1st & Goal: 2022 Playoff Week 3 Review

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

November 14, 2022

We’re just days away from awarding our first MHSAA Football Finals championships for the 2022 season, and we’re guaranteed at least five new winners with many more hopefuls moving closer to earning that opportunity.

MI Student AidOur two 8-player championship games are set – we’ll have just one team returning to Superior Dome from last year’s finalists – and we’re down to 32 contenders set to play 11-player Semifinals, including just six that reached Ford Field a year ago. We’re already assured of new champions in four of those 11-player divisions.

Below is a glance at how we reached this point – headed to Marquette this weekend and then on to Detroit.

8-Player Division 1

SEMIFINAL Merrill 22, Munising 20 A big comeback sent the Vandals (12-0) to their first MHSAA championship game in this sport. Munising led by two touchdowns in the fourth quarter before Merrill came back and went ahead for good during the closing minutes. The Vandals were held 25 points below their average, but also kept Munising (11-1) well below its 51 points-per-game average heading into the weekend. Click for more from the Saginaw News.

SEMIFINAL Martin 42, Brown City 8 After falling in Semifinals in 2020 and 2021, Martin is headed to its first championship game since 1987. The Clippers (10-2) posted one of their top defensive performances of the last three seasons, stalling a Green Devils offense that was averaging 52 points per game. Brown City concluded its first season of 8-player at 10-2 after going 1-8 in 11-player in 2021. Click for more from WWMT.

8-Player Division 2

SEMIFINAL Powers North Central 36, Marion 12 North Central will play for a third-straight Division 2 championship but had to advance from its closest game of the season to earn the opportunity. The Jets (12-0) took a 22-12 lead into halftime and were able to hold Marion (11-1) off during the third quarter before pulling away for two more scores during the fourth. Click for more from the Iron Mountain Daily News.

SEMIFINAL Mendon 30, Morrice 14 Jack McCaw ran for 198 yards and three touchdowns as Mendon (10-2) reached the Finals in just its second season of 8-player after playing in 12 championship games in 11-player. The Hornets scored the first two touchdowns of the game and contained a Morrice offense that had scored 42 points per game coming into the contest. The Orioles finished 9-3. Click for more from the Sturgis Journal.

11-Player Division 1

HEADLINER Clarkston 36, Rochester Adams 33 The Highlanders (10-2) went ahead on a Parker Picot run with 3:17 to play, but the Wolves (10-2) clinched the Regional title when Desman Stephens hauled in the game-winning touchdown pass with less than a second remaining. Clarkston completed a season sweep of the Highlanders, after the Wolves’ 45-35 Week 3 win eventually decided the Oakland Activities Association Red title. Click for more from the Oakland Press.

Regional Roundup Caledonia 42, Grand Ledge 14 The Flighting Scots (11-1) advanced to their first Semifinal since 2012 by taking a seven-point lead into halftime and scoring 21 unanswered points during the final two quarters. Grand Ledge finished its winningest season since 2015 at 9-3. Belleville 33, Detroit Catholic Central 10 The Tigers (12-0) ran for four of their five touchdowns in reaching the Semifinals for the fifth straight season. DCC finished 8-3 for the second straight. Detroit Cass Tech 35, Macomb Dakota 21 The Technicians (9-3) defeated a third league champion in three playoff games, this time handing Macomb Area Conference Red title winner Dakota (11-1) its lone defeat.

11-Player Division 2

HEADLINER Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central 21, East Lansing 17 The Rangers (12-0) built a two-touchdown lead and then held off a Trojans comeback attempt to earn their first Regional title since 2017. This was Forest Hills Central’s closest game, but the defense continued to shine holding East Lansing (8-4) to half its 34 ppg average heading into the weekend. Click for more from FOX 17.

