1st & Goal: 2021 Playoff Week 2 Preview

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

November 4, 2021

It’s too early to say how much numbers are telling the story of this MHSAA Football Playoffs. But as we preview this weekend’s second rounds, we have a few interesting ones to share.

MI Student AidJust more than 20 percent of the 144 teams still playing – 29 total – have not tasted defeat this fall. Another 35 teams – or 24 percent – have suffered just a single loss.

What’s more, only 12 of this weekend’s 72 games – a mere 17 percent – feature matchups of those teams. And all 12 are among games noted below as we take a glance at 11-Player District Finals and 8-Player Regional Finals.

Click here for the full schedule for each division. More than 50 of the 72 playoff football games will be broadcast on MHSAA.tv, with the 11-player Division 3 matchup of River Rouge at Detroit Martin Luther King appearing on the Bally Sports Detroit PLUS channel tonight – click for more on how to watch. (Games below are Friday unless noted.)

11-Player Division 1

Detroit Catholic Central (8-2) at West Bloomfield (9-1)

Both experienced an early fade from the statewide buzz after Week 1 losses – West Bloomfield to Rochester Adams and DCC to Clinton Township Chippewa Valley – but they’re right back where most expected after rising to Nos. 7 and 9, respectively, in Division 1 by the end of the regular season. Adams remains undefeated, and West Bloomfield went on to earn wins over Clarkston and Oxford, while DCC finished second in a Detroit Catholic League Central that has all four teams still alive in the playoffs. The Shamrocks have given up 9.4 points per game since that opening loss, and seven of West Bloomfield’s wins are by double digits.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Clinton Township Chippewa Valley (7-3) at Sterling Heights Stevenson (8-2), Brownstown Woodhaven (9-1) at Dearborn Fordson (8-2), Grandville (7-3) at Rockford (10-0).

11-Player Division 2

Bay City Western (8-2) at Traverse City Central (9-1)

The Warriors are scoring nearly 46 points per game, with their 459 total approaching how many they put on the scoreboard over the last three seasons combined. They fell just shy of claiming a share of a league championship, but a District title would be a program first since 2005. It would be even more well-deserved considering the opponent. Traverse City Central has been all but unstoppable since falling to DeWitt in Week 1, giving up 8.4 points per game over its nine wins with victories over playoff teams from all over the state – Marquette (60-28), Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice (56-13) and Saginaw Heritage (49-7) – to go with another championship run through the Big North Conference.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Muskegon Mona Shores (8-2) at Caledonia (9-1), Roseville (6-4) at Port Huron Northern (8-2), East Lansing (7-3) at South Lyon (10-0).  

11-Player Division 3

River Rouge (7-2) at Detroit Martin Luther King (9-1)

With a combined five MHSAA Finals appearances between them over the last five seasons, Rouge vs. King is a matchup that’s been highly-anticipated since the bracket came out two weeks ago. The Panthers won last season’s meeting 33-30 to clinch a Regional championship on the way to the finishing Division 3 runners-up at Ford Field. Rouge should be ready for the tests of another close game after concluding the regular season with a one-point victory over Southfield Arts & Technology and then coming back to defeat Harper Woods in overtime last week. King similarly has lessons from two one-score wins over Detroit Cass Tech to recall if this one stays tight, and opened the playoffs by handing Warren Fitzgerald just its second loss, 55-12.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Allen Park (8-2) at Gibraltar Carlson (9-1), Mount Pleasant (10-0) at DeWitt (9-1). SATURDAY Cedar Springs (8-2) at Muskegon (9-1).

11-Player Division 4

Grand Rapids Christian (7-3) at Hudsonville Unity Christian (10-0)

Seemingly with a little less fanfare, Hudsonville Unity Christian has been just as impressive as any of the Grand Rapids-area powers this fall, outscoring opponents by an average score of 56-11 despite a regular-season schedule that included six playoff teams. Grand Rapids Christian was one of them, and the Crusaders won their Week 2 matchup 58-21. But the Eagles are 7-1 since while navigating a similarly treacherous group of opponents, and they’ve given up only 18 points per game during that run.  

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Detroit Country Day (6-3) at Livonia Clarenceville (9-1), Freeland (9-1) at Lake Fenton (9-1). SATURDAY Croswell-Lexington (9-1) at St. Clair (8-2).

11-Player Division 5

Grand Rapids West Catholic (9-1) at Grand Rapids Catholic Central (10-0)

West Catholic’s only loss came against Unity Christian (see above), and the Falcons are looking to make what would be the biggest splash so far in a playoffs already filling up with them. GRCC’s average margin of victory is 34 points – by an average score of 45-11 – with Division 3 hopeful Cedar Springs knocking that down a bit with its one-point loss in Week 8. But save for that 40-14 Unity loss, West Catholic has defeated its opponents on average 42-14. The Falcons’ wins over Muskegon Catholic Central in Week 2 and Comstock Park last week are the only losses those teams have suffered.  

