Drive for Detroit: Playoff Week 3 Review

November 13, 2017

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

A longtime observer of Michigan high school football had a hard time remembering a playoff weekend with as many close finishes as fans enjoyed Friday and Saturday.

Start with the games in 11-player Division 1, where all four were decided by fourth-quarter scores or stops, and nail-biters dominated a weekend that saw 32 teams move on to 11-Player Regional Finals and the four finalists for 8-player championships book trips to Marquette’s Superior Dome.

We start with a brief glance below at all four 8-Player Semifinals and then move into all 32 11-player games. The MHSAA Playoffs are sponsored by the Michigan Army National Guard, and “Drive for Detroit” is sponsored by MI Student Aid.   

8-Player Division 1

Central Lake 54, Stephenson 20

The Trojans (12-0) rode a ravenous rushing attack in a snowstorm to earn its first MHSAA championship game berth while also tying its program record for wins in a season. Central Lake plodded to more than 400 yards against a Stephenson defense that had given up only 16.7 points per game entering the day. The Eagles finished 9-3. Click for more from the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

Deckerville 52, Bellevue 18

Deckerville rattled off 44 straight points to earn a second straight trip to the MHSAA Finals. Bellevue led 12-8 early before the Eagles (11-1) went on their run against another otherwise-stellar defense – the Broncos (10-2) were giving up only 9.5 points per game entering the day and this season set a program record for wins. Click for more from the Huron Daily Tribune.

8-Player Division 2

Crystal Falls Forest Park 36, Pickford 34

Forest Park will add to its 13 championship game appearances as an 11-player program with its first in 8-player after handing Pickford its lone loss this season. The Trojans (10-2) last made a championship game in 2009 and moved to 8-player a year ago. They put up the most points Pickford (11-1) gave up in a game this season by 12. The Panthers fell in their second straight Semifinal but moved to 27-7 in three years of 8-player. Click for more from the Iron Mountain Daily News.

Portland St. Patrick 33, Kinde-North Huron 14

The Shamrocks are 53-12 since moving to 8-player in 2012, and in their first Semifinal since that first season finally broke through to earn a first championship game berth since 1997. St. Patrick (11-1) scored 21 points during the fourth quarter to pull away against a North Huron program that also was playing in its second 8-Player Semifinal and finished 10-2. Click for more from the Lansing State Journal.

11-Player Division 1

West Bloomfield 28, Utica Eisenhower 25

Quarterback Bryce Veasley scored the winning touchdown with under a minute to play to send West Bloomfield (10-2) to its first MHSAA Semifinal in football. The Lakers edged an Eisenhower program much more familiar with this stage of the playoffs; the Eagles were playing for a third Regional title this decade and made the Semifinals a year ago. Eisenhower (11-1) had given up more than 20 points in a game to only one other opponent this fall. Click for more from the Oakland Press.

Other Regional Finals:

Clarkston 29, Holland West Ottawa 22 – The Wolves (10-2) scored 23 unanswered fourth-quarter points to win their second Regional title in four seasons and end West Ottawa’s winningest football season at 10-2.

Detroit Catholic Central 27, Canton 26 – The Shamrocks (8-4) stopped a Canton two-point conversion attempt with 34 seconds to play to win their fifth Regional title this decade while handing the Chiefs (10-2) their first loss since opening night.

Detroit Cass Tech 32, Clinton Township Chippewa Valley 26 – In maybe the most dramatic finish of all this weekend, Chippewa Valley (10-2) took the lead with 1:25 to play and Cass Tech (9-2) took it back as the clock ticked under 10 seconds to win an eighth straight Regional title. 

11-Player Division 2

Livonia Franklin 31, Flushing 29

Franklin (10-2) clinched its second Regional title in three seasons on kicker Brad Gibson’s 27-yard field goal with 13 seconds to play. Flushing had taken the lead just more than a minute before with a two-point conversion after a late score. Flushing was playing for its first Regional title and finished 9-3, tying its most successful season (2014) since 1997. Click for more from the Observer & Eccentric.

