Drive for Detroit: Playoff R1 in Review

October 31, 2016

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Arguably the greatest comeback season in MHSAA football history came to an end during the first round of the playoffs this weekend. 

But although Breckenridge's turnaround celebration is over, courtesy of Saginaw Nouvel, there are plenty of others that extended rebound runs for at least another week. 

Redford Union, Adrian, Kent City and Norway are just a few which have experienced similar climbs this fall. Read about their latest steps and many more from the first week as we look at some of the most intriguing results from all nine divisions. 

Division 1

Rockford 24, Hudsonville 7

The Rams (7-3) avenged their Week 9 loss to Hudsonville that cost Rockford the Ottawa-Kent Conference Red title outright and awarded the Eagles (8-2) a share. Rockford now plays Grandville – the third team to earn a share of the league title with the Week 9 result – in a District Final this week. Click for more from the Grand Rapids Press.

Also noted:

West Bloomfield 31, Bloomfield Hills 14 – The Lakers (6-4) just made the playoffs with an at-large bid but ended a dream season for Bloomfield Hills (9-1), which was undefeated during the regular season after going 1-8 in 2015.

Southfield Arts & Technology 24, Warren Mott 23 – The first-year Warriors (7-3) have added a first playoff win to a shared Oakland Activities Association Red title, while ending Mott’s best season in the last three at 7-3.

Clarkston 45, Lapeer 21 – The Wolves beat Lapeer 28-7 in Week 1 at Michigan Stadium and ended up responsible for two of three losses for the Lightning (7-3) this fall. 

Detroit Cass Tech 35, Dearborn Fordson 7 – These teams had one loss between them coming in, but Cass Tech (10-0) will play for a seventh straight District title after handing Fordson (8-2) its second loss in three weeks. 

Division 2

Traverse City Central 13, Traverse City West 12

A pair of field goals and the go-ahead extra point by Central kicker Gabe Pickett were difference makers as West wasn’t able to succeed in similar circumstances in the first playoff matchup ever between these rivals. The Trojans (9-1) scored their lone touchdown midway through the fourth quarter to add this victory to a 10-8 win over West (6-4) in Week 3. Click for more from the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

Also noted:

Fenton 49, Flint Carman-Ainsworth 19 – The Flint Metro League champ Tigers (8-2) won this matchup of title winners over the Saginaw Valley League Blue champ Cavaliers (6-4).

Oak Park 26, Detroit U-D Jesuit 17 – The Knights (7-3) bounced back from a Week 9 loss to hand the Cubs (6-3) their second defeat in three weeks.

Pinckney 28, Walled Lake Northern 17 – The Pirates (8-2) downed Northern (6-4) for the second straight week, this time to guarantee their best record since 1989.

Birmingham Brother Rice 35, Warren Cousino 16 – The Warriors (7-3) won their fourth straight and second in three weeks over a league champion, but the Patriots (8-2) can celebrate their best record since 2007 to go with the Macomb Area Conference Blue title.

Division 3

Redford Union 41, Warren Fitzgerald 34

This continues to be a banner season for Redford Union (7-3), which has its most wins since 2005, made its first playoff appearance since 2006, and now has its first playoff win in program history. Union scored the winning points with less than two minutes to play to add to its first winning season since 2007. Fitzgerald finished 8-2, its best record since 2008, and with its only other loss by two points to Madison Heights Madison in Week 7. Click for more from the Observer & Eccentric.

Also noted:

Coldwater 35, Battle Creek Harper Creek 14 – Harper Creek (7-3) may have won a share of the Interstate 8 Athletic Conference title, but in the end third-place league finisher Coldwater (8-2) took two games off the Beavers and will play for a District title.

Mason 35, Fowlerville 28 – What was supposed to be a rebuilding year for the Bulldogs (9-1) has turned into its most successful since 2011, while Fowlerville (7-3) enjoyed its best record since 2009.

Romulus 40, Trenton 14 – The Eagles (9-1) have made the playoffs three straight seasons, but this was their first playoff win since 1999; Trenton ended its third straight playoff season at 6-4.

Grand Rapids Christian 35, Zeeland West 32 – This was the kind of finish expected from traditional west side powers, with the Eagles (9-1) winning a ninth game for the first time since 2012 and West (7-3) suffering its earliest season end since not qualifying for the postseason in 2009.  

Division 4

Marysville 46, St. Clair Shores South Lake 38

The Vikings (10-0) are enjoying their first double-digit wins season since 2000, but will continue to face also-undefeated Detroit Country Day this weekend only because they survived the pesky Cavaliers. South Lake (7-3), which claimed a share of the MAC Silver title this fall, stayed close throughout – but the MAC Gold champions hung on to earn a second District title game berth in three seasons. Click for more from the Port Huron Times Herald.

Also noted:

Escanaba 48, Whitehall 27 – The Eskymos (8-2) earned their first playoff win, since 2011 to give them eight total for the first time since 2009, while leaving Whitehall at 6-4 for the second straight season.  

Allendale 35, Wyoming Kelloggsville 19 – The Falcons (8-2) have enjoyed a momentous two weeks, first earning a share of the O-K Blue title with a Week 9 win and this weekend downing O-K Silver champion Kelloggsville (8-2).

Flint Powers Catholic 20, Lake Fenton 19 – Powers (6-4) scored during the final seconds to move on to a third straight District Final and end Genesee Area Conference Red champion Lake Fenton’s season at 8-2, its best record since 2013.

Adrian 27, Grosse Ile 20 (OT) – The Maples (6-4) have enjoyed one of the state’s best rebound seasons as well, with this playoff victory adding to their first winning season since 2011;  Grosse Ile also bounced back from 4-5 a year ago to finish 8-2, their best since 2012. 

