Drive for Detroit: District Finals in Review

November 5, 2012

Two down. Two to go.

The postseason portion of this fall's Drive for Detroit is halfway complete. And while a number of contenders have traveled this far many times before, some of the most captivating moments are being created by teams make this leg of the journey for the first time.

For example, River Rouge. The Panthers have one of the strongest basketball traditions in MHSAA history. But before this fall, they'd never won nine football games, much less 11, in one season.

Yet, here they sit, 11-0, with their first District title thanks to a 44-22 win over Almont – an 11-game winner a season ago.

See below for a number of other notable results from this weekend's District Finals, plus a thought on all four 8-player Regional championship games. And click for the rest of last week's scores plus updated  schedules as the drive gears up for the third round.

Division 1

Plymouth 20, Livonia Churchill 14

Churchill (10-1) entered the postseason with the highest playoff point average in Division 1, with Plymouth (9-2) tied for 15th.  But the Wildcats locked down a Chargers offense that had averaged 44 points per game and extended their sixth-straight playoff run another week. Click to read more from the Detroit Free Press.

Also noted:

Rockford 35, Holland West Ottawa 28 – The Panthers (8-3) gave the Rams a close call for the second time this season, after Rockford (9-2) won by only 10 in their first meeting Sept. 28.

Lake Orion 10, Utica Eisenhower 7 – The Dragons (10-1) scored with just under two minutes to play after trailing Eisenhower (8-3) nearly the entire game.

Division 2

Muskegon 15, Lowell 13

This District Final between two of Michigan's most celebrated powers came down to redemption for what might be the happiest kicker in the state this week. Adrian Briseno missed an extra point and had another blocked, but hit a 27-yard field goal with under two minutes to play to push his Big Reds (10-1) past the Red Arrows (8-3). Click to read more from the Muskegon Chronicle.

Also noted:

Caledonia 23, East Lansing 22 (OT) – After seeing a potential game-winning field blocked late, the Fighting Scots (8-3) outlasted the Trojans (7-4) for their first District title since 2006.

Wyandotte Roosevelt 9, Taylor Truman 0 – The Bears (10-1) lost a three-way tie-breaker to both Brownstown-Woodhaven and Taylor Truman (9-2) for home-field advantage during this District, but beat both Downriver League foes en route to the title.

Division 3

Grand Rapids Christian 68, Zeeland West 44

The Eagles (10-1) have put up massive point totals all season – only once have they failed to score at least 34. But Grand Rapids Christian saved its season-high to offset Zeeland West, which scored at least 38 points in all but one game but couldn’t keep pace this time. Click to read more from the Grand Rapids Press.

Also noted:

DeWitt 45, Linden 44 (6 OT) – The Panthers (9-2) have now used a combined seven overtimes to defeat two of the top four from the Flint Metro Conference, the co-champ Eagles (9-2) and Lapeer West.

Tecumseh 26, Milan 6 – After four straight games decided by three points or fewer, the Indians (9-2) broke one open and ended a perfect season for Milan (10-1).

Division 4

Grosse Ile 70, Dearborn Heights Robichaud 51

One Twitter report had the third quarter of this game lasting nearly an hour. These teams combined for 121 points, good for eighth-most in MHSAA 11-player history for games during which the losing team scored at least 40 (although the record book has not been updated to include all games from this season). At the end, Grosse Ile (10-1) had 10 wins for the second straight season, and Robichaud (9-2) finished its best season since 2007. Click to read more from the Detroit Free Press.

Also noted:

Grand Rapids South Christian 42, Dowagiac 23 – The Sailors (8-3) won their first District title since 2005 by handing the Chieftains (10-1) their first and only loss of the season.

Comstock Park 16, Grand Rapids Catholic Central 7 – This was the third playoff meeting between these two over the last eight seasons, and first win of the three for the Panthers (10-1); the loss was the first and only this fall for GRCC (10-1).

Division 5

Newaygo 30, Reed City 29

What a fall it’s been for the Lions. At 9-2, they’ve tied the school record for wins set in 1994. And they handed Reed City (10-1) its first and only loss to claim their first District title since that season. Click to read more from the Grand Rapids Press.

