1st & Goal: 2021 Playoff Week 2 Review

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

November 8, 2021

As the first leaves begin to turn colors at the start of fall, hardware starts stacking up high at the MHSAA office in East Lansing.

MI Student AidBut now that we're into November, trophies are flying out of here like birds heading south for winter.

In addition to two more sports ending over the weekend and tournaments advancing in one more of the two sports still being played, we saw 72 football trophies find homes over the weekend as 11-player District and 8-player Regional champions were crowned.

Below is a glance at just more than half of those deciding matchups as we move another step closer to awarding the biggest trophies of all.  

11-Player Division 1

HEADLINER Sterling Heights Stevenson 38, Clinton Township Chippewa Valley 35 This region’s two District Finals were rematches from the Macomb Area Conference Red regular season, and Stevenson (9-2) managed to hold off a mighty challenge again after also defeating Chippewa Valley 36-32 in Week 6. Jordan Kwiatkowski became the program’s all-time leading tackler, and Kyler Castle drilled the game-winning field goal on the final play. Chippewa Valley finished 7-4, its defeats by a combined 12 points. Click for more from the Macomb Daily.

District Digest Macomb Dakota 35, Romeo 20 On the other side of the bracket from Stevenson, Dakota (8-3) avenged a 14-10 Week 3 loss over the MAC Red co-champion Bulldogs (9-2), claiming its first District title since 2015. Rockford 38, Grandville 7 The Rams (11-0) won decisively this time after needing double overtime to defeat Grandville (7-4) in Week 4. West Bloomfield 35, Detroit Catholic Central 21 The Lakers (10-1) have reached 30 points in six straight games and scored the most – by 18 – that DCC (8-3) had given up since Week 1.

11-Player Division 2

HEADLINER Caledonia 49, Muskegon Mona Shores 12 After five straight sub-.500 seasons, Caledonia has reached double-digit wins for the first time since 2008 with their first District title since 2012. And in the process, the Fighting Scots (10-1) avenged last season’s eight-point District Final loss to Mona Shores (8-3), ending the two-time reigning Division 2 champion’s 18-game winning streak and dealing the Sailors their first playoff exit short of Ford Field since 2017. Click for more from FOX 17.

District Digest South Lyon 34, East Lansing 13 The Lions (11-0) are District champs for the first time since 2004 after holding East Lansing (7-4) to less than half its scoring average of 30 points per game. Livonia Franklin 27, Livonia Churchill 20 Franklin (6-5) may have been one of the teams questioned entering this playoffs at 4-5, but no longer after avenging a 42-14 Week 6 loss to Churchill (8-3) to win a second District title in four seasons. Roseville 41, Port Huron Northern 2 The Panthers (7-4) have outscored their two playoff opponents by a combined 68-2, with top-ranked Warren De La Salle Collegiate up next.

11-Player Division 3

HEADLINER Cedar Springs 21, Muskegon 14 The Red Hawks’ first District title since 2018 coincided with Muskegon’s earliest playoff exit since 2011, as the Big Reds (9-2) had eliminated Cedar Springs (9-2) the last three seasons (including in a Regional Final in 2018). The Red Hawks scored first this time, then first again to break a halftime tie and then one more time early in the fourth quarter to go ahead 14. Ryan West scored both second-half touchdowns. Click for more from the Grand Rapids Press.

District Digest DeWitt 50, Mount Pleasant 26 The Panthers (10-1) ran their District title streak to six while dealing Mount Pleasant (10-1) its only defeat. Detroit Martin Luther King 33, River Rouge 12 The Crusaders (10-1) stopped another high-powered offense, as reigning Division 3 runner-up River Rouge (7-3) entered averaging 42 points per game. District Semifinal opponent Warren Fitzgerald was averaging 50 and also scored only 12 against King two weeks ago. Parma Western 41, Battle Creek Harper Creek 28 The Panthers (8-3) pulled off a major reversal against the Interstate 8 Athletic Conference co-champion Beavers (7-4), avenging a 50-22 Week 3 loss.

