1st & Goal: Playoff Week 1 Preview

October 29, 2020

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

During a football season full of new and different this fall, this weekend will be right up there for first-time opportunities.

With the regular season shortened to six games because of COVID-19 precautions, tonight begins the first MHSAA Playoffs with nearly every team in the state taking part. And with more playoff games than ever before, this first round will see 15 games played Thursday night.

The 11-player bracket kicks off with District First Round games, while 8-player begins in the Regional First Round. Click for links to all 10 brackets and monitor the MHSAA Score Center all weekend for scores as they come in.

Spectator limits remain in effect (check with your local school for purchasing information). So if you can’t attend in person, check out one or more of 87 games being broadcast on MHSAA.tv or FOX Sports Detroit.

Let’s take a glance at a game that jumps out from each division this opening weekend. Games below are Friday unless noted.



Lake Orion (3-2) at Grand Blanc (5-1)

The Bobcats haven’t reached the second round of the playoffs since 2012, but have seemed on the verge of taking a step – and last week’s 14-13 win over previously-undefeated Saline provided an indication the time may be now. Lake Orion had trouble with league rivals Clarkston and West Bloomfield this fall, but has to be one of the stronger five seeds – this District is topped by three undefeated teams.  

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Lapeer (3-3) at Davison (6-0), Utica Eisenhower (2-4) at Clinton Township Chippewa Valley (2-3). SATURDAY East Kentwood (2-3) at Hudsonville (4-2), Detroit Western (5-1) at Dearborn Fordson (4-2).


Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern (4-2) vs. Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central (5-1) at Forest Hills Eastern

Everything looks to be going the Rangers’ way heading into this rematch, as they’ve won all five recent meetings with Forest Hills Northern – including 28-13 in Week 5 – and picked up a share of the Ottawa-Kent Conference White championship with Friday’s win over Lowell. But the Huskies are on a roll too; they’ve won their last four games, all by double digits, and also including a victory over the Red Arrows.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Lowell (3-3) at Byron Center (5-1), Warren De La Salle Collegiate (2-4) at Roseville (4-2), Ypsilanti Community (3-3) at Dearborn Heights Crestwood (5-1), Birmingham Groves (3-3) at Auburn Hills Avondale (3-3).


Trenton (3-3) at Allen Park (4-2)

These Downriver League rivals also have met in the playoffs the last two seasons. Allen Park won both of those games and also this regular season’s opener, 29-7. But that’s only half the history. Before this fall’s first meeting, Trenton had taken the last three during the regular season. Semi-related, both played Brownstown Woodhaven to nearly matching one-score losses over the last five weeks.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Parma Western (4-2) at Battle Creek Harper Creek (4-2), Sturgis (3-3) at Coldwater (4-2), Garden City (3-3) at South Lyon East (4-2), Gibraltar Carlson (4-2) at River Rouge (4-1).


Imlay City (4-2) at Croswell-Lexington (5-1)

This is a rematch of a season opener, won by the Pioneers 54-12. But the Spartans have gone on to guarantee their second-straight winning finish (after a string of mostly sub-.500 seasons over the last decade). That said, Croswell-Lexington was a seven-point loss to North Branch from a perfect regular season and league title – also a good improvement story after finishing 4-5 a year ago.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Ada Forest Hills Eastern (3-3) at Allendale (3-3), Plainwell (3-2) at Vicksburg (4-2), Armada (3-3) at Goodrich (5-1), Detroit Henry Ford (3-3) at Detroit Country Day (3-2).


Belding (5-1) at Hopkins (5-1), Saturday

This is among the most surprising first-round matchups, as these two played for the O-K Silver championship just three weeks ago. Chalk it up to being in a District that includes an unbeaten team and four at 5-1. The Vikings’ got the best of their first meeting with Belding, 34-28, but are coming back off a week off while the Black Knights went on to win their last two games by a combined 108-3.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Lake Odessa Lakewood (3-3) at Portland (5-1), South Haven (4-2) at Dowagiac (3-3), Hillsdale (4-2) at Olivet (5-1). SATURDAY Ogemaw Heights (3-3) at Kingsford (3-2).


