1st & Goal: 2021 Week 8 Preview
By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor
October 15, 2021
Some weeks during football season need little introduction. Week 8 this fall qualifies.
By Sunday, the majority of the state’s leagues will have their champions. By Sunday, we also will have a much clearer picture of every team’s chances of making the playoffs with one more regular-season game to go.
Below is a look at many of Friday and Saturday’s matchups that will play parts in determining both.
Bay & Thumb
Lapeer (6-1) at Grand Blanc (7-0)
The Lightning are coming off a solid 37-27 nonleague win over Midland Dow with Saginaw Valley League Red leader Grand Blanc up this week and reigning champion Davison next to finish the regular season. Lapeer likely must defeat both to clinch a third league championship over the last four seasons, but Grand Blanc already has a Davison win and a similarly close one over Dow to match – and closes with winless Saginaw United. That Week 4 win was Grand Blanc’s first over the Cardinals since joining the SVL in 2018, and another tonight would be Grand Blanc’s first victory over Lapeer during the same stretch.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker (5-2) at Bad Axe (7-0), Mount Pleasant (7-0) at Bay City Western (6-1), Essexville Garber (5-2) at Frankenmuth (7-0), Durand (5-2) at Montrose (5-2).
Detroit Martin Luther King (6-1) vs. Detroit Cass Tech (5-2) at Detroit Northwestern
These two are lined up for a second regular-season meeting for the second season in a row, this one to decide the Detroit Public School League Blue championship after King won the PSL Division 1 title. King did so thanks to winning the first matchup in Week 3, 41-34, and the Crusaders are sitting comfortably in the No. 2 spot in Division 3 playoff points. Cass Tech sits in a much more uncertain spot in Division 1, making this matchup about much more than a championship. The Technicians currently are in the playoff field, but 30th out of 32 teams in Division 1.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Croswell-Lexington (6-1) at Armada (6-1), Royal Oak Shrine (4-3) at Clarkston Everest Collegiate (6-1), Dearborn Fordson (6-1) at Dearborn (5-2), Detroit Central (7-0) vs. Detroit Pershing (5-2) at Detroit Northwestern.
Canton (5-2) at Hartland (6-1)
These two and Howell are tied for first in the Kensington Lakes Activities Association West with tonight’s games the last on the league schedule. The Eagles are relative newcomers to this level of late-season anticipation, having guaranteed their first overall winning record since 2015, and they are a one-point Week 3 loss to Brighton from being undefeated. Canton is the reigning league champ and more of a regular in these sorts of games – but also lost to Howell 41-21 in Week 2, whereas Hartland downed the Highlanders 29-7 in Week 6. Canton defeated Brighton 35-32 in Week 6. Howell plays at Brighton tonight.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Howell (6-1) at Brighton (4-3), East Lansing (4-3) at Grand Ledge (6-1), Millington (7-0) at Ithaca (5-2), Cadillac (5-2) at Portland (6-1).
Northern Lower Peninsula
Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice (5-2) at Traverse City Central (6-1)
Central again loaded up this season’s nonleague schedule, which in addition to its perfect run through the Big North Conference has the Trojans sitting in the No. 6 spot in Division 2. They also haven’t had a game closer than 32 points since falling to Division 3 top-ranked DeWitt in the season opener. Of course, Brother Rice is another formidable challenge – the Warriors are No. 10 in Division 3 with notable wins over Macomb Dakota and Orchard Lake St. Mary’s and a five-point loss to Division 2 No. 1 Warren De La Salle Collegiate. Central and Brother Rice played each other in 2016 and 2017 – both Rice wins, but by a combined 11 points.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Mancelona (5-1) at Charlevoix (6-1), McBain (4-3) at Manton (3-4), Hopkins (3-4) at Frankfort (6-1), Harbor Springs (1-6) at East Jordan (5-2).