11-Player Division 4

HEADLINER Freeland 37, Lake Fenton 6 The Falcons (10-1) finishes a sweep of Flint Metro League Stars champions over the last two weeks, adding this victory to its District Semifinal win over Goodrich. The District title was Freeland’s third straight and continued a strong defensive showing, as the Falcons have given up only six points per game on average since their lone loss Week 5. Lake Fenton finished its winningest season since 2006 at 9-2. Click for more from the Midland Daily News.

District Digest Chelsea 49, Milan 12 The Bulldogs (11-0) clinched their fourth-straight District championship by locking down a Milan offense that had scored 35 points per game. Grand Rapids South Christian 38, Hastings 14 The Sailors (8-3) repeated as District champions, ending I8AC co-champion Hastings’ winningest season since 1990 at 9-2. Detroit Country Day 49, Livonia Clarenceville 8 The reigning champion Yellowjackets (7-3) are on playoff stride again, tying their most points in a game this season to up their scoring margin over the last two weeks to a combined 84-14.

11-Player Division 5

HEADLINER Grand Rapids Catholic Central 44, Grand Rapids West Catholic 6 The John Passinault to Nolan Ziegler passing connection did some major damage early with three first-half touchdowns as GRCC (11-0) ran its District championship streak to six seasons. West Catholic finished 9-2, both defeats coming to teams that remain unbeaten. Click for more from the Grand Rapids Press.

District Digest Kalamazoo United 21, Berrien Springs 14 The Shamrocks (10-0) hadn’t given up more than 19 points in a game heading into the weekend, and United (8-3) also held Berrien Springs to 26 points below their season scoring average. Kingsley 32, Clare 6 The Stags (10-1) made it six opponents held to single-digit scoring this season as they won their third District title in four years. Corunna 20, Armada 8 The Cavaliers (7-4) clinched their first District title since 2016 by ending Armada’s first winning season since 2012 and best season since 2004 at 7-4.

11-Player Division 6

HEADLINER Lansing Catholic 28, Millington 8 The Cougars (10-1) scored 21 unanswered points over the final three quarters to hand Millington (10-1) its lone loss and clinch a third-straight District championship. The Cardinals entered the game scoring 38 points per, but Lansing Catholic has won its two playoff games by a combined 65-14. Click for more from the Lansing State Journal.

District Digest Michigan Center 28, Constantine 18 The Cardinals (10-1) eliminated their second undefeated league champion in two weeks, adding Constantine (10-1) to Jonesville on the way to repeating as District champs. Montague 35, Reed City 22 The reigning Division 7 champion Wildcats (8-3) may have closed the regular season with two losses, but will have a big say in this playoff bracket after also knocking off a league champion in the Coyotes (9-2). Calumet 24, Negaunee 19 The Copper Kings (9-2) avenged their 35-21 Week 2 loss that eventually led to a shared Western Peninsula Athletic Conference Copper championship between these two and Ishpeming Westwood, and after also falling to Negaunee by a point in last year’s District Final.

Ishpeming Westwood football

11-Player Division 7

HEADLINER Pewamo-Westphalia 53, New Lothrop 21 The Pirates won their 10th District title over the last 11 years in one of their most impressive fashions, putting out their best offensive performance since mid-September while holding the reigning Division 7 champion to nearly half of its average of 39 points scored per game. P-W (11-0) improved to 3-1 in their last four meetings with the Hornets (7-4). Click for more from the Lansing State Journal.

District Digest Ishpeming Westwood 30, Charlevoix 28 The Patriots (10-1) claimed their first District championship, after putting together a double-digit lead and needing every point to hold off the Rayders (8-2) as they too were pursuing a first District title. Detroit Loyola 18, Detroit Central 14 The Bulldogs (6-4) defeated a second league champion in as many weeks, this time also handing Central (10-1) its only loss. Jackson Lumen Christi 21, Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central 12 In this repeat of last season’s District Final, Lumen Christi (10-1) was victorious again to advance to Regionals for the eighth-straight season.

