Davison Earns 1st-Time Football Glory
November 30, 2019
By Tom Kendra
Special for Second Half
DETROIT – Davison senior wide receiver Latrell Fordham strolled into the postgame press conference with his left arm in a sling, and an enormous smile on his face.
Fordham played a huge role in Davison’s 35-25 victory over Brighton in the MHSAA Division 1 Final on Saturday at Ford Field – before landing awkwardly and fracturing his left elbow late in the second quarter.
“It hurts a lot, and I need surgery, but winning a state championship overrides all of that,” said Fordham, a 6-foot-3 Ball State commit who had four catches for 88 yards before his injury, including an electrifying 74-yard sprint along the Davison sideline that helped his team assume control in the second quarter.
Davison (12-2) won the first football Finals championship in school history and the first title for a Saginaw Valley League school since 1999 Saginaw High, which was led by Charles Rogers and also featured LaMarr Woodley.
The Cardinals, who had won their first four playoff games in come-from-behind fashion powered by their running game, shifted gears completely Saturday.
Davison never trailed and pulled away behind an impressive passing attack, as 6-3 junior quarterback Brendan Sullivan completed 14-of-19 passes for 290 yards. He connected with six receivers.
Brighton coach Brian Lemons said after the game that his team was committed to shutting down the run, which made it susceptible through the air.
“We had to pick our poison,” said Lemons, whose team stunned top-ranked Belleville 22-19 in the Semifinals to earn its first Finals appearance. “We had some single coverage, and they did a great job of connecting in those situations.”
Sullivan opened the scoring on a one-yard plunge in the first quarter set up by a crucial two-yard, fourth-down completion to Fordham and a 14-yard pass to Harrison Terry on the next play. Terry led all receivers with six catches for 94 yards.
After a Brighton field goal narrowed the lead to 7-3 in the second quarter, second-year Davison coach Jake Weingartz seized on an opportunity to go for a home run.
“We had trips (three receivers) to one side and Latrell by himself on the other side,” explained Weingartz. “He had single coverage and the safety shaded to the trips side. We had to take a shot. We’re not going to beat our head against the wall and try to run against a loaded front.”
Fordham took off on a straight go route along the Davison sideline and Sullivan delivered a strike, which Fordham caught in stride as he sprinted the rest of the way for a 74-yard score and 14-3 lead.
“We were waiting for the right moment, and on that play we had the matchup we wanted,” explained Fordham, who expects to miss a good portion of basketball season, but hopes to be back by March. “Brendan made a perfect throw. I just had to grab it and take it to the house.”
That play brought the huge crowd from Davison to its feet and seemingly opened the floodgates. The Cardinals scored on a one-yard run by Carter Cryderman before halftime and a 10-yard scramble run by Sullivan early in the third quarter to take a seemingly comfortable 28-3 lead.
Brighton (11-3) showed no quit, however, led by dual-threat senior quarterback Colby Newburg and junior running back Nicholas Nemecek.
The Bulldogs scored 16 points in a row – on a one-yard run by Nemecek and a 27-yard pass from Newburg to Nemecek (along with a pair of 2-point conversions) – to close to within 28-19 with four minutes remaining, bringing the orange-clad Brighton fans to life.
Newburg, a 6-0, 190-pound senior, completed 16-of-28 passes for 249 yards and two touchdowns, and also ran 22 times for 83 yards.
“All I can say is that I’m super proud of everybody,” said Newburg. “We fought to the end.”
With Brighton back within striking distance, Sullivan took his turn in the quarterback shootout.
He connected with senior Caleb Smith on a 63-yard pass down to the 1-yard line, which Cryderman took in on the next play to push the lead back to 35-19.
Even then, Brighton was still not done, as Newburg completed six passes on the next drive, including a three-yard TD connection with Austin Lin with 43 seconds remaining. It wasn’t until the ensuing 2-point conversion pass fell incomplete that the game was decided.
Davison finished with a slight 441-425 edge in total yardage, but it was the efficiency of Sullivan through the air which proved to be the difference.
“I told my coach to trust me in this game,” said Sullivan, who stepped up as a junior on the biggest stage. “I want the ball in my hands in those pressure situations.”
The game featured two schools making their first appearances in the Finals, which is becoming more and more rare after 45 years of MHSAA Playoffs, which began in 1975.
That first-time excitement was apparent as both communities turned out in droves at Ford Field, Brighton in orange and Davison in gold.
Adding to the excitement was the fact neither team was expected to make a long playoff run after finishing second in their respective conferences – Davison in the Saginaw Valley League Red (behind Lapeer) and Brighton in the Kensington Lakes Activities Association West (behind Plymouth).
Davison senior linebacker Logan Pasco was all over the field with a game-high 16 tackles, while Smith had nine tackles and defensive end Harry Unger made seven stops. Ian Hummel led Brighton with eight tackles, and Cole Riddle and Carson Billig each made six.
PHOTOS: (Top) Davison celebrates its first MHSAA Football Finals championship Saturday at Ford Field. (Middle) Brighton’s Ruben Salinas (1) keeps his eyes on a pass as Davison’s JayLen Murray Flowers works to deflect it.
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.)