Drive for Detroit: District Finals in Review

November 12, 2013

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

There will be at least four new MHSAA football champions when this season ends later this month in Greenville and then Detroit.

One opportunity was an opening of circumstance, as reigning Division 8 champ Harbor Beach moved into Division 7 for this season's playoffs. But reigning Division 3 winner Grand Rapids Christian lost this weekend in a District Final, joining Division 5 Portland and 8-player Deckerville among teams whose drives to defend have come to an end.

Three weeks remain in the 11-player season, with four 8-player Regional champions meeting this week to decide who will face off in the championship game Nov. 22 at Legacy Field. 

Read on for some of the most intriguing results of last week's action as the field was whittled to 68 teams still alive.

Division 1 

Hudsonville 19, Rockford 14

Hudsonville (8-3) was one of the state’s most successful programs last decade, but this is its first season with a winning record since 2008. The recent struggle coincided in part with six straight losses to Rockford (9-2) – including a 28-19 regular-season defeat this fall in Week 6. But this District title leaves the Eagles as best in Division 1 from the always-strong west side of the state. Click to read more from the Grand Rapids Press.

Also noted: 

Detroit Cass Tech 28, Warren Mott 19: The reigning champ Technicians (11-0) kept rolling in handing Mott (10-1) its first and only defeat.

Temperance Bedford 36, Saline 29: Bedford (11-0) also beat Saline (9-2) by 16 points in Week 5 in the game that eventually decided the Southeastern Conference Red title. 

Detroit Catholic Central 37, Walled Lake Western 27: The Shamrocks (9-2) earned their fifth straight District title, while ending a streak of two straight for Western (9-2).

Division 2

Muskegon 28, Lowell 21

Big Reds quarterback Deshaun Thrower had to gut out the last few minutes after suffering a slight injury, but to that point he’d thrown for two touchdowns and run for a third as Muskegon (10-1) avenged a Week 4 loss to the Red Arrows (10-1) to claim a second straight District title. The victory also evened the recent playoff series between the two at 3-3 over the last six seasons. Click to read more from the Muskegon Chronicle

Also noted:

Detroit Martin Luther King 28, Detroit East English 20: Only a few more points separated these two than when King (9-1) also edged East English (7-4) by six in Week 2.

Detroit U-D Jesuit 14, Oak Park 8: The Cubs (7-4) continued their comeback season with a first District title since 2001, while Oak Park (6-5) also can celebrate making it this far for the second straight season.

Portage Central 40, Battle Creek Lakeview 7: This matchup of Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference champions didn’t end up close, with West winner Portage Central (11-0) getting out front big and Lakeview (10-1) never able to catch up.  

Division 3

Zeeland West 48, Grand Rapids Christian 35

So ended the title defense of reigning champion Grand Rapids Christian, which did finish 8-3 despite graduating a large group of standouts from last season’s team and not having superstar receiver Drake Harris all season because of an injury. Zeeland West (10-1) – the Division 4 champion only two seasons ago – now looks like a favorite to emerge from this side of the bracket. Click to read more from the Grand Rapids Press.

Also noted:

Stevensville Lakeshore 31, St. Joseph 21: Usually-powerful Lakeshore (8-3) was something of an afterthought after finishing fourth in the SMAC West, but no longer after taking down league runner-up St. Joseph (9-2) despite losing by 12 to the Bears in Week 3. 

Melvindale 35, Milan 31: Melvindale (9-2) has bounced back from two straight losing seasons to post its best record since 2009, and its best win likely was this first loss for Milan (10-1).

Eaton Rapids 24, Tecumseh 20: Eaton Rapids’ first-ever playoff run has grown to three weeks, thanks to the Greyhounds (7-4) winning a bit of a shocker over Tecumseh (8-3).  

Division 4

Detroit Country Day 49, Pontiac Notre Dame Prep 27 

Country Day (8-3) won close over Notre Dame Prep on the way to Ford Field in 2012, and came up big this time to run its 2013 winning streak to eight. The Yellowjackets have three high-major Division I college prospects on offense, and they continued to shine while ending another solid run for Notre Dame (8-3). Click to read more from the Oakland Press.

Also noted:

Marine City 35, Richmond 21: Richmond (9-2) won the Blue Water Area Conference while Marine City (10-1) finished second in the Macomb Area Conference Gold – but the postseason is the Mariners’ time, and they won a 10th game for the 13th time in 15 seasons. 

Battle Creek Pennfield 35, Dowagiac 21: Coming off an upset win the week before, Dowagiac (7-4) couldn’t knock off another league champion in Kalamazoo Valley Association power Pennfield (10-1).

Cadillac 35, Ogemaw Heights 27: Ogemaw Heights (7-4) made this much closer than the teams’ Week 5 meeting, but couldn’t catch the Big North Conference champion Vikings (11-0).

Division 5

Muskegon Oakridge 22, Reed City 20 

Oakridge (10-1) is back in the Regional Final for the first time since 2010 after holding off a late charge and stopping a two-point conversion attempt that would’ve tied the score. It was another in a heartbreaking string, however, for Reed City (10-1), which came into the District Final undefeated for the third straight season, but fell short of claiming its first District title by less than a field goal for the second consecutive year. Click to read more from the Muskegon Chronicle.

