Beecher Becoming a Football School Too

November 14, 2012

By Bill Khan
Special to Second Half


FLINT — Basketball is a source of pride at Flint Beecher, with a tradition of excellence that includes four boys and two girls MHSAA championships.


Courtney Hawkins is as proud as anyone, having played on the 1984-85 and 1986-87 championship teams.


But hoops mania is also a source of frustration for Hawkins, the school's football coach and athletic director.


Where basketball is king, other athletic programs can sometimes suffer, as more and more kids are persuaded into specializing in one sport and playing in travel leagues outside of their high school season.


If you want to get Hawkins up on his soap box, ask him about the effect AAU basketball has had on the overall athletic program at Beecher.


Mr. Hawkins, the floor is yours ...


"It kills me to watch some kids who, you know just from the stuff they can do athletically, would be a heck of a football player or could contend for the state championship in the 100 meters or high jump," Hawkins said. "It's absolutely sickening. There are only so many basketball scholarships. They still haven't figured it out. Every year when basketball season is over, there are a number of kids who won't get scholarships, because there are so few. Every single year, there's a handful of boys -- every year -- who come to me and say, 'Coach Hawkins, I wish I would've played football and track.' It's happened seven years in a row and it will happen this year.


"AAU basketball is great. It makes everything seem so good. They get to travel across the country. AAU basketball is big business. It's not the best for every kid, especially when they tell these kids they're going to be the next LeBron James and the next year I see them at the store."


Hawkins needs only to offer up himself as an example of how an athlete can have success beyond high school while still playing multiple sports as a prep. He was an all-stater in football, basketball, and track and field before focusing on football at Michigan State University. Hawkins went on to play nine seasons as a wide receiver in the NFL. He was a key member of MHSAA championship teams in basketball and track.


Beecher's reputation as a basketball school may finally be changing, albeit slowly.


Hawkins has only two members of last year's Class C championship basketball team on his football roster, but hopes that the team's first-ever run to the MHSAA Semifinals opens some eyes among hoopsters around school.


Beecher (8-4) will face Detroit Loyola (12-0) at 1 p.m. Saturday in a Division 7 Semifinal at Fenton High School. The Buccaneers get a Second Half High 5 this week after overcoming a 3-4 start to make the playoffs as an additional qualifier at 5-4 before winning three postseason games for the first time.


Beecher hopes to become only the fourth team with four losses to win an MHSAA championship. The Buccaneers can look to nearby Flint Powers Catholic, last year's Division 5 champion, for proof that it can be done.


"I didn't want to tell the team that, because they don't like other teams, but I looked at Powers coming in 5-4 and thought, 'Why can't we do the same thing?'" said senior Kermit Craig, a defensive end and tight end.


Beecher is in the playoffs for the sixth straight year, but this was the most unlikely team to advance this far. Beecher's other playoff teams won at least six games, including a 9-0 squad in 2009 that was bounced in the first round.


"Yeah, I'm surprised, but one thing we do is work hard every day," said senior Eric Cooper, a wide receiver and free safety. "I just came to practice every day motivating all the guys to work hard, keep their heads up, and we're going to get a blessing. That's what we got."


The Buccaneers squeaked out a 21-20 victory over Mt. Morris on Oct. 12 to begin their current five-game winning streak. Their crowning achievement so far was knocking off defending Division 7 champion Saginaw Nouvel in the Regional Final, 19-15. Now they're one victory away from a trip to Ford Field.


"I guess with the youth and the fact we snuck in at 5-4, it's surprising that we went this far," Hawkins said. "But with that being said, the way that they've worked and the way they've stayed committed, it's been one of my best groups from that standpoint. I've had some groups that had more success early in the season. This team has great senior leadership. We have some young kids who are just phenomenal in terms of following the senior leaders. They're very coachable, very good kids. This is my first year of having some kids who don't want to play basketball. My starting quarterback, (freshman) Marcus Wright, said, 'Coach, I'm a football player.' We don't get many of those here at Beecher."


There was a time when playoff appearances, let alone trips to the Semifinals, seemed more unlikely than what this 5-4 team has achieved in this postseason.


Hawkins returned to his alma mater in 2006 to take over a program that had 11 straight losing seasons. After a 2-7 inaugural season that saw considerable improvement, Beecher has gone 45-20 while playing as the smallest school in the Genesee Area Conference's Red Division.


"We had to change the attitude," Hawkins said. "There were a lot of people who were, 'We play basketball at Beecher.' That was the approach. Then there was the losing attitude throughout the whole football program. The first year, we were 2-7. We were in a lot of games, but you could see the losing attitude from being beat down all those years. We as a coaching staff stayed on them."


The fact that Hawkins would return to the community after an NFL career gives him considerable credibility with his players.


"That means a lot," Craig said. "Most people look up to him as a father. He came to build the program and led us to where we are now. I learned a lot from him. As a young man, I look up to him. If I have problems, I go to coach Hawkins and talk to him about it. He's more a man than a football coach. He leads you to the right way."

PHOTO: (Top) Beecher linebacker Tyrik Wicks (20) wraps up Saginaw Nouvel's Ryan Sullivan (4) as sophomore Mike Herd (15) also pursues during last weekend's Regional Final. (Middle) Flint Beecher coach Courtney Hawkins, who also played at Michigan State and in the NFL.  (Click to see more from the Regional Final at

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.)