Drive Completed: 2014 Finals in Review

December 1, 2014

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

A total of 56,303 fans attended this weekend’s 11-player Football Finals at Ford Field, the most to watch the event live since 2010 and more than 9,000 more fans than only two years ago.

They witnessed five games decided by 10 points or fewer. Four games where the eventual winner was not the first to score. Three repeat champions, but also a first-time winner and the ends of two of the longest winning streaks in MHSAA history.

Second Half covered all nine championship games including the 8-player Final on Nov. 21, 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 2014 Finals.

Finals in Review

D1: Clarkston 33, Saline 25

The Wolves took over as holders of the longest MHSAA winning streak at 27 straight after claiming a second consecutive Division 1 championship. Junior running back Nolan Eriksen followed up the starring 2013 Finals performance of his brother Ian with 28 carries for 172 yards and three touchdowns. Saline finished 12-2 in making its first MHSAA championship game. Click to read more.

D2: Warren DeLaSalle 44, Muskegon Mona Shores 8

DeLaSalle came back from a 3-3 start to this season to win its first MHSAA championship. The Pilots shut down a Mona Shores offense averaging 39.5 points per game and got plenty of offensive boost from sophomore running back Allen Stritzinger, who ran for 175 yards and a touchdown. Mona Shores made its first championship game appearance after making the playoffs in 2013 for the first time. Click to read more.

D3: Orchard Lake St. Mary’s 7, Muskegon 0

This final game of the weekend was decided by one touchdown – scored by a player courageously carrying on only two days after his mother’s death. Brandon Adams scored the deciding points on a first-quarter run; his mother Katie died Thursday after fighting lung cancer. The Eaglets returned to the playoffs after missing in 2013; Muskegon finished MHSAA runner-up for the third straight season after falling to Birmingham Brother Rice in the Division 2 Finals in 2013 and 2012. Click to read more.

D4: Grand Rapids South Christian 28, Lansing Sexton 27

Sailors quarterback Jon Wassink capped his career and the team’s third straight trip to Ford Field with a second title over those three seasons. He threw for 179 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 122 yards and another score, and South Christian’s defense hung on late as Sexton made a pair of last attempts at the lead in its first MHSAA championship game appearance. Click to read more.

D5: Grand Rapids West Catholic 24, Lansing Catholic 20

West Catholic quarterback Travis Russell led a 17-play, 64-yard drive over the final seven minutes of the fourth quarter to bring the Falcons back to win their second straight MHSAA title and finish the season perfect for the first time since 1976. West Catholic opened with 17 straight points before Lansing Catholic took the lead with 7:38 to play. Click to read more.

D6: Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central 22, Ithaca 12

The Falcons put an end to Ithaca’s national-best 69-game winning streak, adding some heavier impact to the team’s first MHSAA title since 1991. The Yellowjackets actually had defeated St. Mary in 2010 for their first of four straight championships, and fell just four wins shy of breaking the MHSAA record for consecutive football victories, held by Hudson. Click to read more.

D7: Detroit Loyola 29, Ishpeming 8

In the third straight Division 7 Final meeting between these two, Loyola won its first title and finished 14-0 thanks to 29 unanswered points and 297 yards rushing. Ishpeming had won 33 straight games, tied for the eighth-longest streak in MHSAA football history. Click to read more.

D8: Muskegon Catholic Central 31, Munising 6

The Crusaders became the first repeat champions in Division 8, running away after Munising scored the game’s first points. MCC had never trailed this season, but got three second-half touchdowns from senior Tommy Scott and held Munising to only 39 yards on the ground. Click to read more.

8-Player: Lawrence 56, Cedarville 12

Lawrence completed a turnaround from 1-17 over its final two seasons of 11-player in 2011 and 2012 to 8-player champion keyed by senior quarterback Derek Gribler and a speedy defense that locked down Cedarville, which also made its first 8-player Final appearance. Lawrence became the first program to win both 11 and 8-player championships. 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:

  • Warren DeLaSalle kicker Jake Townsley tied his career long field goal of 41 yards and set an MHSAA Finals record with three total, also making from 23 and 29 yards out. He also made the listing for connecting on all five of his extra-point attempts.

  • DeLaSalle also became the 20th team to play in a Final and not punt in the game.

  • Also in Division 2, Muskegon Mona Shores’ Darece Roberson caught what tied for the fifth-most receptions in a Final, 10.

