Drive for Detroit: Week 1 Preview

August 23, 2017

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Football remains the most played high school sport in Michigan, not to mention the most popular for fans who fill our stadiums every fall weekend.

Finally, it’s time to start talking about it again – and you’ve come to the right place.

Below is the first of 14 “Drive for Detroit” weekly previews aimed at giving you the most intriguing games in your corner of the state every week through November’s 11-Player Finals at Ford Field.

The original motivation of our weekly football previews has been to give fans a few games they can check out no matter where they live or might be visiting in our great state. For that reason, you’ll see the games at University of Michigan this weekend under “Southeast & Border” although those teams playing don’t necessarily call that part of the state home, and you’ll find the rest listed under regions where the home team is located even if the away team is from far away. 

With most of the state’s games this weekend split over Thursday and Friday, we’ve also listed which day all of them below will be played – but check out the MHSAA Score Center for the full schedule plus scores all three nights as they come in.

Be sure to check out as well the list of 19 games airing this weekend on, including all three from the Vehicle City Gridiron Classic at Flint’s Atwood Stadium, seven games from the Prep Kickoff Classic at Wayne State University and all four games from Saturday’s GRidiron Classic at Grand Valley State University.

The weekly “Drive for Detroit” previews are powered by MI Student Aid. Please click the adjacent linked logo and read below for more information on how MI Student Aid is providing Michigan’s high school students with money to help pay for college.

Bay & Thumb

Marysville (10-1) at Richmond (8-2), Thursday

A 38-21 win over the Blue Devils in last season’s opener was the start to Marysville’s best finish since 2000, as the Vikings’ only loss came in a District Final to eventual Division 4 runner-up Detroit Country Day. Richmond still went on to a perfect run through the Blue Water Area Conference and fifth straight playoff berth, and will look to make it three wins in four years over the reigning Macomb Area Conference Gold champ.

Others that caught my eye: THURSDAY Marine City (4-5) at Algonac (11-2), Flint Carman-Ainsworth (6-4) vs. Grand Blanc (5-5) at Atwood Stadium, Lake Fenton (8-2) at New Lothrop (10-2), FRIDAY Unionville-Sebewaing (9-2) at Ubly (12-1).

Greater Detroit

Macomb Dakota (7-4) at Orchard Lake St. Mary’s (10-4), Thursday

A host of intriguing games will be played this weekend as part of the Prep Kickoff Classic at Wayne State University; four of them are listed below. But it’s tough again to look past this one. The Cougars won the opener with the Eaglets 35-28 a year ago on the way to a 16th straight playoff appearance. St. Mary’s, meanwhile, rebounded to only win a third straight Division 3 championship with a one-point nail-biter over Muskegon in the season’s final game at Ford Field.

Others that caught my eye: THURSDAY Southfield Arts & Technology (8-4) vs. Davison (10-1) at Wayne State University, Walled Lake Western (12-2) vs. West Bloomfield (6-5) at Wayne State University, SATURDAY Oak Park (7-4) vs. Utica Eisenhower (12-1) at Wayne State University, River Rouge (11-2) vs. Detroit East English (5-4) at Wayne State University.


Hudsonville (8-2) at Grand Ledge (7-3), Thursday

Grand Ledge was considered the Lansing area’s best team for most of last season and will vie for that status again with a senior-loaded squad; more on that next week when the Comets take on another contender in DeWitt. Grand Ledge’s only loss through the first eight games last fall was in the opener 21-14 to Hudsonville, which went on to a fourth straight playoff appearance with losses only to Ottawa-Kent Conference Red rivals Rockford and Grandville.

Others that caught my eye: THURSDAY Haslett (4-5) at Fowlerville (7-3), Battle Creek Pennfield (5-5) at Williamston (5-5), FRIDAY Beal City (7-4) at Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart (5-5), East Lansing (6-4) at St. Johns (5-4).