11-Player Division 8

HEADLINER Hudson 28, Addison 8 Everyone knew this District featuring these two, Centreville and Reading would be one of the most competitive in any division with all four teams ranked among the top 14. Hudson (11-0) emerged as the champion, outscoring its two opponents by a combined 50-8. A defense giving up only seven points per game was nearly unbeatable again facing an Addison offense scoring 42 points per game entering the day. The Panthers finished 9-2. Click for more from the Adrian Daily Telegram.

District Digest Breckenridge 41, Fowler 32 The Huskies (9-2) scored 20 unanswered points over the final 10 minutes to get past the Eagles (7-4). Carson City-Crystal 35, Muskegon Heights Academy 26 This was much closer than the Eagles’ 41-14 Week 8 win over the Tigers (6-5), but Carson City-Crystal (10-1) held on to repeat as a District champion. Ottawa Lake Whiteford 54, Sand Creek 14 This playoffs that has seen its share of rematches go the other way, but Tri-County Conference champ Whiteford (10-1) finished a season sweep of league runner-up Sand Creek (7-4).

Breckenridge football

8-Player Division 1

HEADLINER Suttons Bay 53, Indian River Inland Lakes 18 Among a season of dominating performances, this one is shining brightest for Suttons Bay as both entered this Regional Final undefeated. The Norseman (11-0) tied the score 12-12 midway through the second quarter and by the end of the first half were up double digits. Inland Lakes (10-1) was averaging 58 points per game entering the day. Click for more from the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

Regional Roundup Rudyard 28, Newberry 0 The top four from the Great Lakes Eight Conference East were part of the same Regional, and Rudyard avenged a Week 5 loss to Newberry (8-3) to emerge as champion after both had been among three league runners-up. Martin 41, Mendon 22 The top two finishers in the Southwest Michigan 8-Man Football League Tier 1 met again, with Martin (11-0) adding to its 28-20 Week 7 victory over the Hornets (8-3). Adrian Lenawee Christian 41, Britton Deerfield 0 The Cougars (11-0) have opened the playoffs with two shutouts, their third and fourth over their last five games. Deerfield finished 9-2, its only losses to Lenawee Christian twice over the last three weeks.

8-Player Division 2

HEADLINER Colon 29, Morrice 22 The Magi (10-1) are rumbling through undefeated opponents this playoffs, this time handing Morrice (10-1) its lone loss after doing the same to Portland St. Patrick in the Regional Semifinal. The Orioles led most of the game and 22-8 with a quarter to play before Colon surged to lock up its third Regional title in four seasons. Click for more from JoeInsider.com.

Regional Roundup Powers North Central 65, Crystal Falls Forest Park 8 Reigning Division 2 champion North Central (11-0) downed the rival Trojans (8-3) for the second time in three weeks to return to the Semifinals. Marion 54, Hillman 0 The Eagles (10-1) also will be returning to the Semifinals for a rematch with the Jets after defeating Hillman (7-4) for the second-straight playoffs. Au Gres-Sims 48, Kinde North Huron 42 The Wolverines (11-0) will return to the Semifinals for the second time in four seasons after holding off North Huron (10-1) right to the end of a matchup of undefeated league champions.

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PHOTOS [1] Detroit Country Day’s Parker Yearego (3) reaches for the end zone during his team’s win over Livonia Clarenceville. [2] Ishpeming Westwood's Zach Carlson (2) gains several yards before being tackled by Charlevoix's Landon Swanson (21). [3] Breckenridge’s Luke Saunders (12) breaks into the open against Fowler.(Photos by Doug Bargerstock [1], Cara Kamps [2] and High School Sports Scene [3].)

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.)