Drive for Detroit: 11-Player Semis Review

November 20, 2017

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Five of Saturday’s 11-player Semifinals were decided by seven points or fewer.

Four reigning champions earned opportunities to repeat as champions.

Three teams advanced to the Finals for the first time.

Two of the five winningest coaches in MHSAA history – and the top two among active coaches – will make the trip again.

One more weekend remains to decide the last of this season’s football champions.

The countdown is on for our annual voyage to Detroit’s Ford Field. West Bloomfield, Saginaw Swan Valley and Edwardsburg earned first-time MHSAA Finals berths Saturday, while a handful of surprises also helped shape an intriguing championship field.

Below is a glance at all 16 Semifinals, plus links to coverage both print and broadcast. The MHSAA Playoffs are sponsored by the Michigan Army National Guard, and “Drive for Detroit” is sponsored by MI Student Aid.

Division 1

Clarkston 27, Detroit Catholic Central 7

The Wolves (11-2) held the reigning Division 1 runner-up Shamrocks (8-5) scoreless until late in the third quarter to earn their return to Ford Field looking for a third title in five seasons after winning Division 1 back-to-back in 2013-14. Click for more from the Oakland Press.

West Bloomfield 9, Detroit Cass Tech 7

West Bloomfield (11-2) held off the reigning champion Technicians (9-3) to advance to the MHSAA Finals for the first time, with Nick O’Shea kicking a 31 and two 26-yard field goals. Click for more from the Detroit News.

Division 2

Livonia Franklin 20, Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central 0

Franklin (11-2) earned its first Finals berth since the first year of MHSAA playoffs in 1975, shutting down a Forest Hills Central offense that averaged 38 points per game during a 12-0 start. Click for more from Observer & Eccentric.

Warren DeLaSalle 14, Detroit Martin Luther King 13

In a matchup of Detroit area powers, Catholic League Central champion Warren DeLaSalle (11-2) edged Public School League champion and back-to-back Division 2 title winner King (11-2); the Pilots will be going for their second title in four seasons after winning Division 2 in 2014. Click for more from the Macomb Daily.

Division 3

Muskegon 42, Battle Creek Harper Creek 0

This Muskegon playoff drive is becoming legendary; the Big Reds (13-0) haven’t given up a point in their last two games and this time handed Harper Creek (12-1) its first and only loss of the season. Click for more from the Muskegon Chronicle.

Farmington Hills Harrison 21, Riverview 0

Likewise, Harrison’s run is becoming something of a storybook end for a program guided by the newly-anointed all-time winningest coach in state history that will also will play only one more season as the school will close in 2019. The Hawks (10-3) earned their second shutout of the playoffs as well, this time as Riverview (11-2) was averaging 35 points per game. Click for more from Observer & Eccentric.

Division 4

Grand Rapids Catholic Central 24, Escanaba 0

The reigning champion Cougars (13-0) ran into one of few opponents that has slowed down its offense; GRCC scored fewer than 32 points for the first time since Week 2. But Escanaba (10-3) didn’t manage a point for the first time since last year’s Regional Final, when GRCC downed the Eskymos 34-0. Click for more from the Grand Rapids Press.

Edwardsburg 32, River Rouge 21

Edwardsburg (12-1) scored the final 14 points of the game to earn its first trip to the MHSAA Finals and tie a program record for most wins in a season with last year’s semifinalist team. River Rouge (10-3) was playing in a Semifinal for the third straight season and hadn’t lost to an instate opponent since opening night. Click for more from the Niles Daily Star.

Division 5

Saginaw Swan Valley 29, Reed City 14

Both teams were playing to make the MHSAA Finals for the first time, and Swan Valley (12-1) earned the trip while also tying a program record for wins in a season. Four rushing touchdowns including two by Chase Mendoza doomed the Coyotes (11-2), who won a program-record 11 games for the second straight season. Click for more from the Saginaw News.

Grand Rapids West Catholic 25, Frankenmuth 21

Four-time reigning champion West Catholic (11-2) came back from a 21-0 deficit to clinch a sixth straight MHSAA Finals appearance, holding off the Eagles (12-1) as they attempted to reach the Finals for the first time. Click for more from the Grand Rapids Press.

Division 6

Ithaca 27, Traverse City St. Francis 0

Most of the time, Ithaca’s offense is cast in the starring role. But the Yellowjackets (13-0) have two shutouts this playoffs and are giving up only 7.8 points per game – and St. Francis (11-2) hadn’t been held scoreless since 2013. Click for more from the Mount Pleasant Morning Sun.

Jackson Lumen Christi 44, Warren Michigan Collegiate 12

Reigning champion Lumen Christi (11-1) earned a shot at its first repeat title since winning two straight in 2003-04. The Titans put up 38 points in the first half and held Michigan Collegiate (12-1) to its fewest since opening night 2016. Click for more from the Jackson Citizen Patriot.

Division 7

Pewamo-Westphalia 51, Lake City 8

The reigning champion Pirates are headed back to the Finals after holding Lake City scoreless until the final minutes. Over four playoff games, P-W (12-1) has outscored its opponents 158-29. Lake City did set a program record for wins in finishing 12-1, making the Semifinals for the first time and all after going 2-7 a year ago. Click for more from the Lansing State Journal.

Saugatuck 14, Madison Heights Madison 7

The Indians (10-3) earned their first Finals berth since 2010 with a third straight playoff win by seven points or fewer – an incredible showing of perseverance considering also that this run has come after they missed out on a league title because of a Week 9 loss. Madison (12-1) entered the postseason with the highest playoff point average in the division by a large margin, but couldn’t get an offense going that averaged 33 points heading into the weekend. Click for more from the Holland Sentinel.

Division 8

Saginaw Nouvel 17, Iron River West Iron County 14

Nouvel (13-0) outlasted a physical West Iron front on both sides of the ball and made a third-quarter field goal stand for 22 minutes to reach the Finals for the first time since winning Division 7 in 2011. While West Iron (11-2) did hold the Panthers to their season low points, the Wykons also scored their fewest since Week 5. Click for more from the Saginaw News.

Ottawa Lake Whiteford 50, Mendon 21

This shouldn’t be called an upset, but Mendon (12-1) had to be considered the Division 8 favorite by at least a few after eliminating reigning four-time champ Muskegon Catholic Central in the District Final. Instead, reigning runner-up Whiteford (13-0) scored 50 points for the 10th time in 11 games, those points accounting for 39 percent of all the points the staunch Hornets gave up this season. Click for more from the Monroe Evening News.

Second Half’s weekly “Drive for Detroit” previews and reviews are powered by MI Student Aid, a part of the Student Financial Services Bureau located within the Michigan Department of Treasury. MI Student Aid encourages students to pursue postsecondary education by providing access to student financial resources and information, including various student financial assistance programs to help make college more affordable for Michigan students. MI Student Aid administers the state’s 529 savings programs (MET/MESP) and eight additional aid programs within its Student Scholarships and Grants division. Click for more information and connect with MI Student Aid on Facebook and Twitter @mistudentaid. 

PHOTO: Muskegon quarterback La'darius Jefferson breaks into the second level of Harper Creek's defense Saturday as a pair of tacklers work to wrap him up. (Photo by Tim Reilly.)

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.)