Burns Taking Turn in Family Tradition By Leading Tecumseh to Memorable Start
By Doug Donnelly
Special for MHSAA.com
September 13, 2022
TECUMSEH – At a recent Tecumseh football practice, head coach Greg Dolson watched his senior quarterback Jake Burns make the right read on run-pass option play, and Dolson turned to assistant coach Al Romano.
“I said, ‘I’m really going to miss that kid,’” Dolson recalled.
The Tecumseh coaching staff isn’t rushing anything yet. They are hoping to have Burns at the helm of the offense for the rest of the regular season and hopefully into the postseason. Tecumseh is 3-0 and off to its best start since 2012, playing with a stacked deck on offense, with numerous weapons but perhaps none more important than the multi-sport athlete Burns.
He’s the glue that bonds the Tecumseh line with the backs and receivers and has the team scoring about 47 points a game.
“Jake has really matured,” Dolson said. “He doesn’t like the spotlight. You could see last year he really started coming into his own. This year he is playing at such a high level. It’s exciting watching him grow.”
Burns, 17, is a senior and Tecumseh through-and-through. His grandfather and his grandfather’s family played sports at Tecumseh. His dad Brian played at Tecumseh. Now, Jake’s turn to wear No. 2 – just like his dad – and represent the family on Friday nights under the lights.
“There’s been a long line of Burnses going through Tecumseh,” the senior QB said.
Jake Burns might be the best of them before he’s through.
“He is poised to take us on a playoff run,” Dolson said.
Under his leadership, Tecumseh is hoping to keep things rolling Friday against rival Adrian and make some noise in the Division 4 playoffs.
“It’s a great feeling,” Burns said. “We all worked really hard in the offseason. We worked really hard in the weight room. It’s a great feeling to be where we are at.”
Burns has played a huge role in each of Tecumseh’s first three wins.
Against Michigan Center he threw for 132 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 79 yards and a score. In Week 2 against Richland Gull Lake, Burns threw four touchdown passes and had nearly 300 yards of total offense. In the Southeastern Conference White opener last week against Pinckney, he had 120 yards rushing and 116 yards passing. He scored on an 81-yard run.
Tecumseh went 4-5 last year, and Burns said that left a bad taste in the players’ mouths.
“We all want to win,” Burns said. “Last year didn’t fit our standards. We all knew we couldn’t settle. We got the younger kids involved in the weight room and active, and it’s really awesome to see it pay off.”
Tecumseh runs the spread offense that is directed by Romano, a Hall of Fame coach who guided Erie Mason to the Class C championship in 1987 and has coached at the high school and college levels for years. He returned to high school football a couple of seasons ago to become Dolson’s offensive coordinator. It’s been a perfect fit with he and Burns.
“I enjoy playing quarterback. I couldn’t be more thankful for Coach Romano,” Burns said. “He’s always looking out for me and helps me so much. It’s great to have a mentor like that.”
Romano and Dolson have put together a great offense in Tecumseh. Junior running back A.J. Bryan is a threat to score every time he touches the football, and receivers like Ryder Zajac, Gavin Chenevey and Jobe Benschoter have already proved their value to the team this season.
“Every play we run I have the ability to hand it off, keep it myself or throw it,” Burns said. “It’s just a matter of making the right read. We have weapons all over the field.
“Coach Romano spends a lot of time talking to me and watching film. He is always pulling tricks out of his bag.”
Dolson said Burns tries to stay out of the spotlight, but it’s tough for the standout to elude.
“He plays in the neighborhood with all of the little kids, throwing the ball around and stuff,” Dolson said. “He’s in leadership classes at the school and is like a 3.7 student. He goes out of his way to be nice to everyone. He hangs out with his offensive line. Nothing about him is fake, either. He’s genuine.”
Burns is an elite baseball player as well and hasn’t decided which sport he will play at the next level.
“Football is special,” he said, “but I love baseball, too. I love both sports. It’s going to be hard to decide.”
Adrian (2-1) travels to Tecumseh on Friday and is typically its biggest rival on the football field. A win puts Tecumseh in great position with key SEC White battles coming up with Chelsea and Jackson.
“The game always brings some sort of buzz and hype,” Burns said. “We just want to play the game and get the job done.”
Burns said this year’s team has a different feel than previous ones he’s played on. Everyone gets along and is working toward the same goals.
“I think the team leadership is different,” Burns said. “Everyone is friends. We all mesh really well. We enjoy ourselves at practice. We try and have fun. At the end of the day, it’s a game. We want to have fun with it. We believe in each other.”
Burns is making Tecumseh fans believers, too.
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) Tecumseh quarterback Jake Burns outruns the Michigan Center defense during a season-opening win. (Middle) Burns works to elude a Gull Lake rusher during a Week 2 victory. (Photos by John Discher.)
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.)