Davison Finds Answers During Fast Start

By Paul Costanzo
Special for MHSAA.com

September 11, 2019

It would have made sense if this were a transition year for Davison football.

The Cardinals have just six seniors on this season’s team, four returning starters on defense and five on offense – including two who were playing different positions last fall – and graduated 2018 Flint Area Player of the Year, quarterback Cannon Hall.

As expected, after two games, Davison is … possibly better than a year ago?

The Cardinals, who finished 7-3 last season, are tied at No. 6 in the latest Associated Press Division 1 poll, sitting at 2-0 with big wins against Fenton (54-27) and Bay City Western (69-13). And nobody in the locker room is surprised by it.

“I feel like all of the work we put in the offseason as a group, we kind of expected this outcome,” junior quarterback Brendan Sullivan said. “The mindset that we have at Davison is that no one is going to outwork us. And that work we put in during the offseason gave us confidence coming into the season.”

Sullivan is a major reason for the Cardinals’ early-season success. The quarterback-turned-receiver-turned-quarterback has thrown for 547 yards and nine touchdowns over two weeks. In Week 2, Sullivan threw for 283 yards and five touchdowns – all during the first half.

While those outside the program wondered how the production of Hall would be replaced, the people inside were confident Sullivan was up to the job.

“In 14 years of coaching, he’s the best quarterback I’ve ever been around,” Davison coach Jake Weingartz said. “Last year, he started at wideout for us, and he was all-league at that. This year, he’s worked very hard in the offseason. We knew how good he was, and obviously other people probably did not. He’s not just a thrower, either. We haven’t had to run him a lot, but in Week 1, he carried it for 80 yards and a touchdown.”

Weingartz believes Sullivan is a Power 5 conference Division I college prospect, and notes that his current lack of offers comes from the fact he hadn’t been a varsity starter at the position until this season. The 6-foot-4, 190-pounder does hold a basketball offer from Saginaw Valley State. 

“It’s crazy to see how he doesn’t have any offers,” said Davison senior linebacker Logan Pasko, who is committed to Youngstown State. “He brings the passing aspect to the offense. Cannon was a good thrower, but (Sullivan) really brings accuracy and a deep threat. If he was a Madden player, he’d be 99 overall.”

Sullivan’s favorite target this season has been Latrell Fordham, who has caught 10 passes for 248 yards and five touchdowns to lead the team. Sullivan has spread it out, though, as he’s completed passes to seven receivers. A.J. Terry (two), Gabe Smith and Payton Pizzala have each caught a touchdown pass.

“I think it’s very hard to defend us,” Sullivan said. “I can pick which receiver to throw to every play, and the running backs we have are just studs. We’re hard to defend at every level. It makes it easier when you have receivers you can trust and a running back you can trust.”

The Cardinals are averaging 230.5 yards per game on the ground, led by Caleb Smith (145 yards, two TDs) and Carter Cryderman (121 yards, 1 TD). They’re running behind a completely retooled offensive line, which was another major question mark coming into the season that appears to have been answered.

Junior Lucas Edgar is the only returning starter on the line, and he moved from tackle to left guard. He’s joined up front by sophomore Isaac Norton, junior CJ Brady, senior Cam Hunt and junior Yousef Dukuly. The group still has work to do, but has impressed thus far.

“Obviously, they’re all really young, and we have a lot to improve on, which is exciting for our staff to know that group has only played two games together,” Weingartz said. “Essentially, they’ve really only played two halves of football.”

With just six seniors, the other lingering question about the Cardinals would have been leadership, but that’s been handled as well.

“(The junior class has) been pretty strong, but all credit to those six seniors leading that class and leading us to where we are right now,” Sullivan said. 

Pasco, who has paced the defense with 17 tackles through two weeks, said the team doesn’t need much leadership, because “it’s just there.” He’s not afraid to speak up when he has to, though.

“For me and Caleb Smith, we’ve been waiting for this moment since our sophomore year,” Pasco said. “Now that it’s here, it feels like the easiest thing. Whenever something needs to be said, we know that someone is going to step up and say it.”

The Cardinals showed their maturity right away, dominating a veteran-laden Fenton team that has high hopes of its own this season, and doing so with a weather delay that forced the game to be played over the course of two days.

“It was a big game,” Weingartz said. “For our guys to come out and play the way they did, and be mature about it and play the way they did over the course of two days was great to see.”

More big tests await, as the Cardinals’ Saginaw Valley League Blue schedule features three playoff teams from a year ago – Flint Powers Catholic, Grand Blanc and Lapeer. Davison also has nonconference matchups against Grand Ledge and two-time reigning Division 2 champion Warren De La Salle Collegiate.

“I think we’re going to be prepared,” Pasco said. “We stay ready so we don’t have to get ready. All of us know what we have to do and what our jobs are. We don’t want any pushovers on our schedule. We want to go out of our comfort zone and really show the state what we have to offer.”

Paul Costanzo served as a sportswriter at The Port Huron Times Herald from 2006-15, including three years as lead sportswriter, and prior to that as sports editor at the Hillsdale Daily News from 2005-06. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Sanilac, Huron, Tuscola, Saginaw, Bay, Arenac, Midland and Gladwin counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Davison defenders bring down a Fenton ball carrier during their Week 1 win over the Tigers. (Middle) Cardinals quarterback Brendan Sullivan locks on to his target. (Photos by Terry Lyons.)

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:

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.)