1st & Goal: 2022 Playoff Week 1 Review

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

October 31, 2022

The first week of the MHSAA Football Playoffs features 144 games across the state – and again this weekend, we enjoyed plenty of the intriguing and unexpected.

MI Student AidOf those 144 games, 31 were won by teams playing on the road.

Five undefeated teams lost for the only time this season.

Three teams that entered the postseason at 3-6 or 3-5 were victorious, as were three more teams that entered 4-5.

And to help finish things off Saturday, Waterford Mott defeated Saginaw Heritage 77-63 – with those combined 140 points the second-most ever scored in an MHSAA 11-player game, six off the record set by Climax-Scotts and Fulton in 2017 when Climax-Scotts won 84-62.

There are stories behind all of this weekend’s scores, and we glance at several of them below.  

11-Player Division 1

HEADLINER Detroit Cass Tech 38, West Bloomfield 13 Although both are among the most highly-regarded programs in Michigan, this certainly qualified as an upset as West Bloomfield (8-2) was ranked No. 4 in Division 1 in the state coaches poll while Cass Tech (7-3) was unranked. With big-time athletes all over the field for both teams, the Technicians’ speed stood out as running back Sean Hodges was among stars. Click for more from the Detroit News.

District Digest Grand Ledge 38, Brighton 3 Any other week this would be the “headliner” above as unranked Grand Ledge (8-2) continued to impress in advancing to a District Final for the first time since 2015. No. 10 (tie) Brighton finished 8-2, its only two losses coming in its final two games. Clarkston 62, Lapeer 41 These two met for the second time in three weeks, with No. 7 Clarkston (8-2) adding to its 48-13 win over the Lightning (7-3) the first time. Rochester 21, Rochester Hills Stoney Creek 20 Just two weeks earlier, Stoney Creek (5-5) won the regular-season matchup 43-22. But the Falcons (6-4) not only avenged that loss but four straight to this rival.

11-Player Division 2

HEADLINER South Lyon 30, South Lyon East 27 (2 OT) Just a week after falling to East 27-21, South Lyon avenged with this double-overtime win over its neighbor. The Cougars (7-3) seemed on their way to another victory leading into the fourth quarter before the game went to overtime and the Lions (7-3) eventually prevailed. Click for more from Hometown Life.

District Digest East Lansing 24, Battle Creek Central 0 The Trojans went on the road coming off two straight losses that sunk their league title chances, but posted their third shutout of the fall to end Battle Creek Central’s first winning season since 2018 at 7-4. Portage Northern 44, Byron Center 22 The Huskies quietly have been bouncing back impressively from last season’s 3-6 finish, and they moved to 7-3 with this upset of No. 8 Byron Center (7-3). St. Clair Shores Lakeview 33, Port Huron Northern 27 Lakeview (7-3) also enjoyed a road upset in leaving No. 10 PHN with a berth in the District Finals for the first time since 2019.

11-Player Division 3

HEADLINER Detroit Martin Luther King 41, River Rouge 28 Crusaders standout quarterback Dante Moore started his final playoffs with four touchdown passes against a Rouge defense that was giving up only 8.5 points per game in entering the postseason 5-3. The Panthers’ offense elevated as well against a King defense that was allowing just 15 points per game, but couldn’t keep up as the Crusaders (6-3) improved to 13-2 in the playoffs during Moore’s four seasons. King entered the postseason ranked No. 1 in Division 3, while Rouge was No. 4. Click for more from the Detroit Free Press.

District Digest Coopersville 28, Cedar Springs 0 The Broncos (7-3) reached seven wins for the first time since 2008 after shutting out a Cedar Springs attack that had averaged 42 points per game during a five-game winning streak that had gotten the Red Hawks into the playoffs at 5-4. Jackson 32, Parma Western 25 The Vikings (6-4) guaranteed their winningest season since 2018 with their first playoff victory since 2015, while ending Western’s season at 6-4. Zeeland West 36, Lowell 28 The Red Arrows (6-4) came back from a double-digit deficit to tie things up in the fourth quarter, but the No. 6 Dux (9-1) scored one more time with just more than eight minutes to play and held off Lowell the rest of the way.