Southeast & Border
Addison (7-0) at Napoleon (5-2)
Last week’s Michigan Center 12-7 win over Napoleon took a bit of thunder out of this matchup, but it still will have plenty of impact in multiple ways. Addison can clinch the Cascades Conference championship outright, which would be the Panthers’ third straight, but a Napoleon win would create a three-way shared title with these two and Michigan Center. As noted a few times this season, the Pirates have bounced way back after going 1-6 last year and a combined 3-13 over the last two, but they remain in a tough spot for playoff qualification at No. 37 in Division 6 with two games to play.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY St. Joseph (5-2) at Chelsea (7-0), Parma Western (5-2) at Jackson Lumen Christi (6-1), Petersburg Summerfield (5-2) at Ottawa Lake Whiteford (6-1), Dexter (5-2) at Saline (7-0).
Kalamazoo United (5-2) at Constantine (7-0)
Constantine is one of the best teams we haven’t talked about enough this season, sitting No. 3 in Division 6 and up to a combined 24-5 over the last three seasons while coming off a 2020 run to the Semifinals. The Falcons have won every game by double digits this fall, but United is likely at least the top in-state team Constantine will see this regular season. Both are undefeated in Southwestern Athletic Conference Lakeshore play, with United able to clinch the title outright and Constantine able to clinch a share with one more league game left. United sits No. 16 in Division 5, its only losses to Division 4 and 3 teams that are both 6-1.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Stevensville Lakeshore (6-1) at Battle Creek Lakeview (4-3), Reading (5-2) at Homer (5-2), Paw Paw (5-2) at Vicksburg (6-1), Portage Central (5-2) at Battle Creek Central (3-4).
Ishpeming Westwood (6-1) at Bark River-Harris (5-2)
Bark River-Harris will face Ishpeming in a Week 9 winner-take-all matchup for the Western Peninsula Athletic Conference Iron title, but first will meet the West-PAC Copper-leading Patriots in a game that won’t impact league standings but may impact if the Broncos continue into the postseason. They’re currently in at No. 28 in Division 8, and the Division 7 Patriots are the strongest opponent they’ll have seen so far. Westwood is ranked No. 10 in its division and has clinched a share of the Copper title with a chance to win it outright against Negaunee in Week 9.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Hancock (4-3) at Calumet (5-2), Ishpeming (3-3) at Iron Mountain (4-3), Traverse City West (6-1) at Marquette (5-2), Houghton (4-3) at Negaunee (6-1).
Grand Rapids Catholic Central (7-0) at Cedar Springs (6-1)
These two are tied for first in the Ottawa-Kent Conference Gold with two games to play and the winner tonight clinching a share of the league title. Grand Rapids Catholic Central would be earning a seventh-straight league championship, and the Division 5 top-ranked Cougars also are carrying a 30-game winning streak. But Cedar Springs also has done its work well to get here, sitting No. 11 in Division 3 with its only loss to Division 1 top-ranked Rockford. GRCC won last season’s meeting 42-28.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Byron Center (6-1) at Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central (6-1), Montague (6-1) at Whitehall (6-1), Coopersville (5-2) at Hudsonville Unity Christian (7-0), Centreville (6-1) at Muskegon Catholic Central (6-1).
Peck (5-2) at Kinde North Huron (7-0)
North Huron earned a share of the North Central Thumb League Stripes championship last week and can lock up a repeat outright title. But Peck will be loaded with motivation stretching past a possible championship share. One more win this season will guarantee the Pirates’ best record since 2015 and would break a streak of eight straight losses to the Warriors, who defeated Peck during both the regular season and playoffs the last two years.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Rogers City (7-0) at Mio (6-1), Marion (6-1) at Vestaburg (5-2), Colon (6-1) at Climax-Scotts (5-2). SATURDAY Crystal Falls Forest Park (7-0) at Lake Linden-Hubbell (5-2).
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PHOTO Mount Pleasant, here on defense against Holland West Ottawa during a Week 2 win, is among teams that can clinch a league championship this weekend. (Click for more from High School Sports Scene.)
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.)