1st & Goal: 2021 Playoff Week 1 Review

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

November 2, 2021

The beginning of playoffs in any sport often is looked at as starting over or a second chance – especially by teams that maybe didn’t accomplish everything they’d wanted during the regular season.

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A number of teams took advantage of those opportunities during the first weekend of these 2021 MHSAA Football Playoffs.

Of 144 games total, 38 were rematches from the regular season – and 18 were won by the other team this time, with a number of those highlighted in this week’s “review” below.

(And in case you’re wondering, the upcoming 11-Player District Finals and 8-Player Regional Finals feature 25 more rematches.)

11-Player Division 1

HEADLINER Dearborn Fordson 21, Detroit Cass Tech 14 (OT) Antonio Gates Jr. caught two touchdown passes including the eventual game winner in overtime as Fordson (8-2) moved on against a familiar playoff foe. Fordson had fallen to Cass Tech (6-4) in the playoffs the last two seasons and has faced the Technicians in the postseason eight straight years. Click for more from the Dearborn Press & Guide.

District Digest Howell 35, Hartland 28 (3 OT) The Highlanders (8-2) trailed Hartland 14-0 at halftime before coming back to avenge a Week 6 loss to the Eagles (7-3). Oxford 38, Clarkston 28 After losing to Clarkston 20-17 in Week 5 to cap a 1-4 start, the Wildcats (6-4) haven’t fallen again – with this win breaking a four-game losing streak against the Wolves (8-2). Belleville 14, Ann Arbor Huron 10 The Tigers (9-1) got their biggest scare since late September but held on to end Huron’s most successful season since 2001 at 8-2.

11-Player Division 2

HEADLINER Port Huron Northern 13, Port Huron 0 After falling to Port Huron High 14-7 just three weeks earlier, Northern (8-2) avenged with its third shutout of the season – highlighted by five tackles for loss, four sacks, two fumble recoveries and a blocked punt. The Huskies also broke a three-game losing streak against the Big Reds (6-4). Click for more from the Port Huron Times Herald.

District Digest Bay City Western 25, Midland Dow 23 The Warriors’ best season in a decade added another highlight, as Western (8-2) avenged its one-point Week 5 loss to the Chargers (6-4). Battle Creek Lakeview 49, Dexter 48 (OT) The Spartans (7-3) made it three straight seasons with a playoff win with a rain-soaked overtime extra point against the Dreadnaughts (5-5). Muskegon Mona Shores 31, Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central 7 The reigning champion’s potential all-road game march back to Ford Field began in a big way as Mona Shores (8-2) handed host Forest Hills Central (8-2) a playoff loss for the third time in four seasons.

Harper Creek/River Rouge football

11-Player Division 3

HEADLINER River Rouge 14, Harper Woods 6 (OT) The reigning Division 3 runners-up rallied after halftime with all of their points and a defensive stand, holding Harper Woods (7-3) to its fewest points this season. River Rouge (7-2) has won a playoff game eight of the last 10 years.

District Digest Allen Park 28, Riverview 20 The Jaguars (8-2) ended Riverview’s season for the third time in four years, this time with the Pirates (9-1) suffering their only defeat in the playoffs for the second straight. St. Joseph 29, Zeeland West 26 The Bears (6-4) bounced back from four straight losses – including three by six points or fewer – to end up on the positive side of a close one against the Dux (6-3). Mount Pleasant 37, Marquette 6 The Oilers (10-0) won this matchup of league champions to reach double-digit wins for the second time in four seasons, ending Marquette’s at 7-3.

Marquette/Mount Pleasant football

11-Player Division 4

HEADLINER Cadillac 42, Fruitport 35 Cadillac’s outstanding defense received one of its toughest challenges as Fruitport rallied late to pull within a score before the reigning Division 4 runner-up held on for the win. Cadillac (8-2) scored its most points in a game this season, but Fruitport (4-6) also scored the most the Vikings have allowed – with both offenses perhaps benefitting from a second look as Cadillac had won their Week 2 meeting 28-12. Click for more from the Cadillac News.

