 40 games and three seasons. He has signed with Saginaw Valley State.

As a team, Ubly was added to the record book 13 times for achievements over the last two years, most notably in the rushing game. The Bearcats topped 5,200 total yards both seasons, and also made the rush yardage list twice including with a sixth-best 5,148 in 2022. Their 90 touchdowns in 2022 rank seventh all-time, and their 85 this past fall tied for 13th, and they tied the record with 10 rushing touchdowns in a 2022 win over Reese and set another record with 84 rushing touchdowns total that season.

See below for more recent record book additions in 11-player football, and click the heading to see the record book in full:

11-Player Football

Dundee’s Ben Miller has a pair of basketball record book entries, and he’s also been added in football for scoring seven touchdowns in his team’s 72-36 win over Erie Mason on Oct. 20, 2017. A senior that season, he ran for five scores and caught two touchdowns passes.

Nearly four decades later, Howard City Tri County’s Mike Wagoner has reached the record book for his work on defense in 1985. A junior that season, Wagoner returned three interceptions for touchdowns – 65, 55 and 35 yards – which would have been second on the list at the time and remains tied for third-most for one season.

Jaxon Lippert tops the list of 21 who have returned kickoffs 99 yards. Lippert, now a senior at Walled Lake Western, joined the list against Davison during his junior season.

A handful of records from Warren De La Salle Collegiate’s recent run of Ford Field teams and also one from decades ago were added. Jake Badalamenti was added three times for kickoff returns between 96-99 yards, one as a junior in 2016 and two as a senior the following fall, and Marty Wyzlic was added for his 95-yarder in 1976. Mason Muragin is the new leader for tackles for loss in a career with 71 over three seasons, and he also was added to the single-season list with 31 as a junior in 2021, as was Will Beasley for 38 as a junior in 2020. Wayne Wright was added for his 16 sacks over nine games as a senior in 1984, and Josh Cox was added for his 100-yard interception return as a senior in 2012. Muragin plays at Illinois, Beesley plays at Princeton, Cox played at Central Michigan, and Badalamenti played baseball at Wayne State.

Pinckney junior Nolan Carruthers caught 16 passes during a 13-7 loss to Jackson on Sept. 15, good to tie for ninth-most in one game and breaking the Livingston County record of 14 by Hartland’s Greg Matthyssen in 2007 – a listing that also was added.

Ethan Wissner did some major lifting, or rather carrying, during Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker’s 28-14 District Final win over Montrose in 2022. The then-senior ran 42 times to make the record book, for 289 yards and three touchdowns. He’s continuing at Siena Heights.

Senior quarterback Andrew Schuster and junior receiver DeShaun Lanier formed a game-changing pass-catch combo this past season for Clinton Township Chippewa Valley, with Schuster finishing his career with nine record book listings and Lanier totaling six with a season to play. Schuster most notably was added for 212 completions on 301 attempts for 2,766 yards and 28 touchdowns this season, and 321 completions and 4,199 career yards over two years and 22 games. Lanier was added in part for 73 receptions for 1,132 yards and 15 TDs this fall. Junior kicker Juliano Haddad also earned impressive mentions with 10 field goals and 50 extra points – and he’ll carry a streak of 35 straight extra points into next fall. Schuster has committed to Grand Valley State.

Fulton’s Evan Barton has been added to the single-game touchdowns list after catching four scoring passes Sept. 8, 2017, against Potterville. He was a senior that season.

Saginaw Heritage’s Braylon Isom completed his career this past fall as arguably the most accomplished receiver in MHSAA history. His name is listed in the record book eight times, with career records of 3,837 receiving yards and 52 touchdowns over 34 games and four seasons, and with a single-season record 26 touchdowns this past fall over 12 games. His 91 career receptions rank fifth, and he’s also listed for 82 catches and 1,617 yards (seventh-most) as a senior and 1,428 yards and 18 touchdowns as a junior. He will continue at Miami (Ohio).

Evart’s 24-8 run over the last three seasons has been its most successful of the MHSAA playoff era, and senior quarterback Preston Wallace has played an enormous part. He finished his 33-game career in the fall – he came up for one game as a freshman – on record book lists twice for single-season passing yards and touchdowns and on career lists for 662 attempts, 421 completions, 6,955 yards and 88 passing touchdowns over those 32 games and three seasons. The yardage ranks 15th all-time, and the touchdowns are tied for sixth-most for one career.  

The 2005 Midland Bullock Creek team was added for scoring 547 points over 12 games. The Lancers finished 11-1, their only loss in a Division 5 Regional Final.

PHOTO Ubly's Seth Maurer (30) carries the ball during the Division 8 championship win over Ottawa Lake Whiteford in November.