5-0 Oakridge Healing 2018 Heartbreak
October 2, 2019
By Tom Kendra
Special for Second Half
Muskegon Oakridge had an extra reason to celebrate in the rain on Friday night.
It was about more than just overcoming sloppy conditions and the never-say-die Montague Wildcats in a matchup of No. 1 vs. No. 2 in The Associated Press’ Division 5 rankings. There was more to it than getting a leg up in the West Michigan Conference race with a thrilling 15-13 overtime win.
This was about overcoming two of the most heartbreaking losses imaginable one year ago – and dedicating the win to those who never got a shot at redemption.
“That win was for those seniors from last year,” said Oakridge running back Leroy Quinn, a four-year starter who rushed for both of his team’s touchdowns and a game-high 144 yards, putting him over 4,000 rushing yards for his career. “I love those guys, and I miss them. We all grieved together last year, and now we’re celebrating for them.”
Oakridge led Montague in their 2018 meeting 24-10 with 3:45 remaining, when the Wildcats roared back with two touchdown passes and then a game-winning, 2-point conversion run by Sebastian Archer with no time on the clock for a 25-24 win.
It was the type of gut-wrenching loss which is hard to shake off.
“It’s a helpless feeling,” said Oakridge senior nose guard and offensive tackle Will Scraver. “The only thing you can do is try to forget and focus on the next game.”
Unfortunately, less than one month later, Oakridge would experience an even more bitter defeat. The Eagles’ second loss had finality as it came in the MHSAA District championship game, as they squandered a seemingly safe 35-8 halftime lead in a stunning 40-37 loss to Hudsonville Unity Christian. Adding salt to the wound was having to sit home and watch Unity then roll over its next three opponents en route to the Division 5 championship.
“Sometimes it’s hard to put those losses behind when you have umpteen people coming up to you at the store or the gas station asking you what the heck happened,” said Harger, who is in his ninth year as the Oakridge coach after serving for 16 years under Jack Schugars, the all-time winningest coach in Muskegon-area football history.
“All we can do, as coaches and players, is to learn from our mistakes and to take care of all the little things so that we win those kind of games.”
Oakridge, 5-0 and now No. 1 in Division 5 in the latest Associated Press poll, has been focused and motivated this fall – starting with a tough road test at Belding and most recently with the big revenge win at Montague.
Oakridge and Montague were scoreless through three quarters and tied, 7-7, after regulation. Quinn scored from three yards out in overtime, then added what proved to be the game-winning 2-point conversion run. Montague answered with a 10-yard pass from Drew Collins to Brennan Schwarz, but Nate Fair and Corey Vanderputte stuffed the 2-point conversion attempt.
Quinn, a 6-foot-1, 233-pound battering ram, has led the way with 465 rushing yards and eight touchdowns. He now has 4,065 career rushing yards, eclipsing David Nelson’s previous school record, and needs five more rushing TDs to pass Jamie Potts for that school mark.
Quinn’s play thus far has been no surprise, but how quickly others have stepped up in the backfield and on the line is the reason why Oakridge is back to No. 1 in the state.
Junior quarterback Ethen Dailey (5-11, 145) has done a solid job managing the Eagles’ offense, and speedy sophomore Vanderputte has emerged as the breakaway threat.
But it was the play of the offensive line, where Fair is the only returning starter, that keyed the win at Montague.
Oakridge, which lined up in a double tight end, full-house backfield look most of the game and threw only two passes (completing none), finished with a 222-70 edge in rushing yards.
“With the tradition out here, there are always new players ready to step up,” said Fair, who also starts at inside linebacker. “We might not have a lot of big names on the line, but we knew we were going to be good.”
Four of the Eagles’ five interior linemen are seniors, with the lone exception sophomore center Derek Driscoll. The guards are seniors Josh Havermans and Jason Pego and the tackles are Fair and Scraver. Starting at tight end are junior Luke Martin and sophomore Ethan Josza.
Harger is not ready to start talking about avenging last year’s playoff loss, as his team still has tough games remaining at North Muskegon in Week 7 and the final two weeks of the regular season at home against Ravenna and first-time opponent Traverse City St. Francis.
Oakridge could also have a couple of new playoff challenges close to home. While the Eagles appear a lock to be in Division 5, they may be joined by resurgent neighbor Muskegon Orchard View (on the bubble of Division 4 and 5) and Montague (on the Division 5 and 6 bubble).
“Our motto this year is: ‘Exceed Expectations’ and, considering the group we lost last year, these guys have done that so far,” said Harger, who is 75-16 and has made the playoffs in each of his first eight years as head coach.
“This is not a real rah-rah group of kids. I think they just love to play football and with the way last year ended, they are thankful for the opportunity to come out and play again.”
Tom Kendra worked 23 years at The Muskegon Chronicle, including five as assistant sports editor and the final six as sports editor through 2011. E-mail him at [email protected] with story ideas for Muskegon, Oceana, Mason, Lake, Oceola, Mecosta and Newaygo counties.
PHOTOS: (Top) The Oakridge sideline celebrates late in the Eagles' 15-13 overtime win at Montague. (Middle) Oakridge senior Leroy Quinn, who became the school's all-time leading career rusher earlier this season, runs through a big hole into the end zone for a touchdown. (Photos by Tim Reilly.)
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.)