Drive for Detroit: Playoff R3 Review
November 14, 2016
By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
We’ve reached the final two weeks of another Michigan high school football season. Our field of 272 teams four weeks ago is down to only 34. And some of these key games are coming down to every last inch and minute.
Six of nine divisions this weekend saw at least one winner emerge by three or fewer points. Edwardsburg and Chelsea went to overtime. Detroit Cass Tech and Saline entered undefeated and ended only a point apart.
See below for a glance at those two games and all 32 11-player Regional Finals and both 8-player Semifinals, with links to media coverage of notable results in each division.
Detroit Cass Tech 43, Saline 42
It was hard to expect more from a matchup of undefeated Division 1 powers than what these two delivered Friday. Cass Tech (12-0) won an incredible seventh straight Regional championship in part on the running of Donovan Johnson, who gained 285 yards and scored four touchdowns on the ground – which balanced out nicely 241 yards and five running scores by Saline’s Connor Hibbard. The Hornets finished 11-1 for the second straight season after winning a third straight District title. Click for more from the Detroit News.
Other Regional Finals:
Detroit Catholic Central 28, Grandville 14 – This run has made it hard to remember that the Shamrocks (12-0) had a rare down year only two years ago, finishing 4-5; Ottawa-Kent Conference Red co-champion Grandville (10-2) was the latest playoff opponent to not come within two touchdowns of DCC, but did finish with its most wins since 1996.
Romeo 41, Clarkston 7 – The reigning Division 1 champion Bulldogs (9-3) needed a little time to really get rolling this fall, but like DCC they’ve also beaten all three playoff opponents by double digits; Clarkston (9-3) did finish two wins better than a year ago.
Utica Eisenhower 42, Southfield Arts & Technology 7 – The Eagles (12-0) have guaranteed their best record since 2003 with their first Regional title since 2011 after a second-straight five-touchdown win this postseason; Southfield Arts & Technology finished its inaugural season a strong 8-4.
Lowell 22, Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central 19
Lowell’s climb against the Rangers wasn’t as steep as when the Red Arrows came back from a 17-point deficit to win their first meeting in Week 7. But Lowell still needed to score last – on a touchdown run by quarterback David Kruse six seconds into the fourth quarter – get ahead of Forest Hills Central for good. The second straight Regional title gave Lowell (12-0) that many wins for the second straight season as well; Forest Hills Central (9-3) finished off one of the best rebound runs statewide after going 2-7 in both 2014 and 2015. Click for more from the Grand Rapids Press.
Other Regional Finals:
Walled Lake Western 61, Fenton 21 – The Warriors (11-1) scored their season high to win a second straight Regional title and end a nine-game winning streak for Flint Metro League champion Fenton (9-3).
Detroit Martin Luther King 21, Temperance Bedford 7 – The reigning Division 2 champion Crusaders (10-2) have beaten all of their playoff opponents this time by at least 14; Bedford (9-3) gave King one of its closest games and finished five wins better than a year ago.
Birmingham Groves 44, Grosse Pointe South 10 – Groves (11-1) earned its first Regional title and attained 11 wins for the first time as well, running for 428 yards led by Ernest Allen’s 157 and Collin Heard’s 101; South (8-4) improved a win from last year and doubled its total from only two years ago.
Edwardsburg 42, Chelsea 40 (OT)
The Eddies’ substantial run of success this decade now includes a second Regional title in three seasons and the first 12-win season in program history – and Edwardsburg (12-0) earned them by holding off a comeback by Chelsea and stopping a two-point conversion try in overtime. The Eddies’ last Semifinal appearance, in 2014, came in Division 4. Chelsea (11-1) was Division 3 runner-up last season and finished this two-year run a combined 23-3. Click for more from the South Bend Tribune.
Other Regional Finals:
Muskegon 62, Byron Center 7 – The O-K Black champ Big Reds (9-3) won their fourth Regional title in five seasons while ending the winningest season for O-K Green champ Byron Center (10-2) since 2000.
