1st & Goal: 2022 Playoff Week 2 Preview

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

November 4, 2022

The MHSAA Football Playoffs are set up purposely to begin with local matchups and continue to branch out along more unfamiliar paths.

MI Student AidThis weekend’s 11-Player District Finals and 8-Player Regional Finals still include a good share of familiarity – whether they are pitting regular-season rivals for a rematch or past playoff opponents who have become more known over years of similar November meetings.

Below is a glance at a game in each division that especially pops off the page. Click here for all things football matchups – schedules, scores as they come in and next-round pairings as they’re determined – and if you can’t make it to a game live this weekend, 85 percent of those games will be streamed live on MHSAA.tv.

11-Player Division 1

Caledonia (9-1) at Rockford (10-0)

The much-hyped Week 9 game matching undefeated contenders for the outright Ottawa-Kent Conference Red title turned into a 38-15 Rockford win over the Fighting Scots. But we’ve already seen plenty of rematches going the other way this postseason, even after a big win in the first meeting. Rockford opened the playoffs with a 50-14 victory over East Kentwood, putting up its most points this season and outdoing its 41-20 win over the Falcons on Sept. 23. Caledonia did similar in its 48-26 first-round win over Grandville after previously defeating the Bulldogs 50-40 during Week 5.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Grand Ledge (8-2) at Holt (7-3), Clarkston (8-2) at Davison (9-1), Romeo (8-2) at Macomb Dakota (10-0).

11-Player Division 2

Muskegon Mona Shores (8-2) at Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central (10-0)

The Rangers have been piling up strong seasons for the last seven, and made the Division 2 Semifinals in 2017. They haven’t advanced past the District level since, but defeating Mona Shores to do so this weekend certainly would be considered a breakout performance. Forest Hills Central hasn’t given up more than 14 points in a game and is allowing only 5.7 per game this fall. That should get a strong challenge from the Sailors, who even in their defeats put up 27 and 35 points – and they’re averaging 43 per game. Mona Shores has won its last three playoff meetings with FHC (over the last four seasons) including 31-7 last fall.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY South Lyon (7-3) at Dexter (10-0), Warren De La Salle Collegiate (9-1) at Roseville (8-2), Birmingham Groves (7-3) at Birmingham Seaholm (8-2).

11-Player Division 3

Zeeland West (9-1) at St. Joseph (9-1)

The Dux are playing in their fifth District Final in six seasons but seeking to advance for the first time since their most recent championship run of 2015. St. Joseph shut West’s pursuit down quickly last year with a 29-26 District-opening victory that turned into an unexpected Semifinal run for the Bears after they’d entered the playoffs 5-4. Expectations are much higher this time as St. Joseph hasn’t lost since Week 1, and the offense especially is surging scoring 42 or more points in four of its last five games including three against playoff teams. West’s only loss was to Mona Shores in Week 6, and its 36-28 win over Lowell last weekend was especially noteworthy among Division 3 matchups.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY DeWitt (7-3) at Mount Pleasant (9-1), Trenton (9-1) at Gibraltar Carlson (9-1), Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice (4-5) at Walled Lake Western (9-1).

11-Player Division 4

Tecumseh (10-0) at Riverview (10-0)

Riverview deserves more due after completing a third-straight undefeated regular season, and a first District title since 2017 would add another highlight to arguably its most impressive run of the three. Tecumseh’s story has been told a few times in this space – the team was a combined 8-25 over the last four seasons but has reached 10-0 for the first time since 1991. Tecumseh’s offense is up to 51 points per game after going over 50 last week for the seventh time this fall. Riverview is giving up 15 points per game and has never allowed more than 28 – giving this matchup the feel of a potential back-and-forth tug-of-war.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Hudsonville Unity Christian (6-4) at Grand Rapids South Christian (10-0), Charlotte (9-1) at Hastings (9-1), Freeland (8-2) at Goodrich (9-1).

11-Player Division 5

Belding (9-1) at Muskegon Oakridge (9-1)

Only three of eight teams on this side of the Division 5 bracket won their league’s championship this fall. Belding was one of those three, its only loss to another league champion in Cadillac. The Black Knights’ offense is churning at 43 points per game but next runs into an Oakridge defense giving up just under 13. The Eagles finished second in their league, losing only to still-undefeated Whitehall – and aside from Whitehall, no other opponent has scored more than 18 points against them. Similarly, aside from Cadillac, Belding has scored at least 34 points on every other opponent and more than 40 points on seven.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Corunna (8-2) at Portland (9-1), Pontiac Notre Dame Prep (7-3) at Detroit Country Day (6-3). SATURDAY Flint Hamady (9-1) at Marine City (8-2).