Regional Roundup

Dexter 42, Midland 7 Reeves Taylor threw for 300 yards and five touchdowns to lead Dexter (12-0) to its first Regional championship. Midland finished 10-2, its best since 2013 and a major improvement from 2-7 in 2021. Birmingham Groves 32, Livonia Franklin 25 The Falcons (9-3) are another team making a great comeback this fall, after two straight sub-.500 seasons; they’re headed back to the Semifinals for the first time since 2018. Franklin finished 10-2, its winningest run since 2017. Warren De La Salle Collegiate 55, Harrison Township L’Anse Creuse 7 The Pilots (11-1) scored just a point short of their season high and lowered their points allowed average to 12.3 per game in winning a third-straight Regional title. L’Anse Creuse finished 7-5 after winning its first District title two weekends ago.

11-Player Division 3

HEADLINER Muskegon 27, Zeeland West 20 This matchup came down to one score again after West had won the Week 5 meeting 38-36. Big Reds quarterback M’Khi Guy – a member of the MHSAA Student Advisory Council – ran for three touchdowns including the eventual game winner. Click for more from the Muskegon Chronicle.

Regional Report DeWitt 29, Linden 16 The Panthers (9-3) are headed to the Semifinals for the fifth-straight season after becoming only the second team this fall to hold Linden (7-5) under 21 points. Mason 49, Trenton 30 The Bulldogs (12-0) clinched their second-straight Regional title with quarterback Cason Carswell tossing six touchdown passes to keep his team a step ahead of the Trojans (10-2), who finished their first double-digit win season since 1998. Detroit Martin Luther King 22, Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice 12 The Crusaders (8-3) are headed to their seventh Semifinal in eight seasons with quarterback Dante Moore rushing for two second-half touchdowns after Rice (5-6) led at halftime.

11-Player Division 4

HEADLINER Grand Rapids South Christian 28, Whitehall 21 A back-and-forth matchup of undefeated teams ended with South Christian claiming its first Regional title since 2014 and after falling short in Regional Finals the last two seasons. The Sailors (12-0) put up the last two scores for the final margin. Whitehall finished its winningest season at 11-1. Click for more from the Grand Rapids Press.

Regional Report Edwardsburg 24, Hastings 14 The Eddies (11-1) won their third-straight Regional title and seventh over the last nine seasons with another lockdown defensive performance as Hastings entered averaging 41 points per game. The Saxons (10-2) completed their first double-digit win season. Goodrich 40, Orchard Lake St. Mary’s 20 The Martians are first-time Regional champions after scoring first and following quarterback Gavin Hart to their third 40-point scoring performance over the last four games. The Eaglets finished 5-6. Riverview 45, Dearborn Divine Child 35 The Pirates (12-0) won their first Regional title since 2017 as Jacob Shank ran for 251 yards and five scores, the last after Divine Child (9-3) had pulled within three points of the lead.

11-Player Division 5

HEADLINER Gladwin 26, Muskegon Oakridge 8 After trailing by two points at the break, Gladwin (12-0) scored 20 unanswered during the second half to win its first Regional title since 1998 and extend its winningest season. Only Whitehall had held the Eagles (10-2) to single digits this season as they reached 10 wins for the second time in four years and first since 2019. Click for more from the Midland Daily News.

Regional Roundup Grand Rapids Catholic Central 42, Portland 19 Quarterback Connor Wolf and running back Kellen Russell-Dixon provided much of the offense’s firepower as GRCC (11-1) won its seventh-straight Regional title. The Cougars also held Portland (10-2) to its fewest points in a game this fall. Frankenmuth 49, Flint Hamady 7 Griffin Barker ran for 114 yards and two touchdowns and caught a third as the Eagles (12-0) won their third-straight Regional championship. Hamady’s two winningest seasons have come over the last five, as this year’s 10-2 finish joined the 2018 team’s 11-1 at the top of the list. Detroit Country Day 44, Flat Rock 7 After just missing last season, Country Day (8-3) is headed back to the Semifinals for the third time in four seasons and coming off its highest-scoring showing this fall. The Yellowjackets also held Flat Rock to its season low. The Rams did finish with plenty to celebrate, as their 8-4 record came after four straight sub-.500 seasons.

11-Player Division 6

HEADLINER Clinton 31, Warren Michigan Collegiate 30 The Redwolves (12-0) came back from a double-digit deficit to edge last season’s Division 6 runner-up and move on to the Semifinals for the second time in three seasons. A pair of late scores put Clinton over the top, including the eventual game-winner with 1:29 to play. Michigan Collegiate finished 10-2 and stands 21-5 over the last two seasons. Click for more from the Adrian Daily Telegram.

