Drive Complete: 2015 Finals in Review

December 2, 2015

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Those who watched the MHSAA Football Finals in person, online or on TV on Fox Sports Detroit probably didn’t leave their seats much over Thanksgiving weekend.

Five of eight 11-player Finals were decided by seven points or fewer. Two more were still in question into the fourth quarter. And if you missed the ends of the Division 2 or Division 5 games, get to the next time you have a few hours to spare.

Second Half covered all nine championship games including the 8-player Final on Nov. 20, with quick recaps and links to those stories below followed by notations of performances entered into the MHSAA record book and a report on some of the biggest and best stories to emerge from the 2015 Finals.

Finals in Review

Division 1: Romeo 41, Detroit Cass Tech 27

Romeo earned its first championship in its first trip to the MHSAA Finals, completing a playoff run that included victories over recent winners Cass Tech, Detroit Catholic Central and Clarkston. Despite a heroic performance by Technicians back-up quarterback Aaron Jackson, the Bulldogs marched for six touchdowns to remain a few steps ahead throughout. Click to read more.

Division 2: Detroit Martin Luther King 40, Lowell 38

For the second time in MHSAA Football Finals history, a game was decided on the final play of regulation – and in this case King’s final-second touchdown earned national buzz. Quarterback Armani Posey put up a record-setting passing performance, capped by a 40-yard touchdown pass to Donnie Corley on the final play that gave the Crusaders their second title. Click to read more.

Division 3: Orchard Lake St. Mary’s 29, Chelsea 12

The Eaglets won their second straight Division 3 title, this time over first-time finalist Chelsea. St. Mary’s had two runners each gain more than 100 yards and quarterback Brendan Tabone hooked up with receiver K.J. Hamler for a pair of highlight-reel scoring plays. Click to read more.

Division 4: Zeeland West 40, Flint Powers Catholic 14

The Dux won their fourth MHSAA title over the last decade and second in three seasons with the same rushing attack that has brought them great success throughout the run. West ran for 318 yards and scored four of the game’s first five touchdowns in what would be Powers coach Bob Buckel’s final game (he resigned Monday). Click to read more.

Division 5: Grand Rapids West Catholic 40, River Rouge 34

Once of the most offense-driven Finals in MHSAA football history ended with West Catholic winning its third straight championship – but not without repeated comeback attempts by River Rouge and near record-setting quarterback Antoine Burgess. The Falcons defeated three top-10 and two honorable mention teams on the way to the title, while River Rouge was playing in its first football championship game. Click to read more.

Division 6: Ithaca 27, Clinton 20

The Yellowjackets finished their fifth perfect season over the last six and earned another championship after falling in last season’s Final to break a 69-game winning streak. Ithaca won this time against an undefeated Clinton team that also had fallen to the Yellowjackets in the 2013 championship game. Ithaca featured 17 seniors, many of whom had played prominent roles in 2014 as well. Click to read more.

Division 7: Ishpeming 22, Pewamo-Westphalia 16

Ishpeming played in its fourth straight Final and won its third title in that time, coming back from last season’s loss led by returning quarterback Ozzy Corp. The 6-foot-5 senior scored three touchdowns, and the Hematites held MHSAA single-season rushing record-holder Jared Smith to a still-impressive 149 yards and a score. Click to read more.

Division 8: Muskegon Catholic Central 7, Waterford Our Lady 0

These small-school powers played to a near stalemate to kick off the weekend, with MCC’s touchdown with 10:21 to play the difference in earning the Crusaders their third straight MHSAA championship. MCC’s defense also came up with the first shutout against Our Lady since 2011, slowing down one of the state’s most accomplished passing attacks this fall. Click to read more.

8-Player: Powers North Central 58, Battle Creek St. Philip 33

Undefeated St. Philip played North Central closer than any opponent this season, but the Jets took over during the second quarter on the way to their first MHSAA title in this sport and a 13-0 finish. Junior running back Bobby Kleiman scored six times – five rushing and one receiving – and another junior, quarterback Jason Whitens, capped a season that saw him throw 45 touchdown passes without an interception. Click to read more.

