Drive for Detroit: Playoff R3 Preview
November 10, 2016
By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
The best have risen to the occasion this MHSAA Football Playoffs. But this weekend's 11-player Regional Finals and 8-player Semifinals are guaranteed to be the final stop for a handful of teams that haven't experienced a loss this fall.
Of 20 teams still undefeated, 12 will face each other in six games over five divisions, with two matchups coming in Division 8.
Most of those matchups are among games highlighted in this week's "Drive for Detroit" preview powered by MI Student Aid. Read on for details on one game from each 11-player division and both 8-player matchups, and remember to visit MHSAA.com for the full schedule, scores this weekend as they come in and next week's matchups as they're determined.
Also, tune in for eight games this weekend, four tonight and four Saturday, either on FoxSportsDetroit.com or MHSAA.tv. Click for that schedule.
All games below are Friday unless noted.
Detroit Cass Tech (11-0) at Saline (11-0)
This will be the third playoff collision in five seasons for these powers; Saline won the most recent, a 2014 Semifinal. The Hornets’ last three wins were over teams that finished a combined 25-7, and last week they hung on for a 37-31 victory over Canton despite giving up more than two touchdowns for the first time since Week 3. Cass Tech’s last three wins were over teams a combined 26-2, and its defense has been even more stifling allowing only a touchdown apiece to Dearborn and Dearborn Fordson the last two weeks and 8.8 points per game total this season.
Other Regional Finals: Romeo (8-3) at Clarkston (9-2), Southfield Arts & Technology (8-3) at Utica Eisenhower (11-0), Grandville (10-1) at Detroit Catholic Central (11-0) on Saturday.
Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central (9-2) at Lowell (11-0)
Lowell doesn’t lose often; the Red Arrows haven’t had more than three defeats in a season since 1999. So Forest Hills Central had to be smarting for a while after letting a 17-point fourth-quarter lead disappear in its 41-37 loss to Lowell in Week 7. Lowell has cruised through back-to-back 42-17 wins the last two weeks over Greenville and Traverse City Central as it seeks to return to Ford Field for the second straight year, but no doubt expects a closer game with the Rangers seeking their first Regional title since 1995.
Other Regional Finals: Grosse Pointe South (8-3) at Birmingham Groves (10-1), Fenton (9-2) at Walled Lake Western (10-1) on Saturday, Temperance Bedford (9-2) at Detroit Martin Luther King (9-2) on Saturday.
Edwardsburg (11-0) at Chelsea (11-0)
The Eddies are 66-11 over the last seven seasons and 32-3 over the last three but are coming into a Regional Final undefeated for the first time during this run. It’s hard to not point at an incredible defensive average of giving up only 5.2 points per game with five shutouts. But it’s also hard to imagine Chelsea being held scoreless; that would be a first since a 2014 Regional Final loss. The Bulldogs also can equal last season’s school record for wins by earning this one.
Other Regional Finals: Byron Center (10-1) at Muskegon (10-1), Orchard Lake St. Mary’s (7-4) at DeWitt (10-1), Dearborn Divine Child (9-2) at Allen Park (11-0).
Lake Odessa Lakewood (10-1) vs. Hudsonville Unity Christian (9-2) at Jenison
It was fair to predict last week that neither of these teams would still be playing today, but they’ve certainly earned the opportunity. Lakewood downed Lansing Sexton by eight to advance and Unity Christian got past undefeated Benton Harbor in overtime, and both now can win a Regional title for the first time. Both also have set program records for wins this fall, and Lakewood’s Pre-District victory was its first ever in the playoffs.
Other Regional Finals: Adrian (7-4) at River Rouge (10-1), Escanaba (9-2) at Grand Rapids Catholic Central (10-1) on Saturday, Corunna (9-2) at Detroit Country Day (11-0) on Saturday.