Regional Roundup Negaunee 18, Gladstone 12 The Braves made this rematch closer than Negaunee’s 24-6 win in Week 7, but the Miners (12-0) won their first Regional title since 2003 by holding on for only their second single-digit win – and first since opening night – of a stellar season. Gladstone finished 9-3, its winningest run since 2008. Reed City 6, Millington 0 Both defenses were stellar as Reed City entered averaging 47 points per game and Millington 44. But the Coyotes got all the points their needed on a third-quarter score to reach the Semifinals for the first time since 2017. Millington finished 10-2, their second-straight season with 10 wins. Grand Rapids West Catholic 37, Lansing Catholic 7 The Falcons (11-1) continue to climb as they reached 11 wins and won their first Regional title both since 2017. Lansing Catholic finished 6-6 after winning four straight entering the weekend.

Grand Rapids Catholic Central's Kellen Russell-Dixon (23) holds off a Portland defender during his team's Division 5 Regional Final win.

11-Player Division 7

HEADLINER Napoleon 14, Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central 7 The Pirates are headed to the Semifinals for the first time, continuing a memorable rise that saw Napoleon go 1-6 two seasons ago and just miss the playoffs last year at 6-3. The Pirates (12-0) have given up just 20 points over their last four games – the Big 8/Cascades champions crossover and three playoff matchups. Monroe St. Mary finished 6-6 after winning four straight entering the weekend. Click for more from the Jackson Citizen Patriot.

Regional Roundup Traverse City St. Francis 63, Ithaca 0 Of many impressive wins this season, this one might top the list as St. Francis (12-0) posted its first shutout and scored its season high against an Ithaca team that was averaging nearly 44 points per game. The Yellowjackets finished 10-2, their winningest season since 2017. New Lothrop 29, Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker 20 The Hornets (10-2) are headed back to the Semifinals for the second time in three seasons, thanks in part to a defense that held Laker to half its 41-ppg scoring average entering the game. Laker’s 10-2 finish was its best since posting the same record in 2017. Jackson Lumen Christi 7, Lawton 6 After Lawton (9-3) won last year’s Semifinal matchup 21-20, Lumen Christi (9-3) will move on this time after a second-half touchdown and extra point – and after blocking Lawton’s extra-point attempt after a first-half score.

11-Player Division 8

HEADLINER Iron Mountain 34, Evart 33 The Mountaineers (11-1) came back from a double-digit deficit to edge Evart and earn their second Regional title in four seasons. Iron Mountain hadn’t given up more than 19 points in a game this season, but Evart built a three-touchdown lead before the Mountaineers got rolling – their 34 points were the most Evart had given up this fall as well. The Wildcats finished 10-2, their first season reaching double-digit victories. Click for more from the Iron Mountain Daily News.

Regional Roundup Ubly 49, Fowler 7 The Bearcats’ only loss the last two seasons was in last year’s Semifinal, and they’ll get to return to that round this weekend after halting a Fowler offense that was scoring 32 points per game entering the weekend. Ubly is 12-0, and the Eagles finished 10-2. Ottawa Lake Whiteford 38, White Pigeon 26 The Bobcats (12-0) repeated as Regional champions in winning their closest game this fall, ending White Pigeon’s run at 8-4 after the latter had opened 2-3 but won six straight to reach this point. Clarkston Everest Collegiate 30, Sterling Heights Parkway Christian 6 These Mountaineers (9-3) earned a rematch with Whiteford after losing to the Bobcats in last season’s Regional Final. Parkway finished 6-6, a solid jump from 3-6 a year ago – and after starting the season 1-5.

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PHOTOS (Top) A Dexter ball carrier works to break free from a Midland tackler during their Division 2 Regional Final. (Middle) Grand Rapids Catholic Central's Kellen Russell-Dixon (23) holds off a Portland defender during his team's Division 5 Regional Final win. (Top photo courtesy of Midland High's athletic department. Middle photo by High School Sports Scene.)

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.)