We will award a first-time 8-Player Football Finals champion Saturday at North Michigan University’s Superior Dome. We also may watch an incredible winning streak grow to include a third-straight title – or witness an epic ending to that run with another first-time champion in this format.
Tickets may be purchased online through NMU or at the door – click for details – and both games will be broadcast live on MHSAA.tv and replayed on Bally Sports Detroit’s primary channel Nov. 24 beginning at 8 p.m. Audio of both games will be streamed live on MHSAANetwork.com.
Below is a look at all four finalists. Statistics do not include Semifinals.
Record/Rank: 10-2, No. 3
Coach: Brad Blauvelt, fifth season (45-10)
League finish: First in Southwest Michigan 8-Man Football League Tier 1
Championship history: 11-Player Class D champion 1987.
Best wins: 56-14 over No. 8 Adrian Lenawee Christian in Regional Final, 42-8 (Semifinal) and 49-6 over No. 9 Brown City, 50-6 over No. 10 Gobles, 30-28 over Division 2 No. 7 Mendon.
Players to watch: QB/LB JR Hildebrand, 6-0/180 sr. (1,518 yards/25 TDs rushing, 1,254 yards/25 TDs passing); RB/CB Karter Ribble, 5-10/180 sr. (430 yards/9 TDs rushing, 366 yards/6 TDs receiving); TE/LB Sam Jager, 6-1/180 sr. (426 yards/6 TDs receiving); WR/CB Drake Buell, 5-11/130 sr. (165 yards/3 TDs receiving).
Outlook: After putting Lenawee Christian’s pursuit of a third-straight championship to an end, Martin is lined up for its opportunity bringing a combined 39-6 record since making the move to 8-player in 2019. Hildebrand earned an all-state honorable mention last season, and he’s surrounded by playmakers also including junior receiver Taegan Harris (392 yards/4 TDs receiving) and senior running back Braeden Shanley (529 yards/6 TDs rushing). Martin’s losses were to Bridgman and Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian, which both finished 9-0, and the Week 9 defeat to Bridgman was by just a point.
Record/Rank: 12-0, No. 2
Coach: Christian Wiley, eighth season (50-28)
League finish: First in Central Michigan 8-Man Conference
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 22-20 over No. 1 Munising in Semifinal, 68-28 (Regional Final) and 36-14 over Breckenridge, 52-12 over Division 2 No. 9 Morrice.
Players to watch: QB/DB Joel Tack, 6-0/145 sr. (1,518 yards/26 TDs passing, 1,846 yards/27 touchdowns rushing); WR/DB Denver Coty, 6-0/155 sr. (415 yards/7 TDs receiving); RB/LB Sawyer Jordan, 5-9/140 sr. (722 yards/8 TDs rushing); OL/LB Cameron Raftery, 5-11/210 sr.
Outlook: Merrill went a solid 11-6 over the last two seasons but has won more games and scored nearly as many points this fall as those two combined. Tack is a substantial pace-setter on offense, and he had another 263 yards and a touchdown passing and 131 yards and two scores rushing against Munising in the Semifinal. The previously-undefeated Mustangs were the only team to get closer than 22 points to the Vandals this season. Raftery earned an all-state honorable mention at linebacker in 2021. Senior flanker Kaleb Walker (504 yards/10 TDs receiving, 9.4 yards per carry rushing) is another player to watch.
Record/Rank: 10-2, No. 7
Coach: Robert Kretschman, seventh season (58-19)
League finish: Second in Southwest Michigan 8-Man Football League Tier 1
Championship history: 11 MHSAA 11-Player titles (most recent 2011), one runner-up finish.
Best wins: 30-14 over No. 9 Morrice in Semifinal, 46-44 over No. 2 Colon in Regional Final, 44-18 over No. 3 Climax-Scotts in Regional Semifinal, 36-6 over Division 1 No. 10 Gobles.
Players to watch: RB/DB Evan Lukeman, 5-9/155 sr. (1,180 yards/17 TDs rushing); QB/DB Luke Schinker, 6-0/160 sr. (560 yards/8 TDs passing); FB/DB Jack McCaw, 5-8/165 jr. (1,674 yards/22 TDs rushing, 2 TDs passing); TE/DB Gabe Haigh, 6-2/205 sr. (360 yards/8 TDs receiving).
