1st & Goal: 2022 Playoff Week 3 Preview

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

November 10, 2022

Michigan’s first 2022 football finalists will earn their ways to the Superior Dome this weekend, as the eight remaining 8-player hopefuls face off in four Semifinals across two divisions Saturday.

MI Student AidMore detailed looks at those games move to the top of this weekend’s “1st & Goal” preview, followed by glances at Regional Final matchups in every 11-player division as those teams seek to take a step closer to spending Thanksgiving weekend at Ford Field.

Once again, click here for all things football matchups – schedules, scores as they come in and next-round pairings as they’re determined – and enjoy the opportunity to watch several games as 34 of 36 this weekend will be streamed live on MHSAA.tv.

8-Player Division 1

Merrill (11-0) at Munising (11-0), Saturday

This will be the first 8-player Semifinal for both, although both played at this stage of the 11-player tournament before – Munising most recently when it finished Division 8 runner-up in 2014, and Merrill in 1999. Merrill senior quarterback Joel Tack can do it all offensively; he leads the Vandals with 1,864 yards and 27 touchdowns rushing and has thrown for 1,518 yards and 26 scores. Munising throws effectively when needed, but makes no secret of its rushing power. The Mustangs have run for 4,390 yards, led by seniors Kane Nebel with 1,496 and 15 touchdowns and Josiah Peramaki with 1,480 yards and 26 scores.

Brown City (10-1) at Martin (9-2), Saturday

The Green Devils’ turnaround from last year’s 1-8 finish has landed at their first Semifinal since 1997, where they’ll face Martin looking to avenge a 49-6 defeat to the Clippers in Week 5. Brown City has scored 60 points in four of five games since and 52 in the fifth (another win was a forfeit), with seniors Kyle Affer (1,537 yards, 24 touchdowns rushing) and Clint Ford (1,117 yards, 14 TDs rushing) shouldering a lot of the load. Martin will be playing in a Semifinal for the third-straight season, seeking to reach a championship game for the first time since 1987. Senior quarterback JR Hildebrand directs the attack well and has totaled 1,254 yards and 25 touchdowns passing and 1,518 yards and 25 scores on the ground.

8-Player Division 2

Powers North Central (11-0) at Marion (11-0), Saturday

This is a rematch of North Central’s 73-8 Semifinal win from a year ago, but there are reasons to expect a closer game this time. True, the Jets are at 35 straight wins and counting, going back three seasons and with no opponent coming closer than 39 points over the last two. Senior quarterback Luke Gorzinski has set the pace during the entirety of the run, and heads into this weekend with 1,067 yards and 18 touchdowns passing with 1,109 yards and 17 touchdowns rushing. He’s also a starting defensive back for a defense giving up 2.9 points per game. But Marion’s defense has taken a few steps upward as well, giving up only 8.5 points per game this fall and none during the playoffs. The Eagles also have a standout quarterback – senior Mason Salisbury has run for 1,046 yards and 27 touchdowns and thrown for 1,378 yards and 22 scores.

Morrice (9-2) at Mendon (9-2), Saturday

Mendon opened its 8-player era reaching the Regional Finals last year, and the Hornets took a sizable next step advancing to this Semifinal with a 46-44 win over previously-undefeated Colon last week. The powerful rushing game that helped make them a state power in 11-player for decades works here as well – junior Jack McCaw has run for 1,674 yards and 22 touchdowns and senior Evan Lukeman follows with 1,180 and 17, respectively. Morrice missed the Semifinals by a win both of the last two seasons, but is back thanks in part to a pair of 1,000-yard rushers as well. Senior Drew McGowan has run for 1,403 and 20 touchdowns, and senior quarterback Travis Farrow has 1,012 yards and 17 scores on the ground.

11-Player Division 1

Rochester Adams (10-1) at Clarkston (9-2), Friday

Clarkston won the first meeting of these Oakland Activities Association Red rivals, 45-35 in Week 3, and has already responded to two strong playoff challenges with a combined 111 points. Ethan Clark has run for more than 5,000 yards over his career including 337 and six touchdowns against Davison last week. But Adams has plenty of star power as well and hasn’t lost again as Parker Picot has continued to show he’s one of the state’s top quarterbacks.

Other Regional Finals FRIDAY Detroit Cass Tech (8-3) at Macomb Dakota (11-0). SATURDAY Grand Ledge (9-2) vs. Caledonia (10-1) at East Kentwood, Detroit Catholic Central (8-2) at Belleville (11-0).

11-Player Division 2

Midland (10-1) at Dexter (11-0), Friday

Star running back Cole Cabana continues to lead Dexter into uncharted waters as the Dreadnaughts will look to add to their first District title won last week. Midland won a Regional title as recently as 2018 and has more than rebounded from last season’s uncharacteristic 2-7 finish thanks in part to an ability to win close games – four victories this fall were by eight points or fewer. Two of Dexter’s best wins were by one score as well – including over Saline in Week 8.

Other Regional Finals FRIDAY East Lansing (8-3) at Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central (11-0), Birmingham Groves (8-3) at Livonia Franklin (10-1), Harrison Township L’Anse Creuse (7-4) vs. Warren De La Salle Collegiate (10-1) at Wayne State University.