Other Regional Finals:

Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central 28, Traverse City Central 10 – Forest Hills Central (12-0) won its first football Regional title since 1995 with 28 unanswered points over the second and third quarters; Traverse City Central (8-4) was playing for its first Regional title since 1991.

Detroit Martin Luther King 55, Ypsilanti Lincoln 14 – The Crusaders (11-1) won their third straight Regional title and fifth in seven years while finishing the most successful playoff run ever for Lincoln (9-3), which hadn’t lost since an 0-2 start.

Warren DeLaSalle 14, Oak Park 7 – A last-minute touchdown gave DeLaSalle (10-2) its first Regional title since 2014 as both teams scored their fewest points since opening night; Oak Park (9-3) tied its most successful season after also going 9-3 in 2012. 

11-Player Division 3

Riverview 36, Dearborn Divine Child 31

The Riverview dream season continues, this time after a close win over one of last season’s Division 3 semifinalists. The Pirates (11-1) won their first Regional title since 2002, with the reminder again that they went only 2-7 a year ago. Riverview led by 12 heading into the fourth quarter and held off Divine Child (10-2) during a late comeback attempt. Click for more from the Southgate News-Herald.

Other Regional Finals:

Muskegon 49, DeWitt 0 – The Big Reds (12-0) were great on offense as usual, but defensively this was the most impressive of their six shutouts this fall; DeWitt (10-2) was averaging 39 points per game entering the day.

Battle Creek Harper Creek 16, East Lansing 13 – The Beavers (12-0) scored all 16 of their points during the fourth quarter to clinch their first Regional title since 2012 and hand East Lansing (9-3) its first defeat this season since Week 3; the Trojans finished their best season since 2011.

Farmington Hills Harrison 34, Linden 21 – The Hawks (9-3) added to their inspired run with a first Regional title since 2014; Linden (9-3) was playing for its first Regional title but did finish its winningest season since 2012. 

11-Player Division 4

River Rouge 21, Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood 14

The Panthers (10-2) reached 10 victories for the fourth straight season and fifth in six seasons by clinching this third straight Regional title. River Rouge never broke away but did go ahead to stay midway through the fourth quarter to seal its closest win of the season (the two losses were by nine and seven). Cranbrook Kingswood (10-2) did cap its winningest season in program history. Click for more from the Southgate News-Herald.

Other Regional Finals:

Escanaba 39, Williamston 21 – The Eskymos (10-2) began pulling away during the first half on the way to their first Regional title since 1981; for Williamston (7-5), it was the only loss this season by more than seven points.

Grand Rapids Catholic Central 42, Belding 3 – GRCC (12-0) rode another giant dose of running back Nolan Fugate to its 18th straight win; Belding (9-3) ended its most successful season since 1998.

Edwardsburg 52, Lansing Sexton 30 –The Eddies (11-1) won their second straight Regional title with their fifth game over 50 points this season; Sexton (8-4) did become the first team to top 30 against Edwardsburg this fall.

11-Player Division 5

Grand Rapids West Catholic 28, Portland 26

The latest of frequent playoff meetings between these annual contenders turned out to be another classic as West Catholic (10-2) stopped a late two-point conversion attempt to secure the win – after also beating Portland by three last season on the way to winning the Division 5 title. The Raiders (10-2) fought back from two touchdowns down in the fourth quarter. Click for more from the Grand Rapids Press.

Other Regional Finals:

Reed City 46, Menominee 34 – The Coyotes (11-1) closed this weekend’s action in Saturday’s final game by claiming their first Regional title against a Menominee team playing in its ninth straight Regional Final; the Maroons, last season’s Division 5 runners-up, finished 8-4.

Saginaw Swan Valley 48, Muskegon Oakridge 14 – The Vikings (11-1) will play in their third Semifinal in nine years as Alex Fries threw three touchdown passes and ran for a fourth score; Oakridge (9-3) was playing for its first Regional title since 2013.

