1st & Goal: Week 4 Preview

September 17, 2020

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

After a slight delay, we’re back – and landing right in the heart of the 2020 Michigan high school football season.

After missing the previously-scheduled first three weeks due to COVID-19 precautions, there’s no time for teams to ease into the action. This week’s schedule is loaded with some of the major matchups we circle every fall.

Below is a look at storylines coming out of every region of the state and 8-player for this opening weekend (we’re going to continue calling it Week 4). We’ll again be tracking scores in real time with the MHSAA Score Center. And remember, attendance limits are in place – but we’ll have at least 32 games broadcast Friday and Saturday on MHSAA.tv. (Nine games kicked the varsity season off Thursday night, and you can catch one of those as well on demand.) 

Records below are for the 2019 season.

Bay & Thumb

Beaverton (10-1) at Sanford Meridian (8-4)

The Beavers are coming off their best season ever, after claiming the Jack Pine Conference championship and closing the regular season with four straight shutouts. The zero streak began with a 20-0 win over Meridian, which went on to finish third in the JPC but then claimed a District title. The Mustangs are hoping to next beat Beaverton for the first time since their best season ever, in 2015.

Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Linden (4-5) at Flushing (5-5), Frankenmuth (9-2) at Freeland (9-3), Flint Carman-Ainsworth (2-7) at Grand Blanc (5-5), Ubly (10-3) at Harbor Beach (10-1).

Greater Detroit

Detroit Martin Luther King (11-3) at Detroit Cass Tech (7-5), Saturday

The Detroit Public School League kicks off with its annual game of the year. These rivals will play in different divisions of the PSL again and could meet a second time, as is frequent, in the PSL championship game in five weeks. King is coming off a big win in last season’s matchup after a similar Cass Tech victory in 2018 – so another classic may be due.

Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Macomb Dakota (6-5) at Clinton Township Chippewa Valley (9-1), West Bloomfield (10-2) at Oak Park (8-2), Utica Eisenhower (9-3) at Sterling Heights Stevenson (8-5) SATURDAY Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice (6-5) at Warren De La Salle Collegiate (5-5).


Portland (8-3) at DeWitt (10-3)

Both will look to hit the ground running in what should again this season be one of the best matchups in the Lansing area. The Panthers’ three losses last year came by a combined 28 points, and their closest was a 29-27 defeat to the Raiders in Week 2. Portland scored the most points DeWitt gave up last fall, but arrived in a similar spot later with three losses over its final four games and by a combined 29 points.

Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Williamston (5-5) at Fowlerville (7-4), Pewamo-Westphalia (14-0) at Laingsburg (6-4), Saginaw Nouvel (7-5) at Ithaca (8-2), Saginaw Swan Valley (8-4) at Alma (4-5).

Northern Lower Peninsula

Traverse City West (7-3) vs. Traverse City Central (8-2) at Thirlby Field

Talk about a different look this season. The “Patriot Game” between these rivals generally brings about 10,000 fans to downtown Traverse City. But this region is allowed a maximum of 500 people (including players) at outdoor games under Phase 5 of the MI Safe Start Plan. Still, smaller crowds won’t change the meaning for the teams on the field. Central’s 32-0 win last year was the first double-digit victory in the series since 2012, and it decided the Big North Conference title.

Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Kingsley (12-1) at Cheboygan (4-5), Boyne City (4-5) at Maple City Glen Lake (12-2), Lake City (6-4) at McBain (6-5) SATURDAY Sault Ste. Marie (7-4) at Traverse City St. Francis (8-4)

Southeast & Border

Dexter (8-2) at Chelsea (12-1)

Dexter – remember one of the great stories of 2018 when it made the playoffs for the first time – continued its surge last fall with its most wins during at least the MHSAA playoff era. And the Dreadnaughts were close to accomplishing possibly much more, with last year’s defeats by a combined seven points. Chelsea’s 22-17 win over Dexter in Week 1 ended up deciding the Southeastern Conference White title, making this rematch potentially another of the “right into the fire” moments of this season’s start.

Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Ida (4-5) at Clinton (9-1), Hanover-Horton (4-5) at Michigan Center (4-5), Pittsford (4-5) at Sand Creek (8-3), Dundee (5-5) at Blissfield (6-4).

Southwest Corridor 

Constantine (8-3) at Schoolcraft (10-2)

These were two of three teams that shared the Southwestern Athletic Conference Lakeshore title last season, thanks to Schoolcraft’s 27-24 win of their matchup. The Eagles have won six straight meetings with Constantine, including two in the playoffs – and this game will still mean a lot to both although the teams are in different divisions of the SAC this fall.

Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Portage Northern (10-2) at Stevensville Lakeshore (4-5), East Lansing (7-3) at Portage Central (5-5), Fennville (4-5) at Lawton (10-1), Jackson Lumen Christi (12-1) at Marshall (6-5).

Upper Peninsula 

Menominee (7-4) at Marquette (5-5)

This rematch could be one of the best regular-season games north of Mackinac Bridge this fall. Marquette is the reigning Great Northern Conference champion as both of these teams made the postseason a year ago. Marquette’s 28-21 win over the Maroons broke a seven-game losing streak against the annual league foe.

Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Harbor Springs (6-4) at St. Ignace (5-5), Kingsford (4-5) at Calumet (10-2), Gwinn (1-8) at Hancock (5-4), Manistique (3-6) at Negaunee (6-4).

West Michigan

Hudsonville (8-4) at East Kentwood (6-5)

The Eagles have had to wait all offseason and then some for a chance to avenge a painful 2019 loss. Despite falling to Rockford the previous week last season, Hudsonville came into last year’s matchup with East Kentwood still tied for first in the Ottawa-Kent Conference Red – and then was upset 31-20 by the eventual fourth-place Falcons. Maybe it wasn’t an upset though, as East Kentwood has beaten Hudsonville in three straight and picked up a playoff win over Rockford at the end of last fall.

Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central (8-3) vs. Grand Rapids Christian (7-3) at Forest Hills Eastern, Muskegon Mona Shores (12-2) at Muskegon Reeths-Puffer (5-4), Jenison (4-5) at Rockford (8-2), East Grand Rapids (5-5) at Lowell (1-8).


Deckerville (10-1) at New Haven Merritt (8-2)

Deckerville’s only loss last season came in a Regional Final, and the Eagles yearly are one of the strongest statewide contenders. Merritt is looking to make that jump. The Mustangs have reached the playoffs five of the last six seasons, and they’ll get two serious tests – plus major postseason prep – right away this month in Deckerville and Morrice as a new member of the North Central Thumb League Stars.

Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Camden-Frontier (6-4) at Climax Scotts (9-3), Martin (10-1) at Wyoming Tri-unity Christian (5-5), Cedarville (6-5) at Engadine (8-2), Bellevue (6-4) at Colon (13-0).

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.)