1st & Goal: 2022 11-Player Semifinals Review

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

November 21, 2022

This season's 11-Player Football Finals field is set. And it's fair to expect phenomenal after how this weekend's Semifinals played out. 

MI Student AidBoth Division 1 games went to overtime. The Division 5 and Division 8 Semifinals produced Ford Field matchups of undefeated contenders. Three reigning champions advanced, as did two teams that won Semifinals for the first time and two more that won their first during the lifetimes of the players on their rosters this fall. 

And that's just a sample of what's to come, as we'll preview all eight matchups Wednesday. For today, we're taking a glance back at all 16 games from a snowy, stormy and mostly frigid but forever memorable Friday and Saturday. 

Division 1

SEMIFINAL Belleville 29, Detroit Cass Tech 28 (OT) Arguably the game of the weekend was played Friday night as Belleville took an early 14-0 lead, got behind 21-14, scored with 1:04 left in regulation to force overtime, then answered Cass Tech’s overtime touchdown with a score and game-winning 2-point conversion. The reigning Division 1 champion Tigers improved to 13-0, while the Technicians finished 9-4. Click for more from MLive-Detroit.

SEMIFINAL Caledonia 21, Clarkston 0 An anticipated offense back-and-forth turned into one of the most impressive defensive performances in the state this season as Caledonia shut out a Clarkston offense averaging nearly 41 points per game. The Fighting Scots (12-1) will be playing in their first Final since winning the Division 3 title in 2005. Clarkston finished 10-3. Click for more from the Grand Rapids Press.

Division 2

SEMIFINAL Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central 20, Dexter 17 (2OT) A Forest Hills Central defense that has been a big part of the story all season showed well again as the Rangers (13-0) advanced to their first Final since 1994. Quarterback Mason McDonald certainly did his part as well, and especially at crunch time, with a game-tying touchdown pass on the last play of regulation and the game-winning scoring run. Dexter finished its first Semifinal season at 12-1. Click for more from the Grand Rapids Press.

SEMIFINAL Warren De La Salle Collegiate 43, Birmingham Groves 15 The reigning champion Pilots (12-1) once again followed quarterback Brady Drogosh, who scored four touchdowns, while the defense took care of their side with a ninth-straight game of allowing 18 or fewer points. Groves finished 9-4, an excellent comeback from finishing 2-7 last season. Click for more from the Macomb Daily.

Division 3

SEMIFINAL Muskegon 49, DeWitt 21 After two seasons away, Muskegon (11-2) will return to Ford Field for the fifth time in seven years. Quarterback M’Khi Guy showed the way scoring six touchdowns on the ground and throwing for a seventh. DeWitt, last season’s Division 3 runner-up, finished 9-4. Click for more from the Muskegon Chronicle.

SEMIFINAL Detroit Martin Luther King 52, Mason 17 The reigning champion Crusaders (9-3) also are headed back to the Finals, for the sixth time in eight seasons after shutting down a Mason offense averaging 45 points per game. Dante Moore also offered a few more highlights as his career draws to a close, throwing four touchdown passes. Mason finished a second-straight Semifinal run at 12-1. Click for more from the Detroit Free Press.

Division 4

SEMIFINAL Grand Rapids South Christian 26, Edwardsburg 20 The Sailors improved to 13-0 and earned their first Finals trip since 2014 by handing Edwardsburg its first loss since the season opener. The Eddies (11-2) pulled within a score late, but South Christian held them off the rest of the way. Click for more from FOX 17.

SEMIFINAL Goodrich 51, Riverview 26 The Martians (12-1) are headed to the season’s final weekend for the first time after piling up their second-most points in a game this season and handing Riverview (12-1) its lone defeat. Jace Simerson ran for five touchdowns to lead the way. Click for more from the Flint Journal.

Division 5

SEMIFINAL Gladwin 28, Grand Rapids Catholic Central 21 Arguably the stunner of the playoffs goes to the Flying G’s, which is saying a lot since they remain undefeated at 13-0 but also ended Grand Rapids Catholic Central’s three-season Finals streak a win short of extending it to four. The Cougars (11-2) pulled within the final margin late and had the ball, but a Gladwin interception sealed the program’s first trip to the Finals. Click for more from the Bay City Times.

SEMIFINAL Frankenmuth 38, Detroit Country Day 0 The Eagles (13-0) earned their second trip to Ford Field in three seasons with arguably the finest defensive effort of a season full of them as they didn’t allow a first down while posting their fifth shutout. Aidan Hoard threw two touchdown passes and ran for a third score. Country Day finished 8-4. Click for more from the Saginaw News.

Division 6

SEMIFINAL Negaunee 13, Reed City 12 The Miners emerged from one of the snowiest Semifinals by twice coming back, the second time with the eventual game-winning touchdown run by Kai Lacar. The Negaunee (13-0) also reached its first Finals since 2002 by continuing a run of allowing no more than 15 points in a game this season, and even though Reed City (11-2) averaged 44 per game entering the day. Click for more from the Marquette Mining Journal.

SEMIFINAL Grand Rapids West Catholic 33, Clinton 14 The Falcons are headed back to the Finals for the first time since 2017 by handing Clinton its only defeat and holding the Redwolves (12-1) to their fewest points scoring this fall. Tim Kloska ran for 349 yards and five more touchdowns for West Catholic (12-1). Click for more from FOX 17.

Division 7

SEMIFINAL Traverse City St. Francis 53, New Lothrop 8 The Gladiators’ dominance seems to become more extraordinary every week as they’re 13-0 for the first time since 2009 and have now won their last two games by a combined 116-8. St. Francis led 20-0 after the first quarter in this one. New Lothrop finished 10-3. Click for more from the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

SEMIFINAL Jackson Lumen Christi 20, Napoleon 7 The Titans (10-3) earned a rematch with one of the opponents that contributed to their 0-3 start this season. Lumen Christi relied on a steady defense that held Napoleon to its fewest points scored in a game this fall. Napoleon also finished its first Semifinal season at 12-1. Click for more from the Jackson Citizen Patriot.

Division 8

SEMIFINAL Ubly 41, Iron Mountain 14 The Bearcats have equaled St. Francis’ mastery so far, with this their closest game this season. Ubly (13-0) will return to Ford Field for the second time in three seasons after holding Iron Mountain to its fewest points since a Week 1 defeat to Negaunee and scoring the most the Mountaineers (11-2) gave up this season. Click for more from the Huron Daily Tribune.

SEMIFINAL Ottawa Lake Whiteford 44, Clarkston Everest Collegiate 6 The Bobcats also are headed back to the Finals for the first time since 2017 after defeating Everest (9-4) in the playoffs for the second-straight season. Quarterback Shea Ruddy ran for four scores for Whiteford (13-0). Click for more from the Monroe News.

MHSAA.com'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 Muskegon's Jakob Price (20) finds room to run in his team's win over DeWitt. (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.)