Drive for Detroit: Playoffs R1 in Review

November 2, 2015

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Three reigning champions were eliminated this weekend, six undefeated teams fell, and October came to and end with the MHSAA football playoff field halved to 136 teams still alive for nine titles. 

Divisions 1, 2 and 6 will have new winners this month. And a few teams that looked like contenders also are done after the first round and a series of upsets that made headlines across the state. 

See below for some of the most unexpected and heaviest-hitting results from the first week in all eight 11-player divisions and the 8-player bracket. 

Division 1

Novi 31, West Bloomfield 28

After four straight losing seasons and an 0-3 start this fall, Novi (6-4) made the playoffs for the first time since 2008 with an at-large bid – and then dealt undefeated West Bloomfield (9-1) its only loss in arguably the biggest upset in the state this weekend. The teams combined for five touchdowns during the fourth quarter, but West Bloomfield never could completely catch up to the Wildcats. Click for more from the Oakland Press.

Also noted:

Rockford 24, Grandville 6 – The Rams (7-3) won the rematch of Ottawa-Kent Conference Red co-champions after also beating Grandville (6-4) in Week 4.

Romeo 28, Clarkston 14 – The Bulldogs (9-1) bounced back from a tough three-point loss to Utica Eisenhower in Week 9 to eliminate the reigning champion Wolves (7-3).

Ann Arbor Pioneer 22, Belleville 7 – Pioneer (7-3) ended a two-game losing streak by handing Belleville (8-2) its first loss since opening night.

Utica Eisenhower 23, Clinton Township Chippewa Valley 20 (2 OT) – Eisenhower (7-3) kept surging with its fourth straight win, first in the playoffs since 2012 and second in four weeks over Chippewa Valley (7-3). 

Division 2

Detroit East English 25, Warren DeLaSalle 21

East English (8-2) has made the playoffs all four seasons as a program after emerging from the former Detroit Crockett, which made the playoffs its final 12 seasons and the MHSAA Semifinals twice. So the Bulldogs have had their share of success – but this might be the best win of the new program’s history, as they eliminated the reigning Division 2 champion and after falling to DeLaSalle (6-4) by only seven in last year’s District Final. Click for more from MLive-Detroit.

Also noted:

Muskegon 40, Traverse City Central 14 – The Big Reds (8-2) took the long trip up north and handed Traverse City Central (9-1) its first and only loss, earning a rematch with rival Mona Shores this week.

Byron Center 34, Portage Central 21 – The Bulldogs (8-2) have made three straight playoffs and won two playoff games only two years ago, but it’s still fair to say they were underdogs on the road at Portage Central (8-2).

Birmingham Groves 10, Farmington Hills Harrison 0 – Groves (10-0) reached 10 wins for the first time in program history with its sixth shutout this season, ending Harrison’s at 7-3.  

Jackson 42, Livonia Churchill 35 – After making the playoffs for the first time since 2009, Jackson (8-2) won its first playoff game since 1999 in ending Churchill’s season at 5-5. 

Division 3

East Grand Rapids 27, Grand Rapids Christian 14

After watching a 26-0 lead on Grand Rapids Christian fade in their first matchup this season, in Week 6, the Pioneers (7-3) finished this time against their O-K White rival. East Grand Rapids will play in a District Final for the first time since 2011. Grand Rapids Christian, which beat EGR 39-33 in that first game, ended at 5-5. Click for more from the Grand Rapids Press.

Also noted:

Vicksburg 16, Marshall 8 – The Bulldogs (8-2) quietly have built a five-game winning streak, adding to it with a road win at Marshall (7-3).

Trenton 34, New Boston Huron 21 – The Trojans (9-1) equaled their best record since 2003 by avenging last season’s District Final loss to Huron (5-5).

Coldwater 31, Parma Western 7 – Coldwater (10-0), which made the playoffs for the first time three seasons ago, earned its first playoff win by downing Western (6-4), which was playing in its first playoff game.