Also noted:

Grand Rapids West Catholic 13, Muskegon Oakridge 6 – This is only a slightly-lesser upset than the above because although Oakridge entered 10-0, West Catholic (8-3) has made at least the Semifinals the last two seasons.

Flint Powers 34, Frankenmuth 0 – These two both entered 10-0, but reigning champion Powers (11-0) continues to look like a heavy favorite to finish 14-0.

Division 6

Constantine 40, Schoolcraft 27

The Eagles (10-1) had fended off their share of challengers on the way to a 10-0 start, with five wins by 12 points or fewer. The first team to get that close was Constantine all the way back in Week 2. Schoolcraft won that game 42-32, but the reigning runner-up Falcons (9-2) forced the Eagles to play catch-up most of Friday. Click to read more from the Kalamazoo Gazette.

Also noted:

Montrose 33, Millington 28 – The Rams (10-1) keep surviving, with this win over the Cardinals (9-2) their third straight by five points or fewer.

Shelby 26, Maple City Glen Lake 0 – Experience gained from a tough league slate continues to show through for the Tigers (9-2), who ended the best season since 2001 for Glen Lake (9-2).

Division 7

Ishpeming 32, Mancelona 0

Aside from a Week 7 loss to Negaunee, the Hematites (10-1) have thoroughly dominated the rest of their competition this fall. Mancelona, coming in 10-0, looked to be one of the toughest obstacles. But for the second time in three seasons, Ishpeming ended the Ironmen’s season – and in the process won its fourth straight District title. Click to read more from Marquette Mining Journal.

Also noted:

Decatur 34, Lawton 3 – The Raiders (9-2) previously lost to Lawton 38-7 on the first night of Southwestern Athletic Conference South play; Lawton (9-2) went on to split the league title, but Decatur owns the District championship.

Saginaw Nouvel 31, Reese 16 – The reigning champion Panthers (9-2) live on thanks to their best win of a difficult run; Nouvel handed the Rockets (10-1) their lone loss.

Division 8

Mendon 28, Climax-Scotts 6

These two have met in the playoffs four times over the last decade – which makes sense as they are two of the winningest small-school programs in the state during that time. But Mendon has won all four postseason meetings, and with this victory extended its winning streak to 25 including last season’s championship game. Click to read more from the Sturgis Journal.

Also noted:

Harbor Beach 56, New Lothrop 20 – The Pirates (10-1) moved to 21-2 over the last two seasons, while handing New Lothrop its first loss; the Hornets finished 10-1 and are 32-3 over the last three years.

Beal City 28, Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart 21 – They play in different leagues, but these rivals make a point of facing off each season; the Aggies (11-0) also beat the Irish (9-2) on opening night, 38-19, and own four straight over their familiar foes.

8-player (Regionals)

Rapid River 22, Cedarville 14

A lot can change in five weeks. See Rapid River football, 2012. On Sept. 28, Cedarville (10-1) beat the Rockets 72-12 in what eventually became a deciding game for the Bridge Alliance 8-Man Football League title. But the reigning MHSAA runner-up made up plenty of ground to win its second-straight Regional title and improve to 9-2. Click to read more from

Also noted:

Bellaire 48, Owendale-Gagetown 0 – After falling in last season’s Regional Final, the Eagles (8-3) left no doubt this time in ending the Bulldogs’ run at 8-3.

Deckerville 50, Kinde-North Huron 0 – The Eagles (10-1) have dominated in this first season in the 8-player division; this was their second win this fall over North Huron (6-5).

Portland St. Patrick 34, Battle Creek St. Philip 28 – The Shamrocks (11-0) beat the Tigers (7-4) for the third time and second straight by seven or fewer points.

PHOTO: Birmingham Brother Rice junior running back Brian Walker surges ahead during the Warriors' 38-6 win over Oxford in Division 2. (Click to see more, plus photos from Detroit Country Day/Pontiac Notre Dame Prep and Plymouth/Churchill at Terry McNamara Photography.)

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.)