Drive for Detroit: Playoff R2 Preview
November 3, 2016
By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
It's predictable perhaps – and yet still intriguing – how the MHSAA Football Playoffs just a week into the five-week run.
Of 38 teams selected for at-large bids to the 256-team 11-player field, only seven remain.
Of 36 undefeated teams at the end of the regular season, including six in 8-player, 34 are still alive.
At least for now. Two matchups of undefeated opponents are among games highlighted in this week's "Drive for Detroit" preview – powered by MI Student Aid. See those below, and remember to tune in to MHSAA.com for all of this weekend's matchups, scores and next week's matchups as they're determined. All games below are Friday unless noted.
Clarkston (8-2) at Davison (10-0)
It’s been four years since these M-15 powers faced off. Clarkston has enjoyed the success since that last matchup, winning Division 1 back-to-back in 2013 and 2014, and now stands in the way of Davison extending its first 10-win season since 2006. Junior Tariq Reid has run for 2,003 yards and 36 touchdowns this fall, and no doubt will be called upon heavily as the Cardinals go for their first District title since 2008.
Others that caught my eye: Rockford (7-3) at Grandville (9-1), Detroit Cass Tech (10-0) at Dearborn (9-1), Macomb Dakota (7-3) at Utica Eisenhower (10-0).
Traverse City Central (9-1) at Lowell (10-0)
This could be a history-making evening for Traverse City Central, which is looking to advance to the Regional round for the first time since old Traverse City High did so in 1991. The Trojans vanquished for good rival Traverse City West by a point last week but now face another team that has survived close games as well; reigning Division 2 champion Lowell pulled off a couple of impressive comebacks this fall on the way to a fourth straight season with at least 10 wins.
Others that caught my eye: Birmingham Brother Rice (7-3) at Birmingham Groves (9-1), Grosse Pointe North (8-2) at Grosse Pointe South (7-3), Oak Park (7-3) at Detroit Martin Luther King (8-2) on Saturday.
East Grand Rapids (8-2) at Muskegon (9-1)
The west side of the state has earned its football reputation from high-powered matchups like this one could be; these are two of the storied programs in state history, although both also are hungry to add to their legacies. East Grand Rapids is seeking its first MHSAA championship since 2010 and Muskegon is playing to contend for its first since 2008. The Big Reds won their recent meetings in 2014 and 2015, and have yet to be challenged much aside from a Week 2 loss to Lincolnshire, Ill. East Grand Rapids has won seven straight since opening 1-2 with losses to Grand Rapids Catholic Central and later Lowell.
Others that caught my eye: Romulus (9-1) at Allen Park (10-0), Grand Rapids Christian (9-1) at Byron Center (9-1), Coldwater (8-2) at Chelsea (10-0).
Marysville (10-0) at Detroit Country Day (10-0), Saturday
Country Day is surging as it seeks its first MHSAA title since 1999; the Yellowjackets have played arguably their three toughest opponents of the season the last three weeks, and handed Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood a decisive 35-7 defeat to open the playoffs. But a defense giving up only eight points per game will face its toughest challenge from a Marysville offense led by 1,000-yard rushers Danta Chrcek (1,595) and Phillip Griffor (1,073). The Vikings are playing for their first 11-win season since 1992.
Others that caught my eye: Hudsonville Unity Christian (8-2) at Benton Harbor (10-0), Lansing Sexton (7-3) at Lake Odessa Lakewood (9-1), Detroit Mumford (8-2) at River Rouge (9-1).
Grand Rapids West Catholic (8-2) at Portland (10-0)
It’s hard to not see this as one of the key games in the entire Division 5 bracket. Reigning champion West Catholic opened with a big road win 42-20 last week over Lansing Catholic and now gets the Cougars’ main league rival in Portland, which beat Lansing Catholic by only a point way back in Week 4. The deciding matchup tonight could be the Raiders’ powerful run game and its ability to hold onto the ball (and keep the Falcons' offense off the field) against a West Catholic defense that has given up more than seven points only once since Week 3. (Watch this game tonight on the PrepZone on FoxSportsDetroit.com.)
Others that caught my eye: Remus Chippewa Hills (9-1) at Reed City (10-0), Frankenmuth (9-1) at Freeland (10-0), Muskegon Oakridge (9-1) at Ithaca (10-0) on Saturday.
Jackson Lumen Christi (8-2) at Schoolcraft (10-0), Saturday
This could show Schoolcraft’s stature as a contender for its first MHSAA championship since 2001. The Eagles have rumbled to nearly 47 points per game and beat rival Constantine twice in the last three weeks, but can show their stuff on a grander level against one of the state’s best-known powerhouse programs. Lumen Christi hasn’t lost since Week 3 and after opening 1-2 with defeats to West Catholic and Battle Creek Harper Creek. A win this week could be a key confidence boost for the Titans too as they pursue a first Finals trip since 2009.
Others that caught my eye: Maple City Glen Lake (8-2) at Roscommon (9-1), Calumet (9-1) at Negaunee (10-0), Napoleon (8-2) at Grass Lake (9-1).
Saugatuck (10-0) at Pewamo-Westphalia (10-0), Saturday
A matchup of offensive stars Jared Smith and Blake Dunn make this one of the state’s most intriguing matchups in any division, regardless of the fact it’s also a rematch of last season’s District Final. Smith is up to 2,108 yards rushing this season on just 166 carries – for a 12.7 yards per carry average – and will go down as one of the top running backs in state history after setting an MHSAA record for single-season yardage as a junior with more than 3,000 as the Pirates finished Division 7 runners-up. Dunn has run for only 1,916 yards this season – 16.1 per carry – and thrown for 729 more.
Others that caught my eye: Detroit Loyola (8-2) at Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett (10-0), Flint Hamady (8-2) at New Lothrop (9-1), Unionville-Sebewaing (9-1) at Ubly (10-0).
Mendon (8-2) at Climax-Scotts (10-0)
Climax-Scotts finally broke a four-year playoff losing streak to Mendon last season with an 8-6 first-round win, and should be confident heading into a possible repeat, this time for a District title. The Panthers haven’t been challenged much, aside from a 20-point win over Pittsford in Week 6. Mendon has had to do a little more work under first-year coach and alum Robert Kretschman, but is riding a six-game winning streak and three-win improvement from a year ago. (Watch this game tonight on the PrepZone on FoxSportsDetroit.com.)
Others that caught my eye: Saginaw Nouvel (7-3) at Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary (8-2), Newberry (8-2) at St. Ignace (9-1), Lincoln Alcona (9-1) at Frankfort (10-0).
Crystal Falls Forest Park (9-1) at Powers North Central (10-0)
Forest Park in Week 2 gave North Central its closest game in two seasons of 8-player football, which means this rematch could go a couple different ways. The Jets, who won that night 60-42 and have scored 56 or more points in every game, may need quarterback Jason Whitens to add significantly to his 36 touchdown passes on only 91 completions this fall if the offenses come out firing again. Or Forest Park and senior running back Dan Nocerini (2,181 yards/39 TDs rushing) could work to keep Whitens off the field and the score a little lower this second time around.
Other Regional Finals: Pickford (9-1) at Engadine (10-0), New Haven Merritt (10-0) at Deckerville (9-0), Wyoming Tri-unity Christian (10-0) at Portland St. Patrick (10-0) on Saturday.
Second Half’s weekly “Drive for Detroit” previews 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: Lowell downed Greenville in a Division 2 playoff opener last week. (Click to see more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)
Mendon 8-Player Championship Game Run Paced by Record-Setting Rushing
By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com 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:
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.)