1st & Goal: Week 6 Preview
October 1, 2020
By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
We may have only just begun this abbreviated Michigan high school football season, but this weekend we’ll reach the midway point – and the beginning of another October full of opportunities.
Every game matters even more with a six-game schedule, and early league leaders are meeting everywhere over the next two days – including in five leagues in the Grand Rapids/Muskegon areas alone.
Below is a quick look at some of the especially intriguing matchups. 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’s broadcast schedule includes 48 varsity football games on MHSAA.tv; click the link for listings.
Bay & Thumb
Mount Pleasant (2-0) at Midland (2-0)
Seven of the last 10 meetings between these Saginaw Valley League Blue foes have been decided by eight points or fewer, including Midland’s 22-21 win a year ago that helped the Chemics to a shared conference title. Along with matchups both still face with Midland Dow, tonight’s should significantly shape this season’s league race.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY New Lothrop (2-0) at Montrose (2-0), Grand Blanc (1-1) at Lapeer (2-0), Midland Bullock Creek (1-1) at Hemlock (2-0). SATURDAY Croswell-Lexington (2-0) at North Branch (2-0).
West Bloomfield (2-0) at Clarkston (2-0)
The Wolves quickly are making last season’s uncharacteristic 3-6 finish – their first below .500 since 2002 – a distant memory, but this matchup will allow them the opportunity to avenge a 2019 loss for the first time. West Bloomfield claimed last year’s matchup 24-0 on the way to finishing 10-2, and more interestingly hasn’t lost a game by more than seven points since 2016. With both programs surging again, we could be in for another close contest.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Detroit Denby (2-0) at Detroit Martin Luther King (1-1), North Farmington (1-1) at Birmingham Groves (1-1), Clinton Township Chippewa Valley (1-1) at Sterling Heights Stevenson (2-0). SATURDAY Warren De La Salle Collegiate (1-1) at Detroit Catholic Central (2-0).
Lansing Catholic (2-0) at Portland (1-1)
Lansing Catholic rode last year’s first win in this rivalry since 2015 all the way to the Division 5 championship, and the Cougars have tuned up on both sides of the ball outscoring their first two opponents by a combined 85-3. The Raiders will hope for a result similar to last year’s first meeting with Lansing Catholic, a 21-20 win, before they fell 21-0 in that District Final rematch. Portland last week bounced back with a shutout of Charlotte after falling big in its opener to DeWitt.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Reed City (2-0) at Central Montcalm (2-0), Canton (2-0) at Brighton (1-1), Stockbridge (1-1) at Lake Odessa Lakewood (1-1), Ortonville Brandon (2-0) at Corunna (1-1).
Northern Lower Peninsula
Kingsley (2-0) at Traverse City St. Francis (1-1)
The Stags ended their six-game losing streak to St. Francis last season with a 26-7 victory that eventually decided the Northern Michigan Football League Legends title. Kingsley hasn’t slowed down, running its regular-season winning streak to 16 last week. But St. Francis’ 14-7 loss to new league member Sault Ste. Marie in the season opener is looking even better after the Sault’s win over Marquette, and the Gladiators still have reason to hope for at least a three-way tie for the Legends championship.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Traverse City Central (2-0) at Cadillac (2-0), Harbor Springs (2-0) at Manistee (2-0), Frankfort (1-1) at Johannesburg-Lewiston (2-0), Charlevoix (2-0) at Boyne City (1-1).
Southeast & Border
Clinton (2-0) at Blissfield (2-0)
Reshuffling among southeastern Lower Peninsula leagues took these teams’ regular Week 2 nonconference meeting up a few levels. It already was a solid nonleague matchup – they’ve played regularly since 2012 and split the last four meetings with Clinton winning last season 45-13. Now they find themselves tied for the early lead in the Lenawee County Athletic Association, with Blissfield coming off a 31-14 win over reigning champion Hillsdale last week.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Saline (2-0) at Monroe (2-0), Hillsdale (1-1) at Ida (1-1), Battle Creek Harper Creek (1-1) at Jackson Lumen Christi (1-1). SATURDAY Schoolcraft (2-0) at Chelsea (2-0).
Cassopolis (2-0) at Centreville (2-0)
The Rangers are up to 26-1 in league play since the Southwest 10 Conference was formed in 2017, and that means even more considering five of the remaining six 11-player football members made the playoffs in 2019. Cassopolis’ closest league win last year was 15-0 over Centreville, which has continued its rejuvenation and could have its sights set on more after losing four games in 2019 by a combined 28 points. The Bulldogs avenged one of those defeats downing White Pigeon 14-8 last week.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Sturgis (2-0) at Paw Paw (2-0), Portage Central (0-2) at St. Joseph (2-0), Constantine (1-1) at Watervliet (2-0), Stevensville Lakeshore (1-1) at Battle Creek Central (1-1).
Gladstone (1-0) at Sault Ste. Marie (2-0)
Gladstone provided an uplifting story last weekend, coming off short prep time to edge Negaunee 22-20 and after also missing out on opening weekend. Next up is the team generating the most buzz in the Upper Peninsula. Sault Ste. Marie has wins over Traverse City St. Francis and Marquette – and will be looking to avenge last season’s 20-8 loss to the Braves.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Marquette (1-1) at Kingsford (2-0), L'Anse (1-1) at Negaunee (1-1), Menominee (1-1) at Escanaba (0-0), Norway (0-2) at Bark River-Harris (0-2).
Zeeland East (2-0) at Zeeland West (2-0)
This next-door showdown always means a lot. It might mean even more now that Muskegon Mona Shores and Muskegon High have joined the Zeeland schools to make what was a strong Ottawa-Kent Conference Green now one of the most powerful football leagues in the state. West won both meetings last year, by 20 and then 31 points in a Division 3 playoff opener.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Cedar Springs (2-0) at Grand Rapids Catholic Central (2-0), Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central (2-0) at Byron Center (2-0), Grandville (2-0) at Hudsonville (2-0), North Muskegon (2-0) at Whitehall (2-0).
Whittemore-Prescott (2-0) at Gaylord St. Mary (2-0)
Whittemore-Prescott was a late addition to 8-player before the start of this fall. But it looks like the Cardinals made a sound decision. Their two wins in two weeks equal their total for the entire 2019 season. That said, St. Mary certainly will be W-P’s biggest challenge to date. The Snowbirds have put 111 points on the board over just two games and could be prepping for a serious run in their second season of this format.
Keep an eye on these: FRIDAY Adrian Lenawee Christian (2-0) at Climax-Scotts (2-0), Brethren (1-1) at Mesick (1-1), Indian River Inland Lakes (2-0) at Onekama (1-1). SATURDAY Hillman (1-1) at Portland St. Patrick (2-0).
PHOTO: Lapeer is looking to improve to 3-0 after downing Flint Powers Catholic 36-21 last week. (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.)