2011 8-Player Final: Carsonville-Port Sanilac Wins Inaugural Title
December 16, 2011
MARQUETTE – Carsonville-Port Sanilac sophomore Dan Rickett emerged from his team’s final huddle of this season, pulled close to an assistant coach and said, “This one says MHSAA this time.”
His Tigers also celebrated a championship last season – a perfect season in fact, but unofficial title because the MHSAA has not yet instituted playoffs for the now 3-year-old sport.
This year, the first playoffs were held. And that made Friday’s 59-20 win over Rapid River at the Superior Dome – and the trophy C-PS then received – mean so much more.
The Tigers are the first MHSAA 8-player football champions.
“All the people saying last year was nothing, this will shut them up,” C-PS senior quarterback Hayden Adams said. “It means a lot more because we actually had to make a run in the playoffs. It’s that much harder, and we had to play that much better every game.
“I think we topped it off at the end of the season.”
A total of 1,433 fans – most wearing Rapid River’s purple and yellow – cheered on the teams in the inaugural game. C-PS finished 12-1 overall to move to 21-1 in coach Tim Brabant’s two seasons. The Rockets finished 11-2 in their first season of 8-player.
The sport was added by the MHSAA in 2009 to provide another option for schools with enrollments so small they had difficulty fielding an 11-player squad. Playoffs were added this season after the necessary 20 schools announced they’d be sponsoring 8-player teams.
That was not lost on either team, even for Rapid River in the loss. The Rockets had won one game each of the last two seasons playing 11-player teams.
“We had never played in the postseason at all since I’ve been here,” Rapid River senior running back Jacob Berglund said. “To make it this far, it’s awesome.”
Offense has reigned in the early stages of the MHSAA 8-player game. The Final kept to that standard.
The teams combined for 901 yards. Adams completed 12 of 17 passes for 324 yards and five touchdowns, and ran for 130 more yards and two scores. Two of his scoring passes were to his brother Trevor Adams, also a senior, including a 43-yarder on the second play of the game. Rickett ran for 78 yards and a touchdown on five carries, and also caught six passes for 133 yards and two scores.
The Tigers jumped out to a 19-0 lead and pushed it to 27-6 by the end of the first quarter. But in 8-player football, a 21-point advantage generally is not a safe one.
Rapid River outscored C-PS in the second quarter to get within 39-20 by halftime. After completing just one pass during the first quarter, Rockets sophomore quarterback Jake Pearson threw for 144 yards and two scores during the second.
But then something somewhat unimaginable happened. The Tigers held the Rockets scoreless the rest of the game.
“At halftime we made some adjustments on what we should do when they motioned. We picked it up real fast,” said C-PS senior linebacker Steven Koehler, who finished with a game-high 20 tackles, including 12 solos.
“I think that the fact they had 10 seniors, and the speed. They’re a year older, two years older in some cases,” Rapid River coach Steve Ostrenga listed as reasons his team had difficulties. “You get two more years of development in that respect as far as strength, and their speed was noticeable. I think that was the big key, their speed.”
Half of C-PS’s players were seniors who had served large roles on this and last season’s teams.
“It’s very fun to watch when we have a group of kids who are that athletic, hard working, and very polite. It’s hard for me to send these guys off,” Brabant said. “I get emotional just thinking about it. But … I know they’re going to be very successful in life.”
The Rockets, meanwhile, graduate just seven players, and also had seven freshmen and three sophomores this fall. Said Pearson, “It was a great learning experience. We know what we have to do for next year now.”
“Now all the teams are going to see what we do,” Adams said. “And they’re going to start doing all the things we do.”
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.)