Orchard Lake St. Mary’s 35, DeWitt 28 – The Panthers (10-2) led into the third quarter before St. Mary’s (8-4) outscored them 21-7 in the fourth to win a third straight Regional title.
Dearborn Divine Child 28, Allen Park 21 – The Falcons (10-2) continued another of the state’s great comeback seasons, adding a 10th win and Regional title for the first time since 1985 after going 4-5 a year ago; Allen Park (11-1) finished a win better than last season and with its most since 2004 in winning a second straight District title.
Detroit Country Day 28, Corunna 13
Country Day won its third straight Regional title and fourth in five seasons by holding the Cavaliers to 133 yards of total offense and getting some key tosses from quarterback Jalen Graham (10 of 15 passing for 123 yards and a touchdown). The Yellowjackets (12-0) jumped out to a 21-7 lead and now have their most wins in a season since 1995. Corunna (9-3) continued its climb from 2-7 two seasons ago to 8-2 last year and this fall its most wins since 2002. Click for more from the Oakland Press.
Other Regional Finals:
River Rouge 57, Adrian 20 – The Panthers (11-1) have won their playoff games by 61, 12 and now 37 points on the way to a second straight Regional title; Adrian finished its rebound season 7-5 after three straight 2-7 seasons and four straight with sub-.500 records.
Grand Rapids Catholic Central 34, Escanaba 0 – The Cougars (11-1) are in their first Semifinal since their championship season of 2010 and with their third shutout in four weeks; Escanaba (9-3) can celebrate another jump in its revival after improving from 5-5 a year ago with its most wins since 1989.
Hudsonville Unity Christian 36, Lake Odessa Lakewood 16 – The Crusaders’ first Regional title came in part on the legs of running back Alec Headley, who averaged 16.1 yards per carry gaining 177 of 424 rush yards total for Unity Christian (10-2); Lakewood’s winningest season ended at 10-2 as well.
Frankenmuth 28, Ithaca 20
Frankenmuth (11-1) won its first Regional title since 1997 by handing Ithaca (11-1) only its third loss over the team’s last 100 games and first not in an MHSAA championship game since 2009. The Eagles are 48-8 over their last five seasons but had made only one other Regional Final appearance since their last win at that level of the tournament. Three Frankenmuth runners had at least 99 yards on the ground, led by Kris Roche with 161, as the team came back from a 14-0 deficit. Click for more from the Saginaw News.
Other Regional Finals:
Menominee 40, Reed City 14 – The Maroons (11-1) won their fifth Regional title in seven seasons with a fourth straight game scoring 40 or more points; Reed City (11-1) hadn’t given up 40 in a game since its 2014 Regional Final, but did finish with its most wins in a season ever.
Grand Rapids West Catholic 40, Berrien Springs 7 – The Falcons (10-2) have survived three road games to also win a seventh straight Regional title, continuing their travels by ending a third straight playoff season for the Shamrocks (8-3).
Algonac 38, Ida 22 – Last season Ida won its first Regional title; this time Algonac (11-1) celebrated its first Regional championship by downing the Bluestreaks (10-2).
Leroy Pine River 42, Ravenna 14
The mood had to be a little low for Pine River heading into the playoffs coming off two straight losses, but you’d never be able to tell. The Bucks (9-3) – also just 4-5 last season – won their first Regional title in a big way over Ravenna (9-3), a traditional power but also a nice comeback story coming off a 3-6 finish in 2015. Click for more from the Big Rapids News.
Other Regional Finals:
Maple City Glen Lake 14, Calumet 0 – The Lakers (10-2) reached 10 wins for the first time since 2001 with their first Regional title since 1996, ending the first 10-win season ever for Calumet (10-2), which was coming off its first District title since 2006.
Millington 22, Detroit Central Collegiate 20 – The Cardinals (11-1) came back from a 20-0 halftime deficit to win their first Regional title since 2010 and third since 2009; Central Collegiate (7-5) capped a third straight playoff season with its most wins since 2010.
