1st & Goal: 2021 Week 4 Preview

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

September 17, 2021

For the last 20 years, we would have entered Week 4 of football season discussing how many teams would have to win the rest of their games to guarantee making the playoffs.

MI Student AidBut the six-wins-and-in era is done (and never existed for 8-player), and there’s still plenty of time for every team to impact its destiny – especially with only 130 of 598 teams still undefeated and 12 more sure to fall off that list this weekend.

MHSAA.tv will carry 170 games live this weekend, with Bally Sports Detroit broadcasting Friday's Traverse City Central/Traverse City West matchup on its PLUS cable channel. See the full schedule from the MHSAA Score Center and see below for some of the games with the most intriguing storylines as we take another step toward the regular season’s midpoint.

Bay & Thumb

Davison (1-2) at Grand Blanc (3-0)

This is the fourth season these two will meet in the Saginaw Valley League Red, and Davison has won all four meetings of the recent series including for a Division 1 District title last year. Coming off three one-score wins over highly-touted foes – East Lansing, Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central and Midland Dow – Grand Blanc could be ready to take its turn in the rivalry. But the Cardinals’ record is deceptive. Coming off last season’s second-straight trip to the Division 1 Final, Davison opened this fall with losses to Clarkston and then Detroit Catholic Central, falling by just three to the still-undefeated Wolves.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Mount Pleasant (3-0) at Midland Dow (2-1), Standish-Sterling (3-0) at Millington (3-0), Freeland (3-0) at Essexville Garber (3-0), Harbor Beach (2-1) at Ubly (3-0).

Greater Detroit

Warren De La Salle Collegiate (2-0) at Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice (3-0)

The four Detroit Catholic League Central teams are a combined 10-1 this fall, and this week begins a must-see title race. These two have opened league play against each other since 2010, with seven meetings (including one in the playoffs) decided by seven or fewer points. Rice won the 2019 matchup 16-14 and last year 27-25, but the Pilots followed up the latter by reaching the Division 2 Final for the third time in four seasons. The Warriors haven’t given up a point since a season-opening win over Macomb Dakota, but De La Salle can claim the biggest headliner so far after downing last season’s Division 3 runner-up River Rouge 38-29 in Week 2.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Grosse Pointe South (2-1) at Romeo (3-0), Detroit Country Day (3-0) at South Lyon (3-0), Marine City (3-0) at Wyandotte Roosevelt (3-0), Southfield Arts & Technology (2-1) at Clarkston (3-0).


Haslett (2-1) at Mason (2-1)

Last week’s Mason comeback win over Williamston thrust this game quickly into the spotlight as it’s almost sure to have Capital Area Activities Conference Red implications. Mason has won the league the last two seasons, while Haslett is returning to contention – the Vikings already have as many wins this fall as in 2020 and 2019, and they need one more point to also equal last year’s scoring over seven games. Both of these teams have intriguing offensive skill players, but both also needed time last week to get rolling – Williamston trailed 27-13 at halftime before winning 34-27, and Haslett was up 7-0 at halftime on the way to defeating Lansing Eastern 33-14. Getting on track first could be key.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Lake City (3-0) at Beal City (2-1), Big Rapids (2-1) at Central Montcalm (3-0), Holt (2-1) at DeWitt (2-1), Lansing Everett (2-1) at Grand Ledge (3-0).

Northern Lower Peninsula

Traverse City West (3-0) vs. Traverse City Central (2-1) at Thirlby Field

The annual “Patriot Game” is the place to be in northern Michigan – crowds every season of 10,000+ would agree – and this year’s chapter could read more like the one-score classics from most of the last decade after less-characteristic big wins (both by Central) the last two seasons. They’ll go together into the Saginaw Valley League for football next season, and started their final Big North Conference schedules last week with wins – West 21-7 over last season’s Division 4 runner-up Cadillac. The only loss by either so far has been Central’s season opener to reigning Division 3 champion DeWitt.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Traverse City St. Francis (3-0) at Maple City Glen Lake (1-2), Frankfort (2-1) at Oscoda (2-1), Harbor Springs (1-2) at Boyne City (3-0), Petoskey (3-0) at Gaylord (1-2).

