Division 2 Football Final: 'Anything is Possible'
November 25, 2011
DETROIT – That was the motto of Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice’s football team this season.
And the Warriors had to believe it in order for Friday’s dream finish to become possible.
Brother Rice qualified for the Division 2 playoffs at 5-4 last month and after finishing just fourth in the Detroit Catholic League Central. But riding the legs of senior running back Devin Church, the Warriors finished this season with a 24-14 win over Lowell at Ford Field to earn their seventh MHSAA championship and first since 2005.
Church, who ran for more than 900 yards during the playoffs, piled up 244 and three touchdowns rushing in the Final.
“We did it to make Coach proud,” Church said. “We kept the tradition going.
“That’s everybody’s dream, to win a state title. To walk away with a ring, that’s a blessing.”
“Coach” is Al Fracassa, who finished his 43rd season by winning his 405th high school game. But this run provided a new experience for the longtime leader.
Playing in a conference that also includes Division 1 finalist Detroit Catholic Central, Division 3 finalist Orchard Lake St. Mary and playoff qualifier Warren DeLaSalle, the Warriors lost three league games by a combined four points. Brother Rice (10-4) picked up its fourth loss in Week 8 against Cincinnati LaSalle.
But wins over strong teams – Detroit Martin Luther King and Ann Arbor Pioneer among them – likely gave Brother Rice the playoff points boost it needed to get into the postseason.
“We were worried about making the playoffs again. You get down, but the kids, they taught me a lesson. They came out and they worked their tails off,” Fracassa said. “We had a motto before our season started. … Anything is possible. This motto really personifies this football team. Anything is possible, and they’re going to remember it the rest of their lives.”
Church – who will sign with Northern Illinois in February – ran the ball 33 times. His yards were the sixth-most in an MHSAA Final ever. And they were followed by some flattering comparisons from Lowell coach Noel Dean.
“I don’t want to belittle their team by making it about one player; they have a great team,” Dean said. “(Church) is a fantastic football player. One of the better ones I’ve seen. And I’ve coached against some pretty good running backs in my day. The Grady brothers and the Ducketts, I’ve seen some pretty good ones. He’s fantastic.”
Fracassa added: “He’s done that all year, for the last three years. This is not only his good game he played. He’s played good in every game he’s played.”
And while Church ran wild, the Warriors were able to contain Lowell all-state quarterback Gabe Dean, who was making his third straight appearance in the Division 2 Final. A senior now, he led the Red Arrows to a championship game win in 2009
Dean did throw for 190 yards and two touchdowns, but was able to get free for just 34 yards on the ground as Lowell (12-2) attempted to catch up, and catch Church, most of the afternoon.
“The veer offense, we learned how to shut it down this week in practice. And we did a great job in the game,” Brother Rice junior linebacker Jon Reschke said. “We got them out of the veer and into a shotgun formation, the spread offense, which they didn't want to be in, which helped us.”
Senior linebacker Mark Doman had a team-high 13 tackles for Brother Rice, and Reschke had 10. Junior linebacker Reed Stormzand had 20 to lead Lowell, followed by sophomore linebackers Garrett Stehley and Jake Stehley with 14 and 12, respectively.
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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.)