Jackson Lumen Christi 49, Napoleon 6 – The Titans (10-2) won their first Regional title since 2009 by ending Napoleon’s winningest season since 2002 and longest playoff run ever at 9-3.
Pewamo-Westphalia 17, Traverse City St. Francis 14
Arguably the most anticipated game statewide this side of Division 1 saw the reigning Division 7 runner-up Pirates (12-0) overcome a second straight undefeated opponent. The Gladiators (11-1) became the first team to hold P-W running back Jared Smith to fewer than 100 yards since his sophomore season two years ago, but the Pirates’ defense held St. Francis to its fewest points since last year’s Regional Final win over Boyne City. Click for more from the Traverse City Record-Eagle.
Other Regional Finals:
Ubly 22, New Lothrop 13 – Make this now the Bearcats’ best season since 2009 as they won their first Regional title and 12 games for the first time since that year; Ubly (12-0) got rushing and receiving touchdowns from Jonathan Brandel as it ended New Lothrop’s seventh straight 10-win season at 10-2.
Cassopolis 51, Concord 14 – The Rangers (11-1) set a program record for wins with their first Regional title by scoring the most points Concord (9-3) had given up since Week 8 of 2014; the Yellowjackets did finish this season with their most wins since 2001.
Detroit Loyola 36, Hudson 13 – The Bulldogs (10-2) attained a sixth straight 10-win season by beating a third league champion in three playoff games; Hudson (10-2) had won a share of the Lenawee County Activities Association title and was making its first Regional Final appearance since 2011.
St. Ignace 14, Norway 12
The Saints (11-1) have had only two other close games this season, but secured their second straight Regional title relying on a defense that has given up only 131 points this season and only 38 over three playoff games. Norway, playing for its first Regional title since 2006, also shined defensively holding down a St. Ignace offense averaging 42 points per game heading into the day. The Knights finished 9-3, making a significant jump from 2-7 a year ago. Click for more from the Sault Ste. Marie Evening News.
Other Regional Finals:
Muskegon Catholic Central 35, Frankfort 0 – The reigning Division 8 champion Crusaders (12-2) earned their second straight shutout of the playoffs by holding Frankfort (11-1) scoreless for the first time since 2013.
Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary 28, Royal Oak Shrine 7 – The Cardinals (10-2) clinched a third-straight 10-win season and second Regional title in three seasons; Shrine (9-3) did accomplish a nice bounce-back from 4-5 last season to win its first District title since 2008.
Ottawa Lake Whiteford 38, Climax-Scotts 18 – These two have met two straight postseasons as undefeated teams, and Whiteford (12-0) has won both meetings; the Bobcats made up for three turnovers by getting 100-plus yards rushing from both Logan Murphy and Jesse Kiefer and holding Climax-Scotts (11-1) to its fewest points since the teams met in the same round a year ago.
Powers North Central 62, Pickford 22
The reigning champion Jets (12-0) earned their return to the MHSAA Final with 40 first-half points and 506 total yards while possessing the ball only 14 minutes. Running back Bobby Kleiman gained 123 yards on only eight carries, scoring three time on the ground, and also caught three passes for 98 yards and a score. The Panthers did finish their winningest season since 1991 at 10-2. Click for more from the Iron Mountain Daily News.
Deckerville 36, Wyoming Tri-unity Christian 6
The Eagles won a matchup of undefeated teams to set up another this weekend, handing Tri-unity Christian (11-1) its first and only loss of the fall. Deckerville (11-0) was held to its fewest points since Week 1, but still hasn’t allowed an opponent to score more than 12 this season. The Eagles had fallen in Semifinals the last two seasons. Click for more from the Huron Daily Tribune.
PHOTO: Pewamo-Westphalia running back Jared Smith breaks into an opening as Traverse City St. Francis defenders converge. (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.)