1st & Goal: Week 5 Preview

September 24, 2020

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Most years, we’d talk this weekend about Michigan high school football teams being in midseason form.

They’re getting there quickly – and with another series of big-time matchups these next few days helping all of us get back up to speed.

Major rivalries will play out again in Muskegon, Flint and Metro Detroit among various communities all over the state. Some of the most noteworthy games are briefly previewed below. Check out the MHSAA Score Center beforehand for kickoff times and locations of all games, and come back Friday and Saturday for scores as they’re reported.

This week we’ll also have 53 varsity football games broadcast on MHSAA.tv; click the link for listings.

Bay & Thumb

Flint Hamady (1-0) at Flint Beecher (1-0)

Anthony Branch’s coaching tenure after Courtney Hawkins left for Michigan State began with a 27-19 win over Ann Arbor Father Gabriel Richard last week. The Bucs’ biggest game of the regular season is up next, and Branch has plenty of experience in Hamady matchups after serving previously as an assistant coach and having played in the Beecher program. The Hawks have won all three regular-season matchups with the Bucs since the teams rejoined the same league in 2017.

Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Davison (1-0) at Grand Blanc (1-0), Frankenmuth (1-0) at Saginaw Swan Valley (1-0), Sandusky (1-0) at Harbor Beach (1-0), Saginaw Nouvel (0-1) at Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary (1-0).

Greater Detroit

Sterling Heights Stevenson (1-0) at Macomb Dakota (1-0)

These two finished fifth and fourth, respectively, in the Macomb Area Conference Red in 2019. But together last week they defeated reigning champion Clinton Township Chippewa Valley (Dakota 29-20) and runner-up Utica Eisenhower (Stevenson 7-3). Dakota owns a five-game regular-season winning streak against the Titans, including last year by a 40-14 score. But Stevenson may be continuing a surge that took it to last year’s Division 1 Semifinals – a run which included a 38-35 win over Dakota in the District Final.

Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Dearborn Fordson (0-1) at Belleville (1-0), Detroit Mumford (1-0) at Detroit Cass Tech (1-0). SATURDAY Detroit Catholic Central (1-0) at Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice (1-0).


Midland Bullock Creek (1-0) at Ithaca (1-0)

These two are in different divisions of the Tri-Valley Conference West this fall. But a year ago they were in the same division and shared the championship, breaking Ithaca’s streak of nine straight outright league titles. The Yellowjackets won last year’s matchup 35-21, but Bullock Creek was able to grab a championship share after Ithaca fell to Hemlock 30-6 in the league finale. Both opened last week with wins over 2019 playoff teams, Ithaca over Saginaw Nouvel and Bullock Creek over Carrollton.

Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY DeWitt (1-0) at Grand Ledge (1-0), LeRoy Pine River (1-0) at Beal City (1-0), Leslie (0-1) at Stockbridge (1-0), St. Johns (0-1) at Williamston (1-0).

Northern Lower Peninsula

Ogemaw Heights (1-0) at Kingsley (1-0)

Ogemaw Heights is coming off its first winning season since 2013 after going 8-3 a year ago. Kingsley, meanwhile, posted its best finish since 2005 at 12-1 and with a run to the Division 5 Semifinals. A 36-19 Week 2 win over Ogemaw Heights was among seven victories total the Stags posted against teams that finished with winning records. And this matchup should mean more in the future as Ogemaw Heights has joined Kingsley in the Northern Michigan Football Conference Legends division.  

Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY East Jordan (1-0) at Harbor Springs (1-0), Traverse City St. Francis (0-1) at Grayling (1-0), Petoskey (1-0) at Traverse City Central (1-0), Oscoda (1-0) at Rogers City (1-0).

Southeast & Border

Breckenridge (1-0) at Reading (1-0)

Added just this week, this might be one of the top small-school matchups in the state this season. Reading has won the last two Division 8 championships and defeated Breckenridge 39-20 in the 2018 title game. This could be a preview of another playoff matchup to come. Together they defeated their season-opening opponents last week by a combined score of 95-6.

Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Blissfield (1-0) at Hillsdale (1-0), Brooklyn Columbia Central (1-0) at Clinton (1-0), Riverview (1-0) at Milan (1-0), Battle Creek Pennfield (1-0) at Parma Western (1-0).

Southwest Corridor

Saugatuck (1-0) at Schoolcraft (1-0)

This might have gotten a little more attention a year ago, as these two frequently are the best or near the top of their divisions of the Southwestern Athletic Conference. Schoolcraft was a co-champion in the Lakeshore last season, but Saugatuck finished sub-.500 overall for the first time since 2006. Saugatuck got off to a winning start last week, however, as did Schoolcraft – and this fall both are in the SAC Valley.

Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Marshall (0-1) at Coldwater (1-0), Portage Northern (1-0) at Mattawan (1-0), Decatur (0-1) at Cassopolis (1-0), Coloma (1-0) at Kalamazoo United (1-0). 

Upper Peninsula

Sault Ste. Marie (1-0) at Marquette (1-0)

Granted, it’s just one week to go on. But based on early returns, these might be the best in the Upper Peninsula this fall. Sault Ste. Marie opened with a seven-point win over Traverse City St. Francis, while Marquette downed Menominee by 23. Marquette has beaten the Blue Devils in four straight including 31-0 a year ago, but despite last year’s defeat Sault Ste. Marie went on to its winningest season since 2013. A win tonight could end up the Sault’s highlight of this shortened season.

Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY West Iron County (1-0) at L'Anse (1-0), Hancock (1-0) at Bessemer Gogebic (0-1), Menominee (0-1) at Marinette, Wis. (0-0), Norway (0-1) at Houghton (1-0).

West Michigan

Muskegon Mona Shores (1-0) at Muskegon (1-0)

This easily is the headliner of the week, matchup up a pair of teams that reached Ford Field a year ago. A 53-0 Muskegon win over Shores in Week 8 was among dominating victories that pushed the Big Reds to a Division 3 runner-up finish. The Sailors, meanwhile, didn’t lose again after that night, stringing together a series of mostly close wins on the way to the Division 2 title. Muskegon has a five-game winning streak in this rivalry matchup, but a much closer finish than last year’s has to be the expectation this time.

Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Montague (1-0) at Muskegon Oakridge (1-0), Rockford (1-0) at Caledonia (1-0), Byron Center (1-0) at Grand Rapids Christian (0-1), Hudsonville Unity Christian (1-0) at Grand Rapids West Catholic (1-0).


Colon (1-0) at Adrian Lenawee Christian (1-0), Saturday

Colon’s move to 8-player in 2018 proved beneficial and then some as the Magi went a combined 23-2 over the last two seasons and won the 8-player Division 1 title a year ago. Lenawee Christian’s move this fall could usher in similar dominance for the Cougars, who finished 10-2 and just missed defeating eventual Division 8 champion Reading in the Regional Final last year. Lenawee opened its 8-player era with a 62-0 win over another first-year 8-player team Athens last week, while Colon downed frequent playoff qualifier Bellevue 45-6.

Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Portland St. Patrick (1-0) at Vestaburg (1-0), Merrill (1-0) at Atlanta (1-0), Pickford (1-0) at Cedarville (1-0). SATURDAY Newberry (0-1) at Munising (1-0).

PHOTO: Johannesburg-Lewiston opened last week with a 47-14 win over Mancelona. (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.)