1st & Goal: 2022 Week 1 Preview

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

August 25, 2022

It’s game time again for 605 high school football teams across Michigan.

MI Student AidThis opening weekend will see all but a handful begin their seasons, with 174 games Thursday, 130 on Friday and five Saturday.

Each week, we’ll again discuss intriguing 11-player games from every region of the state and the 8-player divisions, and special this Week 1 we’ll also take a glance at a matchup from all three of the opening showcase events being played over the next three days.

Nearly 200 games will be broadcast this weekend either on the NFHS Network or Bally Sports Detroit; click here for the schedule. To see a list of all games – and scores as they come in – click here for our Score Center.

Rankings below are by the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association.

Xenith Prep Kickoff Classic – Wayne State University – Tom Adams Field

Sterling Heights Stevenson (10-3) vs. West Bloomfield (10-2), Thursday

The Lakers have high hopes again after winning Division 1 in 2020 and reaching the Regional Finals a year ago. They enter this season ranked No. 2 in Division 1, behind only reigning champion Belleville. But Stevenson will seek to make a statement right away after reaching the Semifinals last season.

More Xenith games THURSDAY Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice (8-4) vs. Macomb Dakota (8-4). FRIDAY Allen Park (9-3) vs. Wyandotte (4-5), Belleville (13-1) vs. Novi (5-5). SATURDAY Dexter (5-5) vs. Grosse Pointe South (6-5), Cedar Springs (9-3) vs. River Rouge (7-3).

Battle at the Big House – University of Michigan – Michigan Stadium

Clarkston (8-2) vs. Davison (5-4), Thursday

After reaching the Division 1 Final two seasons ago (and falling to West Bloomfield), the Cardinals missed the playoffs last season but did finish on a 4-1 run and had two defeats by three points – including 29-26 to Clarkston in the opener. The Wolves will be playing their first game under former assistant Justin Pintar, who took over after the retirement of Kurt Richardson, who was 274-98 from 1987-2021.

More Big House games THURSDAY Brighton (4-5) vs. Dearborn Fordson (9-3), DeWitt (12-2) vs. Haslett (8-3). FRIDAY Livonia Churchill (8-3) vs. Plymouth (1-8), Port Huron (6-4) vs. Grand Rapids Catholic Central (14-0), Lapeer (7-3) vs. Ann Arbor Huron (8-2).

Vehicle City Gridiron Classic – Kettering University – Atwood Stadium

Grand Blanc (12-1) vs. Grandville (7-4), Thursday

The Bobcats’ only loss last season came to eventual Division 1 runner-up Rochester Adams in a Semifinal, and they enter ranked No. 8 in the division under first-year coach Kaleb Forr – who previously led Flint Kearsley to its first District title in 2020. Grandville is a consistent Ottawa-Kent Conference Red contender and coming off a third-straight seven-win season.

More Vehicle City games THURSDAY Flint Kearsley (6-4) vs. Flint Carman-Ainsworth (2-7). FRIDAY Flint Southwestern (2-6) vs. Swartz Creek (5-5), Flint Beecher (4-6) vs. Saginaw Nouvel (3-6).

Bay & Thumb

Clare (7-4) at Freeland (11-2), Thursday

Freeland is opening the season ranked No. 6 in Division 4 after making a run to last year’s Semifinals – and losing only 30-27 in that game to eventual champion Chelsea. The Falcons’ campaign last season began with a 24-14 Week 1 win over Clare, which is coming off its 16th-straight winning season. But the Pioneers have something of a new look this fall; longtime assistant Steven Spranger has taken over the program from Kelly Luplow, who retired with a 251-95 record from 1987-2021. 

Keep an eye on these THURSDAY Midland Dow (6-4) at Fenton (4-5), Goodrich (7-3) at Frankenmuth (12-1), Essexville Garber (5-5) at Hemlock (6-5), Croswell-Lexington (10-2) at Saginaw Swan Valley (6-5). 

Greater Detroit 

Orchard Lake St. Mary's (6-5) at Rochester Adams (13-1), Thursday

Adams played as long as possible last fall, reaching the Division 1 championship game before suffering its lone loss of the season, to West Bloomfield. The Highlanders are capable of that sort of run again and enter the season ranked No. 3 in Division 1. St. Mary’s is another program replacing a longtime coach, as past star Jermaine Gonzales has taken over for retired George Porritt, who was 278-94 from 1989-2021. The Eaglets enter this fall ranked No. 4 in Division 4. 

Keep an eye on these THURSDAY Montrose (7-3) at Clarkston Everest Collegiate (9-3), Clinton Township Chippewa Valley (7-4) at Detroit Catholic Central (8-3), Walled Lake Western (7-4) at South Lyon (12-1). FRIDAY Canton (7-4) at Livonia Franklin (7-6).


