Drive for Detroit: Semifinals in Review

November 19, 2012

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Here's what we got from Saturday's MHSAA 11-player Semifinals:

Four reigning champions headed back to Ford Field. Two rematches of 2011 championship games. And three teams – welcome Grand Rapids Christian, Portland and Detroit Loyola – that earned the opportunity to play on Thanksgiving weekend for the first time. 

There's plenty more to come on all of that later this week (tune in Thursday for some holiday reading). Below are links to coverage from all 16 Semifinals, plus ours from the second-ever 8-player Final, a Deckerville triumph over Bellaire. 

Division 1

Detroit Cass Tech 34, Lake Orion 27

The Technicians (11-2) are headed back to Ford Field to defend their 2011 championship thanks in part to two touchdown passes by sophomore Jayru Campbell, the star of that Final, and a late go-ahead score by sophomore Mike Weber. Lake Orion, in its third Semifinal in five seasons, finished 11-2. Click to read more from the Detroit Free Press.

Detroit Catholic Central 35, Rockford 6

Despite expectations it might be, this didn't turn out to be as close as DCC’s three-point win over the Rams (10-3) that sent the Shamrocks to last season’s Final. This time, DCC (9-4) led by two scores going into halftime and didn't allow another point. Click to read more from MLive Detroit.

Division 2

Birmingham Brother Rice 31, Wyandotte Roosevelt 3

Not that the Warriors haven't been cruising all season, but Brother Rice (11-2) always seems to hit another gear in the playoffs and now will play for a second-straight MHSAA championship. Roosevelt (11-2) finished its first Semifinal run since 2001 with its best record ever. Click to read more from the Detroit News.

Muskegon 34, Caledonia 21

Believe it or not, the Big Reds (12-1) haven’t been to a championship game since 2008. But they’re headed back for the fourth time in nine seasons after a couple of late defensive stops doomed the Fighting Scots (9-4). Click to read more from the Muskegon Chronicle.

Division 3

Grand Rapids Christian 52, DeWitt 28

Grand Rapids Christian (12-1) got off to an incredible start and never looked back, scoring on six of their first seven possessions to earn their first championship game berth. DeWitt, making its eighth Semifinal appearance in 12 seasons, finished 10-3. Click to read more from the Grand Rapids Press

Orchard Lake St. Mary’s 28, Battle Creek Harper Creek 7

St. Mary’s (11-2) is headed back to Ford Field for the fourth straight season and hopes to win its second straight MHSAA title after beating Harper Creek (10-3) in the Semifinals for the second straight season. Click to read more from the Detroit Free Press.

Division 4

Grand Rapids South Christian 21, Comstock Park 7

South Christian (10-3) is headed back to the Finals for the fifth time, but first since winning Division 4 in 2002, after keeping Comstock Park (11-2) scoreless until the final minute. Click to read more from the Grand Rapids Press

Detroit Country Day 38, Saginaw Swan Valley 0

Country Day (11-2) earned its third trip to the MHSAA Finals in six seasons in dominating fashion. Yellowjackets running back Richard Wilson scored four times while his teammates contained the strong running attack of the Vikings (10-3). Click to read more from the Oakland Press.

Division 5

Grand Rapids West Catholic 20, Menominee 17

The Falcons (10-3) can earn their second championship in three seasons after scoring a late touchdown to edge Menominee at the Superior Dome. The Maroons (11-2) led late in the third quarter and again in the fourth before falling. Click to read more from the Grand Rapids Press.

Portland 28, Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard 23

The Raiders (12-1) waited a long time to return to the Semifinals – their only other appearance was in 1975, the first year of MHSAA playoffs. But now they’ll continue on to their first championship game after coming back from an 11-point deficit to Gabriel Richard (11-2). Click to read more from the Lansing State Journal.

Division 6

Constantine 36, Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central 14

Constantine is headed back to Ford Field after finishing runner-up last season, thanks to its best defensive performance of the playoffs. Constantine (11-2) limited St. Mary (10-3) to its fewest points of the season. Click to read more from the Kalamazoo Gazette.

Ithaca 31, Shelby 14

Ithaca quarterback Travis Smith may have thrown three interceptions, but he also was part of four touchdowns (one run, three pass) as the Yellowjackets (13-0) earned their third-straight Final berth. Shelby (10-3) finished with 10 wins for the first time and made its first Semifinal appearance. Click to read more from the Lansing State Journal.

Division 7

Ishpeming 8, Pewamo-Westphalia 7

A made two-point conversion plus a number of defensive stops including two deep in its own territory were the difference as Ishpeming (12-1) earned a trip to Ford Field for the second time in three seasons. P-W, last season’s Division 7 runner-up, finished 9-4. Click to read more from the Marquette Mining Journal.

Detroit Loyola 54, Flint Beecher 6

Loyola’s Keymonn’e Gabriel scored three more touchdowns plus four two-point conversions to carry the Bulldogs (13-0) to their first MHSAA Final and give him 314 points this season – the second most in MHSAA history for one fall. Beecher, which made its first Semifinal appearance, finished 8-5. Click to read more from the Detroit Free Press.

Division 8

Beal City 25, St. Ignace 7

Six days after its volleyball team played for an MHSAA championship, Beal City’s football team will do the same after moving to 13-0 to tie its record for wins in a season and get back to Ford Field for the first time since 2009. St. Ignace ended 12-1 for the second straight season. Click to read more from the Mount Pleasant Morning Sun.

Harbor Beach 32, Muskegon Catholic Central 27

The Pirates (12-1) earned their first trip to an MHSAA football championship game since 1991 and tied a school record for wins. Perennial power Muskegon Catholic Central finished 9-4. Click to read more from the Blue Water Sports Network.


Deckerville 14, Bellaire 12

The Eagles capped their first season in 8-Player football with their first MHSAA championship, thanks in part to a two-point conversion run stop with less than a minute to play. Click for our Second Half coverage.

PHOTO: Detroit Cass Tech running back Mike Weber stretches for the go-ahead touchdown in the Technicians' Semifinal win Saturday at Troy Athens. (Click to see more at 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.)