Drive for Detroit: Regional Finals in Review

November 19, 2013

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

We often celebrate teams making deep playoff runs for the first time as they and their communities reach heights never experienced before.

That experience as the toughest levels of the tournament is invaluable. Just ask the 10 teams that repeated as Regional champions in 11-player last weekend, or 2011 8-player runner-up Rapid River – which will play for the championship again this Friday. 

See below for some of the stories behind how all of those teams advanced to the neutral-site rounds of the MHSAA football tournament. 

Division 1

Detroit Catholic Central 34, Temperance Bedford 33

Detroit Catholic Central (10-2) had a couple close calls on the way to Ford Field in both 2011 and 2012, but none this close. The Shamrocks scored with 25 seconds remaining to edge Temperance Bedford, which was attempting to reach its first Semifinal and made its second Regional Final appearance in four seasons (the Kicking Mules just missed the Semifinals in 2010 as well with a two-point loss to Grosse Pointe South). Click to read more from the Detroit Free Press.

Also noted:

Flint Carman-Ainsworth 27, Hudsonville 20: The Cavaliers (11-1) hung on to earn their first Semifinal trip in their 28-year history. Hudsonville (8-4) did finish its best season since 2008.

Clarkston 56, Rochester Adams 28: The Wolves (11-1) have taken a step deeper into the postseason each of the past four seasons, with this sending them to the Semifinals for the first time since 2009. Adams finished a strong 8-4, impressive especially after the team went 4-5 in 2012 and lost quarterback/linebacker standout Matt Sokol to a season-ending injury in Week 6.

Detroit Cass Tech 32, Macomb Dakota 17: The Technicians (12-0) ended the season of a previously-undefeated opponent for the second straight week, this time halting Dakota (11-1) during its best season since 2007.

Division 2

Detroit Martin Luther King 6, Wyandotte Roosevelt 0

Both teams had showed plenty of offensive firepower to this point this season, but defense set the tone in the Regional Final. King (10-1) posted its fourth shutout and saved its season with a last-minute stand as Roosevelt (11-1) fell short in its drive to make the Semifinals for the second straight fall. Click to read more from MLive Detroit.  

Also noted:

Muskegon 24, Midland 7: The Big Reds (11-1) have made the Semifinals five times over the last decade including the last two seasons thanks to wins over Midland (10-2).

Portage Central 42, Farmington Hills Harrison 21: The Mustangs (12-0) have asserted themselves among statewide powers this fall and beat another in Harrison (10-2) to reach the Semifinals for the first time since 1977.

Birmingham Brother Rice 41, Detroit U-D Jesuit 14: Brother Rice (12-0) finished a season sweep of Catholic League opponent U-D Jesuit (7-5) to reach the Semifinals for the third straight season.

Division 3

Zeeland West 62, Mount Pleasant 27

The Dux (11-1) appear to be gaining steam at the right time, with 545 yards of offense against the Oilers. Mount Pleasant led into the third quarter before West scored 36 straight points to make the Semfinals for the second time in three seasons. Mount Pleasant, 2-7 only a year ago, finished 10-2. Click to read more from the Grand Rapids Press.

Also noted:

Stevensville Lakeshore 34, Byron Center 7: Hailing from the same league as Portage Central, Lakeshore (9-3) has battled back from a 4-3 start to make its first Semifinal since 2008. Byron Center (8-4) made Regionals for the first time since 2000.

DeWitt 49, Eaton Rapids 0: Eaton Rapids (7-5) saw its first-ever playoff run end after two wins, but against near-annual semifinalist DeWitt (12-0).

St. Clair 40, Melvindale 14: St. Clair (11-1) added to its best season by earning its first Semifinal berth by beating a Melvindale team (9-3) that should still celebrate making the playoffs for the first time since 2010.

Division 4

Lansing Sexton 26, Saginaw Swan Valley 21

Swan Valley junior running back Alex Grace did run for 246 yards to unofficially set the MHSAA single-season rushing record with more than 2,900 (awaiting confirmation). But the Big Reds (12-0) continued to power through their tough slate by taking the lead in the fourth quarter and then ending the Vikings’ final drive with an interception in Sexton territory. Swan Valley finished 11-1. Click to read more from the Lansing State Journal.

Also noted:

Comstock Park 36, Cadillac 29: Comstock Park (12-0) advanced to the Semifinals for the third straight season, but first as an undefeated team. Cadillac (11-1) gave up the most points it had all season, but also scored the most on the Panthers of any team so far.

Grand Rapids South Christian 35, Battle Creek Pennfield 17: The reigning MHSAA champ Sailors (11-1) now haven’t lost since August and scored the most points Pennfield (10-2) gave up this season.

Marine City 33, Detroit Country Day 28: The lone Saturday night game of the weekend was a classic, with Marine City (11-1) scoring the go-ahead points with less than a minute remaining to eliminate the reigning MHSAA runner-up Yellowjackets (8-4).

