Baker Gives LCS Star Power in Multiple Roles

August 16, 2019

By Doug Donnelly
Special for Second Half

ADRIAN – It’s hard to figure out Adam Baker’s best position.

The Adrian Lenawee Christian senior made The Associated Press all-state football squad as a sophomore and junior as a defensive back, but his best position probably is quarterback. If the Cougars are to make the playoffs for a school-record third consecutive season, it’s a good bet it is because of Baker’s arm.

“He’s better than he was last year,” said LCS head coach Bill Wilharms. “He had a really nice summer. He’s got a lot of confidence back there. If we can give him time, he’s going to find someone to throw it to.”

The Cougars kicked off practice this week coming off an 8-2 season and the school’s first-ever Southern Central Athletic Association football championship. Their season ended for the second straight time with a loss to Ottawa Lake Whiteford, but with a host of returning skill players – Wilharms counts 11 potential pass receivers for Baker – Lenawee Christian has high hopes for this fall.

“I think it’s going to be a great season,” said Baker, a fourth-year varsity player. “This group of guys are really close, very tight-knit. Everyone is working hard so far. Our coaches are pouring everything they have into working with us.”

Baker’s stats were fantastic last season. On defense, he counted six tackles for loss among his 73 total stops to go with one sack, two interceptions, five pass-break-ups, and he recovered a fumble. On offense, he rushed for 419 yards, averaging nearly five yards a carry, and passed for 1,618 yards and 22 touchdowns. He completed 65 percent of his 204 passes. And, just to show how he almost never comes off the field, Baker also averaged 30.1 yards on his 16 punts.

“If he has time in the pocket, the defense better be able to cover about 50 yards,” Wilharms said. “We’re going to use all of the field.”

Baker shared the starting quarterback duties as a freshman and grew into the starting signal-caller as a sophomore. Last year he was the leading passer in Lenawee County. This year, Baker will target several familiar receivers, as the Cougars welcome back five of their top six pass-catchers from a year ago.

The list includes Hutson Hohlbein (33 receptions, 630 yards), Michael Braman (16-327), Ahsean Jones (22-222), Jameson Chesser (28-221), Hanson Lilly (11-46) and Isaiah Willett (11 receptions).

“I’ve been throwing the ball to these guys for four years now,” Baker said. “I have a connection to them. I know where they are going to be. It doesn’t matter who gets the ball or who I throw to. I trust all of them.”

Another key receiver on this year’s Cougars squad will be Landon Gallant, the backup quarterback who will get on the field in one of the receiver slots for Wilharms.

“I didn’t get him on the field as much as I would have liked to last year because he was my backup quarterback,” Wilharms said. “He’s going to play this year. He’s probably one of the fastest kids in Lenawee County, but he doesn’t do track because he’s a golfer.”

Chesser is for sure one of the fastest in Lenawee County. He finished fourth in the 200 dash at last year’s MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 4 Finals. He’s a running back but figures big in the Cougars’ pass offense.

“He’s a great running back,” Baker said. “Coach says we are going to be more of a 50-50 team this year with running and passing.”

Wilharms said he spent a lot of the summer with Siena Heights University football coaches learning some ins-and-outs of the run-pass option offense.

“Baker is the kind of kid that if you give him the box, he’s going to take off,” Wilharms said. “If you don’t, he going to throw on you.”

Over the past two seasons, he’s passed for more than 3,000 yards, more than 40 touchdowns and made 150 tackles.

“I enjoy playing both positions,” Baker said. “On offense, I like to try and lead the team, to get the ball to as many different guys as I can. I want to distribute the ball and just drive down the field. On defense, I have my role and I like to tackle.”

Baker, 18, is used to staying busy in a variety of roles. He grew up on a 500-cow dairy farm in Clayton, located just south of Adrian.

“It’s fun,” he said. “You get the opportunity to do a lot of different things, drive a lot of different things. There is a lot of stuff to do.”

The family grows hay, corn and soybeans. Baker loves being raised on a farm.

“I’ve been working with my dad on the farm since I was little,” he said. “It’s what I’m thinking about going to college for.”

Baker said he expects to be more of a team leader this fall. He was named one of the captains Thursday.

“When I was younger, the older guys we had did a lot of teaching,” Baker said. “Now that I am a senior, I try to do that for the younger kids. I’m hoping to be more of a leader for the team. I have a lot of experience, and I’ve been in a lot of different situations.”

Wilharms said the Cougars are excited for the season, especially after playing with only three seniors during the 8-2 run last year. Last year’s youth means this year’s squad knows about winning.

“They’ve taken their lumps and have had some success,” Wilharms said of the class of 2020. “They’ve got some unsettled things they want to take care of. They are focused on getting the job done this year.”

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) Lenawee Christian's Adam Baker runs away from a Pittsford defender. (Middle) Baker, far right, works out during practice this week. (Top photo by Mike Dickie; middle by Doug Donnelly.)

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.)