1st & Goal: 2021 Week 1 Preview

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

August 26, 2021

Welcome to what might be the most anticipated opening weekend in Michigan high school football history.

No one is saying life is back to pre-pandemic normal, of course. But after last football season saw multiple delays, an abbreviated regular season and altered playoff format, it’s hard not to be excited about most things beginning “as they always have” this weekend across our state.

And there are plenty of opportunities to dig in and enjoy.

Check out your local game, or one of those highlighted below – including a number of games from three showcase events, the Battle at the Big House at University of Michigan, the Xenith Prep Kick Off Classic at Wayne State and the Vehicle City Gridiron Classic at Kettering’s Atwood Stadium. There are also plenty of opportunities to tune in from home – more than 150 games will be streamed live on the NFHS Network or by partner Bally Sports Detroit, including two televised live on BSD’s primary cable channel. (Click for details.)

As in seasons past, our weekly football previews will point out intriguing games from every region of the state – opportunities to see a great story unfold no matter where fans live or are visiting that weekend. Records below are from the 2020 season. (Games from the aforementioned showcases are listed in the region of one of the competitors.) 

Bay & Thumb

Davison (10-1) vs. Clarkston (7-1), Friday at U-M

A number of teams from the I-75 corridor and particularly the Flint suburbs will be playing showcase games this weekend, and this might be the biggest as well as a preview of a more significant rematch to come. Clarkston’s lone loss last season came by seven to Grand Blanc in a District Semifinal – a week before the Wolves would have faced Davison, which suffered its only defeat at Ford Field against West Bloomfield in the Division 1 championship game. The Cardinals also were Division 1 champs in 2019, with Clarkston most recently making the Finals as Division 1 runner-up in 2018.

Keep an eye on these THURSDAY Lapeer (3-4) vs. Grand Rapids Catholic Central (10-0) at U-M, Frankenmuth (11-1) vs. Goodrich (6-2) at Atwood Stadium. FRIDAY East Lansing (8-1) vs. Grand Blanc (7-2) at Atwood Stadium, Midland Dow (5-3) vs. Fenton (7-1) at U-M.

Greater Detroit

Detroit Catholic Central (9-1) vs. Clinton Township Chippewa Valley (3-4), Thursday at WSU

This might be the premier matchup of the Wayne State games, and also one where a 2020 record should be ignored when making that argument. Chippewa Valley may have lost four games last season, but those defeats came by a combined 21 points and none by more than nine. DCC, meanwhile, suffered its only loss to Davison, in a Division 1 Regional Final. The Shamrocks were especially tough defensively last fall, giving up 10 points per game, while winning a Detroit Catholic League Central that sent Warren De La Salle Collegiate to the Division 2 championship game.

Keep an eye on these THURSDAY Canton (8-1) vs. Dearborn Fordson (5-3) at Wayne State, Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice (7-2) at Macomb Dakota (6-2). FRIDAY Oak Park (5-6) at Orchard Lake St. Mary's (2-4). SATURDAY Southfield Arts & Technology (3-4) vs. Detroit Cass Tech (8-1) at Wayne State.


DeWitt (12-0) vs. Traverse City Central (9-2), Thursday at U-M

The Panthers are coming off their first Finals championship, claiming the Division 3 title last season, and might be even better on offense this fall with multiple playmakers returning after the team scored at least 37 points in all but one game. Central missed making Ford Field by one win, falling to eventual champion Muskegon Mona Shores in a Division 2 Semifinal. The Trojans scored at least 30 points in all but one game last season and should be a handful in an intriguing Michigan Stadium clash.

Keep an eye on these THURSDAY Olivet (7-2) at Charlotte (2-5). FRIDAY Freeland (8-2) at Clare (7-1), Fowler (6-3) at Carson City-Crystal (6-2), Lansing Everett (did not play) at Lansing Sexton (did not play).

Northern Lower Peninsula

Reed City (8-0) at Cadillac (7-3), Thursday

Rewind again to when the MHSAA football season concluded at Ford Field, and Cadillac was one of the surprises of championship weekend. The Vikings reached the Finals for the first time, and while being held scoreless by Detroit Country Day in the Division 4 championship game they also put up one of their most impressive defensive performances holding the Yellowjackets to 13 points. Reed City’s story, though, had to feel a little unfinished – after starting out with eight straight wins, the Coyotes’ last playoff game before the COVID-related break in November was canceled, as was their Regional Final when play resumed in January.

