Dread Not: Jacobs Directing Dexter Rise

September 28, 2018

By Doug Donnelly
Special for Second Half

DEXTER – Dexter has long had outstanding football facilities, a large fan base and the support of school officials. What it hasn’t had in recent years is a winning football team.

With each passing week, however, it looks like that is about the change.

The Dreadnaughts enter tonight’s game at Tecumseh with a 3-2 record and legitimate chance to make a run at the MHSAA football playoffs over the next few weeks. What’s remarkable is Dexter is seeking its first appearance in the tournament, which began in 1975.

“The previous coaches were good guys,” said superintendent Chris Timmis. “They tried hard to get things going. Sometimes it’s about timing.”

The timing right now has a lot to do with the arrival of head coach Phil Jacobs. The Adrian native spent nearly two decades on the Maples staff, including 11 seasons as head coach. He stepped down as the head coach after the 2014 season and spent two seasons as an assistant at Siena Heights University, before he was brought into the Dexter fold by Timmis, his former boss at Adrian.

“It took a lot of persuasion,” Timmis said.

Jacobs called it a “full-court press” to lure him back. Whatever it was, it looks like a successful move for Dexter.

“I was confident it would be,” Timmis said. “What I knew about Phil from when I was superintendent and principal at Adrian was he is a fantastic teacher. When we were working on a lot of academic improvement, Phil had a model classroom. I knew what he could bring to us was a lot more than just a football coach.”

Dexter was looking to hire a football coach a couple of years ago when Timmis made a short list of coaches from across the state that had rebuilt programs. Jacobs was on the list but wasn’t interested in coaching himself. Dexter made a hire, but it was short-lived. That coach left after only a short time on the job.

Timmis called up Jacobs.

“I told him I wanted to talk to him again,” he said. “I think it was meant to be.”

Jacobs came on board in late April and started working with the Dreadnaughts players, getting them into the weight room in particular. Dexter went 0-9 in 2017, but as the season went on, Jacobs and others saw progress.

“He was putting the pieces together,” Timmis said.

Dexter began this season with a 41-game losing streak and lost the season opener. In Week 2, however, Dexter pulled out a 36-22 win over Ypsilanti Community to break the streak. The next week the Dreadnaughts won again, this time a 37-14 win over Ann Arbor Huron. In Week 5, they topped Adrian, 42-30, as junior receiver Antwan Ficklen caught six passes for 177 yards and three touchdowns to lead Dexter to the win. Sophomore quarterback Colin Parachek threw for more than 300 yards and ran for a couple of touchdowns.

The Dreadnaughts aren’t just winning – they are exciting. Through five games, Dexter is averaging 30.8 points per game.

That Adrian win leaves Dexter with regular-season games against Tecumseh (2-3), Pinckney (1-4), Ypsilanti Lincoln (4-1) and Whitehall (3-2). Win three, and the team is automatically in the playoffs.

Jacobs points to three differences with this season’s Dexter team. For one, the players’ commitment to the weight room is paying off.

“We are stronger. With strength comes confidence,” Jacobs said. “We are nowhere near where we want to be or can be, but we are headed in the right direction.”

Another difference is the players’ football knowledge is growing. With each week of practice, each week of repetition, Jacobs said the players are learning more about the game.

“Our football I.Q. is so much better than last year,” Jacobs said. “Last year, we were yelling things from the sidelines on every play, ‘get here,’ ‘get there.’ This year, we aren’t doing that as much. Our kids are learning. They speak our terms now.”

Lastly, Jacobs said having enough numbers so that his players are starting on only one side of the ball has paid huge dividends.

“In the third and fourth quarters, they are fresh,” he said. “They are learning one position. Plus, when you get your athletes playing on only one side of the ball, it frees them up to play special teams. You find creative ways to get your best kids on the field.”

Dexter’s most recent winning season was a 5-4 finish in 2010. The Dreadnaughts have had two winning seasons total during their players’ lifetimes.

“It’s great to see the kids believe in themselves,” Timmis said. “The whole community is feeling it right now.”

Dexter athletic director Mike Bavineau said the school and community are excited about the football team. There’s a buzz in the halls and at the Dexter field on Friday nights.

“The kids are excited, everyone is excited,” he said. “When you can win a little bit, it breeds confidence.”

Doug Donnelly has served as a sports and news reporter and city editor over 25 years, writing for the Daily Chief-Union in Upper Sandusky, Ohio from 1992-1995, the Monroe Evening News from 1995-2012 and the Adrian Daily Telegram since 2013. He's also written a book on high school basketball in Monroe County and compiles record books for various schools in southeast Michigan. E-mail him at [email protected] with story ideas for Jackson, Washtenaw, Hillsdale, Lenawee and Monroe counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Dexter coach Phil Jacobs gives his players some pointers on the sideline. (Middle) Quarterback Colin Parachek works to elude a pair of Ann Arbor Huron defenders. (Below) Students fill the stands to support the Dreadnaughts. (Photos by Terry Jacoby.)

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.)