Cass Tech, Campbell's Glories Grow

November 24, 2012

By Bill Khan
Special to Second Half

DETROIT — Thomas Wilcher is a former Detroit Public School League football star who has become one of the most successful coaches in the state. 

Perhaps such a future awaits the city’s brightest current star, Detroit Cass Tech quarterback Jayru Campbell. 

Wilcher raved about his sophomore signal caller’s mental grasp of the game after the Technicians became the first PSL team to win back-to-back MHSAA football championships with a 36-21 victory over Detroit Catholic Central on Saturday at Ford Field. 

Campbell has orchestrated the offense during both championship runs, each of which ended with a dominant performance against perennial power Catholic Central. Cass Tech routed the Shamrocks 49-13 in last year’s title game, as Campbell threw for five touchdowns. 

Campbell’s stats weren't as gaudy this time around (4 for 12, 154 yards, one touchdown), but it’s not his physical gifts that drew high praise from Wilcher after the game. 

“I told him on the telephone one night, ‘I don’t care about your arm right now. I just love the way you think on the football field,’” Wilcher said. “That’s what makes him so important to me right now. We’re teaching.” 

As a freshman, Campbell was given limited ability to change plays at the line of scrimmage. As a 10th-grader who has already started 28 varsity games, he has earned more trust from his coaching staff than many seniors. 

“They gave me more of a green light this year,” Campbell said. “Last year, they pretty much told me I could change the play from left to right; that was the most green light I had. This year, I’m changing passes to runs, runs to passes. It’s not getting difficult, but it’s more responsibility on me. I’m up for the challenge.” 

Campbell altered the original call on two of Cass Tech’s biggest offensive plays.

On the Technicians’ first play from scrimmage, he audibled senior receiver Jourdan Lewis from a stop route to a go route. Lewis made a leaping catch between two defenders along the left sideline and took off for an 89-yard touchdown to open the scoring with 9:31 left in the first quarter.

“It was supposed to be a stop,” Campbell said. “The corner was playing so far up, I knew Jourdan Lewis was going to get around him. I just told him to go ahead and do what you do.”

In the fourth quarter, with Cass Tech trying to put the game away, Campbell changed a pass to a draw play to running back Mike Weber on fourth-and-10 from Catholic Central’s 30-yard line. Weber exploded 26 yards to the 4-yard line, setting up a 3-yard touchdown run by Campbell that expanded the lead to 29-7 with 7:59 remaining.

“I saw they had only one linebacker in the back,” Campbell said. “Coach Wilcher really believes in me. He knows I will get the job done. He really trusts me.”

Catholic Central came in looking to avenge last year’s 36-point loss in the Final, but the Shamrocks fell behind 12-0 in the first five minutes on the 89-yard catch by Lewis and a 58-yard fumble return by 260-pound defensive tackle Kenton Gibbs.

The Shamrocks (9-5) slowed the momentum and got back in the game at 12-7 on an 18-yard pass from Garrett Moores to Zach Bock with 2:02 left in the first half. The Technicians (12-2) tacked on a 31-yard field goal by Ken Snapp to take a 15-7 lead into halftime.

A 57-yard run by Weber on third-and-17 set up a 30-yard touchdown run by Deon Drake Jr. on the following play, giving Cass Tech a 22-7 lead on the first series of the third quarter.

“We knew going in from last year’s experience that we can’t make mistakes, because they capitalize well on mistakes, but we did,” Catholic Central coach Tom Mach said. “They made a great throw and catch on the first touchdown. Then we made a couple of mistakes that they capitalized on. We found ourselves in a hole and had to try to get out of that hole. We were doing a good job of that, I thought. Then they exerted themselves and put another touchdown in.”

It became a 29-7 game when Cass Tech went 79 yards in 16 plays, taking 7:14 off the clock before Campbell scored on his 3-yard run with 7:59 left in the fourth quarter.

Catholic Central twice made it a two-possession game in the final 5:57 on touchdown passes by Moores, but the Technicians had an 84-yard interception return for a touchdown by Delano Hill in between them.

“It was no different than last year,” Catholic Central senior running back Anthony Darkangelo said. “We knew last year they were a fast team and we had to keep contain on the edges outside. They executed their game plan and we didn't execute the plan we had for the game.”

Click for full statistics and to watch a replay of the game. See below for the full press conference.

PHOTOS: (Top) Detroit Cass Tech David Dawson hoists quarterback Jayru Campbell (10) during Saturday's Division 1 Final. (Middle) Cass Tech running back Mike Weber runs into a crowd of Detroit Catholic Central defenders including Sean Birney (18) and Dylan Roney (89). (Click for more from Terry McNamara Photography.)

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.)