DeLaSalle Hammers Home 1st Title

November 28, 2014

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

DETROIT – When his team fell to 3-3 to start October, Warren DeLaSalle football coach Paul Verska said he was the only one who believed the Pilots could still finish this fall at Ford Field. 

And he realized again before last week’s Semifinal against Southfield that his “loosey-goosey goofball group” was more than prepared for championship game pressure as his four captains danced to M.C. Hammer’s “Can’t Touch This” in the snow.

The final 30 seconds of the fourth quarter were not always kind to DeLaSalle this season; all three losses, over three straight weeks, came by seven or fewer points as their opponents took the lead during the final half-minute. 

“That kinda strengthened us as a team. We said we’ve pretty much got to go out and get it and not leave it behind the last 30 seconds or a minute,” Pilots senior quarterback Joey Garbarino said. “Me and the captains, pretty much the whole team, pretty much everyone knew. We knew what we could do.”

Over the last five weeks, DeLaSalle showed everyone else – and finished by earning the school’s first MHSAA football championship with a 44-8 win over Muskegon Mona Shores that probably still surprised plenty despite the Pilots’ recent body of work. 

DeLaSalle (10-3) gave up only 9.9 points per game during its closing eight-game winning streak and avenged one of those losses by eliminating reigning three-time champion Birmingham Brother Rice in the Regional Final. 

Mona Shores (12-2) averaged 39.5 points per game entering Friday and had run for more than 3,000 yards. But the Sailors managed only 99 on the ground and 201 total and didn’t score until the final four minutes of the third quarter. 

“I told our kids when we got here that it isn’t how many Ws you have, but who you play,” Verska said. “I said we have a tough schedule, and I know we’re physical. And I knew deep down in my heart we could be more physical than them. I knew they had some great athletes, but I thought if we pounded on them, pounded on them, pounded on them, they wouldn’t go four quarters with us toe to toe.”

The quarterback conversation this week focused on Mona Shores senior Tyree Jackson. The four-year starter carried the Sailors to their first playoff game last season and through most of this school-record postseason run, but watched the end of the team’s 25-24 Semifinal win over Farmington Hills Harrison from the sideline on crutches after sustaining an injury. A University of Buffalo recruit, Jackson threw 24 touchdown passes and ran for 14 scores this season. 

Garbarino hasn’t had nearly that buzz although he’s been plenty solid in succeeding a pair of quarterbacks now playing in the Big 10 – University of Michigan’s Shane Morris and Rutgers University’s Giovanni Rescigno.

Garbarino’s numbers this season were solid – 11 touchdowns passing, 10 rushing and just under 1,700 yards combined – but he saved the spectacular for Friday rushing 18 times for 85 yards and two scores and completing all seven of his passes for 89 yards and another score. 

“We call the plays in the huddle, and he tells them to man up and let’s go; we’re going to get the three, four, five, six yards, whatever it is,” Verska said. “If I wanted an H-back or a fullback or tight end, this would be my guy. If I wanted a linebacker, this would be my guy. But he sacrificed for the team and played quarterback, and it’s like another fullback running with the ball when he gets it.”

DeLaSalle’s primary back was excellent Friday as well. Sophomore Allen Stritzinger ran for 175 yards on 18 carries, including a 56-yard scoring burst just more than four minutes into the second quarter that helped the Pilots build a 20-0 lead. 

Senior Jake Townsley – also a standout goalkeeper on the District finalist soccer team – set an MHSAA Finals record with three field goals, from 41, 23 and 29 yards. Senior Alex Spicuzzi caught only one pass – but it was for a score. Junior linebacker Eric Rogers and senior defensive back Cooper Gammon had nine and eight tackles, respectively, as Mona Shores didn’t get past the Pilots’ 44-yard line until that scoring drive midway through the third quarter.

Jackson wouldn't say how much his injury limited him in the Final, but he battled on despite not being at 100 percent. He did complete 17 of 27 passes for 102 yards but ran for just 14. Senior running back DeOntay Moffett ran for 85 yards, but the Sailors didn’t hold onto the ball for more than 2½ minutes during a possession until, again, that scoring drive when they trailed 30-0. 

They also played without junior Hunter Broersma, a starter at receiver and defensive back who was ill and unable to suit up. Junior Tyler Trovinger, the back-up quarterback and a starting defensive back, did play despite also being injured last week and caught the lone scoring pass and made 10 tackles. Junior linebacker Dominique Shermeta had 12 tackles. 

“The coaching staff got here four years ago, and we had 66 kids in the program (grades) 9-12,” said Mona Shores coach Matt Koziak, who previously coached multiple levels at Muskegon High. “We go 1-8 the first year, and the kids easily could have been, ‘This is the same old thing.’ But they saw something and were able to work for something.

“I’ve been part of three state championships at Muskegon in one way or another … and this has been my favorite season. I’ll never forget these guys, ever.” 

DeLaSalle had made the Finals twice before, finishing runner-up in 2006 and 2008.

Click for full statistics.

PHOTOS: (Top) DeLaSalle running back Allen Stritzinger pushes ahead for yards as Mona Shores’ Austin Wingett (8) and Kentrell Eason (20) pursue. (Middle) Sailors quarterback Tyree Jackson prepares to unload a pass Friday. (Click for action photos and team photos from Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)


STRITZING GOES THE DISTANCE - Allen Stritzing rushed for 175 yards for Warren DeLaSalle in the Division 2 Final, 56 of it coming on this second quarter TD run.
Muskegon Mona Shores got on the scoreboard in the third quarter on this 12-yard pass from Tyree Jackson to Tyler Trovinger.

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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.)