Menominee (10-1) at Reed City (11-0), Saturday
The Coyotes have been poised for a run like this for a while, with four 10-1 finishes over the last five seasons but this only the second Regional Final appearance in program history. A sterling average of 8.3 points given up per game was hurt only a little by Remus Chippewa Hills’ 28 last week. But Reed City’s defense has arguably its toughest challenge in the Maroons. Menominee has cleared 10 wins for the fifth straight season and saved its usually eye-popping offensive numbers for the last month – it has scored at least 50 points three of the last five weeks and put up 61 on Grayling in the District Final.
Other Regional Finals: Ida (10-1) at Algonac (10-1), Frankenmuth (10-1) at Ithaca (11-0) on Saturday, Grand Rapids West Catholic (9-2) at Berrien Springs (8-2) on Saturday.
Detroit Central Collegiate (7-4) at Millington (10-1)
We’re used to seeing Detroit Public School League leaders Cass Tech and Martin Luther King this deep into the playoffs, and at times the former Crockett-now-East English as well. But Detroit Central has come back from a 1-4 start to reach a Regional Final for the first time since 2010. Millington, meanwhile, has 10 wins for the first time since 2011 and is looking for its first Regional title since 2010. The Cardinals will aim to continue a stifling defensive effort that has given up only 8.3 points per game.
Other Regional Finals: Maple City Glen Lake (9-2) at Calumet (10-1) on Saturday, Leroy Pine River (8-3) at Ravenna (9-2) on Saturday, Napoleon (9-2) at Jackson Lumen Christi (9-2) on Saturday.
Pewamo-Westphalia (11-0) at Traverse City St. Francis (11-0), Saturday
This is familiar territory for both programs: St. Francis will play in its fourth Regional Final in six seasons, while P-W will play in its sixth straight this decade. We've talked about record-setting running back Jared Smith this week (click for more), but the Pirates will take advantage of a variety of offensive weapons to try to break through a Gladiators defense giving up only 5.6 points per game.
Other Regional Finals: Concord (9-2) vs. Cassopolis (10-1) at Decatur, Detroit Loyola (9-2) at Hudson (10-1), Ubly (11-0) vs. New Lothrop (10-1) at Chesaning on Saturday.
Frankfort (11-0) at Muskegon Catholic Central (11-0), Saturday
Frankfort gets another chance to take down perennial power MCC after falling to the Crusaders 22-12 in the Regional Final in 2015. But this is a stronger Panthers team that has scored nearly 100 more points but also knows how to win close, as it has done twice including last week against Lincoln Alcona. Frankfort will need all of its expertise against the reigning three-time Division 8 champion, which is also putting up even better numbers than a year ago and hasn't let an opponent within two touchdowns this fall.
Other Regional Finals: Climax-Scotts (11-0) at Ottawa Lake Whiteford (11-0), Norway (9-2) at St. Ignace (10-1) on Saturday, Royal Oak Shrine (9-2) at Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary (9-2) on Saturday.
Pickford (10-1) at Powers North Central (11-0)
Pickford, in its second season of 8-player, has reached the Semifinals for the first time since 1991. The Panthers last week avenged their only loss this season by edging Engadine in a Regional Final, and now will attempt to hand reigning champion North Central its first loss also in two seasons of 8-player. This Jets team is reminiscent of last year's champion and also the back-to-back Class D boys basketball champions, mostly because it is led by senior quarterback Jason Whitens. He's thrown for 2,170 yards and 40 touchdowns and run for 15 more scores.
Wyoming Tri-unity Christian (11-0) at Deckerville (10-0), Saturday
Tri-unity's first playoff run is now only one more win from the championship game, and the Defenders have made it by following senior quarterback Brayden Sherrod (2,104 yards/37 touchdowns rushing, 1,610 yards/21 TDs passing.) Deckerville has owned the line of scrimmage and dominated as a result, running for nearly 3,000 yards and holding its opponents to 323 and only 44 points – 150 fewer points than at this point when it won the MHSAA title in 2012.
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: Menominee and DeWitt met in Week 8 (the Panthers won 48-14) and both will play in Regional Finals this weekend. (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.)