1st & Goal: 2021 Week 6 Preview
By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor
October 1, 2021
The first round of football trophy time has arrived in Michigan.
Two weeks ago, Britton Deerfield became the first varsity in the state to claim a share of a league title – enjoying that moment a little earlier than usual because of how its schedule lined up.
But two weeks later, league championship are set to be decided all over, with six of our nine featured matchups below potentially finishing with a league champion and many more games this weekend setting a similar stage for the next week or two.
MHSAA.tv will carry more than 150 games live this weekend, with Bally Sports Detroit broadcasting Friday's Lowell/East Grand Rapids rivalry game on its PLUS cable channel and State Champs! Sports Network streaming Saturday's Warren Fitzgerald/Madison Heights Madison matchup. See the full schedule from the MHSAA Score Center. (Games below are Friday unless noted.)
Bay & Thumb
Reese (5-0) at Bad Axe (5-0)
Three teams remain undefeated in Greater Thumb Conference West play – these two plus Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker – with tonight and the next two weeks potentially necessary to completely wrap up this conference race, although the winner tonight will be much closer to being there at the end. The Hatchets shared the title last year and have won four straight against the Rockets including 17-7 a year ago. After downing GTC East contender Harbor Beach 42-33 on opening night, Bad Axe has given up only 20 points over the last four games – but that defensive unit is sure to be challenged by a Reese offense averaging 41 points per contest.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Croswell-Lexington (4-1) at Almont (3-2), Flint Hamady (3-2) at Burton Bendle (4-1), Ortonville Brandon (5-0) at Goodrich (4-1), Midland (2-3) at Bay City Western (4-1).
Clarkston (5-0) at West Bloomfield (4-1)
A share of the Oakland Activities Association Red title is on the line, with Clarkston the reigning league champion. These two have traded regular-season wins since 2014, with the only break from that pattern Clarkston’s still semi-unimaginable 3-2 Division 1 championship game victory in 2017. The Lakers took last season’s meeting 24-21, and quickly got back on track this fall after being doubled up by Rochester Adams in the season opener to move into the No. 16 spot in Division 1 playoff points this week. Clarkston sits at No. 5 coming off a second three-point victory this season and with this matchup looking like the Wolves’ toughest before the playoffs begin.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Sterling Heights Stevenson (4-1) at Clinton Township Chippewa Valley (4-1), Detroit Central (5-0) at Detroit Osborn (4-1), Detroit Catholic Central (4-1) at Warren De La Salle Collegiate (4-0), Milan (4-1) at Riverview (5-0).
Portland (5-0) at Lansing Catholic (5-0)
The winner will earn a share of the Capital Area Activities Conference White title, and these two have decided it the last six seasons. Lansing Catholic’s best moment this fall came Week 2 over Williamston, which plays this week in a game that could decide the CAAC Red title, while Portland opened this fall with wins over two teams that could end up league champions in Ovid-Elsie and DeWitt. Portland is riding a 33-game league winning streak stretching back to 2014 – but that doesn’t include a 2-2 playoff record against the Cougars during that time. They are guaranteed to not see each other again this time unless in passing at Ford Field – Portland is in Division 5 and ranked No. 2, while Lansing Catholic has the most playoff points in Division 6.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Comstock Park (5-0) at Belding (4-1), Williamston (3-2) at Haslett (4-1), Pewamo-Westphalia (5-0) at Olivet (4-1), New Lothrop (3-2) at Ovid-Elsie (4-1).
Northern Lower Peninsula
Cadillac (4-1) at Traverse City Central (4-1)
This could begin wrapping up the final Big North Conference championship as we currently know the league, with Central in position to earn a share of the title with a win before leaving with Traverse City West for the Saginaw Valley League next season. Cadillac’s lone loss this fall was to West in Week 3, but a Vikings win tonight would create a three-way tie atop the standings with one conference game to play. Even with that loss to West, Cadillac is giving up only 10.6 points per game, riding the strength that helped the Vikings to last season’s Division 4 Final. But similarly, Central despite an opening loss to DeWitt is averaging 48.2 points per game.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Charlevoix (4-1) at East Jordan (4-1), Sault Ste. Marie (4-1) at Grayling (3-2), Traverse City West (4-1) at Petoskey (3-2), Cheboygan (2-3) at Kingsley (5-0).
