1st & Goal: 2021 Week 9 Preview

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

October 21, 2021

Welcome to the 72 most exhilarating hours in MHSAA playoff football.

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OK, that’s a little over the top. But much of what’s determined over the next three days will set up the stories for the rest of this season.

First comes our regular-season finales, with a few high-impact matchups Thursday and many more for remaining league titles and playoff field maneuvering Friday and through Saturday evening.

With about 2,700 regular-season scores locked up for 2020, the playoff selection committee will draw all of our 11 and 8-player brackets Sunday morning – with those pairings announced at 5:30 p.m. on TV on Bally Sports Detroit’s primary channel and online on MHSAA.tv.

Here’s a look at a number of matchups this weekend that likely will add a few final wrinkles as we prepare to unveil this season’s playoff field.

Bay & Thumb

Pontiac Notre Dame Prep (7-1) at Marine City (8-0)

This should give us one of our best looks at Division 5 No. 5 Marine City, which is coming off a Macomb Area Conference Silver championship. The Mariners earlier dealt Division 3 No. 15 Warren Fitzgerald its only loss and Division 4 No. 9 St. Clair its first of two defeats, and no opponent has gotten closer than 29 points in part because Marine City is giving up just 8.6 per game. The Fighting Irish’s only loss this season came to Division 3 No. 7 Harper Woods, and they could make a nice move up from No. 18 in Division 4 with a win tonight. None of Notre Dame Prep’s other opponents have gotten within single digits.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Ubly (8-0) at Bad Axe (7-1), Lapeer (6-2) at Davison (5-3), Standish-Sterling (7-1) at Gladwin (8-0), Frankenmuth (8-0) at New Lothrop (6-2).

Greater Detroit

Troy (8-0) at Bloomfield Hills (8-0)

This winner claims the Oakland Activities Association Blue championship outright, and this also should have Division 1 playoff ranking implications with Troy sitting No. 7 and Bloomfield Hills at No. 14. The Black Hawks have turned things around after three-straight sub-.500 seasons and have guaranteed their best finish since the last time they were in this position when they won the Blue in 2016. Troy is having its most success since 2007 and has given up only 46 points over seven games won on the field.

Keep an eye on these THURSDAY Detroit Cass Tech (5-3) at Orchard Lake St. Mary's (5-3). FRIDAY Hartland (7-1) at Belleville (7-1), Gibraltar Carlson (7-1) at Brownstown Woodhaven (8-0). SATURDAY Clarkston Everest Collegiate (7-1) vs. Madison Heights Bishop Foley (7-1) at Ford Field.


Lansing Catholic (8-0) at Pewamo-Westphalia (8-0)

A pair of league champions will meet in one of the Lansing area’s most anticipated games of the fall, as Division 6 No. 1 Lansing Catholic is seeking to complete a second perfect regular season in three years and Division 7 No. 5 P-W can finish a third perfect regular season in four years – with Lansing Catholic’s 28-13 win over the Pirates the lone regular-season defeat during that stretch. Together they’ve already defeated three league champions this fall – Lansing Catholic won early over Williamston, while P-W opened with a victory over Redford Union and defeated Olivet in Week 6.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Grand Ledge (6-2) at Holt (6-2), Montague (6-2) at Portland (6-2), Charlotte (5-3) at Fowlerville (2-6), Ionia (4-4) at Lake Odessa Lakewood (4-4).

Northern Lower Peninsula

Traverse City St. Francis (8-0) at Kingsley (8-0)

Two Northern Michigan Football League divisions will be decided with outright champions this weekend, with this Legends finale joined by the Legacy decider between Frankfort and East Jordan. Kingsley vs. St. Francis has decided the Legends champion the last three seasons; the Gladiators won in 2018 and the Stags have won the last two meetings and titles. St. Francis is No. 3 in Division 7 and has scored 42 or more points seven of eight games this fall. Kingsley is No. 9 in Division 5 and features a defense giving up just under eight points per game.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Frankfort (6-2) at East Jordan (6-2), Howard City Tri County (7-1) at Manistee (5-3), Detroit Catholic Central (6-2) at Traverse City West (6-2), Maple City Glen Lake (3-5) at Mancelona (5-2).

