Chelsea Wins Highest-Scoring Final with Record Comeback, Walk-Off Kick

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

November 27, 2021

DETROIT – Lucas Dunn just wanted to get the snap down. 

After throwing an MHSAA Finals-record six touchdown passes Friday, the Chelsea quarterback would only have the ball in his hands momentarily on the final play of the game. But he knew if he handled his split-second duties, his friend Hunter Shaw would handle the rest. 

“Just get it down,” Dunn said. “It was a shaky snap, but we practice special teams probably more than anybody in the state. We pride ourselves on it, and it’s come up big for us this postseason, and it showed there.

“(Shaw) is my dude, he’s one of my best friends, I love the dude. I have all the confidence in the world with him. He's a competitor, he’s confident, he’s composed, and he deserved that.” 

Dunn handled the snap and Shaw drilled a 33-yard field goal to give the Bulldogs a 55-52 victory against Hudsonville Unity Christian in a dramatic Division 4 championship game at Ford Field. 

“I just was like, ‘We’re state champs,’” Shaw said. “Obviously this team (Unity Christian) set the state record for most points (in a season), they’re a great team. Our defense showed up at the end, and we came back and won it. We’re state champs.” 

The Bulldogs (14-0) trailed by three scores in the fourth quarter, but came all the way back to claim their first Finals title in a game that saw multiple MHSAA 11-player championship game records fall. Five of Dunn’s touchdown passes went to Lucas Hanifan, setting a record for receiving scores in a Finals game. The combined score snapped the record for combined points set by New Lothrop and Madison Heights Madison in 2018 (New Lothrop won that Division 7 Final, 50-44). Chelsea’s 55 points were one away from tying the record for a single team in a Finals game, and Unity Christian’s total ended up fifth all-time. 

“It was ugly there, but you know what, we continue to fight every week,” Chelsea coach Josh Lucas said. “We never, ever quit, and that’s what tonight is about. It’s a high school game, you’ve got 16, 17, 18-year old kids, and no one wanted to win the game at the end – we turned it over, they turned over. Hats off to those guys, they’re a great team, but tonight the ‘Dogs are a little bit better, so we’re excited to be state champs. We’re going to have that trophy for one year, and that’s how we’re going to celebrate, for one whole year.” 

Division 4 FinalChelsea trailed 52-31 early in the fourth quarter, as Cameron Chandler scored his third rushing touchdown of the game for Unity Christian.  

The Bulldogs responded with three touchdown passes from Dunn to Hanifan (21, 29 and 16 yards), with the last one coming with 4:43 to play after Braden Watson had recovered a fumble on the Unity Christian 19-yard line.  

“It’s been a wild ride, just so many emotions,” Dunn said. “I lost my grandma a week and a half ago, right before the Country Day (Regional Final), and she was looking over me tonight.” 

From there, the teams traded three turnovers, with Watson recovering another fumble with 2:23 to play, Drew Chandler getting the ball back with an interception with 1:11 to play, and Regan Plank giving the ball to Chelsea for good by recovering a fumble with 46 seconds on the clock at the Unity Christian 35.  

Three plays later, Chelsea set the ball up in the middle of the field and let the clock run down to three seconds to give Shaw a chance to end it with one kick. 

“Peashooter,” Lucas said. “He’s a straight dog. He’s done that all year. I think he’s got two misses all year, and those are on bad snaps or bad holds. He hadn’t missed one all year, so I knew if we got to the 20, 25, he had a chance to make it in. He’s a dog, man. That’s what dogs do, they step up when the big plays come.” 

Unity Christian’s uptempo straight-T offense was unstoppable all season, and it remained that way through three quarters Friday. It finished with 803 points on the year, breaking the 11-player record of 774 set in 1999 by Muskegon Orchard View. 

“(The championship) is why we came today, not for that stuff, but we came to get that trophy,” Unity Christian coach Craig Tibbe said. “It hurts right now. It’s hard to watch those seniors. When you spend that much time with a group of guys. Our prayers are for them that they’ll remember this in a good light at some time.” 

While the end of the game was euphoric, Chelsea couldn’t have asked for a better start, as it made a 10-play, 80-yard opening drive look easy, and capped it off with a 33-yard touchdown pass from Lucas Dunn to Lucas Hanifan. On Unity Christian’s first play from scrimmage, Chelsea’s Jason Skoczylas forced a fumble that was recovered by Carson Gray, giving Chelsea the ball at the Unity Christian 25. The Bulldogs cashed in with a 5-yard touchdown pass from Dunn to Cole Munson to take a 14-0 lead. 

From there, Unity Christian (13-1) took better care of the ball and did what it’s done all season.  

Ethan VanOtterloo scored on a 19-yard run to put the Crusaders on the board, and Jayden DeVries hauled in a 25-yard scoring pass from Cameron Chandler two minutes later. Two-point runs from Chandler and Micah Bush had the Crusaders in front 16-14 before what began as a disastrous first quarter had ended. 

Early in the second quarter, the Crusaders made history. Drew Chandler scored on a 39-yard run, and Cameron Chandler’s two-point run made it 24-14, pushing Unity Christian beyond the scoring record. 

Division 4 FinalOf course, the Crusaders weren’t done, scoring touchdowns on either side of a 26-yard field goal from Shaw to take a 38-17 lead into halftime. Cameron Chandler scored on a two-yard run, which was set up by an interception he had returned to the Chelsea 9-yard line. After the field goal, he found Drew Chandler for a 27-yard touchdown pass, capping off a 75-yard drive that took just 1:15. 

Unity Christian had the ball for just 5:31 in the first half, but averaged 12.2 yards per play. 

The Crusaders started the second half much like they ended the first, as Cameron Chandler scored on a 29-yard run in the first minute of the third quarter. That made the score 45-17 – a 28-point deficit that set the Bulldogs up to set the Finals record for largest comeback.

Chelsea responded with a pair of scoring drives, one capped by a 3-yard run from Trenton Hill, and the other an 11-yard pass from Dunn to Hanifan.  

Hanifan finished with 139 yards on nine catches, while Dunn had 308 yards on 25 of 36 passing. Hill led the Bulldogs’ rushing attack with 149 yards, and Robert Tyson led the defense with eight tackles. 

Drew Chandler led Unity Christian with 182 yards rushing, while Cameron Chandler had 112. He also added 98 yards passing, 73 of which went to Drew Chandler. Ryan Shinabery recorded 16 tackles for the Unity Christian defense, while Mitch Tibbe had 12 and Bush had 10. 

Friday’s Final was the third-straight win clinched by Chelsea during the closing minutes. The Bulldogs defeated Detroit Country Day on a blocked field goal returned for a touchdown during the final minute of their Regional Final, then stopped Freeland less than two yards short of the end zone late in last week’s Semifinal victory.

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS (Top) Chelsea's Gabriel Anstead (52) hoists teammate Lucas Dunn as the celebrate their team's Division 4 championship win Friday. (Middle) Hunter Shaw (18) connects on the game-winning field goal, with Dunn holding. (Below) Dunn unloads a throw; he would set the record for passing touchdowns in an MHSAA 11-Player Final. (Photos by Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)

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.)