Southeast & Border
Jonesville (5-0) at Reading (4-1)
Somewhat quietly amid Reading’s attention-grabbing Division 8 state dominance of the last few seasons, Jonesville also has become a force in the Big 8 Conference with 14 wins over its last 15 league games including a 4-0 title run in 2020. A victory tonight would clinch a share of a repeat championship, and the Comets have outscored their first five opponents this fall by an average score of 47-7 while tying for No. 8 in Division 6. The Rangers finished second in the Big 8 a year ago, falling to Jonesville 44-18 in the title decider, and they’re facing a must-win to hope for a share this time after a 26-20 defeat against Union City two weeks ago.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Dexter (4-1) at Ann Arbor Huron (4-1), Temperance Bedford (4-1) at Monroe (3-2), Petersburg Summerfield (4-1) at Sand Creek (3-2), Blissfield (2-3) at Clinton (3-2).
Centreville (4-1) at Cassopolis (4-1)
A share of the Southwest 10 Conference title goes to the winner, and Centreville is attempting to repeat after ending Cassopolis’ two-year title reign in 2020. The Bulldogs showed with last week’s win over previously-undefeated White Pigeon that any assumptions of their demise after an opening night loss to Niles Brandywine were premature. Cassopolis’ lone loss also was to Brandywine, in Week 2, and minus those defeats both teams are giving up less than eight points per game. It’s very possible as well this will be just chapter one this season – Centreville is tied for No. 16 and Cassopolis is No. 13 in Division 8 (and White Pigeon is tied for No. 8).
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Watervliet (4-1) at Constantine (5-0), Paw Paw (4-1) at Edwardsburg (5-0), St. Joseph (5-0) at Portage Central (3-2), River Rouge (3-2) at Portage Northern (2-3).
Clare (4-1) at Marquette (4-1)
There are some important league matchups in the Western Peninsula Athletic Conference especially that will take precedence for most this week, and for logical reasons. But from a statewide point of view, Marquette’s tough downstate matchups are always intriguing – and this one starts a four-game run that will include a possible league-title decider next week against Menominee and then two Big North meetings against Traverse City West and Petoskey. Clare is tied for first in the Jack Pine Conference, and similarly will welcome Gladwin next in what could be a matchup of that league’s leaders. This should be a fine tune-up and more as both prepare for those high-stakes Week 7 games.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Iron Mountain (3-2) at Calumet (3-2), Ishpeming Westwood (4-1) at Hancock (3-2), Negaunee (4-1) at L'Anse (3-2), Escanaba (1-4) at Menominee (3-2).
Hudsonville Unity Christian (5-0) at Spring Lake (5-0)
Four teams in the Ottawa-Kent Conference Blue are 3-0 in league play, and the other four 0-3, but this week will at least help sort out the leaders a bit with Grand Rapids West Catholic and Coopersville meeting as well. What makes this matchup just a slice more intriguing is Unity Christian is the reigning league champion and plays all three of these teams over the next three weeks – plus is ranked No. 4 in Division 4 with Spring Lake at No. 5. The Lakers also need just one more win to guarantee their best record since 2014.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Grand Rapids West Catholic (5-0) at Coopersville (5-0), Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central (4-1) at Grand Rapids Christian (3-2), Muskegon Catholic Central (4-1) at Muskegon Heights Academy (4-1), Central Montcalm (4-1) at Reed City (4-1).
Portland St. Patrick (5-0) at Vestaburg (5-0), Saturday
With its first 5-0 start since 2006, Vestaburg has put itself in position for its best finish in more than a decade regardless of what happens against the Shamrocks. But the potential is there for much more. Those two are tied atop the first-year Central Michigan 8-Man Football Conference, with the winner of this matchup guaranteed a share of the league title. Vestaburg has reached 60 points three times in four games played (one win was a forfeit). Reigning Division 2 runner-up St. Patrick will match with a defense giving up 19 points per game, especially impressive in the high-flying 8-player format.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Gaylord St. Mary (4-1) at Pellston (5-0), Climax-Scotts (4-1) at Adrian Lenawee Christian (5-0), Rudyard (4-1) at Munising (3-2), Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart (3-2) at Peck (5-0).
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PHOTO Muskegon Catholic Central, here Week 1 against North Muskegon, takes on Muskegon Heights Academy this weekend with a chance to clinch a share of the Lakes 8 Activities Conference title. (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:
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.)