11-Player Division 4

HEADLINER Livonia Clarenceville 48, Redford Union 46 (OT) The Trojans (6-4) entered the playoffs coming off two straight losses during which they’d scored a combined 102 points but lost by six and then one. This opener played out similarly, but this time Clarenceville hung on for the win after putting up its points on a Union defense that had given up only 50 total during a 9-0 regular season that saw the Panthers enter the playoffs ranked No. 4 in the coaches poll. Click for photos from Hometown Life.

District Digest Charlotte 27, Chelsea 15 The Orioles (9-1) added to their best season since 2004 this win over last season’s Division 4 champion. This was Chelsea’s earliest season conclusion since not making the playoffs in 2013; the Bulldogs finished 5-5. Freeland 61, North Branch 41 The No. 6 Falcons (8-2) bumped their average scoring per game to 41 points with a season high against the Blue Water Area Conference co-champion Broncos (8-2). Niles 56, Three Rivers 32 The Vikings (6-4) have won five straight games, and this avenged a 27-21 Week 3 loss to the Wildcats (5-5).

11-Player Division 5

HEADLINER Flint Hamady 36, Armada 35 The Hawks earned their best win of an outstanding season, edging the other Blue Water Area Conference co-champion (see North Branch above) despite trailing by a touchdown heading into the fourth quarter. Hamady (9-1) is heading to the District Finals for the first time since 2018. The 36 points were the most allowed by Armada (7-3) this season. Click for more from the Macomb Daily.

District Digest Kingsford 34, Kingsley 30 The Flivvers (7-3) scored with 23 seconds to play to earn their first District Final trip since 2017. Kingsley finished 7-3, with two of its three losses decided by a combined five points. Corunna 34, Williamston 27 The No. 10-ranked Cavaliers (8-2) edged the No. 9 Hornets (7-3) to earn their third-straight trip to a District Final. All three Williamston losses this season were by eight points or fewer. Flat Rock 27, Dundee 22 The Rams (7-3) earned their first playoff win since their Class C championship season of 1976 – and after going a combined 9-25 over the last four years. Dundee finished 6-4.

11-Player Division 6

HEADLINER Lansing Catholic 28, Durand 21 It’s tough to say if this was the most stunning of two Division 6 wins over teams that finished the regular season undefeated. Lansing Catholic entered 4-5, but also is the reigning Division 6 champion – and the Cougars have come on strong with three straight wins and despite opening this season 0-3. No. 7 Durand had won four games decided by a touchdown or less on the way to its 9-0 start, but couldn’t hold onto an early lead this time. Click for more from the Lansing State Journal.

District Digest Manistee 28, Boyne City 27 This was the other win over an undefeated opponent, as Manistee (7-3) earned its first trip to the District Finals after hitting the road to deal Boyne City (9-1) its only loss in also the No. 6 Ramblers’ only game decided by fewer than 15 points. Standish-Sterling 30, Clare 29 (OT) The No. 10 (tied) Panthers (8-1) saw their potential perfect regular season stopped short in Week 9, but extended their playoffs with an overtime 2-point conversion to edge the Pioneers (5-5). Constantine 54, Buchanan 12 The Falcons’ continued to dominate on both sides of the ball, besting their points for and points against averages in stopping the Bucks (8-2) and improving to 9-1. Menominee 44, Calumet 39 In running 38 times for 330 yards and five touchdowns, Brayden Nelson broke or tied three Calumet school records. But Landon Bardowski scored with less than a minute left to put the Maroons (6-4) ahead for good. Calumet finished 6-4.

11-Player Division 7

HEADLINER Ravenna 10, North Muskegon 7 Three weeks after falling to North Muskegon 28-7 in the game that eventually decided the West Michigan Conference Rivers title, Ravenna (7-3) is headed back to the District Finals for the third time in four seasons after one of its strongest defensive performances of the fall. North Muskegon ended 8-2, its best record since 2006. Click for more from CatchMark SportsNet.

