'D' Propels Centreville to 1st Finals Win
By Paul Costanzo
Special for MHSAA.com
January 22, 2021
DETROIT – It didn’t take long Friday for the Centreville defense to prove its season statistics were no fluke.
The Bulldogs stuffed Ubly on a 4th-and-short at midfield on the first possession of the MHSAA Division 8 Football Final, setting the tone for a dominant performance in their 22-0 victory at Ford Field.
“The defense played hard today,” Centreville senior defensive end and fullback Jared Spencer said. “I think we went all out – our seniors went all out just because it was our last game. Our first time making it to state, so I just think our defense, we were ready for the game.”
The title is the first for the Bulldogs (11-0), who had never won a District title in the sport prior to this season. While it didn’t look like it to those observing, coach Jerry Schultz said the nerves were certainly there pregame.
“If they’re going to say (they weren’t nervous), then they’re lying,” said Schultz, who is in his first year leading the program. “I could see it on their faces that they were nervous, especially this morning. That’s why we got on the field so early … we went and ran routes, I wanted them to just throw the ball around. As we told them, it’s 100 yards. Even I walked out here – I've never been here before, I’m actually a Packer fan – but just walking out here, it’s awesome.”
The 11 wins are a school record, despite the regular season being shortened by three games. The program was in the postseason for the third straight year, but just the seventh in school history.
“All the offseason work in the weight room and all the conditioning – everything that we had done since we were freshmen, it’s the best feeling to have to come in as a senior (and win) with this group of guys,” senior quarterback and safety Sam Todd said. “So, coming out on top as a senior, it doesn’t get better than that.”
Centreville was dominant throughout the year, with only two of the 10 games it played – its Semifinal was won by forfeit over Clarkston Everest Collegiate – being decided by single digits. That effort was led by a defense that had seven shutouts and allowed 29 points on the season.
“Just buying into the defense,” Spencer said when asked to explain the success. “It’s been the same defense since (defensive coordinator Trevor Haas) has been here. We’ve had the same players since freshman year, so I think we just had that bond to keep it tight.”
The Bulldogs held Ubly (9-3) to 142 yards of total offense, but 103 of those came on second half possessions when they had already built a 22-0 lead. Ubly was held to 24 yards in the first half, and didn’t record a first down until there was 3:54 to play in the third quarter.
Jacob Spencer led the Bulldogs defense with 10 tackles, while Ethan Brownridge had seven. Tristan McElroy had an interception in the end zone, which ended Ubly’s best drive of the day.
“One thing that they do is they have that angle front,” Ubly coach Eric Sweeney said. “Four years ago, (former Centreville coach) Tyler Langs coached at (Unionville-Sebewaing) and they’re still running his defense. So, it’s not something we haven’t seen, but we knew it was going to be tough because when you’re trying to run a trap and they’re angling those guys up front, you have to do some different things. They flew to the ball. Their linebackers came downfield. It was nothing we didn’t expect, but I kind of thought we’d block it better, but we didn’t. I thought they played incredible defense.”
When the Centreville defense wasn’t on the field stifling the Bearcats, the offense was giving it plenty of rest. The Bulldogs’ ball-control attack chewed up clock, with nearly 30 minutes of possession to Ubly’s 18. They ran the ball 42 times for 156 yards, and made big plays in the passing game when needed, as Todd was 6-for-7 for 130 yards and a pair of touchdowns, both to junior receiver Tyler Swanwick.
Todd also led the Centreville rushing attack with 70 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries.
“I think our biggest problem like I was saying before, we like to play ball-control offense, and that’s what they did,” Sweeney said. “When they needed a big play, they got it. When we only run 10 plays in the first half, that’s not ball-control offense. Personally, I thought our defense played very well, but our defense never got rest, because we played bad offense. We knew (Todd) was an excellent football player. There were no surprises there.”
Todd’s first score came on a 1-yard run midway through the second quarter. The fourth-down play was nearly blown up in the backfield, but Jared Spencer had a big block to help his quarterback get the edge.
Swanwick made a pair of big plays on the second scoring drive, catching a deflected pass for a 31-yard gain, setting his team up at the 20-yard line with nine seconds to play in the half. On the next play, Todd found his top target with a well-thrown jump ball in the end zone, and the Bulldogs took a 16-0 lead into the half.
The Bulldogs all but put the game away with their first drive of the third quarter, eating up 7:46 on the clock, and finishing the drive off with a 12-yard pass from Todd to Swanwick.
Carson Heleski led the Bearcats in his final game, recording 16 tackles, including 1.5 for loss. He also had a team-high 67 rushing yards.
PHOTOS: (Top) Centreville defenders swarm around Ubly running back Mark Hellig during Friday’s Division 8 Final. (Middle) Centreville’s Tyler Swanwick pulls in one of his two touchdown catches. (Click for more from Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)
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.)