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Muskegon Oakridge (8-2) at Howard City Tri County (9-1), Clare (7-3) at Kingsley (9-1), Kalamazoo United (7-3) at Berrien Springs (10-0).

11-Player Division 6

Millington (10-0) at Lansing Catholic (9-1), Saturday

The Cardinals lost a close District Final a year ago and are seeking their first title at this level of the playoffs since winning back-to-back in 2016 and 2017. They boast a defense that hasn’t given up a point in two weeks and allows only 8.6 per game on average. Millington should get a test from a Cougars offense scoring 35 points per game, including the just seven scored during a Week 9 loss to Division 7 contender Pewamo-Westphalia. Lansing Catholic bounced back last week to defeat Durand 37-6, and the Cougars have some high-pressure experience having reached the Semifinals last season and won Division 5 in 2019. Alex Watters as a sophomore was among stars on the championship team and is approaching 1,000 yards receiving as well as leading the team in rushing touchdowns.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Montague (7-3) at Reed City (9-1), Calumet (8-2) at Negaunee (8-2). SATURDAY Michigan Center (9-1) at Constantine (10-0).

11-Player Division 7

New Lothrop (7-3) at Pewamo-Westphalia (10-0)

Just to get it out of the way, New Lothrop has its most losses in a season since 2009 – and that fact means very little in this matchup. The Hornets came back off last season’s Division 7 championship with a loaded nonleague schedule to go with an improved conference, and those three defeats came against teams – Jackson Lumen Christi, Montrose and Frankenmuth – which are a combined 26-4 after New Lothrop handed the Rams a loss in their rematch last week. Pewamo-Westphalia’s run has looked similar with four league champions filling its nonleague slate including last week’s playoff opener opponent Ithaca. Fun fact to remember: When P-W defeated New Lothrop in the 2017 and 2019 playoffs, it went on to win the Division 7 title, and New Lothrop did the same after defeating P-W in 2018.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central (9-1) at Jackson Lumen Christi (9-1), Detroit Loyola (5-4) at Detroit Central (10-0). SATURDAY Charlevoix (8-1) at Ishpeming Westwood (9-1).

11-Player Division 8

Addison (9-1) at Hudson (10-0)

Addison entered the postseason No. 3 in Division 8 playoff points, with Hudson holding down the top spot – and all four teams in the District ranking among the top 14. Hudson has shut out four of its last five opponents and is giving up just 6.2 points per game, with wins over larger foes Ida, Clinton and Ithaca highlighting a resume that includes the Tigers’ first perfect regular season since 2011. Addison has its winningest season since 2006, with an offense averaging nearly 42 points per game leading a charge that’s included victories over larger Michigan Center and reigning champion Centreville in last week’s District Semifinal.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Sand Creek (7-3) at Ottawa Lake Whiteford (9-1), Fowler (7-3) at Breckenridge (8-2), Iron Mountain (7-3) at Beal City (9-1).

8-Player Division 1

Indian River Inland Lakes (10-0) at Suttons Bay (10-0)

Suttons Bay’s only two losses over the last three seasons have come in Division 1 championship games, but this may be as titanic a matchup as the Norsemen have faced short of the Finals during that run. These two were supposed to meet in a Semifinal last season that was unable to be played, and that just adds another wrinkle to the anticipation. Inland Lakes averages 58 points per game, and Suttons Bay gives up 8.8. Somewhere in the middle, the winner will not only earn a Regional title but is assured to host next week’s Semifinal as well.

Other Regional Finals FRIDAY Rudyard (8-2) at Newberry (8-2), Mendon (8-2) at Martin (10-0), Britton Deerfield (9-1) at Adrian Lenawee Christian (10-0).

8-Player Division 2

Kinde North Huron (10-0) at Au Gres-Sims (10-0)

Just when it looks like Inland Lakes’ offense can’t be matched this season (see above), here come the Wolverines averaging 61 points per game with a season-low of 48 against a Hillman team still alive on the other side of the bracket. It’s been a great comeback story after Au Gres-Sims won just a game a year ago and three in 2019, and it can add another highlight by avenging last season’s 66-12 playoff loss to North Huron. That’s of course easier written than done, as the Warriors haven’t slowed since reaching last season’s Semifinals and even avenged one of their two 2020 defeats.  

Other Regional Finals FRIDAY Colon (9-1) at Morrice (10-0), Crystal Falls Forest Park (8-2) at Powers North Central (10-0), Hillman (7-3) at Marion (9-1).

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PHOTO Muskegon Heights Academy, here against Muskegon Catholic Central, will face Carson City-Crystal on Friday for a Division 8 District championship. (Photo by Tim Reilly.)

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.)