1st & Goal: Playoff Week 2 Preview
November 6, 2020
By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
The summery weather may make this weekend feel like mid-September in much of Michigan.
And this weekend certainly has the feeling of playoff football as we move to 256 teams in 11-player and 32 in 8, with matchups toughening and urgency rising.
Read on for a glance at 11-player District Semifinals and 8-player Regional Semifinals of particular note in each division. Spectator limits are again in effect (check with your local school for purchasing information), but there’s an opportunity to watch one or more of 53 games being broadcast on MHSAA.tv or FOX Sports Detroit.
Games below are Friday unless noted. Historical context is based in part on data at Michigan-football.com.
Grand Blanc (6-1) at Clarkston (7-0)
This will be the fourth playoff meeting of these teams over the last 11 seasons, and Grand Blanc is seeking its first win over the Wolves since 2010. The Bobcats’ offense is averaging nearly 40 points per game – and the key matchup will be how it contends with a Clarkston defense that hasn’t given up more than seven in a game in a month.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Hudsonville (5-2) at Rockford (5-0), Traverse City West (6-1) at Grandville (6-1), Howell (4-3) at White Lake Lakeland (6-0), Clinton Township Chippewa Valley (3-3) at Rochester Hills Stoney Creek (6-0).
Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central (6-1) at Muskegon Mona Shores (7-0)
These two are meeting in the playoffs for the third time in four seasons – they didn’t see each other last year when Mona Shores made its run to the Division 2 championship. The Sailors haven’t slowed since, putting up nearly 48 points per game with their most impressive wins over Muskegon early and Detroit Martin Luther King two weeks ago. Forest Hills Central has allowed only one opponent to score more than 14 points – Byron Center, which handed the Rangers’ their lone defeat.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Battle Creek Lakeview (5-2) at Portage Northern (6-1), Midland Dow (5-2) at Midland (7-0), Birmingham Groves (4-3) at Birmingham Seaholm (5-2), Swartz Creek (5-2) at Traverse City Central (6-1).
River Rouge (5-1) at Riverview (7-0)
The reigning champion Panthers are riding a four-shutout streak since an open date Week 6, but will get their strongest test since a Week 5 loss to East Lansing. The Riverview scoring machine over six games has put up just eight points fewer than it scored over 11 games in 2019. The Pirates are scoring 44.5 per game and have broken 40 in four straight.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Marysville (6-1) at Detroit Martin Luther King (4-3), Battle Creek Harper Creek (5-2) at St. Joseph (6-1). SATURDAY Cedar Springs (5-2) at Muskegon (6-1), Marquette (6-1) at Mount Pleasant (6-1).
Croswell-Lexington (6-1) at North Branch (7-0)
These two decided the Blue Water Area Conference championship in Week 5, when the Broncos emerged with a 27-20 victory. Both won rematches by double digits last week, Croswell-Lexington over Imlay City and North Branch over Yale, and it’s fair to anticipate this rematch will be one of the headliners of this playoff round.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Paw Paw (5-2) at Hastings (6-1), Detroit Country Day (4-2) at Pontiac Notre Dame Prep (6-1), Goodrich (6-1) at Ortonville Brandon (6-1). SATURDAY Livonia Clarenceville (5-2) at Redford Union (6-1).
Portland (6-1) at Grand Rapids West Catholic (6-1)
A strong playoff rivalry over the last decade will be renewed as these two meet in the postseason for the first time since 2017 and sixth time in 11 years. They’ve gotten here by similar roads this fall, both mostly dominating aside from lone losses to contenders in bigger divisions, Portland to Division 3 DeWitt and West Catholic to Division 4 Hudsonville Unity Christian.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Saginaw Swan Valley (4-3) at Essexville Garber (6-1), Belding (6-1) at Grand Rapids Catholic Central (6-0), Olivet (6-1) at Kalamazoo Hackett Catholic Prep (6-1), Almont (3-2) at Frankenmuth (7-0).
Clare (7-0) at Montague (7-0), Saturday
Clare’s road has been one of the toughest from the start, even given last week’s score over another league champion. The Pioneers defeated Kent City 41-6 but now must travel to take on a Montague team that annually is in the title mix and missed out on Ford Field last year by a one-point Semifinal loss.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Boyne City (5-2) at Maple City Glen Lake (5-2), Adrian Madison (6-1) at Michigan Center (4-1), Erie Mason (7-0) at Clinton (6-1). SATURDAY Durand (5-2) at Detroit Edison (5-2).
Sandusky (7-0) at Cass City (7-0)
These two have met the last two playoffs, Cass City winning by four points in 2018 and then 40 a year ago. This rematch should be much more like the first, in part because Sandusky’s defense is nearly matching its more impressive 2018 by giving up just under 14 points per game. Both also played Reese to nearly identical scores over the last two weeks (Cass City winning 36-26, Sandusky 36-28), perhaps a better indicator of how they might match up.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Oscoda (7-0) at Beaverton (6-1), Grass Lake (5-2) at Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central (5-2). SATURDAY Detroit Central (5-2) at Madison Heights Bishop Foley (6-1), Homer (5-2) at Lawton (6-1).
Breckenridge (6-1) at Beal City (6-1)
Despite their proximity, these two haven’t met during the last five years of both being championship contenders. But they have taken similar paths to get here. The Huskies have gotten a good look at solid competition this fall, handing Carson City-Crystal its only loss and losing only to reigning Division 8 champion Reading. After losing to Reading in last year’s championship game, Beal City’s only defeat was by four this fall to still-undefeated McBain.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Unionville-Sebewaing (5-2) at Ubly (5-2), Mendon (6-1) at Reading (6-1), Royal Oak Shrine Catholic (5-2) at Auburn Hills Oakland Christian (6-1), Gwinn (4-3) at Iron Mountain (6-1).
Mayville (7-0) at Adrian Lenawee Christian (7-0)
Both are nearing relatively uncharted territory for their programs – in fact, Mayville has its most wins since 1987. This should be Lenawee Christian’s strongest challenge since handing Colon its only loss, 24-6 in Week 5. The Wildcats have been tested by tougher competition lately, but telling could be how both defeated International Academy of Flint by nearly identical scores over the last three weeks.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Indian River Inland Lakes (6-1) at Pellston (7-0), Whittemore-Prescott (5-2) at Suttons Bay (7-0), Mesick (5-2) at Gaylord St. Mary (6-1), Merrill (6-1) at Morrice (7-0).
Rapid River (6-1) at Cedarville (6-1)
In Week 6, Cedarville broke a four-game losing streak against the Rockets with a 32-20 win. That was Rapid River’s only loss this season; Cedarville’s had come the week before to Division 1 contender (and last season’s Division 2 champion) Pickford. The key in this rematch could be the Trojans’ continuing defensive strength; they’ve kept four opponents to single digits and haven’t allowed more than 20 points this fall.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Bay City All Saints (4-2) at Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart (6-1). SATURDAY Brethren (5-2) at Hale (6-1), Peck (4-3) at Kinde North Huron (6-1), Lake Linden-Hubbell (4-3) at Powers North Central (7-0).
PHOTO: Fenton, here against Walled Lake Central last week, faces North Farmington tonight in a District Semifinal. (Photo by Terry Lyons.)
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.)