Redford Thurston 48, Warren Fitzgerald 14 – One of the rare at-large qualifiers with a home game, Thurston (6-4) justified it with a first-round win for the second straight season; Fitzgerald finished its second straight at 6-4. 

Division 4

Benton Harbor 28, Dowagiac 7

We’ve nearly run out of neat ways to crunch the numbers for the Tigers (6-4), who are enjoying their best season and whose six wins this fall are more than they won over the previous eight combined. Benton Harbor’s first playoff game resulted in its first victory – and the chance to next take on annual championship contender Zeeland West. Dowagiac isn’t to be forgotten, however; the Chieftains (6-4) bounced back from finishing 3-6 in 2014. Click for more from the Kalamazoo Gazette.

Also noted:

Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood 35, St. Clair Shores South Lake 14 – The Cranes (9-1) equaled their best record since 2004 and ended the best season for South Lake (8-2) since 2011; the Cavaliers improved from 2-7 a year ago.

Comstock Park 38, Saginaw Swan Valley 35 – Quarterback Pat Naughton threw four touchdown passes and Monterio Smith caught two and ran for a third score as Comstock Park (8-2) came back early and then held off the Vikings (6-4).

Detroit Denby 36, Detroit Collegiate Prep 6 – Denby (6-4) claimed its first playoff win since 2007 by handing the first loss this season to Collegiate Prep (9-1), the Detroit Public School League Division II champion.

Lake Fenton 29, Corunna 27 – Lake Fenton’s most recent loss was by seven to Corunna in Week 8, but the Blue Devils (6-4) went on the road to take the rematch from the Cavaliers (8-2). 

Division 5

Ida 35, Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard 23

The Bluestreaks built on their first undefeated regular season since 1971 with a second straight playoff win over Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard (5-5). Ida (10-0) also set a program record for wins despite giving up the most points in a game this season; the Bluestreaks gave up only 64 total during the first nine weeks. They scored three times during the third quarter to pull away. Click for more from the Monroe Evening News.

Also noted:

Buchanan 34, Hillsdale 31 – The Bucks' first perfect regular season since 1988 has turned into its first 10-0 start ever after its third win in a month decided by three points or fewer, this time against a Hillsdale team (6-4) in its 15th straight playoffs.

Almont 10, Marine City 3 – The Raiders (8-2) have bounced back nicely from back-to-back losses in Weeks 7 and 8, this time downing Marine City (6-4) in the playoffs for the second straight season.

Dearborn Heights Robichaud 50, Brooklyn Columbia Central 37 – Robichaud (8-2) reached 50 points for the second time this season to get its first playoff win since 2012, while Columbia Central ended at 8-2 after three straight losing seasons.

Kingsford 25, Harrison 0 – The Flivvers bounced back from a sub-.500 record last season and then a loss in Week 9 to claim a playoff win for the first time since 2012 and with their first shutout of this fall – which also was the first time Harrison (7-3) was shut out since Week 1 of 2013. 

Division 6

Clinton 14, Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central 10

Clinton (10-0) was one of two undefeated teams that had road games this weekend, and the Redskins responded by eliminating the reigning champion. Monroe St. Mary (8-2) had dominated most of its competition this fall, aside from a Week 9 loss to Division 5 contender Lansing Catholic. But Clinton drove 93 yards for the go-ahead score on the legs of Matt Sexton, who gained 100 yards total on the winning possession. Click for more from the Monroe Evening News.

Also noted:

Calumet 24, Negaunee 14 – The Copper Kings (8-2) earned their first win over Negaunee since 1955 and after five losses over the last four seasons to the Miners (7-3).

Sanford Meridian 44, Millington 38 – The Mustangs (10-0) also set a program record for wins and earned the opportunity to face another undefeated team, Ithaca, this week while ending Millington’s 12th straight playoff season at 8-2.

