8-Player Powers Converge in Greenville
November 15, 2012
By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Friday’s second-ever MHSAA 8-player football championship game will feature teams representing different stages of the new division’s development.
Coming down from the north is Bellaire, one of the first schools to jump on the new format in 2009 and a major success since doing so. Traveling west from the Thumb is Deckerville, a solid 11-player program in years past that has gotten smaller over the last decade and made the switch this fall.
Together, they should bring an exciting conclusion to the 8-player season at Greenville High School’s recently-built Legacy Field, a tremendous structure comparable to a small college stadium.
Tickets for the 8-player Final cost $8. Can’t make the trip? Watch it live on Fox Sports Detroit Plus (Comcast channel 901, check local listings for other providers). Kickoff is 7 p.m.
Here’s a look at the teams squaring off:
Coach: Ron Bindi, fifth season (25-24)
League finish: Fourth in Bridge Alliance Conference
Championship history: Has never appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 28-16 and 20-16 (Semifinal) over Rapid River, 48-0 over Owendale-Gagetown (Regional Final).
Players to watch: RB/CB Chase Small, 5-8/170, soph. (185 carries, 1,574 yards, 24 TDs rushing); QB Zach Smith, 5-11/158, sr. (29 for 73, 676 yards, 7 TDs passing; 389 yards, 15 TDs rushing); OL/DL Drew Bailey, 6-4/200, sr. (73 tackles), LB/C James Campis, 5-10/195, jr. (171 tackles), SE/CB Wes Villafane, 5-8/151, sr. (14 caches, 514 yards, five TDs, four interceptions).
Outlook: After finishing a combined 1-16 in its final two seasons in 11-player football, Bellaire is 23-8 since making the switch. The Eagles’ quick start included representing their conference against Mid-Michigan 8-Man League winner Carsonville Port-Sanilac in a non-MHSAA championship game at the end of the first 8-player season. This year’s team started 0-2 before hitting its stride. There’s no question Bellaire is a running team, with 3,413 rushing yards this fall led by Small’s 1,574. The team has thrown for 823 yards, with Villafane catching nearly half the team’s passes. Campis and junior Hunter Walsh are the big hitters for a defense giving up only seven points per game during the postseason.
Coach: Bill Brown, 20th season (154-60)
League finish: First in North Central Thumb League
Championship history: Has never appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 32-12, 48-39 and 42-39 (District Final) over Carsonville-Port Sanilac, 24-18 over Peck, 36-30 (2OT) over Portland St. Patrick (Semifinal).
Players to watch: QB Nick Pagel, 5-10/170, jr. (132 carries, 824 yards, 11 TDs rushing; 31 of 63, 463 yards, six TDs passing), RB Corey Wagester, 6-0/165, sr. (136 carries, 820 yards 12 TDs rushing), FB/LB Chris Wolfe, 5-10/170, sr. (151 carries, 1,580 yards, 14 TDs rushing).
Outlook: This is Deckerville’s first season of 8-player football. But unlike a lot of others that have made the switch, the Eagles had plenty of success in 11-player with four seasons of at least 10 wins beginning in 2000 – when they made the Division 8 Semifinals and fell six points shy of reaching the Pontiac Silverdome. Their lone loss this season came in Week 2 to powerful Cedarville; Deckerville has rolled since although it had two close calls during the playoffs. The Eagles also focus on the run led by two strong backs and two-way quarterbacking threat Pagel, and will have a hefty size advantage thanks to guys like senior Kevin Hammond (6-foot-1/235 pounds), sophomore Cody Mausolf (6-2/240) and senior Zachary Bowerman (6-0/210) up front.
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.)