Division 5

Almont 28, Richmond 27

The upset of the week statewide arguably came in this Blue Water Area Conference rematch, as the Raiders avenged a 34-21 Week 6 loss to the champion Blue Devils. Almont (7-3) has advanced to a District Final three years in a row and now will face Algonac, the BWAC runner-up which beat the Raiders 14-7 in Week 2. Richmond (8-2) hadn’t lost since falling to Marysville on opening night. Click for more from the Port Huron Times Herald.

Also noted:

Remus Chippewa Hills 32, Clare 27 – The Warriors (9-1) made their third straight District Final (and earned a rematch with rival Reed City) by edging the Jack Pine Conference champion Pioneers (8-2).

Grand Rapids West Catholic 28, Lansing Catholic 6 – The reigning Division 5 champion Falcons (8-2) are on the road to start this playoffs, but didn’t seem to mind traveling to down Lansing Catholic (8-2) for the fourth straight postseason.

Dowagiac 28, Buchanan 25 – The Chieftains (7-3) guaranteed their best record since 2013 and will play for their first District title since 2011 after handing Buchanan (5-4) its second loss in three weeks.

Southfield Bradford 38, Brooklyn Columbia Central 33 – In their first playoff game ever, the Bulldogs (8-2) earned their first postseason win as well, ending the Golden Eagles’ second straight playoff run at 7-3. 

Division 6

Kent City 20, Montague 19

The Eagles’ turnaround season just keeps getting better as well. They’ve gone from 1-8 in 2015 to 8-2 with their first playoff berth and win since 2001 after also clinching a shared Central State Activities Association Silver championship. Montague (7-3) ended its season with three losses by a combined 12 points after finishing second in the West Michigan Conference. Click for more from the Local Sports Journal.

Also noted:

Calumet 42, Boyne City 8 – The Copper Kings (9-1) added a ninth win for the first time since 2009 by holding Boyne City (6-4) to only 159 yards.

Montrose 52, Laingsburg 21 – The Rams (7-3) secured their most wins since 2013 by earning their fourth straight while handing Laingsburg (8-2) only its second defeat.

Napoleon 25, Michigan Center 24 – The Pirates stayed alive in their first playoff run since 2005 by edging Michigan Center (6-4) for their first playoff win since 2000.

Detroit Central Collegiate 12, Byron 7 – The Trail Blazers have bounced back from a 1-4 start to move to 6-4 for the fourth time in five seasons; Byron finished its fifth playoff season over the last six at 7-3. 

Division 7

Gobles 50, Lawton 12

Count Gobles among the handful that have battled back from a regular-season loss to claim a playoff rematch. The Tigers (8-2) had fallen to Lawton 31-21 in Week 5 and actually had dropped four straight to the Blue Devils (8-2). Gobles now will play for its first District title since 2005.

Also noted:

Iron Mountain 46, Gwinn 32 – The Mountaineers (8-2) continued their best season since 2011 by ending the best for Gwinn (6-4) since 1999.

Unionville-Sebewaing 18, Cass City 14 – The Patriots have built from 1-8 in 2014 to 5-5 last fall and now 9-1 after defeating Cass City (6-4) for the second time this season by four or fewer points.

Concord 21, Springport 14 – A Week 6 loss to Springport cost Concord (8-2) the outright Big 8 Conference title, but this avenging ended the Spartans’ best season since 2011 at 7-3.

Detroit Loyola 45, Madison Heights Madison 12 – The Bulldogs (8-2) firmed up further their status as favorite on their side of the Division 7 bracket by eliminating the MAC Silver co-champ Eagles (6-4). 

Division 8

Saginaw Nouvel 21, Breckenridge 6

The greatest turnaround in MHSAA playoff era history came to an end with Nouvel’s ousting of Breckenridge, which finished 9-1 and was undefeated during the regular season after not winning a game in 2015. No team dating to at least the first playoff season of 1975 had accomplished a winless-to-undefeated turnaround. The Panthers (7-3) held the Huskies to their fewest points this fall. Click for more from the Saginaw News.

Also noted:

Royal Oak Shrine 21, Fowler 14 – Shrine (8-2) earned a chance at its first District title since 2008 by handing Fowler (6-4) its first playoff-opening loss since 2010.

Clarkston Everest Collegiate 22, Waterford Our Lady 21 – Everest (8-2) set a program record for wins by avenging a three-point Week 6 loss to Our Lady (6-4).

Newberry 16, Gaylord St. Mary 14 – The Indians (8-2) held on for their first playoff win since 2004, ending St Mary’s first playoff season since 2009 at 6-4.

Norway 15, Iron River West Iron County 14 – The Knights (8-2) continued to put last year’s 2-7 into distant memory with their first playoff win since 2006.


Engadine 38, Cedarville 30 (OT)

Their Week 7 meeting – a 52-42 Engadine win – was one of the top 8-player games statewide this season. So it made sense they’d follow with a classic. Engadine moved to 10-0 for the first time as an 11 or 8-player program after trailing by 14 points during the fourth quarter, and the Eagles also are now 3-1 against Cedarville (6-4) in playoff games over the last six seasons. Click for more from 9&10 News.

Also noted:

Portland St. Patrick 34, Camden-Frontier 28 – The Shamrocks (10-0) have won only two games by single digits this season, and becoming the latest opponent to make that push was not a bad way for Camden-Frontier (8-2) to end its first season of 8-player.

New Haven Merritt 52, Owendale-Gagetown 14 – Merritt (10-0) continued the best season of its five-year history with its first playoff win; the Mustangs handed Owendale-Gagetown (8-2) both of its losses this fall.

PHOTO: Pinckney defenders close in on a Walled Lake Northern ball carrier during Friday's Pirates win. (Photo by John Johnson.) 

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.)