11-Player Division 3

Zeeland West (10-1) at Muskegon (9-2), Saturday

This is a rematch of a West 38-36 win in Week 5, and the two went on to share the Ottawa-Kent Conference Green title with Muskegon Mona Shores. The Dux ended up on top in that back-and-forth game with a last-minute touchdown, but the Big Reds haven’t lost since – with their most notable victory 55-35 over Mona Shores in Week 9. West lost to Mona Shores 34-6 the week after the Muskegon win, but rebounded to finish the regular season and open the playoffs with one of the most impressive District runs in any division – victories over Lowell and St. Joseph.

Other Regional Finals FRIDAY DeWitt (8-3) at Linden (7-4), Mason (11-0) at Trenton (10-1), Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice (5-5) at Detroit Martin Luther King (7-3).

11-Player Division 4

Whitehall (11-0) at Grand Rapids South Christian (11-0), Friday

The best season in Whitehall football history has been filled with unforgettable highlights, starting with early wins over 2021 Division 4 runner-up Hudsonville Unity Christian and then Hastings (still Hastings’ only loss) and followed by a league title run through the West Michigan Conference Lakes that included a 42-victory win over Muskegon Oakridge (which remains Oakridge’s only loss). Total, eight wins have come against playoff teams, and another over South Christian would be the biggest of all. Not only did the Sailors end Grand Rapids Catholic Central’s two-plus season winning streak, but that was one of seven wins over playoff teams and one of only two single-digit games they’ve played this fall. Whitehall’s closest game was the 41-30 win over the Saxons.

Other Regional Finals FRIDAY Hastings (10-1) at Edwardsburg (10-1), Orchard Lake St. Mary’s (5-5) at Goodrich (10-1), Dearborn Divine Child (9-2) at Riverview (11-0).

11-Player Division 5

Portland (10-1) at Grand Rapids Catholic Central (10-1), Friday

Over the course of GRCC’s two straight Division 5 championships, the Cougars have faced most of the usual contenders but not Portland, which had to forfeit their scheduled District Final matchup during COVID-altered 2020. That provides some anticipation now that they’ll finally meet, as the Raiders are known for their ability to grind through close games against their strongest opponents. Portland’s first two playoff games both were settled by one score, and it will be interesting to see how the Raiders match up as GRCC’s offense has heated up during the playoffs with two 56-point outputs. There is a recent common opponent to consider: The Cougars shut out Berrien Springs 56-0 last week, while Portland defeated Berrien Springs 40-6 in Week 9.

Other Regional Finals FRIDAY Flint Hamady (10-1) at Frankenmuth (11-0), Detroit Country Day (7-3) at Flat Rock (8-3). SATURDAY Gladwin (11-0) at Muskegon Oakridge (10-1).

11-Player Division 6

Warren Michigan Collegiate (10-1) at Clinton (11-0), Friday

Michigan Collegiate is coming off arguably the most impressive of a series of take-notice defensive performances this fall, shutting down a Madison Heights Bishop Foley team averaging 39 points per game to win their District. Next up is a Clinton attack averaging 42 points and coming off its fifth game this season scoring 50 or more. That may be the key matchup, but there’s a smidge of history here too. Clinton defeated Michigan Collegiate 13-12 in a 2020 Regional Final on the way to finishing Division 6 runner-up, and of course the Cougars came back last season to also finish runner-up at Ford Field.

Other Regional Finals FRIDAY Lansing Catholic (6-5) at Grand Rapids West Catholic (10-1). SATURDAY Negaunee (11-0) at Gladstone (9-2), Millington (10-1) at Reed City (10-1).

11-Player Division 7

Ithaca (10-1) at Traverse City St. Francis (11-0), Saturday

This will be St. Francis’ ninth-straight Regional Final, and few other programs consistently reach this point in November. But Ithaca is another; this will be the Yellowjackets’ 11th Regional Final over the last 14 seasons. Their lone loss was in Week 2, by four points to Division 6 Standish-Sterling, and they put up a season-high 63 points in defeating Ravenna by 36 last week. That’s the right way to enter this matchup against a Gladiators team that has rumbled through a schedule that includes three teams still playing this weekend. That said, St. Francis has had just one single-digit game all season – although last week’s 34-18 rematch win over Benzie Central may have given Ithaca some ideas.

Other Regional Finals FRIDAY Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker (10-1) at New Lothrop (9-2), Lawton (9-2) at Jackson Lumen Christi (8-3), Napoleon (11-0) at Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central (6-5).

11-Player Division 8

Evart (10-1) at Iron Mountain (10-1), Saturday

The Mountaineers are playing in their third Regional Final in four seasons and have nearly matched their 12-1 season of 2019 both in record and impressiveness. Their lone loss this fall came Week 1 to still-undefeated Negaunee, and that was by just five points; otherwise, Iron Mountain has won all of its games by double digits and had held every opponent to eight points or fewer until winning a rematch with Bark River-Harris last week 32-16. Evart also deserves more fanfare as it’s reached 10 wins for the first time and with its only loss by five points to Beal City, which finished 10-1. The Wildcats’ offense is capable of putting up a big number, averaging 40 points per game, which should make for an interesting matchup with Iron Mountain’s defense that allows only 6.9 ppg.

Other Regional Finals FRIDAY White Pigeon (8-3) at Ottawa Lake Whiteford (11-0), Sterling Heights Parkway Christian (6-5) at Clarkston Everest Collegiate (8-3). SATURDAY Fowler (10-1) at Ubly (11-0).

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PHOTOS (Top) A Lansing Catholic pass rusher collapses the Ovid-Elsie pocket during the Cougars' District Final win last weekend. (Photo by Christine McCallister.)

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.)