Also noted:

Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central 44, Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard 40: The Huron League runner-up Falcons (10-1) won their first District title in six seasons while keeping Gabriel Richard (8-3) from winning its third in four years.

Millington 33, Frankenmuth 29: The Tri-Valley Conference East rivals met in the playoffs for the first time since 2005, with the Cardinals (9-2) catching the league champion Eagles (9-2) at the end to split the season series and move on.

Livonia Clarenceville 31, Detroit University Prep 22: Clarenceville (10-0) is a District champion and undefeated this late for the first time since 2001, when it reached the Silverdome; University Prep ended its longest run ever at 8-3.  

Division 6 

Montrose 20, Saginaw Nouvel 6

Montrose vs. Madison Heights Madison has been one of the most anticipated potential Regional Finals in this playoffs, and Montrose took care of its end by jumping to a 20-0 lead and hanging strong on defense in this District Final. The win gave the Rams (11-0) their third District title in four seasons, while dropping a strong Nouvel team to 9-2. Click to read more from the Flint Journal.

Also noted: 

Madison Heights Madison 27, Flint Beecher 20: Madison (11-0) nearly missed out on the big Regional matchup thanks to a solid Beecher team that ended 8-3 and won eight games for the fourth time in seven seasons.

Schoolcraft 28, Watervliet 26: Like last week, the KVA continued to look strong with co-champion Schoolcraft (10-1) eliminating Southwestern Athletic Conference South champion Watervliet (10-1).

Clinton 39, Grass Lake 14: Clinton (11-0) is 20-1 over the last two seasons and has yet to allow an opponent within single digits this fall, including Cascades Conference co-champion Grass Lake (9-2). 

Division 7 

Pewamo-Westphalia 20, Carson City-Crystal 14

The best season in Carson City-Crystal history ended thanks to a late comeback by P-W (10-1), which won its third straight District title. The Eagles, who won 10 games for the first time and entered this one undefeated, did drive into Pirates territory late but fell short as time expired. Click to read more from the Lansing State Journal.

Also noted:

Ishpeming 34, Iron River West Iron County 0: The reigning champion Hematites (11-0) never let this matchup of undefeated teams turn into much of a game; West Iron finished 10-1.

Southfield Christian 28, Madison Heights Bishop Foley 24: Southfield Christian (10-1) extended the best season of its eight-year history with its closest victory this fall; Bishop Foley, at 7-4, did end with its best record since 2006.

Lake City 56, Lincoln Alcona 14: Lake City’s lone loss to Beal City continues to become a distant memory as the Trojans (10-1) pile up wins like this one over previously-undefeated Lincoln Alcona (10-1).

Division 8

Mendon 13, Climax-Scotts 0 

It’s an unfortunate circumstance of geography that these two always meet before the final rounds of the playoffs – Mendon (11-0) eliminated Climax-Scotts (9-2) for the third straight season, and the latter’s only other loss was to a team that generally makes the playoffs in Division 5 (Flint Powers). Make that now 526-19 in favor of Mendon over its combined opponents this season. Click to read more from the Kalamazoo Gazette.

Also noted:

New Lothrop 41, Waterford Our Lady 28: The Hornets (11-0) have piled up four straight seasons of double figure wins and have yet to allow an opponent to come within single digits, including Catholic League Intersectional champion Our Lady (8-3). 

Crystal Falls Forest Park 16, L’Anse 9: The dream of returning to Ford Field nearly ended as a nightmare for Forest Park (11-0) as it just edged the Purple Hornets (8-3).

St. Ignace 20, Johannesburg-Lewiston 14: The Saints (9-2) battled through to earn a rematch from last season’s Semifinal against Beal City; Johannesburg-Lewiston (8-3) did finish its third season in four with at least eight wins.

8-Player (Regional Finals)

Lawrence 58, Battle Creek St. Philip 28

Only two weeks ago St. Philip beat Lawrence 54-50, but Lawrence (8-2) obviously learned quickly from that day’s mistakes – just as it has all season in its first as an 8-player program. St. Philip finished only its second season of 8-player, but with its best record, 10-1, since 1985. Click to read more from the Kalamazoo Gazette.

Also noted:

Peck 31, Carsonville-Port Sanilac 7: Peck (11-0) scored its second-fewest points of the season but also turned in one of its best defensive performances of the fall in holding the Tigers (7-4) to their second-fewest points as well.

Kinde-North Huron 64, Owendale-Gagetown 22: North Huron (8-3) advanced to its first football Semifinal in any division while ending Owendale-Gagetown’s best season since 1979 at 9-2.

Rapid River 50, Engadine 21: Engadine (6-5) got hot at the end of the regular season, but Rapid River (11-0) has one of the most impressive resumes of any team left in any division. 

PHOTO: A trio of Montrose defenders brings down a Saginaw Nouvel ballcarrier during last weekend's District Final win. (Click to see more from High School Sports Scene.)

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.)