Southeast & Border

Jonesville (8-0) at Addison (8-0), Saturday

This Big 8/Cascades crossover of champions matches teams that not only have topped those conferences this season but over the last few. Jonesville, No. 15 in Division 6, dominated the Big 8 Conference for the second-straight season, this time winning its league games by an average margin of 43 points. Division 8 No. 3 Addison’s third-straight Cascades Conference sweep included four wins by at least 29 points and a one-pointer that remains Michigan Center’s only defeat.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Chelsea (8-0) at Dexter (5-3), Ottawa Lake Whiteford (7-1) at Erie Mason (5-3), Dundee (5-3) at Hudson (8-0), Reading (6-2) at Michigan Center (7-1).

Southwest Corridor

Portage Central (6-2) at Battle Creek Harper Creek (6-2)

This is another meeting of champions, with Portage Central claiming the Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference title and Harper Creek one of three teams celebrating a share of the Interstate 8 Athletic Conference crown. Both sit in the middle of their potential playoff fields – Central is No. 16 in Division 2 and Harper Creek No. 16 in Division 3 – and the winner should get a valuable playoff point boost.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Berrien Springs (8-0) at Cassopolis (5-3), Plainwell (6-2) at Paw Paw (6-2), Battle Creek Lakeview (5-3) at St. Joseph (5-3), DeWitt (7-1) at Stevensville Lakeshore (6-2).

Upper Peninsula

Negaunee (7-1) at Ishpeming Westwood (7-1)

Both Western Peninsula Athletic Conference division championships will be decided this week. Bark-River Harris and Ishpeming meet in the Iron on Thursday, and Negaunee and Westwood will decide at least part of the Copper title Friday. (Calumet also can claim a share with a win over L’Anse.) The Miners’ 42-14 playoff win last fall broke a three-game losing streak on the field against Westwood; their first scheduled 2020 game turned into a forfeit, and tonight’s game is guaranteed to be their only meeting this fall. Negaunee is No. 10 in Division 6, and Westwood is No. 9 in Division 7.

Keep an eye on these THURSDAY Bark River Harris (5-3) at Ishpeming (3-4). FRIDAY L'Anse (4-4) at Calumet (6-2), Sault Ste. Marie (5-3) at Gladstone (4-4), Kingsford (5-3) at Menominee (5-3).

West Michigan

Whitehall (7-1) at Reed City (7-1)

The Vikings are fresh off earning a share of the West Michigan Conference title with last week’s 34-14 victory over Montague and sit among a group of seven tightly-packed teams just below the middle of the Division 4 top 32. A win over Division 6 No. 2 Reed City would provide a nice boost but won’t come easily. The Coyotes wrapped up a repeat in the Central State Activities Association Gold and haven’t had a game closer than two touchdowns since Week 3.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Grand Rapids Northview (4-4) at Grand Rapids Christian (5-3), Cedar Springs (6-2) at Grand Rapids South Christian (6-2), Muskegon Catholic Central (7-1) at Muskegon Oakridge (7-1), Lawton (8-0) at Saugatuck (5-3).


Deckerville (7-0) at Morrice (8-0)

Morrice is finishing its fifth season in the North Central Thumb League and won division titles the first four. The Orioles are looking to repeat in the Stars after defeating Deckerville 58-30 in Week 9 to clinch last year’s championship outright, while the Eagles are seeking their third division title in four seasons. This Morrice team is putting up defensive numbers very similar to its 2018 Division 1 championship team, giving up only 40 points over eight games this fall with three shutouts and only one team scoring more than eight. Deckerville should provide an incredible challenge though, entering averaging 56 points per game and having gone over 80 twice.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Britton Deerfield (8-0) at Adrian Lenawee Christian (8-0), Powers North Central (8-0) at Crystal Falls Forest Park (7-1), Rudyard (6-2) at Pickford (7-1), Indian River Inland Lakes (8-0) at Gaylord St. Mary (5-3).

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PHOTO Reed City, right, lines up against Remus Chippewa Hills during a 58-7 Week 4 win. (Photo by Tonya Holmes.)

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.)