Division 5

Livonia Clarenceville 21, Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central 20

There’s no question Clarenceville knows how to pull out the close ones, with now four wins by seven or fewer points this fall and two by 10 or fewer over the last two weeks. The Trojans (11-0) scored on a trick play with under 20 seconds left to edge ahead of Monroe St. Mary (10-2), a Regional champion in 2012. Click to read more from the Detroit News.

Also noted:

Menominee 49, Standish-Sterling 27: Make that 159-47, Menominee (12-0) over its three playoff opponents combined this month. Standish-Sterling (9-2), however, did finish with its best record since 2008.

Muskegon Oakridge 31, Millington 12: Oakridge (11-1) has won seven Regional titles, but this is the first since its MHSAA championship season of 2008. Millington (9-3) finished its longest run since 2010.

Grand Rapids West Catholic 35, Olivet 14: That 1-4 start is fading from memory as West Catholic (8-4) heads to its fourth straight Semifinal. Olivet (10-2) capped its best run since 2010, when it fell to West Catholic in the MHSAA championship game. 

Division 6

Montrose 42, Madison Heights Madison 13

The highly-anticipated matchup to earn the right to face Ithaca didn’t end up that close, with Montrose (12-0) leading by enough during the third quarter to switch on the running clock. The Rams do now get to face Ithaca for the fourth straight season in the playoffs, but this time in Montrose’s first Semifinal since 2002. Madison finished 11-1, its fourth one-loss season over the last eight. Click to read more from the Flint Journal.

Also noted:

Ithaca 62, Negaunee 34: The Ithaca (12-0) win streak moved to 54 straight, but not before Negaunee (10-2) scored the most points the Yellowjackets had given up since 2010.

Shelby 33, Schoolcraft 7: Make that five straight seasons Shelby (11-1) has now increased its win total, and two straight it will play in a Semifinal. Schoolcraft (10-2) ended with double-digit wins for the second straight fall. 

Clinton 47, Constantine 28: Clinton (12-0) eliminated the reigning MHSAA runner-up Falcons (7-5) to earn a first Semifinal berth since 1990 and its second overall.

Division 7

Harbor Beach 31, Pewamo-Westphalia 14

So far, Division 7 hasn’t posed much more of a challenge than Division 8 did last season for the reigning D8 champion Pirates (11-1). This Regional Final against P-W (10-2) was much closer than Harbor Beach’s first two playoff games this run, but quarterback/linebacker Eli Kraft continued to shine with two touchdowns on offense and a third scored while playing on the other side of the ball. Click to read more from the Saginaw News.

Also noted:

Ishpeming 28, Lake City 13: The Hematites’ 19th straight win put them at 12-0 this fall and removed a familiar and tough obstacle – Lake City (10-2) fell to Ishpeming by a nearly identical score in 2012.

Homer 26, Decatur 15: The Trojans (11-1) tied a school record for wins in advancing to their first Semifinal; Decatur (8-4) ended its season in the Regional Final for the second straight.

Detroit Loyola 50, Southfield Christian 7: The Bulldogs (12-0) improved to 36-2 over the last three seasons by scoring 50 points for the 10th time during that run. Southfield Christian did cap its best season of its eight-year history at 10-2.

Division 8

Crystal Falls Forest Park 24, Felch North Dickinson 20

Look back over the illustrious history of Forest Park football, and close playoff wins are more common than one might expect. The Trojans (12-0) know how to win down the stretch and pulled off another nail-biter to make their eighth Semifinal over the last decade. North Dickinson (8-3) came back from an early deficit but was stopped twice seeking a late go-ahead score. Click to read more from the Marquette Mining Journal.

Also noted:

Beal City 55, St. Ignace 0: Beal City (12-0) has scored 691 points, good already for second-most in MHSAA history; the Saints (9-3) made the Regional Final for the third straight season.

Muskegon Catholic 28, Mendon 12: This now-annual playoff battle of southwest powers went Muskegon Catholic’s way for the second straight season, with the Crusaders (10-2) scoring more points than Mendon (11-1) had previously given up all fall.

New Lothrop 58, Ottawa Lake Whiteford 22: The Hornets (11-0) advanced to their third Semifinal in eight seasons with their sixth game scoring more than 50 points this fall; Whiteford (9-3) capped its longest playoff run since 2000.

8-Player Semifinals

Rapid River 40, Kinde-North Huron 8

The 2011 MHSAA runner-up Rockets (12-0) earned another chance to claim the championship thanks in part to 359 yards rushing by quarterback Jake Pearson. He ran for three touchdowns and threw for two more while Rapid River didn't give up North Huron’s lone score until the fourth quarter. North Huron did tie its school record for wins in finishing 8-4. Click to read more from the Escanaba Daily Press.

Peck 73, Lawrence 34

Peck advanced to its first MHSAA championship game by stopping one of the hottest teams in any division and did so in an even more impressive manner than when they met earlier this season. The Pirates (12-0) had defeated Lawrence 61-38 in Week 4 and put up a season-high point total to fend off the Tigers (8-3) this time. Click to read more from the Port Huron Times Herald.

PHOTO: Detroit Cass Tech quarterback Jayru Campbell breaks away from a Macomb Dakota defender during the Technicians’ Regional Final win. (Click to see more from Terry McNamara Photography.)

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.)