Clarkston Surges by Kicking it Forward

By Tom Markowski
Special for Second Half

October 27, 2016

CLARKSTON – Coach Kurt Richardson held a disdain for kickers. He didn’t trust them. He contends that a poor kicking game cost his Clarkston football team the 2000 Division 1 Semifinal, a 17-15 loss to eventual champion Grand Ledge.

Three years before, Clarkston had lost one-point games to Rochester (20-19) and Troy (21-20) that cost the Wolves an opportunity to play in the playoffs. Again, the kicking game had let him down.

“We didn’t have kickers,” Richardson said. “We made kickers. We tried a soccer player once back then, and it didn’t work.”

Enter the Breen brothers, Andrew and Ryan. Andrew Breen was Clarkston’s kicker in 2003. Ryan Breen followed and was the kicker in 2005 and 2006. Maybe it’s a coincidence, but Clarkston hasn’t missed the playoffs since 2002. You won’t get Richardson to say that.

Andrew Breen went on to kick for Tiffin University (Ohio), and every place-kicker since has gone on to college as a kicker – including his brother, Ryan, who went to Penn State.

The others include Alex Barta, who went on to kick for the U.S. Naval Academy. Then there’s Shane Hynes, the place-kicker on the 2013 Division 1 championship team, who is currently Kent State’s place-kicker. Alex Kessman was the place-kicker on the 2014 Division 1 title team, and he’s at Pittsburgh after graduating from high school this past June.

Zach Mansour is Clarkston’s place-kicker this season. And although he hasn’t decided what college he will attend next year, rest assured Mansour will be on a roster somewhere, whether it’s at the Division I level or below.

“Andrew kind of broke up the ice,” Richardson said. “It’s made a big difference. What also comes out of making field goals and having good kickers is now we’re kicking the ball in the end zone and teams are starting from their 20.”

Ryan Breen doesn’t remember exactly when it happened, but his life changed when he was a freshman at Clarkston High.

Breen and his brother were soccer players throughout their childhood. Then his freshman year his brother was a senior and Clarkston’s kicker, and something clicked. Ryan was just having fun working with his brother, shagging footballs, when he got the urge to try it.

Something clicked for the Clarkston football program as well.

“Coach Kurt realized, after a while, that kicking is so much part of the game,” Ryan Breen said. “He started to trust me my junior and senior years. He’d been let down so much (by kickers). It’s frustrating.

“It opened his eyes that (Clarkston’s) kicking game could be so good.”

Ryan gives credit to his brother for starting what has become a fraternity of kickers at Clarkston. And it continues today with Ryan Breen giving back – or paying it forward, if you will.

Clarkston is a sports-crazed community with football and basketball taking the lead. The fan support these teams receive is as fervent as any in the Detroit area. When an athlete experiences success at a school like this, often that person is motivated to give back. That’s what Breen has done.

“My brother kind of got me into it,” Ryan said. “We were athletes first. My freshman year I’d help him, chasing the footballs after he kicked them. I figured I’d do it for him. I never thought I’d kick. We never thought we’d kick.”

At first, his experience in college led Ryan to go back to Clarkston and share his expertise with the next kicker in line, Barta.    

“I got with Alex and his dad,” Ryan said. “I tried to lend the knowledge I had.”

After coaching as a volunteer, Ryan came on staff at the junior varsity level for three seasons. He was there to start this season, but was forced to leave due to the time commitment he had with his business in Oakland County. He’s hoping that soon, perhaps in a year or so, his business will become less demanding and he’ll return to Richardson’s staff.

But he’s left his mark, and others have picked up his lead. Those who have followed, like Mansour, are reaping the benefits.

Mansour handles the place kicking and kickoff duties for Richardson, and he’s 5 of 7 on field goal tries with a long make of 45 yards. A junior, Jermaine Roemer, is the punter and, at this point, it appears he will replace Mansour as the team’s place-kicker next season.

“I was close with Shane (Hynes) and Alex (Kessman),” Mansour said. “I got a ton of knowledge from them. And Shane learned from Barta. I’m close with Jermaine. And Tristan Mattson is on (junior varsity). I’ll be working with him after the season.

“We’ve gotten so good with our kicking. It puts us ahead of other teams. When I worked with Shane and Alex, they were brutally honest. They’ll break you down. They yelled at me. It’s not to hurt your feelings. It’s all for the game.

“Paying it forward? It’s kind of my job. Jermaine and I developed a good relationship. We’ve had that reputation of having good kickers, and we want to keep it that way.”

Tom Markowski is a columnist and directs website coverage for the State Champs! Sports Network. He previously covered primarily high school sports for the The Detroit News from 1984-2014, focusing on the Detroit area and contributing to statewide coverage of football and basketball. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Zach Mansour kicks off Clarkston's season against Lapeer on Aug. 26 at Michigan Stadium. (Middle) Shane Hynes follows through on a kick during the 2013 Division 1 Final at Ford Field. (Click to see more of top photo from

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.)