Records Report

A number of team and individual entries have been added to the MHSAA Football Finals record book, found by clicking here. A breakdown:

Detroit King’s Armani Posey set the MHSAA Finals record with 383 yards passing, and River Rouge’s Antoine Burgess ended up second after also breaking the previous record with 354 yards. Posey made the completions list with 19 in 27 attempts and tied the passing touchdowns record with five. Burgess missed setting the total offense yards record by only two, tallying 424 with 70 rushing as well, and Posey’s 403 total yards ranks fifth on that list.

Two more quarterbacks also made record lists. Cass Tech’s Aaron Jackson also completed 19 passes in 27 attempts. Ithaca’s Jake Smith made the total yardage list with 126 rushing and 180 passing for 306 total.

River Rouge receiver Aaron Vinson tied for ninth for receiving yardage, gaining 162 on four receptions.

Lowell kicker George Gonzales joined a host of others by making all five of his extra-point attempts.

River Rouge and Grand Rapids West Catholic combined for 929 total yards, the second-most by two teams combined in an MHSAA Final, and Ishpeming and Zeeland West became two of 22 teams that didn’t punt in a championship game.

North Central’s Bobby Kleiman became the first entry in 8-player for rushing yards (205) and touchdowns (five), and his 337 total yards rank fourth. Teammate Jason Whitens’ 294 total yards were the fifth-most in 8-player Finals history. Kleiman also became the first entry for total touchdowns in a game (six) and easily set the record for points scored with 46. North Central and Battle Creek St. Philip combined for a record 952 total yards.

Muskegon Catholic Central moved up to third with 14 MHSAA Finals appearances, only two fewer than record holders Farmington Hills Harrison and Detroit Catholic Central. Orchard Lake St. Mary’s moved up into a tie for fourth on that list with 13 appearances. MCC also moved into a tie for third with 11 titles, behind Harrison’s 13 and Detroit St. Martin dePorres’ 12.

Stories behind the scores

The Play: Corley’s touchdown will be talked about for years to come – and not just by people who saw it live. An MHSAA video shot on Instagram and then posted on Facebook has reached 179,500 fans and been viewed more than 75,000 times, and the Fox Sports Detroit clip can be watched by clicking here. Corley’s grab gave King its only lead of the game.

Filling the trophy case: Six of eight winners this weekend have made quite a home at Ford Field. Grand Rapids West Catholic and Muskegon Catholic Central both won their third straight championships and Orchard Lake St. Mary’s was a repeat winner. Ithaca won its fifth title in six seasons, Ishpeming its third in four years and Zeeland West its second over the last three.

Romeo’s run: Save for a three-point loss to Utica Eisenhower in Week 9, Romeo’s run to its first title was perfect – and regardless, incredibly difficult. First, the Bulldogs downed two-time reigning champion Clarkston (final record 7-3) in the Pre-District, then handed Lapeer (10-1) its only loss. Next was Detroit Catholic Central (9-3), the Division 1 runner-up from 2011-13, followed by undefeated Grand Ledge (12-1). Detroit Cass Tech (11-3) had lost only to King, twice, and was the champion in 2011 and 2012.  

Bringing Mitchell to Detroit: Although St. Ignace’s run ended one win shy of reaching Ford Field, teammate Mitchell Snyder’s memory was everywhere during the Division 8 Final. The Saints, who lost to Muskegon Catholic Central in a Semifinal, had worn stickers on their helmets with the name and number of Snyder, who died in a car crash in October. MCC and Waterford Our Lady both wore the helmet sticks during their game at Ford Field, carrying Snyder’s memory to the final game of the season.

The MHSAA Football Finals are sponsored by the Michigan National Guard.

PHOTOS: (Top middle) River Rouge gets revved up in the Ford Field tunnel before entering the field. (Middle) Detroit King poses for a team photo while celebrating its championship. (Below) Powers North Central hoists its first football title trophy. (For more photos and video, click for the MHSAA Instagram feed.)

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.)