After Growing Up in Program, Giesige Earns Place Among Whiteford Greats

By Doug Donnelly
Special for

October 26, 2021

Cole Giesige had a big smile on his face when he went into the Ottawa Lake Whiteford huddle during the fourth quarter of Friday night’s win at Erie Mason.

Giesige normally is a running back for the Bobcats, but he is also the backup quarterback for the team. When Whiteford built a big lead Friday to clinch the outright Tri-County Conference championship, Whiteford head coach Jason Mensing inserted Giesige at quarterback.

On the first play, Mensing called Giesige’s number. He then put his arm around the 6-foot-1 senior and called the play.

“He said, ‘You are two yards away from 1,000. Do you want to get it on this play?’ Giesige recalled. “I said, ‘Yeah.’ I was smiling when I went into the huddle.”

Giesige kept the ball and sliced his way through the Erie Mason defensive line for a six-yard gain. Goal accomplished. It was his final carry of the game, but it was a big one. It gave him 1,004 yards for the season.

“The line said, ‘All right, we’re going to get this for you’ and they did,” Giesige said. “I knew I had 909 coming into the game, but I didn’t know where I was at that point. When coach told me, I just started to smile.”

Reaching 1,000 yards has been a goal for Giesige since he was summoned to the varsity his sophomore season. 

“That was one thing I set out to do,” Giesige said. “When I was a sophomore and I knew I was going to be on the varsity, I put goals on my walls, and one of them was 1,000 yards in a season. I’m glad I was finally able to accomplish that.” 

Mensing said that after a big JV season as a freshman, Giesige was destined to be a big part of the Whiteford football team for the next three seasons.

“He’s a great kid,” Mensing said. “We knew when he was a sophomore and we brought him up that we were going to be relying on him to make big plays. He’s done a nice job.”

On Friday, Whiteford finished the regular season with an 8-1 record and No. 2 in playoff points in Division 8. The Bobcats are among favorites to make a deep run in the playoffs. 

Ottawa Lake Whiteford footballGiesige was in eighth grade when the Bobcats made its best-ever playoff run – winning the 2017 Division 8 championship. Giesige played middle school football for the Bobcats that season, but served a role for the varsity as well – he was on the Whiteford sideline for the Final at Ford Field, charting defensive plays for the coaching staff.

“He’s been a part of the program for a long time,” Mensing said.

The son of Troy and Kim Giesige is also an accomplished baseball and basketball player at Whiteford. He was an all-state pitcher last year for the Bobcats baseball team that reached the Quarterfinals, and he is fielding offers to play the sport after high school. He led the Whiteford basketball team in scoring last winter. 

“He is a competitor that has a passion to improve at his craft daily,” Mensing said. “He has high expectations for himself and those around him.”

It’s been an outstanding football season for Giesige. He has done a little bit of everything for the Bobcats.

Heading into Friday’s playoff opener, he has scored 25 touchdowns and converted nine two-point conversions for 168 points. He’s rushed for 18 touchdowns, caught four touchdown passes, returned two kickoffs for scores, and went 100 yards on an interception return in Week 8 against Petersburg Summerfield. 

He now holds the record for longest kickoff return (95 yards) and longest interception return (100 yards) in school history. He’s moving up the charts in season and career touchdowns. He averages 9.3 yards per carry and nearly 23 yards per reception. His kickoff return average is 40 yards per attempt.

Mensing said scoring touchdowns isn’t all that he does.

“He is a solid blocker, a good ball catcher and obviously a back with good vision and ability to cut,” the 10th-year Whiteford coach said.

Whiteford has been on a roll of late. The Bobcats enter the postseason on a five-game winning streak and are averaging 52 points per game. During the win streak, they have scored 58, 54, 76, 46 and 62 points. 

Giesige is one of just five seniors on the team, but they all play important roles. Two-way tackle Noah Bauman is a two-time all-stater and makes an impact on both sides of the ball. Jack Andrews was a center as a sophomore but was converted to tight end and he has caught four touchdowns this season. Ty Ruddy is a team leader and two-way starter, and linebacker Levi Hillard is among the team’s top tacklers.

Thanks to that core group, the Bobcats are primed and ready to make noise in the playoffs. 

“I’m not really certain how it compares to years past as each team and journey is so unique,” Mensing said. “I do know we have a great group of guys that I think want to keep competing together a little longer.”

Doug Donnelly has served as a sports and news reporter and city editor over 25 years, writing for the Daily Chief-Union in Upper Sandusky, Ohio from 1992-1995, the Monroe Evening News from 1995-2012 and the Adrian Daily Telegram since 2013. He's also written a book on high school basketball in Monroe County and compiles record books for various schools in southeast Michigan. E-mail him at [email protected] with story ideas for Jackson, Washtenaw, Hillsdale, Lenawee and Monroe counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Ottawa Lake Whiteford’s Cole Giesige runs the ball during a win over Petersburg Summerfield this season. (Middle) Giesige (far left) walks with the coaching staff during halftime of Whiteford’s 2017 Division 8 Final at Ford Field. (Top photo by Natalie McCormack; middle photo by Cari Hayes.)

Mendon 8-Player Championship Game Run Paced by Record-Setting Rushing

By Geoff Kimmerly 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.)