District Digest Three Rivers 9, Vicksburg 7 In avenging a 46-27 Week 6 loss to Vicksburg (8-2), Three Rivers (6-4) also won a playoff game for the first time since 2017. Croswell-Lexington 6, Pontiac Notre Dame Prep 0 The Pioneers (9-1) scored the game’s lone points in the first quarter and held on for a second-straight shutout and fourth this season, against a Notre Dame Prep team (7-3) that averaged 37 points per game entering the weekend. Livonia Clarenceville 36, Madison Heights Lamphere 28 The Trojans (9-1), playing as independents this fall, are enjoying their best season since 2013 with just a three-point Week 7 loss to Berkley from being undefeated and Lamphere (7-3) the second league champ they’ve defeated.

Grand Rapids South Christian/Plainwell football

11-Player Division 5

HEADLINER Clare 32, Gladwin 12 It’s a rare season when Clare is left out of the Jack Pine Conference title, but the second-place Pioneers made some major amends by handing the champion Flying G’s (9-1) their lone loss to end their season. Gladwin had won the first meeting 48-42 in Week 7. Al Warner scored all five of Clare’s touchdowns, including with runs of 50 and 79 yards. Click for more from the Mount Pleasant Morning Sun.

District Digest Olivet 3, Williamston 0 (OT) Tyler Latunski’s 22-yard field goal was the difference in this matchup of league champions, after Olivet (8-2) had also edged Williamston (6-4) 20-19 in Week 8. Grand Rapids West Catholic 42, Comstock Park 0 The Falcons reached 40 points for the seventh time this season in moving to 9-1 overall, while shutting down a Comstock Park offense that had averaged nearly 51 points per game during that team’s 9-0 regular season. Dundee 6, Macomb Lutheran North 0 The Vikings (6-4) earned their first District Final berth since 2011, against a Mustangs team (6-4) that shared a league title.

11-Player Division 6

HEADLINER Michigan Center 8, Jonesville 6 A scoreless game through three quarters played out dramatically in the fourth as Michigan Center (9-1) put the first points on the board and kept Jonesville from tying after its lone touchdown. The Cardinals then made a near-goal line stand to close out a second playoff win over the Comets (9-1) in as many seasons. Click for more from the Jackson Citizen Patriot.

District Digest Calumet 35, Menominee 20 The Copper Kings (8-2) also won a matchup of league champions, defeating Menominee (5-5) in the playoffs for the third straight season. Boyne City 19, Grayling 18 The Ramblers (9-1) stopped a two-point conversion try late, avenging last season’s District Final loss to the Vikings (7-3). Detroit Southeastern 16, Detroit Pershing 0 The Jungaleers (7-3) have won seven straight, with this shutout of Pershing (5-5) their second on the field this season and part of a defensive effort that’s given up only 9.5 points per game over its last six played (with two wins coming by forfeit).

Negaunee/Gladstone football

11-Player Division 7

HEADLINER New Lothrop 34, Montrose 7 The reigning Division 7 champion Hornets (7-3) opened with a decisive win over one of the other two co-champions in the Mid-Michigan Activities Conference, avenging a 35-14 Week 5 loss to the Rams (7-3). New Lothrop and Montrose also had entered the playoffs tied for the No. 10 spot in Division 7. Click for more from the Owosso Argus-Press.

District Digest Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker 49, Reese 6 After falling to Reese 27-18 in Week 7, Laker (8-2) found what worked in the rematch and remains the only one of three Greater Thumb Conference West co-champions still standing. The Rockets (8-2) had averaged nearly 32 points per game entering the weekend. Ishpeming Westwood 44, East Jordan 6 The Patriots (9-1) held an eighth opponent this season to single digits in winning a matchup of league champions over the Red Devils (6-3). Hemlock 20, Bad Axe 12 The Huskies (6-4) have emerged from a 2-3 start to win three of their last four, including this one over that third GTC West co-champion. Bad Axe still has plenty to celebrate; in addition to the league title, the Hatchets (7-3) posted their highest win total since 2001.