Kent City (5-1) at Clare (6-0)

This is another big-time matchup for the first round, with third-seeded Clare the Jack Pine Conference champion and sixth-seeded Kent City the winner of the Central State Activities Association Silver title. The Eagles’ lone loss came in last week’s finale, 26-20 to Muskegon Orchard View, and they’ll surely be revved up play spoiler this time. But they’ll have to figure out a Pioneers defense giving up only 9.3 points per game in what could be a low-scoring one – Kent City gives up just 8.8 on average.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Negaunee (3-3) at Gladstone (2-3), Harrison (4-2) at Sanford Meridian (4-2), Comstock (3-3) at Niles Brandywine (3-3). SATURDAY Flint Hamady (3-3) at Detroit Pershing (3-3).


Houghton Lake (4-2) at Evart (4-2)

In just six games, Evart tied its win total from a year ago and best season since 2016. After opening 0-2, the Wildcats got rolling with a 29-22 win over Houghton Lake and now are seeking their first playoff win since 2012. The Bobcats are coming off a loss to undefeated Oscoda but still guaranteed to end with their third winning season in four years. Whoever comes out on top in this rematch will see Highland Conference champ McBain next week.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Morley Stanwood (4-2) at Ravenna (3-3), Hesperia (4-2) at Pewamo-Westphalia (5-1), Delton Kellogg (3-3) at Bronson (3-2), Jackson Lumen Christi (2-4) at Hanover-Horton (4-2).


Gwinn (3-3) at East Jordan (3-3)

One of these teams will end the night celebrating its first playoff win since 1999 – both are seeking to break a two-decade drought. After a fast start, East Jordan has had some troubles especially on offense the last two weeks – but with one more win, the Red Devils would equal their total from last season. Gwinn is a tough read because two wins came by forfeit. But a 22-14 loss two weeks ago to undefeated West Iron County is an indication the Modeltowners will be up for this challenge.

Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Frankfort (3-3) at Saginaw Nouvel (4-2), Marlette (3-3) at Unionville-Sebewaing (4-2), Saugatuck (3-3) at White Pigeon (3-2). SATURDAY Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary (2-4) at Harbor Beach (3-3).



Deckerville (4-2) at Merrill (5-1), Saturday

Deckerville had a few stumbles against the co-champions in its league, but few programs have done the playoffs better over the last decade – Deckerville is 16-7 during the postseason since moving to 8-player in 2012. Merrill is the latest new force in 8-player, not entirely surprising after back-to-back 6-4 finishes in 11-player the last two seasons, and will be looking to extend the run into its first playoff win since 2010.

Keep an eye on these THURSDAY Genesee (4-2) at Mayville (6-0). SATURDAY Newberry (3-3) at Onaway (6-0), International Academy of Flint (3-3) at Adrian Lenawee Christian (6-0), Camden-Frontier (2-4) at New Buffalo (3-3).


Lake Linden-Hubbell (3-3) at Crystal Falls Forest Park (4-1), Saturday

These longtime league and occasional playoff rivals in 11-player will face off for the first time in 8-player – and first time at all since 2015 since Lake Linden-Hubbell made the format switch this fall. The Lakes are 3-1 on the field and gave undefeated Powers North Central easily its closest game, falling 34-22 two weeks ago. Forest Park has played two games on the field, but both were wins over teams that entered the postseason with .500 records.

Keep an eye on these THURSDAY Rudyard (3-3) at Rapid River (5-1), Climax-Scotts (3-3) at Colon (5-1). SATURDAY Ashley (3-3) at Peck (3-3), Waldron (4-2) at Tekonsha (4-2).

PHOTO by Robert Batzloff.

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.)