Laingsburg 23, Burton Bendle 15 – The Wolfpack (7-3) moved past six wins for the first time since 2009 by edging a Bendle team that went from 3-6 a year ago to 8-2 this fall.

Constantine 31, Schoolcraft 28 (OT) – In arguably the other biggest stunner of the first week of the playoffs, at-large qualifier Constantine (6-4) went on the road and downed rival Schoolcraft (9-1), handing the Eagles their first loss after falling to them 42-24 only two weeks ago. 

Division 7

Saugatuck 42, Hesperia 7

These two played the only playoff game between undefeated teams during the first week, with the Indians (10-0) earning their first postseason victory since the 2010 run to the Division 8 Final. Hesperia made one of the most impressive turnarounds in MHSAA football history this fall, going from 1-8 last season to 9-1 before falling Friday. Click for more from the Holland Sentinel.

Also noted:

McBain 34, Whittemore-Prescott 22 – Highland Conference co-champ McBain (7-3) won this battle of league winners, edging the first-place Cardinals (5-5) from the North Star League Big Dipper.

Cass City 34, Ubly 6 – The Red Hawks (8-2) have their most wins in a decade after ending the best season for Ubly (7-3) since 2011.

Flint Beecher 30, Flint Hamady 28 – The Buccaneers (7-2) took the lead for good in the fourth quarter in their first matchup with Hamady (7-3) since a District Final in 2012.

Riverview Gabriel Richard 30, Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett 27 – A 42-yard field goal by Zach Loewengruber on the game’s final play gave Gabriel Richard (7-3) its first playoff win and ended Liggett’s season at 6-4. 

Division 8

Climax-Scotts 8, Mendon 6

Climax Scotts (10-0) held on for its first win over Mendon (5-5) since 1977, after 30 straight losses. Climax-Scotts scored on the first possession of the game and made a two-point conversion, and stopped Mendon’s conversion attempt after its lone score. The Panthers have made the playoffs 13 straight seasons, and now will try for a second Regional Final in eight tries; Mendon had eliminated them from the playoffs the past four seasons. Click for more from the Battle Creek Enquirer.

Also noted:

Crystal Falls Forest Park 24, Lake Linden-Hubbell 0 – The Trojans (6-3) must have figured out a few things between falling to Lake Linden-Hubbell 34-28 only a week earlier and then handing the Lakes (9-1) their first and only loss.

Bark River-Harris 22, Munising 6 – Three weeks after falling to Munising by seven, Bark River-Harris (8-2) advanced to a District Final for the second straight season by downing the reigning Division 8 runner-up Mustangs (7-3).

Johannesburg-Lewiston 35, Hillman 8 – The Cardinals (9-1) won their ninth game for the third time in four seasons by downing North Star League Little Dipper champion Tigers (6-4), and now get another shot at Ski Valley Conference winner St. Ignace after finishing a win behind the Saints in the league standings.

Ottawa Lake Whiteford 20, Petersburg-Summerfield 14 – Revenge surely was sweet for Whiteford (8-2), which fell to Petersburg-Summerfield (7-3) by 20 in their Week 4 Tri-County Conference matchup.


Rapid River 36, Engadine 29

A Week 5 loss to Engadine started a string of three losses in four games for Rapid River (7-3), but the Rockets have avenged the first defeat and earned the opportunity to avenge a second against Powers North Central. Engadine (7-3) was held to fewer than 40 points for the first time since Week 3. Click for more from RRN Sports.

Also noted:

Cedarville 48, Owendale-Gagetown 28 – The reigning 8-player runner-up Trojans (8-2) have won four straight and delivered O-G (9-1) its first and only loss.

Lawrence 54, Waldron 52 – The Spartans (8-2) played the reigning champion impressively close, but Lawrence (8-2) emerged with another opportunity against rival Battle Creek St. Philip this week after falling to St. Philip two weeks ago.

PHOTO: Midland Dow, in green, faced rival Midland for the second straight week and won for the second straight as well, 42-7. (Click for 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.)