11-Player Division 8

HEADLINER Addison 24, Centreville 16 Given these teams’ defensive prowess, this score makes sense – and this win may soon be recalled among the Panthers’ best at least since the turn of the century. Not only was Centreville the reigning Division 8 champion, but Addison (9-1) reached its highest win total since 2006 in tying the most points the Bulldogs (7-3) had given up over the last three seasons. Click for more from the Adrian Daily Telegram.

District Digest Muskegon Heights Academy 66, Holton 42 The Tigers (6-4), who didn’t play last season and won just one game over the previous two, earned their first playoff victory since 2010. Fowler 28, Flint Beecher 0 The Eagles (7-3) went on the road and came back with their third shutout in five games. Rochester Hills Lutheran Northwest 13, Marine City Cardinal Mooney 12 The last month has seen an incredible turnaround for Lutheran Northwest, which went 0-7 a year ago and opened this season 1-4 before winning five straight including this one with a touchdown on the last play of the game. Mooney had won their Week 2 matchup 31-7. 

Beal City/Bark River-Harris football

8-Player Division 1

HEADLINER Britton Deerfield 36, Deckerville 14 Despite losing its starting quarterback to injury at the end of the regular season, Deerfield (9-1) rallied for the most impressive win so far of its 8-player debut. A defense that has shined all fall continued to do so as well – Deckerville (8-2) hadn’t been held to 14 or fewer points in a game since 2018. Click for more from the Adrian Daily Telegram.

Regional Roundup Rudyard 38, Munising 14 After finishing as one of three runners-up in the Great Lakes Eight Conference East, Rudyard (8-2) topped the champion, avenging a 30-12 Week 4 loss to the Mustangs (7-3). Indian River Inland Lakes 38, Rogers City 24 The Bulldogs (10-0) faced one of their toughest matchups of the season, but emerged to earn a showdown this week with also 10-0 Suttons Bay. Martin 41, Tekonsha 0 This win over another league champion was Martin’s third-straight shutout and pushed the Clippers to 10-0.

8-Player Division 2

HEADLINER Colon 35, Portland St. Patrick 13 The Magi (9-1) will move on this time after falling to Portland St. Patrick in last year’s Regional Final and watching the Shamrocks finish Division 2 runners-up for the second-straight season. Colon held St. Patrick (9-1) to its fewest points in a game since 2018, sticking almost exactly to the 11.2 it’s giving up this fall. Click for more from the Sturgis Journal.

Regional Roundup Crystal Falls Forest Park 8, Lake Linden-Hubbell 0 The Trojans (8-2) won for the first time in three weeks by avenging their first loss of the season, to the Lakes (7-3), and to earn a rematch with the team that dealt Forest Park its other defeat (Powers North Central). Hillman 32, Mio 26 The Tigers’ 1-3 start is becoming a distant memory as they’ve won six straight with this one avenging a Week 2 12-0 defeat to the Thunderbolts (6-4). Kinde North Huron 48, Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart 21 Just as we saw a number of teams avenge in rematches over the weekend, North Huron (10-0) instead was able to hold off the Irish for the second time. Sacred Heart (7-3) had finished second to the Warriors in the North Central Thumb League Stars.

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PHOTOS (1) Westwood's Zach Carlson [2] gets around East Jordan's Granger Kitson [25] and down to the 1-yard-line before getting tackled. (2) Harper Woods and River Rouge players prepare for contact Friday. (3) A Mount Pleasant defender attempts to wrap up a Marquette ball carrier. (4) A Grand Rapids South Christian ball carrier eludes a pair of Plainwell defenders. (5) Gladstone quarterback Nate Young [6] holds onto the ball before getting tackled by Negaunee's Eli VanBuren [8], Jed Anderson [35] and another defender. (6) Beal City defenders pull down a Bark River-Harris ball carrier in their Division 8 matchup. (Photos by Cara Kamps (1 and 5), Quintin Love Jr. (2), High School Sports Scene (3 and 6) and Gary Shook (4).

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.)