1st & Goal: Playoff Week 3 Preview
November 12, 2020
By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
There inevitably will be big scores put up this weekend as we roll into the third round of the 11 and 8-player football playoffs.
But it’s fair to anticipate those games will be down to a few as 96 of 144 teams remaining on the bracket are undefeated or have only one loss this season.
We’ve switched things up for this week’s preview, looking first at our 8-Player Regional Finals, where 15 of 16 remaining teams are 8-0 or 7-1, and the 16th team’s only defeats were to schools too big to qualify for the tournament. Our 11-Player District Finals are loaded as well, with six games matching undefeated opponents and many more featuring one-loss teams squaring off or attempting to tackle an unbeaten foe. See the full schedule on MHSAA.com.
Spectator limits remain in effect (check with your local school for purchasing information), but 28 games will be 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.
Adrian Lenawee Christian (8-0) at Morrice (8-0), Saturday
The Cougars put up a season-high 78 points against an also-unbeaten opponent last week, handing rising Mayville its only loss of a memorable run. But Lenawee Christian now runs into a more established 8-player power – Morrice is a combined 31-2 over the last three seasons, won Division 1 in 2018 and made the Semifinals a year ago. It’s tough to say how much past years’ experience will make a difference, but the Orioles definitely are familiar with this caliber of opponent – and scoring 52 points per game, they are outpacing the 2018 championship-winning offense by nearly 10 on average.
Other Regional Finals FRIDAY Pickford (7-1) at Indian River Inland Lakes (7-1), Gaylord St. Mary (7-1) at Suttons Bay (8-0), Marcellus (5-2) at Martin (7-1).
Colon (7-1) at Portland St. Patrick (8-0), Saturday
Last season’s Division 1 champion, Colon is playing in Division 2 this fall with its only loss to Lenawee Christian (see above). The Magi stand in the way of a St. Patrick program that was Division 2 runner-up last season and in 2017 as well. The Shamrocks have played only one single-digit game this season, a four-point win over Merrill. Both are continuing to steam-roll opponents offensively as during their 2019 runs – but the key might be St. Patrick solving Colon’s defense, which is giving up eight points a game this fall.
Other Regional Finals FRIDAY Cedarville (7-1) at Powers North Central (8-0), Hale (7-1) at Marion (7-1). SATURDAY Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart (7-1) at Kinde North Huron (7-1).
Belleville (8-0) at Canton (8-0)
Although both of these teams are undefeated, Belleville certainly has gotten more attention this fall with an offense scoring more than 50 points per game and a defense that’s given up 43 all season. Only Livonia Stevenson on opening night has come within 21 points of the Tigers. The Chiefs meanwhile have won three one-possession games – including against Stevenson last week. All in all, this is lining up very similarly to when these teams last met, in a 2017 District Final won by Canton 28-25 over an unbeaten Belleville team – and surely both teams are recalling that last matchup this week.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Grandville (7-1) at Rockford (6-0), Grand Blanc (7-1) at Davison (8-0). SATURDAY Detroit Catholic Central (8-0) at White Lake Lakeland (7-0), West Bloomfield (7-1) at Sterling Heights Stevenson (7-1).
Portage Northern (7-1) at East Lansing (7-0)
The Trojans have won pretty even matchups against Northern the last two seasons, by 10 in 2018 and 35-28 a year ago. There’s only one shared opponent between the two this fall – East Lansing beat Holt 63-0, and Northern lost to the Rams 26-0 – but it’s hard to say that will play much into this matchup. What will more is how the Huskies attack one of the most successful defenses in the state this fall, as East Lansing is giving up only three points per game.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Traverse City Central (7-1) at Midland, North Farmington (5-3) at South Lyon (6-2), Livonia Franklin (5-3) at Livonia Churchill (5-2), Oak Park (2-6) at Wyandotte Roosevelt (6-1).
