Drive for Detroit: Playoff R2 in Review

November 7, 2016

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Revenge is a dish best served during the playoffs.

And a number of MHSAA title hopefuls enjoyed their shares of the buffet this weekend.

Six of nine playoff divisions saw a team win either an 11-player District championship or 8-player Regional title by avenging a loss from earlier this season. Others avenged losses from playoff runs past or in a few cases, years of just missing against rivals.

All games at this level of the tournament are big, of course, and below are just a sampling of results that stuck out most from the second round.

Division 1

Clarkston 31, Davison 14

Clarkston (9-2) handed Davison its first and only loss this season on the power of a rushing game that tallied 303 yards and nearly 9.5 per carry. Davison (10-1) scored the game’s first touchdown in the first quarter, but didn’t reach the end zone again until quarterback Brenden McRill ran for his second score midway through the fourth. The District Final was the Cardinals’ first since 2008. Click for more from the Oakland Press.

Also noted:

Grandville 20, Rockford 9 – The Bulldogs (10-1) broke a 14-game losing streak to the Rams (7-4), who had beaten Grandville 7-6 in Week 6 and in the playoffs three times over the last 11 seasons.

Saline 37, Canton 31 – The Yellowjackets (11-0) came back from a 10-0 deficit as quarterback Zach Schwartzenberger threw two touchdown passes and ran for a third score to get Saline ahead of the Chiefs (8-3).

Detroit Cass Tech 24, Dearborn 7 – Dearborn (9-2) succeeded in holding Cass Tech (11-0) to its season low in points, but also scored its fewest since Week 5 of 2015.  

Division 2

Fenton 49, Midland Dow 42

Fenton scored last, with 2:10 to play, on quarterback Josh Czarnota’s second touchdown pass to go with four touchdown runs as the Tigers (9-2) won their first District title since 2011. Czarnota threw for 264 yards and ran for 166 in a dual with Dow quarterback Bruce Mann, who tossed four touchdown passes with 238 yards and also ran for 127 yards and two scores. The Chargers finished 9-2. Click for more from the Flint Journal.

Also noted:

Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central 27, Portage Central 13 – The Rangers (9-2) added a District title to their best season since 1995, and after finishing 2-7 each of the last two; Portage Central finished 9-2, one win better than a year ago.

Birmingham Groves 24, Birmingham Brother Rice 0 – These neighbors don’t play often; that said, Groves (10-1) earned its first win over the Warriors since 1963 as Rice (7-4) had won their last eight meetings.

Temperance Bedford 39, Livonia Franklin 22 – The Mules (9-2) are another who have shined after a middling go in 2015; they have as many wins this fall as the last two seasons combined and eliminated a Franklin team that made the Semifinals last season and finished this one 7-4.

Division 3

Chelsea 27, Coldwater 20

This rematch of last season’s Division 3 Semifinal was much closer than Chelsea’s 35-7 victory a year ago. The Bulldogs (11-0) won their third straight District title this time by scoring a touchdown with six seconds left to break a 20-20 tie – and with the win earned a Regional matchup with also-undefeated Edwardsburg. Coldwater finished 8-3. Click for more from the Ann Arbor News.

Also noted:

Byron Center 55, Grand Rapids Christian 28 – The Bulldogs (10-1) got to 10 wins for the first time since 2000 with a second District title in four seasons; Grand Rapids Christian finished its best season in four at 9-2.

Muskegon 28, East Grand Rapids 10 – The Big Reds (10-1) won their fifth straight District title by ending a seven-game winning streak for the Pioneers (8-3).

Allen Park 34, Romulus 0 – The Jaguars (11-0) tied their most wins since 2004 in ending the winningest season for Romulus (9-2) since 2000. 

Division 4

Hudsonville Unity Christian 35, Benton Harbor 34 (OT)

Unity Christian (9-2) continued the best season of its 14-year history while ending another incredible run by the Tigers. Benton Harbor followed up last season’s first-ever playoff run and 6-5 finish (after a combined 0-18 the previous two years) with a program-best 10-1 record this fall. Both teams scored in overtime, but the Crusaders stopped the Tigers’ conversion run attempt to win a second straight District title. Click for more from WZZM.

Also noted:

Lake Odessa Lakewood 36, Lansing Sexton 28 – These teams combined for more than 750 yards of total offense, but Lakewood (10-1) reached 10 wins for the first time by holding on despite two touchdown passes by Jackson Barnes over the final 10 minutes that kept Sexton (7-4) in the mix.

Detroit Country Day 45, Marysville 7 – Country Day (11-0) got touchdowns from six players, including one on defense after an interception to hand Marysville (10-1) its lone loss.

Adrian 28, Milan 13 – The Maples (7-4) made good on an at-large bid by claiming a District title against the team that beat them on opening night, 27-13; Milan finished 9-2 and has totaled at least nine wins four of the last five seasons.

Division 5

Grand Rapids West Catholic 10, Portland 7

Offense was at a premium during this matchup of teams that previously combined to average 74 points per game this fall. But West Catholic kicker Liam Putz found a score when it mattered most, drilling a 31-yard field goal with four seconds to play to send the reigning champion Falcons (9-2) onward and end the Raiders’ season at 10-1. Click for more from WZZM.

