1st & Goal: 2022 Week 8 Preview
By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor
October 14, 2022
From a mile-high view, it’s incredible to consider how much history and how many memories will be made on Michigan high school football fields this weekend.
We’re so close to the end of the regular season that almost every league in the state will have awarded at least a share of its championship by Saturday night. We’re also nine days from solidifying this season’s playoffs – and between Weeks 6 and 7 alone the prospective field of 288 teams saw 17 changes as time ticks down for hopefuls to make their move.
See below for our glance at several games that could continue to shape how this regular season finishes up. (Games are Friday unless noted.)
Bay & Thumb
Croswell-Lexington (6-1) at North Branch (6-1)
It seems like we’re turning to the Blue Water Area Conference for a big game every week, and this time it pits two of three teams tied for first as the league schedule concludes. The winner clinches a share of the league title, and Armada can as well with a win over Richmond. Croswell-Lexington broke a four-game losing streak against the Broncos with a 28-7 win last season – the only time North Branch has been held to single-digit scoring over the last two years. The Broncos are averaging 52 points per game this season, and a Pioneers defense giving up 16.5 will need to slow them down again.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Clarkston (5-2) at Lapeer (7-0), Grand Blanc (4-3) at Davison (6-1), Charlotte (6-1) at Flint Hamady (7-0). SATURDAY Goodrich (6-1) at Linden (5-2).
Livonia Franklin (7-0) at Belleville (7-0)
The Tigers have been nearly unbeatable the last six seasons – they’ve lost only once each of the last five, and the first four of those defeats came during the playoffs. The reigning Division 1 champions have won all four meetings with Franklin since joining the Kensington Lakes Activities Association East in 2018 – and this time the matchup will decide the outright league championship. The Patriots turned a 4-5 regular season in 2021 into a trip to the Division 2 Semifinals, and they haven’t slowed down. Nor has Belleville; the Tigers are outscoring their opponents by an average of 54-8 this season.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Detroit Cass Tech (4-3) vs. Detroit Martin Luther King (5-1) at Wayne State, Detroit Community (4-3) at Mount Clemens (6-1), Warren De La Salle Collegiate (6-1) at River Rouge (5-1), West Bloomfield (6-1) at Southfield Arts & Technology (6-1).
Durand (7-0) at New Lothrop (6-1)
New Lothrop has won 12 straight league football titles between the Genesee Area Conference and current the Mid-Michigan Activities Conference. But extending the streak got a little more complicated with last week’s 14-13 loss to Ovid-Elsie. That meant Durand earned a share of the championship with its 5-0 league start – and New Lothrop must win tonight to also earn a share, with a victory also giving another share to the Marauders. The Railroaders’ title is their first since 1983, and earning a win over New Lothrop for the outright championship would add another significant note to this memorable season. The Hornets have won their four MMAC meetings by an average of 33 points per game.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY East Lansing (6-1) at Holt (4-3), Olivet (6-1) at Williamston (5-2), Bath (5-2) at Pewamo-Westphalia (4-3), Clare (5-2) at Shepherd (5-2).
Northern Lower Peninsula
Lawton (6-1) at Traverse City St. Francis (7-0), Saturday
A league title in hand, St. Francis is continuing to push to the end of the regular season with Lawton up this week and Detroit Country Day next in Week 9. With Saugatuck unable to play its league game against Lawton this week, the Blue Devils – also their league’s champions – made a similar power move in connecting with the Gladiators for a matchup of the No. 1 (St. Francis) and No. 5 teams in Division 7 playoff-point average.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY St. Ignace (6-1) at Elk Rapids (5-2), Portland (6-1) at Cadillac (5-2), Gladstone (5-2) at Gaylord (5-2), Evart (6-1) at Lake City (5-2).