Frankenmuth 17, Algonac 7 – The Eagles (12-0) won their second straight Regional title and set a program record for wins by outlasting the Blue Water Area Conference champion Muskrats (10-2) in a defensive struggle; Frankenmuth held Algonac to 161 yards. 

11-Player Division 6

Ithaca 33, Montague 23

Ithaca made a statement in a game pitting teams that have combined to win seven of the last nine Division 6 titles. Following quarterback Joey Bentley – 218 yards and four touchdowns rushing, one more touchdown passing – the Yellowjackets (12-0) led by 18 late before Montague added a final score. The Wildcats (11-1) did put up the most points Ithaca has given up this season – the Yellowjackets have now allowed only 101 over 12 games. Click for more from the Mount Pleasant Morning Sun.

Other Regional Finals:

Traverse City St. Francis 33, Millington 26 – The Gladiators (11-1) hung on to win their second Regional title in three seasons as Millington (10-2) put up the most points St. Francis has given up this season – although the Gladiators also became just the second to score more than 30 on the Cardinals.

Jackson Lumen Christi 44, Watervliet 22 – The reigning Division 6 champion Titans (10-1) locked down a Watervliet offense that had scored at least 36 points every game and averaged 52 per game during the Panthers’ 11-0 start.

Warren Michigan Collegiate 32, Blissfield 6 – The Cougars (12-0) won their second Regional title in 10 seasons as a program, ending Blissfield’s first winning season since 2012 and winningest since 2009 at 7-5. 

11-Player Division 7

Lake City 20, Breckenridge 18

Someone was going to celebrate a major accomplishment after this game. Lake City improved to 12-0, extending its program record for wins in claiming its first Regional title and with last year’s 2-7 finish becoming tougher to believe by the week. Breckenridge was 0-9 only three years ago and won its first playoff game just two weeks ago on the way to finishing 10-2 this fall. Click for more from the Cadillac News.

Other Regional Finals:

Pewamo-Westphalia 34, Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker 0 – The Pirates’ fifth shutout this season moved them to 11-1 and landed them their sixth Regional title in seven seasons; Laker (10-2) did contain P-W to its third-fewest points this fall.

Saugatuck 7, Cassopolis 6 – A go-ahead score with under three minutes to play pushed Saugatuck (9-3) just past the Rangers (10-2) for its first Regional title since 2010; Cassopolis had guarded that lead since the first quarter.

Madison Heights Madison 22, Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central 20 – Madison (12-0) will play in its first Semifinal since 2007 after coming back from two touchdowns down during the second half; the Falcons finished 7-5 after a 1-3 start this fall. 

11-Player Division 8

Iron River West Iron County 35, Frankfort 20

West Iron’s first Regional title since 1977 came with a program record-setting 11th win as the Wykons haven’t lost since falling by two points on opening night. West Iron scored the first 22 points and locked down a Frankfort offense that had scored 45 per game entering the game. The Panthers finished 8-3 after making the Regional Finals for the third straight season. Click for more from the Iron Mountain Daily News.

Other Regional Finals:

Saginaw Nouvel 54, Lincoln Alcona 34 – Nouvel (12-0) picked the best time to score its most points in a game this season, coming off a District Final scare against Harbor Beach; the Panthers opened a 28-0 lead on the Tigers (9-3), who were playing in their first Regional Final.  

Mendon 14, Climax-Scotts 6 – A week after stunning reigning champion Muskegon Catholic Central, Mendon (12-0) had to hold off the Panthers (9-3) for 2½ quarters to earn its first Regional title since 2011.

Ottawa Lake Whiteford 60, Clarkston Everest Collegiate 20 – Last season’s Division 8 runner-up Bobcats (12-0) clearly are intent on getting back to Ford Field; they finished this one on a 44-6 run to end the longest tournament run in the five-year history of Everest Collegiate (9-3).

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PHOTO: Ithaca’s Devon Smith (51) closes in on a Montague ball carrier during Saturday’s Division 6 Regional Final. (Photo by Tim Reilly.)

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.)