  • Muskegon Catholic Central’s Tommy Scott set the record for longest Finals kickoff return, bringing one back 99 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter of the Division 8 game against Munising. He also became the latest in a long list to score at least four touchdowns in a championship game, running for three more.

  • Detroit Loyola’s Marvin Campbell also joined that list of players with at least four TDs in a Final, running for four in his team’s Division 7 victory over Ishpeming. His 215 rushing yards on 21 attempts made the championship game rushing list.

  • Four quarterbacks joined the total offense list: Saline’s Josh Jackson with 319 yards – 82 rushing and 237 passing – against Clarkston in Division 1, Grand Rapids South Christian’s Jon Wassink with 312 yards – 122 rushing and 179 passing – in Division 4, and Lansing Catholic’s Tony Poljan (60 rush, 269 pass = 329) and Grand Rapids West Catholic’s Travis Russell (134, 203 = 327) in Division 5. Poljan’s 269 passing yards also made that list, and his 24 completions were fourth most for a Final.

  • Muskegon Catholic Central became the sixth program in MHSAA history to play in 13 football championship games, and Orchard Lake St. Mary’s became one of nine to play in 12. Muskegon played in its eighth Final, South Christian in its seventh, Ishpeming and Monroe St. Mary in their sixth each, and West Catholic and Ithaca in their fifth each. Muskegon Catholic Central also became one of six with 10 MHSAA titles, and Orchard Lake St. Mary’s won its sixth.

  • Lawrence quarterback Derek Gribler made the 8-player total offense list with 359 yards – 256 passing and 103 rushing. Lawrence as a team became the first to be listed for rushing offense – 341 yards – and set the 8-player Final record with 597 total yards and 23 first downs. Lawrence also made the most points in a quarter list with 28 in the first against Cedarville.

Stories behind the scores

End of an era: Ithaca’s winning streak began on opening night 2010 and just this month included a fourth-quarter comeback victory over Madison Heights Madison in the Regional Final and a near-goalline stand late against Boyne City in the Semifinal. The Yellowjackets’ magic ran out against Monroe St. Mary, but the streak will be remembered for years to come. Although Ithaca fell short of breaking the MHSAA football consecutive wins record, it did set a record for most in a row during the playoff era; Hudson’s 72-game winning streak ended in 1975 and included only one playoff win as that was the first season with an MHSAA tournament in the sport.

Repeat by 3: Clarkston in Division 1, Grand Rapids West Catholic in Division 5 and Muskegon Catholic Central in Division 8 all repeated after winning 2013 championships. Although MCC became the first repeat champ in Division 8, winning back-to-back has become relatively common during the 16-season division era. There have been 25 repeat champions winning back-to-back in the same division since 2000, the first season a team could accomplish the feat.  

QB Power: As explained above, four quarterbacks were added to the MHSAA Finals records listing for most total yards in a championship game. Two of those signal-callers – Saline’s Jackson and Lansing Catholic’s Poljan – are juniors expected to lead teams next season with good chances of returning to Ford Field.

Loyola Wins Round 3: With a group of players who also were standouts in the first two matchups, Loyola claimed its first MHSAA football title by defeating Ishpeming in their third straight face-off in Division 7. Bulldogs senior linebackers Paul Engram and Darryl Clemons had been their team’s leading tacklers in the 2012 loss and two of the top three last season, and senior running back Marvin Campbell was the team’s leading rusher in the 2013 defeat and second-leading rusher the year before. 

PHOTOS: (Top) Nine champions celebrated MHSAA titles over the last two weekends. (Middle) A jubilant Monroe St. Mary and disappointed Ithaca pose for team pictures after the Division 6 Final. (Below) Clarkston and Saline prepare to accept their trophies after the Division 1 Final. (Click to see more like the middle photos on the MHSAA Instagram page.)

Ubly Offense, Kicker Pile Up Record Book Listings During Championship Run

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

April 12, 2024

Ubly finished a combined 27-1 over the last two seasons, following up a Division 8 runner-up run in 2022 with its first MHSAA Finals championship this past November. And the Bearcats stacked plenty of record book performances along the way.

Individually, senior Brett Mueller made the single-season extra point list again this past season with 76 in 81 tries, and he set the MHSAA career record with 220 extra points over 232 attempts, 40 games and three seasons. He has signed with Saginaw Valley State.