Southeast & Border
Saline (6-1) at Dexter (7-0)
Dexter received an unexpected assist last week when Temperance Bedford ended Saline’s 50-game Southeastern Conference Red winning streak with a 7-0 defeat – which also led to the Dreadnaughts earning a share of the league title instead of this week’s matchup being a winner-take-all for the outright championship. Saline will be plenty motivated especially on offense after being shut out for the first time since the first game of 2017 – and the defense has been elite giving up only 8.4 points per game. Dexter has put up similar numbers and surely hasn’t forgotten how close it came in last season’s 42-40 loss to the Hornets.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Hudson (7-0) at Dundee (6-1), Homer (5-2) at Reading (6-1), Marine City Cardinal Mooney (6-1) at Whitmore Lake (6-1), Erie Mason (5-2) at Ottawa Lake Whiteford (7-0).
Buchanan (6-1) at Benton Harbor (4-3)
The inaugural Lakeland Athletic Conference football title will be decided in part by this game. Buchanan clinched a share of the championship with a 26-24 win over Niles Brandywine last week. But Benton Harbor can also gain a share with a win this weekend – a major accomplishment as the team that went 10-1 in 2016 played as an independent, and the Tigers haven’t won a league title since 1984. Benton Harbor is giving up only 14 points per game, and that defense might be the key as it’s held up well even in the team’s defeats.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Muskegon Catholic Central (5-2) at Centreville (6-1), Chelsea (5-2) at Edwardsburg (6-1), Niles Brandywine (4-3) at Berrien Springs (5-1), Lake Odessa Lakewood (5-2) at Decatur (5-2).
Negaunee (7-0) at Houghton (5-2)
The Miners are coming off a memorable win over Gladstone, 24-6, and they’ve been consistently solid all season. That must continue this week with a chance to clinch a share of the Western Peninsula Athletic Conference Copper title on the line. Houghton is coming off a defeat against Calumet, but the Gremlins are one more victory from equaling their winningest season since 2013, and they’ve had their moments on defense over the last two seasons – including holding a Negaunee offense that otherwise averaged 34 points per game to only 26 last fall.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Iron Mountain (6-1) at Ishpeming (4-3), Bark River-Harris (5-2) at Ishpeming Westwood (4-3), Midland (6-1) at Marquette (3-4), Petoskey (2-5) at Sault Ste. Marie (4-3).
Muskegon Mona Shores (6-1) at Muskegon Reeths-Puffer (5-2)
The Sailors can clinch a share of the Ottawa-Kent Conference Green championship with a win and haven’t lost to Reeths-Puffer since 2016. A 34-6 victory to hand Zeeland West its only loss sticks out from this year’s run, but Mona Shores must be careful with the Rockets. With one more win, Reeths-Puffer will guarantee its best season since 2013. And although the Rockets lost last week to Zeeland West 30-12, they did impress in a 28-20 Week 3 defeat against Muskegon High – Mona Shores’ opponent in Week 9.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Coopersville (5-2) at Grand Rapids West Catholic (6-1), Ravenna (5-2) at Muskegon Oakridge (6-1), Grand Rapids Christian (3-4) at Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central (7-0), Kingsford (5-2) at Hopkins (5-2).
Alcona (6-1) at Rogers City (7-0)
This has been an anticipated matchup in the North Star League Big Dipper for a few weeks, and Alcona’s 50-34 loss last week to Au Gres-Sims sapped it only a bit. Rogers City would clinch the title outright with a win, while an Alcona win puts those two and Whittemore-Prescott atop the standings with one loss apiece. The Hurons won a few games close over the first month to get into this position, but their defense has been tough throughout giving up only 17 points per game. Alcona is seeking its first win over Rogers City since 2017 and will attempt to counter that defense with an offense averaging 56 points per game.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Newberry (6-1) at Pickford (5-2), Central Lake (5-2) at Farwell (7-0), Kingston (7-0) at Mayville (5-2), Adrian Lenawee Christian (6-1) at Climax-Scotts (6-1).
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PHOTO A Saginaw Nouvel ball carrier dashes through the Ithaca defense during the Yellowjackets' 48-6 win Sept. 9. (Click for more from 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:
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.)