Drive for Detroit: Semifinals in Review
November 24, 2014
By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
The final stretch of this season's Drive for Detroit has begun.
And if Friday and Saturday's MHSAA Finals are like the Semifinals this past weekend, we should be in for an incredible season-ending series at Ford Field.
Six Semifinals were decided by seven points or fewer as the final 16 11-player teams earned their spots in championship games.
Below is just a little on all 16 Semifinals, with links to media coverage. Check back Wednesday for game-by-game previews of all eight Finals, and then full coverage of each throughout the weekend.
Clarkston 35, East Kentwood 13
The first quarter wasn’t over Saturday and reigning champion Clarkston (13-0) had already built a three-touchdown lead East Kentwood wouldn’t threaten. The Wolves earned the opportunity to repeat and extend their 26-game winning streak, while the Falcons (11-2) can still celebrate their best finish since 2003. Click for more from The Oakland Press.
Saline 30, Detroit Cass Tech 15
The Hornets (12-1) earned their first MHSAA Finals berth by holding a potent Cass Tech offense to its fewest points since last season’s Semifinal loss to Detroit Catholic Central. Saline allowed Technicians standout running back Mike Weber 135 yards on the ground, but kept an offense averaging 34 points per game out of the end zone for most of the afternoon. Cass Tech did finish 12-1 and is 59-8 over the last five seasons. Click for more from AnnArbor.com.
Muskegon Mona Shores 25, Farmington Hills Harrison 24
The good news: Mona Shores defeated 13-time Finals champion Harrison after a late two-point conversion. The bad news: Mona Shores (12-1) did so without star quarterback Tyree Jackson, who was sidelined with a knee injury. The other good news: That the Sailors still pulled off this historic win said plenty about the team’s strength as a whole, in addition to its most well-known player. Harrison (10-3) finished with at least 10 wins for the fourth season in five. Click for more from the Muskegon Chronicle.
Warren DeLaSalle 31, Southfield 7
With Detroit Catholic Central, Birmingham Brother Rice and Orchard Lake St. Mary’s in the same Detroit Catholic League Central, DeLaSalle (10-3) can end up in the background of the football conversation at times. But the Pilots earned their third MHSAA Finals trip in nine seasons by holding a Southfield squad (9-4) filled with college prospects to its fewest points since Week 2 of 2012. Click for more from the Macomb Daily.
Muskegon 20, Zeeland West 0
The Big Reds (12-1) will return to the Finals for the third straight season, this time in Division 3 after solving reigning champion West’s offense like no opponent in that school's history. The Dux (12-1), in existence for 10 years, had never been shut out and hadn’t been held to single digits since Week 4 in 2010 – they entered Saturday averaging 50 points per game this season. Click for more from the Muskegon Chronicle.
Orchard Lake St. Mary’s 51, New Boston Huron 3
Huron (11-2) took a lot of steps as a program this fall, winning five more games than in any season in more than 60 years and six more than a year ago. But St. Mary’s (11-2) has played in 11 MHSAA championship games and surely has had extra motivation this fall after a rare playoff miss in 2013. Click for more from MLive Detroit.
Grand Rapids South Christian 50, Edwardsburg 48
The Sailors (11-2) are headed to Ford Field for the third straight season, but it was hardly that simple. Edwardsburg (11-2) came back from two touchdowns down in the second quarter and a 22-point deficit in the third as it fell one win shy of the Finals for the second time in five seasons. Click for more from the Grand Rapids Press.
Lansing Sexton 28, Detroit Country Day 14
The Big Reds (13-0) advanced to the MHSAA Finals for the first time after coming up just a touchdown shy in 2013. Sexton will be the first Lansing public school to play in a championship game, thanks in part to a group of seniors who scored all of the team’s touchdowns Saturday and helped it rise from 5-4 only two seasons ago. Country Day (8-5) finished with all of its losses to teams that advanced to at least Regional Finals. Click for more from the Lansing State Journal.
Grand Rapids West Catholic 42, Menominee 24
These two have seen each other in the playoffs every season beginning in 2010. This rematch of last season’s Division 5 Final went similarly, with West Catholic winning by 18 after doing so 27-14 in 2013. The Maroons (12-1) hadn’t been held to fewer than 28 points since West Catholic in that game at Ford Field – and hadn’t given up more than 25 since West Catholic (13-0) defeated them 55-34 in a 2011 Regional Final. Click for more from the Grand Rapids Press.
Lansing Catholic 21, Almont 14
High-powered Lansing Catholic will return to Ford Field for the second time in four seasons after escaping one of the toughest defenses it had seen this fall. Almont held the Cougars (13-0) to a season low points total. But Lansing Catholic’s unheralded defense did the same to the Raiders (12-1), who were averaging 50 per game entering Saturday and set a team record for wins this fall. Click for more from the Lansing State Journal.
Ithaca 20, Boyne City 16
The Yellowjackets (13-0) extended their winning streak to 69 – but for the second straight week, not without a dramatic fourth quarter. Boyne City (12-1) reached the 3-yard line with 13 seconds to play, but was stopped by an Ithaca defense that isn’t often noted but gives up only 8.4 points per game. Click for more from the Mount Pleasant Morning Sun.
Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central 28, Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian 0
The Falcons (12-1) earned their first Finals appearance since 2010 and a rematch with Ithaca after falling by 10 to the Yellowjackets in that previous championship matchup. St. Mary gained this weekend's opportunity with its fifth shutout of the season, against a NorthPointe Christian (11-2) team in its seventh of existence and first topping eight wins. Click for more from the Monroe Evening News.
Ishpeming 22, Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary 18
These are not the Hematites of the last two seasons; most of the standouts who carried the program to two straight MHSAA titles graduated. But this group has been similarly strong and is now a win from just as good after its closest win since Week 7 of 2013. Ishpeming (12-0) made it 33 straight victories by pulling away midway through the fourth quarter. Click for more from the Marquette Mining Journal.
Detroit Loyola 41, Pewamo-Westphalia 21
Pewamo-Westphalia (10-3) made it harder on Loyola than any playoff opponent aside from Ishpeming since 2010, but still couldn’t completely slow the Bulldogs’ running back duo of Marvin Campbell and Mideyin Wilson. The ran for four touchdowns together and nearly 270 yards to put Loyola (13-0) back in the championship game for the third straight season. Click for more from MLive Detroit.
Munising 10, Beal City 7
Munising’s best season since 1980 continued with perhaps its most stunning win of an incredible run as it edged the two-time reigning runner-up Aggies (10-3) on a 33-yard field goal in the fourth quarter. An interesting tie-in: Munising coach Jeff Seaberg was on that 1980 team that won the Class C title but hadn’t won more than seven games in a season since. The Mustangs are 12-1. Click for more from the Iron Mountain Daily News.
Muskegon Catholic Central 42, Harbor Beach 6
The Crusaders’ run continued to roll as impressively as expected – their playoff wins were 56-8 over Fulton, 42-0 over Fowler and 48-7 over Mendon before handing 2012 champion Harbor Beach its lone loss this fall. The Pirates (12-1) hadn’t been held to single-digit scoring since their 2011 Division 7 Regional loss to Saginaw Nouvel. MCC (13-0) has won 25 straight. Click for more from the Muskegon Chronicle.
PHOTO: Ithaca (white with yellow) edged Boyne City in their Division 6 Semfinal to extend its winning streak to 69. (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.)