As a team, Ubly was added to the record book 13 times for achievements over the last two years, most notably in the rushing game. The Bearcats topped 5,200 total yards both seasons, and also made the rush yardage list twice including with a sixth-best 5,148 in 2022. Their 90 touchdowns in 2022 rank seventh all-time, and their 85 this past fall tied for 13th, and they tied the record with 10 rushing touchdowns in a 2022 win over Reese and set another record with 84 rushing touchdowns total that season.

See below for more recent record book additions in 11-player football, and click the heading to see the record book in full:

11-Player Football

Dundee’s Ben Miller has a pair of basketball record book entries, and he’s also been added in football for scoring seven touchdowns in his team’s 72-36 win over Erie Mason on Oct. 20, 2017. A senior that season, he ran for five scores and caught two touchdowns passes.

Nearly four decades later, Howard City Tri County’s Mike Wagoner has reached the record book for his work on defense in 1985. A junior that season, Wagoner returned three interceptions for touchdowns – 65, 55 and 35 yards – which would have been second on the list at the time and remains tied for third-most for one season.

Jaxon Lippert tops the list of 21 who have returned kickoffs 99 yards. Lippert, now a senior at Walled Lake Western, joined the list against Davison during his junior season.

A handful of records from Warren De La Salle Collegiate’s recent run of Ford Field teams and also one from decades ago were added. Jake Badalamenti was added three times for kickoff returns between 96-99 yards, one as a junior in 2016 and two as a senior the following fall, and Marty Wyzlic was added for his 95-yarder in 1976. Mason Muragin is the new leader for tackles for loss in a career with 71 over three seasons, and he also was added to the single-season list with 31 as a junior in 2021, as was Will Beasley for 38 as a junior in 2020. Wayne Wright was added for his 16 sacks over nine games as a senior in 1984, and Josh Cox was added for his 100-yard interception return as a senior in 2012. Muragin plays at Illinois, Beesley plays at Princeton, Cox played at Central Michigan, and Badalamenti played baseball at Wayne State.

Pinckney junior Nolan Carruthers caught 16 passes during a 13-7 loss to Jackson on Sept. 15, good to tie for ninth-most in one game and breaking the Livingston County record of 14 by Hartland’s Greg Matthyssen in 2007 – a listing that also was added.

Ethan Wissner did some major lifting, or rather carrying, during Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker’s 28-14 District Final win over Montrose in 2022. The then-senior ran 42 times to make the record book, for 289 yards and three touchdowns. He’s continuing at Siena Heights.

Senior quarterback Andrew Schuster and junior receiver DeShaun Lanier formed a game-changing pass-catch combo this past season for Clinton Township Chippewa Valley, with Schuster finishing his career with nine record book listings and Lanier totaling six with a season to play. Schuster most notably was added for 212 completions on 301 attempts for 2,766 yards and 28 touchdowns this season, and 321 completions and 4,199 career yards over two years and 22 games. Lanier was added in part for 73 receptions for 1,132 yards and 15 TDs this fall. Junior kicker Juliano Haddad also earned impressive mentions with 10 field goals and 50 extra points – and he’ll carry a streak of 35 straight extra points into next fall. Schuster has committed to Grand Valley State.

Fulton’s Evan Barton has been added to the single-game touchdowns list after catching four scoring passes Sept. 8, 2017, against Potterville. He was a senior that season.

Saginaw Heritage’s Braylon Isom completed his career this past fall as arguably the most accomplished receiver in MHSAA history. His name is listed in the record book eight times, with career records of 3,837 receiving yards and 52 touchdowns over 34 games and four seasons, and with a single-season record 26 touchdowns this past fall over 12 games. His 91 career receptions rank fifth, and he’s also listed for 82 catches and 1,617 yards (seventh-most) as a senior and 1,428 yards and 18 touchdowns as a junior. He will continue at Miami (Ohio).

Evart’s 24-8 run over the last three seasons has been its most successful of the MHSAA playoff era, and senior quarterback Preston Wallace has played an enormous part. He finished his 33-game career in the fall – he came up for one game as a freshman – on record book lists twice for single-season passing yards and touchdowns and on career lists for 662 attempts, 421 completions, 6,955 yards and 88 passing touchdowns over those 32 games and three seasons. The yardage ranks 15th all-time, and the touchdowns are tied for sixth-most for one career.  

The 2005 Midland Bullock Creek team was added for scoring 547 points over 12 games. The Lancers finished 11-1, their only loss in a Division 5 Regional Final.

PHOTO Ubly's Seth Maurer (30) carries the ball during the Division 8 championship win over Ottawa Lake Whiteford in November.