Jackson Lumen Christi (11-2) at New Lothrop (7-4), Thursday

This is the second year in this series of openers between the annual Division 7 championship contenders, with Lumen Christi winning last year’s matchup 27-14. The Titans ended up advancing to the Semifinals, while New Lothrop lost to eventual champion Pewamo-Westphalia in a District Final. There’s every reason to think those high-level opportunities will be possible again, as Lumen enters No. 4 and New Lothrop No. 5 in the Division 7 rankings.

Keep an eye on these THURSDAY Ovid-Elsie (6-4) at Portland (10-3), Zeeland East (5-5) at Williamston (6-4). FRIDAY Carson City-Crystal (10-2) at Fowler (7-4), Redford Union (8-2) at Pewamo-Westphalia (14-0).

Northern Lower Peninsula

McBain (7-4) at Kingsley (10-2), Thursday

Kingsley owns a 5-3 edge during this latest series between these longtime rivals, with the Stags winning big last fall to kick off what ended up turning into another playoff season for both programs. That’s an expectation again for both. Kingsley enters ranked No. 6 in Division 5 and carrying a combined 40-6 record over the last four seasons. McBain is right there at 35-16 over five straight winning campaigns. 

Keep an eye on these THURSDAY Marquette (7-3) at Traverse City West (6-4), Ludington (3-6) at Petoskey (3-6). FRIDAY Charlevoix (8-2) at East Jordan (6-3), Traverse City Central (12-2) vs. St. Joseph (8-5) at Ferris State. 

Southeast & Border

Pontiac Notre Dame Prep (7-3) at Clinton (9-3), Thursday

While it would be easy to put the matchup of traditional heavies Hudsonville and Saline here, there’s a lot to talk about as well with Notre Dame Prep taking a trip to Clinton. This will be another nonleague game that eventually should benefit both in playoff points – win or lose. Notre Dame Prep is opening ranked No. 5 in Division 5, while Clinton is No. 5 in Division 6 coming off last season’s District title.

Keep an eye on these THURSDAY Carleton Airport (4-5) at Ida (8-3), Hudsonville (4-5) at Saline (9-1), Jackson (5-5) at Monroe (4-5). FRIDAY Blissfield (3-6) at Ottawa Lake Whiteford (11-2).

Southwest Corridor

Reading (6-4) at White Pigeon (10-2), Thursday

This could be a preview of a Division 8 playoff matchup, as both are expected to be among contenders – Reading entering the season ranked No. 5 and White Pigeon No. 7. They’ve managed to elude each other in playoffs past although that nearly came to an end last fall, when Reading fell to eventual champion Hudson in a District opener and White Pigeon was edged by the Tigers 8-0 in the Regional Final. 

Keep an eye on these THURSDAY Battle Creek Harper Creek (7-4) at Battle Creek Lakeview (7-4), Zeeland West (6-3) at Stevensville Lakeshore (7-4), East Lansing (7-4) at Portage Central (9-3). FRIDAY Berrien Springs (10-1) at Kalamazoo United (8-4). 

Upper Peninsula

Iron Mountain (7-4) at Negaunee (8-3), Thursday

The Mountaineers have won all three matchups since this one went to opening night in 2018, but by only three, three and two points – 14-12 last season – respectively. Starting with a win is even more important as they’re both likely to contend again in the always-loaded Western Peninsula Athletic Conference Copper. Additionally, Iron Mountain enters this fall ranked No. 9 in Division 8. 

Keep an eye on these THURSDAY Sault Ste. Marie (6-3) at Escanaba (1-8). FRIDAY Calumet (9-3) at Gladstone (4-6), Ishpeming Westwood (10-2) at Houghton (5-4), Menominee (5-5) at Marinette, Wis. (0-9). 

West Michigan

Edwardsburg (12-1) at Grand Rapids West Catholic (9-2), Thursday

Edwardsburg has lived among the elite for more than a decade, its only loss last season in the Division 4 Semifinal to Hudsonville Unity Christian. The Eddies enter this weekend ranked No. 5 in that division but facing an opponent that took a mighty step last season toward returning to championship contender status. The Falcons improved three wins last fall and enter this one ranked No. 2 in Division 6. 

Keep an eye on these THURSDAY Holt (7-3) at Caledonia (10-2), Whitehall (8-3) at Hudsonville Unity Christian (13-1), Montague (8-4) at Spring Lake (6-4). FRIDAY Grand Rapids Christian (7-4) at Grand Rapids South Christian (8-4).


Mendon (8-3) at Martin (11-1), Friday

These league foes met twice last season, Martin winning 28-20 during the regular season and 41-22 in a Division 1 Regional Final. The first round decided the Southwest Michigan 8-Man Football League Tier 1 championship, and this one could eventually do the same. Martin enters ranked No. 4 in Division 1, and Mendon is No. 8 in Division 2.

Keep an eye on these THURSDAY Pickford (7-3) at Gaylord St. Mary (5-5), Suttons Bay (12-1) at Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian (7-3), Morrice (10-1) at Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart (7-3). FRIDAY Vestaburg (6-4) at Portland St. Patrick (9-1).

Second Half’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.

PHOTO A rainbow decorates the pregame sky last season at Otsego. (Photo by Gary Shook.)

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.)