Southeast & Border

Michigan Center (3-0) at Addison (3-0)

Addison has won two straight Cascades Conference titles and 16 straight league games, but this will be its first matchup with Michigan Center since 2019. They didn’t see each other during last year’s abbreviated regular season, although the Cardinals finished second in the league with a loss coming to Hanover-Horton. Addison has outscored its three opponents so far – including Hanover-Horton last week – by a combined 145-35. But the Cardinals have been just as impressive if not more – outscoring their three opponents 136-0, including a 42-0 avenging against Hanover-Horton in Week 2.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central (3-0) at Milan (3-0), Monroe (2-1) at Saline (3-0), Ann Arbor Huron (2-1) at Temperance Bedford (3-0), Clinton (2-1) at Ida (2-1).

Southwest Corridor

Vicksburg (3-0) at Edwardsburg (3-0)

It’s early, of course, but statistically this Edwardsburg team is following the pattern of its best over the last decade. The offense has scored more every week, from 38 to 55 to 61 against Niles in the latest win, and the defense has given up seven points total. Next up are the Bulldogs, who lost twice to Edwardsburg last season but have been a playoff team five of the last seven years. The three opponents the Eddies defeated are all 2-1, and league rivals are lined up – undefeated Plainwell is next after Vicksburg, with Paw Paw coming up in Week 6.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Three Rivers (2-1) at Niles (2-1), Battle Creek Lakeview (2-1) at Battle Creek Central (2-1), White Pigeon (3-0) at Comstock (2-1), St. Joseph (3-0) at Kalamazoo Central (1-2).

Upper Peninsula

Ishpeming Westwood (2-1) at Ishpeming (1-1)

This rivalry will be restored after Ishpeming did not field a varsity last season. The Patriots solidly ended a 23-game losing streak to the Hematites the last time they met, however, claiming the 2019 matchup 38-0. Westwood’s fast start this fall ran into an obstacle last week with a loss to Calumet, but there would hardly be a better way to pick back up than with a win tonight. Ishpeming was off last week and has had plenty of time to prepare for a game that could pay big dividends toward its rebound as well.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Kingsford (3-0) at Marquette (2-1), Iron Mountain (1-2) at L'Anse (2-1), Negaunee (2-1) at Manistique (2-1). SATURDAY Houghton (2-1) at Bark River-Harris (3-0).

West Michigan

Muskegon Oakridge (3-0) at Montague (2-1)

A fresh start with some new faces saw Montague shut out in Week 1 by a strong Edwardsburg team. But the reigning Division 6 champion Wildcats stormed right back with back-to-back shutouts the last two weeks of North Muskegon and Hart. And they could get another big boost against rival Oakridge, which they’ve beaten three of the last four seasons including 42-6 a year ago. The Eagles are coming off a forfeit win/bye last week but already own a pair of solid wins over Sparta and Whitehall. Another this week combined with the Week 2 victory over the Vikings would put the Eagles in pretty strong position in the West Michigan Conference title race.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Zeeland West (2-1) at Muskegon Mona Shores (2-1), East Grand Rapids (1-2) at Byron Center (3-0), Manton (2-1) at Evart (3-0), Grand Rapids South Christian (2-1) at Grand Rapids Catholic Central (3-0).


Mendon (3-0) at Bridgman (3-0)

These two are likely league title contenders in the Southwest Michigan 8-Man Football League Tier 1 and 2, respectively. Mendon had been one of the last southwestern holdouts its size before switching to 8-player football for this fall, and the Hornets brought a run of 13 winning seasons over their last 14 with them. So far so good after the switch, as the offense is averaging just more than 63 points per game. Bridgman successfully made the switch in 2018 and is a combined 18-2 since the move. The Bees are scoring 55 points per game so far – but more notably for this matchup, giving up only seven.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Adrian Lenawee Christian (3-0) at Athens (3-0), Norway (2-1) at Ironwood (2-1), Lawrence (3-0) at Morrice (3-0). SATURDAY Lake Linden-Hubbell (2-1) at Powers North Central (3-0).

Second Half’s weekly “1st & Goal” previews and reviews are powered by MI Student Aid, a part of the Office of Postsecondary Financial Planning located within the Michigan Department of Treasury. MI Student Aid encourages students to pursue postsecondary education by providing access to student financial resources and information. MI Student Aid administers the state’s 529 college savings programs (MET/MESP), as well as scholarship and grant programs that help make college Accessible, Affordable and Attainable for you. Connect with MI Student Aid at www.michigan.gov/mistudentaid and find more information on Facebook and Twitter @mistudentaid.

PHOTO: Ishpeming's Preston Gauthier (37) is chased by Manistique's Austin Hinkson (24) during their teams’ Week 1 matchup. (Photo by Cara Kamps.)

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.)