Colon Finishes Perfect Season with 1st Title
November 23, 2019
By Ryan Stieg
Special for Second Half
MARQUETTE – It was a long trip for the Colon football team, driving all the way from near the Ohio border to the Upper Peninsula for the MHSAA Division 1 8-Player Final
But the Magi made the journey worthwhile.
Behind solid defensive play and the running of fullback Brandon Crawford – who finished with 205 rushing yards – Colon defeated Suttons Bay 26-14 to win its first Finals championship.
Colon head coach Robbie Hattan credited his defense and some thorough conditioning for pushing the Magi over the top. They intercepted four passes and returned one pick for a touchdown.
“In the regular season, our first team defense didn’t give up a point,” he said. “So we get to the playoffs and obviously, when you get to the playoffs, you play at a different level. So we gave up 12 points, 12 points, seven points. Our defense has been the strength of our team.”
“We condition so much,” he said. “During camp, we have different military branches come in to push our kids. We had the Navy SEALs, we had the Army Rangers, Air Force Special Ops. These kids were putting in the work. We figured it out, and we ran 168 miles this season. It’s nuts how much we’ve ran, but we do that and the kids know it. We call it Monday run day. So Monday practices are no fun, but they reaped the rewards tonight and we still had legs in the fourth.”
Even though Suttons Bay’s trip up north fell short, head coach Garrick Opie praised his team for giving everything it had right to the end.
“The great thing about my team and the great thing about our kids, they don’t give up and they never have,” he said. “I think we’ve seen games like Gaylord St. Mary’s and other games being won in the last minute, and I think we still think that way until the last second.
“The one thing that I said to our team was I wanted each player to leave with an empty tank, and they did. So that’s all I can ask for. They did phenomenal.”
Trying to maintain a slim one-point lead at the start of the third quarter, the Magi (13-0) made a huge play defensively. With the ball deep in Suttons Bay territory, Crawford intercepted a screen pass from his defensive lineman spot and ran it into the end zone. After the extra point, the Magi led 14-6.
After forcing a Colon punt, the Northmen answered on their third possession of the quarter. Quarterback Bryce Opie scrambled away from pressure and hit Hugh Periard with a 47-yard pass to the Colon 37. Later, on 4th-and-inches at the Magi 14, Opie sneaked up the middle to the 10. Two plays after that, he scored on a four-yard run. He also picked up the 2-point conversion, and the game was tied 14-14.
Before the end of the quarter, Colon used its rushing attack to march down the field. Crawford plowed his way from the Suttons Bay 43 to the 15, and three plays later quarterback Phillip Alva punched the ball into the end zone from the 1. However, a bad snap on the extra point forced the Magi to pass, and the throw was intercepted in the end zone.
Suttons Bay (12-1) wasn’t shaken though. A 31-yard run from Camryn Knaub helped the Northmen to the Colon 6. But on fourth down, Opie’s pass fell incomplete ,and Colon took over on downs. Just two plays later, Crawford rumbled down the Magi sideline for a 94-yard touchdown. The conversion failed and Colon led by 12 with 7:36 left.
Suttons Bay had one last real chance to get back in the game after blocking a Colon punt with about six minutes remaining, but Jonathan West ended the rally with another interception.
“They just kept trying to push me out of bounds and didn’t really try to tackle me, so I just kept my feet going,” Crawford said of his touchdown. “I think that and the interception by Jonathan were the turning point. Those really helped us.”
“Brandon is a heck of a football player,” Hattan said. “That kid is going to be playing college football someday. He loves having the ball in his hands in big situations. We know we can rely on him, and he really took care of business today.”
While the second half was a little more explosive, the first half was fairly quiet offensively. Colon got on the scoreboard first on its second possession of the game, on a Crawford 24-yard run. With the extra point, Colon led 7-0 with 7:31 to go in the first quarter.
After forcing a Magi punt early in the second quarter, the Northmen started to generate some offense. Opie picked up a first down on a run from the Suttons Bay 49 to the Colon 38, and two plays late a costly Magi penalty moved the ball to the 23. On the next play, Opie threw a pass into double coverage in the corner of the end zone, but Lucas Mikesell adjusted and made a leaping catch behind both Magi defenders for a touchdown. The extra point was blocked though, and Suttons Bay trailed 7-6 with 8:26 left in the half – and the score stayed the same heading into the break.
PHOTOS: (Top) Colon’s Brandon Crawford reaches for the end zone while a Suttons Bay defender attempts to prevent the score Saturday. (Middle) Suttons Bay quarterback Bryce Opie works to avoid Justin Miller’s rush. (Photos by Cara Kamps.)
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.)