Outlook: It was only a matter of time before longtime 11-player small-school power Mendon found this level of success in 8-player as well. The Hornets’ only losses this season were to Martin in the season opener and Bridgman two weeks later, and since only Colon has come closer than two touchdowns. Lukeman earned an all-state honorable mention last season and is part of a dynamic 1-2 combo with McCaw, who added another 198 yards and three touchdowns rushing against Morrice last week. Schinker also had four interceptions from his defensive back spot entering the Semifinal.
POWERS NORTH CENTRAL
Record/Rank: 12-0, No. 1
Coach: Leo Gorzinski, fifth season (54-3)
League finish: First in Great Lakes Eight Conference West
Championship history: Four MHSAA titles (most recent 2021).
Best wins: 36-12 over No. 4 Marion in Semifinal, 42-0 over No. 5 Crystal Falls Forest Park, 68-8 over Norway.
Players to watch: QB/DB Luke Gorzinski, 6-0/185 sr. (1,301 yards/19 TDs passing, 1,215 yards/20 TDs rushing); WR/DB Lane Gorzinski, 6-0/170 soph. (299 yards/5 TDs rushing, 7 TDs receiving); RB/LB Dillon Raab, 5-8/170 sr. (474 yards/7 TDs rushing, 305 yards/4 TDs receiving); OL/DL Max Nason, 6-0/255 jr.
Outlook: With 36 straight wins over the last three seasons, the two-time reigning champion Jets broke their previous 8-player record 27-game winning streak. This will be the final high school game for Luke Gorzinski, who has quarterbacked North Central throughout the streak and was named 8-player Player of the Year as a junior by The Associated Press. He’s led this year’s team to average 57 points per game, and he also starts for a defense that’s giving up 3.7 points per contest. He and Raab both had returned two interceptions for touchdowns, and junior Jacob Gorzinski had four punt return TDs heading into the Semifinal.
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.
Treyton Siegert ♦ Gladwin
Junior ♦ Football
In just his second year kicking a football, Siegert connected on a field goal that's sure to be remembered in his community for years to come. His 21-yarder with two seconds to play in Saturday's Division 5 championship game clinched a 10-7 win over Frankenmuth and Gladwin's first football Finals championship. The field goal was his fourth this season, in five attempts.
Much more unnoticed but still important Saturday, he sent two of his three kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks, and he also averaged 41.2 yards on six punts, with his longest on the day 57 yards. Siegert also plays on Gladwin's soccer team during the fall, club hockey during the winter, and he was the Mid-Michigan Golf Conference champion shooting a 77 at the league tournament this past spring.
@mhsaasports 🏈POW: Treyton Siegert #performanceoftheweek #football #kicker#statechamp #champion #congrats #gladwin #MHSAA #highschoolsports #tiktalk #interview #TikTok #mistudentaid #fyp ♬ Beat Automotivo Tan Tan Tan Viral - WZ Beat
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MHSAA.com's "Performance of the Week" features 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.
Nov. 24: Lily Witte, Dexter diving - Report
Nov. 17: Navea Gauthier, Shelby volleyball - Report
Nov. 10: Derek Huisman, Holland Christian soccer - Report
Nov. 3: Thomas Westphal, New Baltimore Anchor Bay cross country - Report
Oct. 27: Justin Wickey, Colon football - Report
Oct. 20: Owen DeMuth, Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood tennis - Report
Oct. 13: Mia Melendez, Ann Arbor Greenhills golf - Report
Oct. 6: Shawn Foster, Grand Ledge football - Report
Sept. 30: Hannah Smith, Temperance Bedford swimming - Report
Sept. 22: Helen Sachs, Holland West Ottawa cross country - Report
Sept. 15: Nina Horning, Lake Orion volleyball - Report
Sept 8: Arturo Romero, Muskegon Oakridge soccer - Report
Sept. 1: Austin King, Midland Dow tennis - Report
Aug. 25: Olivia Hemmila, Troy Athens golf - Report
(Top photo by High School Sports Scene.)