Keep an eye on these THURSDAY Traverse City West (6-2) vs. Midland (8-1) at U-M, Beaverton (6-2) at Lake City (2-4), Houghton Lake (4-3) at Maple City Glen Lake (5-3), Kingsley (8-0) at McBain (6-1).

Southeast & Border

New Lothrop (11-0) at Jackson Lumen Christi (5-5), Thursday

These two have made a combined six trips to Ford Field with five championships over the last five seasons. New Lothrop is coming off its second Division 7 title in three seasons in January, while Lumen Christi was stopped short in the Regional Finals – a week before it would have met New Lothrop with a Finals bid on the line. This is also an intriguing matchup between the state’s longest-serving and third-winningest football coach, Lumen’s Herb Brogan (373-89 over 42 seasons), against a younger leader on the path to join the all-time greats in Clint Galvas (129-15 over 13).

Keep an eye on these THURSDAY Ithaca (8-1) at Hudson (4-4). FRIDAY Ottawa Lake Whiteford (6-3) at Blissfield (8-1), Michigan Center (6-2) at Homer (5-3), Saline (8-2) vs. Hudsonville (5-3) at U-M.

Southwest Corridor

Portage Central (3-5) at Stevensville Lakeshore (6-3) , Thursday

After not awarding a league champion last season because of the abbreviated regular-season schedule, the Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference gets rolling immediately with two frequent contenders facing off. Central and Lakeshore didn’t play last season, but Central has won two straight in the otherwise-annual series.

Keep an eye on these THURSDAY Lake Odessa Lakewood (3-4) at Battle Creek Pennfield (5-4), Grand Ledge (5-3) at Coldwater (5-2), Cassopolis (2-5) at Schoolcraft (9-2). FRIDAY Battle Creek Lakeview (5-3) vs. Battle Creek Harper Creek (5-3).

Upper Peninsula

Negaunee (6-4) at Iron Mountain (7-2), Thursday

Once the regular season finally got started last fall, the Upper Peninsula proved quickly captivating as the status of best team north of Mackinac Bridge seemed to change hands weekly. Iron Mountain was the last remaining in the playoffs, reaching the Division 8 Regional Finals and missing the Semifinals with a one-point defeat. Both of these teams stand to be in the conversation again not only across the peninsula and statewide but more locally as the Western Peninsula Athletic Conference Copper (and Silver) reinstates league play after also not awarding a 2020 champ.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Gladstone (2-4) at Calumet (4-4), Bark River-Harris (5-3) at Gwinn (4-4), Houghton (2-3) at Ishpeming Westwood (5-2), Sault Ste. Marie (6-3) at St. Ignace (1-6).

West Michigan

Edwardsburg (9-1) at Montague (12-0), Thursday

The anticipation for this matchup should rival any this weekend including for the games being played at the three opening showcases. Montague put together one of the most impressive 2020 runs in any division on the way to claiming the Division 6 title but enters this fall with a new coach and quarterback. Edwardsburg missed returning to Ford Field with a two-point loss to Cadillac in a Division 4 Semifinal and likely would have reached double-digit wins for a sixth-straight season if not for the abbreviated schedule.

Keep an eye on these THURSDAY Zeeland West (5-1) at East Grand Rapids (6-4), Muskegon Mona Shores (12-0) at Lowell (4-4). FRIDAY Grand Rapids South Christian (8-2) at Grand Rapids Christian (4-4), Hudsonville Unity Christian (7-0) at Hopkins (5-2).


Gaylord St. Mary (7-2) at Pickford (7-2), Friday

These two won’t see each other again when the playoffs roll around – Pickford is in Division 1 this season and St. Mary in Division 2. But if recent history serves, this opener could be a primer for the kind of matchup both could earn a few months from now. Pickford made the Regional Finals last season and has pushed at least that far into the playoffs the last five seasons. Gaylord St. Mary is coming off two straight Regional Finals trips, both in Division 1 as well before moving into Division 2 for this fall.

Keep an eye on these THURSDAY Mendon (6-2 in 11-player) at Vandercook Lake (4-2). FRIDAY Merrill (6-2) at Marion (8-2), Wyoming Tri-unity Christian (3-5) at Martin (8-2), Onaway (6-1) at Indian River Inland Lakes (8-2).

PHOTO: Football stadium lights, like these last season at Muskegon High School, will brighten the sky again for the 2021 season beginning this weekend. (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.)