11-Player Division 6

Warren Michigan Collegiate (9-1) at Madison Heights Bishop Foley (10-0)

Last season’s Division 6 runner-up Michigan Collegiate is an eight-point loss to Detroit Country Day from being undefeated, and statistically has been even better on both sides of the ball so far than during last year’s run to Ford Field. Likewise, Bishop Foley is having its best season, reaching 10 wins for the first time thanks in part to a defense that matches Michigan Collegiate’s in giving up only 11 points per game. This will be the Ventures’ second District Final in three seasons as they seek to reach the Regional for the first time.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Standish-Sterling (8-1) at Millington (9-1), Ecorse (9-1) at Clinton (10-0). SATURDAY Constantine (9-1) at Grand Rapids West Catholic (9-1).

11-Player Division 7

Hudson (9-1) at Jackson Lumen Christi (7-3)

This might be one of the most telling games in the entire Division 7 bracket this month. The teams have traveled much different paths to end up looking like strong title contenders. Lumen Christi opened this season 0-3 with losses to two more Division 7 powers – New Lothrop and Traverse City St. Francis – and then a three-point loss to Division 5 Hastings, the eventual champion in the Interstate 8 Athletic Conference. All three of those defeats were by seven points or fewer, and the Titans haven’t lost again. Enter Hudson, last season’s Division 8 champion, with its only loss to undefeated Division 6 contender Clinton but an impressive early-season win over another Division 6 contender in Constantine.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Schoolcraft (7-3) at Lawton (8-2), Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker (9-1) at Montrose (7-3). SATURDAY Ravenna (7-3) at Ithaca (9-1).

11-Player Division 8

Fowler (9-1) at Beal City (10-0)

Beal City is one of three undefeated teams left in Division 8, and a regular at this point in the season having finished Division 8 runner-up last year and in 2019. This time, however, the Aggies are 10-0 for the first time since 2013. Fowler is making its fourth-straight trip to a District Final as well. The Eagles handed Carson City-Crystal both of its losses and got past rival Pewamo-Westphalia for the first time since 2014. Fowler is giving up only 9.1 points per game and aside from a loss to Division 6 Laingsburg hasn’t allowed more than 16. Beal City has been similarly up to the task defensively, but also is scoring 42 points per game after putting up 63 in its playoff opener.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary (9-1) at Ubly (10-0), Bark River-Harris (8-2) at Iron Mountain (9-1), Clarkston Everest Collegiate (7-3) at Marine City Cardinal Mooney (8-2).

8-Player Division 1

Newberry (9-1) at Munising (10-0)

One of the very few non-blowouts these teams played was against each other in Week 2, when Munising won 14-0 on the way to eventually claiming the Great Lakes Eight Conference East championship. Newberry is averaging 43 points per game despite that shutout and put up 54 last week on previously-unbeaten Rogers City to earn this rematch. Munising scores 52 points per game, so it’s anyone’s guess if this will be another low-scoring matchup or one that will keep the scoreboard moving. Both defenses have five shutouts this fall as well.

Other Regional Finals FRIDAY Breckenridge (8-2) at Merrill (10-0), Deckerville (7-3) at Brown City (9-1). SATURDAY Adrian Lenawee Christian (8-2) at Martin (8-2).

8-Player Division 2

Mendon (8-2) at Colon (10-0)

These neighbors met three times in the 11-player playoffs and will meet for the first time in 8-player with Mendon having made the format switch last year. Mendon has given up 49 points total over its seven-game winning streak (one victory was a forfeit). But the Hornets are facing a Magi team that also is enjoying a superlative season, which really seemed to take off with a Week 4 win over Adrian Lenawee Christian and included a 25-20 Week 6 victory over Climax-Scotts – which Mendon defeated 44-18 in its playoff opener last week. Colon has put up 60+ points in four straight games – although two of them were against the same team – and averages 55 per game despite playing half its games against playoff teams.

Other Regional Finals FRIDAY Lake Linden-Hubbell (7-3) at Powers North Central (10-0), Gaylord St. Mary (8-2) at Marion (10-0). SATURDAY Morrice (8-2) at Au Gres-Sims (9-1).

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PHOTO A Holt ball carrier works to find an opening during a District Semifinal win over Hartland. (Photo by Michele Hoffman.)

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.)