Mason (8-0) at DeWitt (8-0)
This is the second time in a month Mason will be facing an undefeated team with a championship on the line. The first, in Week 9, Mason downed Williamston 40-10 to clinch the Capital Area Activities Conference Red title. DeWitt meanwhile has outscored its two playoff opponents by a combined 107-0 with a defense that has given up 50 points total this season (and 38 of those game in a Week 5 win over Grand Ledge). The Bulldogs also have been impressive on that side of the ball, giving up just more than 10 points per game – and their defense will need to play a significant role as DeWitt needs to score only 31 more points this week to equal last year’s 13-game total from a Semifinal run.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice (7-1) at Chelsea (8-0), Detroit Martin Luther King (5-3) at Eastpointe (8-0). SATURDAY Marquette (7-1) at Muskegon (7-1), Stevensville Lakeshore (6-2) at St. Joseph (7-1).
Ortonville Brandon (7-1) at North Branch (8-0)
Last week saw these league champions both defeat their strongest regular-season challengers for the second time, Brandon over Goodrich and North Branch over Croswell-Lexington. Both also are making a run this weekend at history, as neither has won a District title since that round of the tournament was introduced in 1999. The only loss between them this season was Brandon’s to Division 2 Fenton in a Flint Metro League crossover of first-place teams.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Sault Ste. Marie (6-2) at Cadillac (5-2), Detroit Country Day (5-2) at Madison Heights Lamphere (8-0), Battle Creek Pennfield (5-3) at Williamston (7-1). SATURDAY Milan (7-1) at Redford Union (7-1).
Kingsley (8-0) at Reed City (8-0)
These two are crossing paths for the second straight season, but with different circumstances than what led up to last year’s 48-36 Stags first-round playoff win. The Coyotes were only 6-4 in 2019, compared to this fall when they secured their fourth perfect regular season over the last six years. But Kingsley also is coming off a second-straight perfect regular season plus a Semifinal run a year ago, and this Stags team has been arguably better – they’re scoring just as much but giving up nearly a touchdown less than last season.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Olivet (7-1) at Lansing Catholic (6-2), Grosse Ile (5-3) at Romulus Summit Academy North (7-1), Essexville Garber (7-1) at Freeland (7-1), Detroit Denby (5-3) at Marine City (7-1).
Montague (8-0) at Muskegon Catholic Central (8-0)
Over the illustrious history of Muskegon-area football, these two have met only once before – in a 2017 regular-season finale, won by the Wildcats. MCC was strong that season but this will be an even better test of their mutual powers. The Crusaders put together their first perfect regular season since 2016 and haven’t allowed a point in five weeks (and 18 total this fall). Montague is coming off a 43-point win over another league champ in Clare and averaging 51 points per game.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Millington (7-1) at Montrose (7-1), Constantine (7-1) at Buchanan (8-0), Michigan Center (5-1) at Jonesville (7-1), Clinton (7-1) at Blissfield (8-0).
Cass City (8-0) at Hemlock (8-0)
After a series of successful seasons, Cass City took the next playoff step last fall making the Semifinals, and the Red Hawks haven’t slowed pushing their combined record over the last two years to 19-2. Arguably their best win this fall was their closest, 14-12 over also-undefeated Sandusky a week ago, while Hemlock also won close –20-17 over Bad Axe, a Cass City league foe. That was a good test for the Huskies, who also are in position to take another step as they’ve won eight games for the third season in a row and are seeking their first District title since 2011.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Lawton (7-1) at Schoolcraft (7-1), Jackson Lumen Christi (4-4) at Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central (6-2), Traverse City St. Francis (6-2) at Charlevoix (8-0). SATURDAY Madison Heights Bishop Foley (7-1) at Detroit Loyola (7-1).
Reading (7-1) at Centreville (7-0)
Centreville has followed a path similar to Reading’s of a few years ago, improving substantially the last two seasons and eliminating the close losses for a perfect run this fall. The Bulldogs, after losing four games by a combined 28 points in 2019, have given up only 15 points total this season. Reading’s next step came in 2018 when it won the first of two straight Division 8 titles. A Week 6 loss to Division 6 Jonesville quieted things down for a minute this fall, but anticipation should be high again. Both teams have solid wins over Mendon, Reading’s coming last week and Centreville’s earlier to eventually clinch a league title.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Beal City (7-1) at Johannesburg-Lewiston (8-0), Sand Creek (7-1) at Addison (7-0), Ubly (6-2) at Flint Beecher (7-1). SATURDAY Royal Oak Shrine (6-2) at Clarkston Everest Collegiate (8-0).
PHOTO: DeWitt earned the opportunity to play for a fifth-straight District title with last week’s win over Lansing Waverly (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.)