Also noted:

Ithaca 47, Muskegon Oakridge 6 – It’s fair to call this a statement win for the Yellowjackets (11-0), as Oakridge (9-2) arguably was their strongest opponent to date; it’s also accurate to note that Ithaca suddenly has a 25-game winning streak.

Frankenmuth 49, Freeland 14 – Only two weeks ago, Frankenmuth (10-1) fell 7-3 to the Falcons (10-1); last year Freeland beat the Eagles twice in the same scenario.

Reed City 34, Remus Chippewa Hills 28 – The Coyotes (11-0) have had five 10-win seasons over the last six, but 10 was the max – until Reed City broke through with a second victory over Chippewa Hills (9-2) this season by six points or fewer.

Division 6

Jackson Lumen Christi 37, Schoolcraft 34 (OT)

Abe Johnson’s 13-yard field goal in overtime clinched Lumen Christi’s third straight District title, this one over a pre-playoff title favorite in the Eagles (10-1). The Titans (9-2) are hoping to win their first MHSAA championship since 2009, and took a major step after managing to slightly slow a Schoolcraft offense that came in averaging 46 points per game and had scored fewer than 40 only once. Click for more from the Jackson Citizen-Patriot.

Also noted:

Napoleon 42, Grass Lake 21 – The Pirates (9-2) avenged a Week 2 loss to Cascades Conference rival Grass Lake (9-2) to advance to the third round of the playoffs for the first time.

Calumet 6, Negaunee 0 – The Miners (10-1) also were a popular championship favorite heading into the playoffs with their closest game coming from … Calumet (10-1), which fell to Negaunee 14-6 in Week 2.

Detroit Central Collegiate 26, Warren Michigan Collegiate 22 – The Trail Blazers (7-4) won their first District title since 2010, ending the best season for the Charter School Conference champion Cougars (9-2) since 2011.

Division 7

Pewamo-Westphalia 25, Saugatuck 19

Few games in any division could match the star power generated by P-W running back Jared Smith and Saugatuck quarterback Blake Dunn, who combined as juniors to run for just shy of 6,000 yards. Smith ran for 222 yards and two scores Saturday to help the Pirates (11-0) hold on against the previously undefeated Indians (10-1) for their sixth straight District title. Click for more from the Ionia Sentinel-Standard.

Also noted:

Detroit Loyola 46, Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett 7 – The Bulldogs (9-2) eliminated a league champion for the second straight round, following up last week’s victory over Madison Heights Madison with this one over Michigan Independent Athletic Conference winner Liggett (10-1).

Concord 48, Homer 32 – The Yellowjackets (9-2) could’ve fallen victim to revenge, but stretched out the margin a little after beating Homer (8-3) only 28-26 in Week 2.  

Ubly 24, Unionville-Sebewaing 16 – The story was similar for Ubly (11-0), which kept its best season since 2010 going with another win over opening-night opponent USA (9-2).

Division 8

Norway 40, Lake Linden-Hubbell 16

Opportunities for upset get fewer later in the tournament, but this may fall into that category based on past history. Norway (9-2) continued to forget last year’s 2-7 finish and five straight sub-.500 seasons with a first District title since 2006, earning it against a Lakes team that finished the regular season undefeated for the second season in a row and at 10-1 posted its most wins since 2009. Click for more from the Houghton Daily Mining Gazette.

Also noted:

Royal Oak Shrine 49, Clarkston Everest Collegiate 25 – The Knights (9-2) started their four-game winning streak last month against Everest Collegiate and won their first District title since 2008 with a second win over the Mountaineers (8-3).

Climax-Scotts 28, Mendon 14 – For the second straight season, undefeated Climax-Scotts (11-0) downed playoff rival Mendon (8-3), this time for a second straight District title.

Frankfort 38, Lincoln Alcona 34 – The Panthers (11-0) have had only a few scares this season, and needed a touchdown during the final minute to avoid falling to the Tigers (9-2).


Powers North Central 60, Crystal Falls Forest Park 50

Forest Park (9-2) made the margin in this growing Upper Peninsula rivalry even closer in this season’s rematch, but the Jets still pulled away. North Central (11-0) had beaten the Trojans by 18 in Week 2, but scored twice during the fourth quarter to keep its perfect record as an 8-player program intact at 24-0. The teams combined for 1,022 yards of total offense, and the stars shone brightly; Jets quarterback Jason Whitens threw for 286 yards and four touchdowns and ran for 114 yards and four more scores, while Forest Park running back Dan Nocerini capped his high school career with 50 carries for 260 yards and five touchdowns on the ground. Click for more from the Escanaba Daily Press.

Other Regional Finals:

Pickford 30, Engadine 28 – The Panthers (10-1) earned a 10th win for the first time since 1991, avenging a 10-point loss to Engadine in Week 3 by handing the Eagles (10-1) their lone defeat.

Wyoming Tri-unity Christian 28, Portland St. Patrick 10 – The Defenders’ first playoff run now includes handing St. Patrick (10-1) its only loss while improving to 11-0.

Deckerville 58, New Haven Merritt 12 – The Eagles (10-0) arguably have been even more dominant than North Central, and only seemed to be getting stronger in handing Merritt (10-1) its first loss.

PHOTO: Fenton (orange helmet) bulled through a tough matchup with Midland Dow to advance in Division 2. (Click to see more from

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.)