District Digest Benzie Central 21, Charlevoix 14 This was right up there with the biggest stunners of the weekend as Benzie (4-6) entered 3-6 but edged the No. 9-ranked Rayders (8-2). Manchester 22, Grass Lake 19 Two weeks after falling to Grass Lake 35-19, Manchester avenged to move to 6-4 and guarantee its winningest season since 2015. Grass Lake ended 5-5. Hudson 50, Union City 13 The No. 3 Tigers (8-1) fell short in their league title bid this season, but defeated a league champion in Union City (7-3) to reach the District Finals.

11-Player Division 8

HEADLINER Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary 34, Harbor Beach 20 As noted in Friday’s preview, these two made up half of one of the strongest Districts in any division, and No. 5 MLS (9-1) will now meet undefeated and top-ranked Ubly after holding on against the No. 6 Pirates (8-2). Harbor Beach had given up more than 16 points in only one other game – against Ubly – and MLS continued a marvelous turnaround after going a combined 5-11 over the last two seasons. Click for more from the Saginaw News.

District Digest Detroit Community 38, Mount Clemens 28 The Battling Bathers (7-3) had won the Week 8 matchup for the Charter School Conference East title, 44-24, but Community (6-4) avenged with its first playoff win in 12 years as a program. East Jordan 6, Frankfort 0 (OT) The Red Devils (6-4) secured their first playoff win since 1999 by earning their first shutout of the season and scoring the game’s only points after regulation. Frankfort (8-2) had won their Week 6 meeting 20-14. Bark River-Harris 44, St. Ignace 20 This matchup of league champions went to the Broncos (8-2), who will see Iron Mountain in a District Final for the second time in three seasons. St. Ignace finished 7-3, its best since 2016 and after going a combined 3-13 over the last two seasons.

8-Player Division 1

HEADLINER Deckerville 14, Kingston 8 The No. 5-ranked Cardinals’ run to their first perfect regular season since 1999 included a 56-20 Week 6 win over Deckerville, their first victory over the Eagles over the last 13 seasons of playing them annually. But Deckerville (7-3) hasn’t lost since, and this actually was the Eagles’ third-straight victory by eight points or fewer. It was also the only single-digit game this fall for Kingston (9-1). Click for more from the Huron Daily Tribune.

Regional Roundup Newberry 54, Rogers City 6 What seemed heading in as arguably the top matchup of the weekend in Division 1 didn’t end up that way as No. 6 Newberry allowed single-digit scoring for the sixth-straight game and with No. 4 Rogers City (9-1) averaging 46 points per game entering the contest. Breckenridge 36, Fulton 32 After Breckenridge (8-2) won their Week 1 meeting 40-36, the Huskies similarly edged the Pirates (7-3) in their first 8-player playoff game. Brown City 66, Auburn Hills Oakland Christian 38 The No. 9 Green Devils (9-1), also in their first season of 8-player, earned their first playoff win since 1997. No. 7 Oakland Christian (8-2), in its second season of 8-player, also was making its first playoff appearance in its new format.

8-Player Division 2

HEADLINER Mendon 44, Climax-Scotts 18 The No. 7 Hornets opened with a strong move, defeating No. 3 Climax-Scotts to reach the Regional Finals for the second time in two seasons of 8-player. Climax-Scotts (8-2) was averaging 42 points per game entering the weekend, but couldn’t find that stride against a defense that hasn’t given up more than 17 points in a game since Week 3. Mendon (8-2) is now a combined 16-5 over its two 8-player seasons. See below for more from FOX 17.

Regional Roundup Lake Linden-Hubbell 44, Crystal Falls Forest Park 12 The No. 5 Trojans (7-3) had won these teams’ Week 6 meeting 22-14. With this win, the Lakes (7-3) earned another rematch – against top-ranked Powers North Central. Morrice 62, Peck 6 Two regular-season losses took No. 9 Morrice out of its league’s title mix, but the Orioles opened the playoffs with this win over the No. 8 Pirates (7-3), winners of the North Central Thumb League Stripes. Gaylord St. Mary 47, Central Lake 6 The No. 10 Snowbirds (8-2) have won six straight and by an average margin of 45 points during the run. St. Mary also won the first meeting with Central Lake (7-3) in Week 2, 48-36.

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PHOTO A Swartz Creek ball carrier looks for an opening during Friday’s playoff game against Midland. (Photo by Melody Cook.)

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.)