Northern Lower Peninsula

Roscommon (9-2) at Grayling (7-4), Thursday

The Bucks turned a 20-14 opening-night win over Grayling last year into the start of their best season since 2006, including their first playoff appearance since 2012. The Vikings, meanwhile, continued as one of the most consistent programs in the north, putting together their best record in three seasons and seventh playoff appearance in eight seasons.

Others that caught my eye: THURSDAY Big Rapids (3-6) at Cadillac (6-4), FRIDAY Hillman (5-5) at Gaylord St. Mary (6-4), AuGres-Sims (7-3) at Rogers City (4-5), Lansing Sexton (7-4) at Gaylord (4-5).

Southeast & Border

Rockford (7-4) at Saline (11-1), Thursday

A team-wide illness took the Rams out of this much-anticipated matchup a year ago, but it’s a go this week and with no less expectation. After taking a forfeit loss to start and then falling the following week to Lowell, Rockford strung together six straight wins to make the playoffs for a 21st straight season – tied for longest active streak in the state with Menominee. Saline is coming off a second straight 11-1 finish, and with its 2014 run to the Division 1 Final is a combined 34-4 over the last three seasons. The Yellowjackets might have been the second-best team in Michigan in 2016, falling to eventual Division 1 champion Detroit Cass Tech 43-42 in a Regional Final.

Others that caught my eye: THURSDAY Brighton (7-3) vs. Belleville (7-3) at University of Michigan, Constantine (6-4) at Homer (8-3), FRIDAY Clarkston (9-3) vs. Lapeer (7-3) at University of Michigan, Pewamo-Westphalia (14-0) at Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central (4-5).

Southwest Corridor

Dearborn Divine Child (10-3) at Benton Harbor (10-1), Friday

Its former struggles becoming a distant memory, Benton Harbor has proven to not be a one or even two-year phenomenon. The Tigers once again won’t have an easy go as an independent this fall playing teams from all over the Lower Peninsula and one from Chicago. But they started 10-0 last year before falling by a point in a Division 4 District Final, and expectations are high again despite starting out against a Division 3 semifinalist from a year ago. Divine Child bounced back last fall from a sub-.500 record in 2015 to post its best since 1985. This one will be key for the Falcons as well with their nonleague slate also including playoff regulars East Lansing and Warren DeLaSalle.

Others that caught my eye: THURSDAY Portage Northern (5-5) at Battle Creek Lakeview (6-3), Fennville (3-6) at Schoolcraft (10-1), Marcellus (4-5) at Decatur (4-5), FRIDAY Lawton (8-2) at Watervliet (7-3).

Upper Peninsula

Iron Mountain (8-3) at Ishpeming (3-5), Friday

After Ishpeming’s dominance of the Mid-Peninsula Conference for most of this decade, last year belonged instead to Negaunee and Iron Mountain. The Mountaineers opened 2016 by handing the Hematites their first loss since 2014 and ending Ishpeming’s 27-game regular-season winning streak; Iron Mountain went on to its best overall finish since 2011. But Ishpeming, which hadn’t had a sub-.500 season previously since 2001, surely has been looking forward to starting over against this familiar opponent.

Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Gladstone (3-6) at Gwinn (6-4), Niagara Northern Elite, Wis. (1-0 this season) at Norway (9-3), SATURDAY Marinette, Wis. (0-1 this season) at Menominee (12-2), Hancock (5-4) at Lake Linden-Hubbell (10-1).

West Michigan

Jackson Lumen Christi (12-2) at Grand Rapids West Catholic (12-2), Friday

The Grand Rapids area in particular is loaded this weekend with matchups of some of its best against contenders from the Detroit and Lansing areas, including a replay of last season’s Division 4 Final between Grand Rapids Catholic Central and Detroit Country Day. But West Catholic/Lumen Christi wins out by a step this time because both are reigning MHSAA champions – West Catholic in Division 5 for the fourth straight year and Lumen Christi in Division 6. The teams have split openers the last two seasons, as West Catholic won last year’s meeting 30-13 – and the Falcons might be favorites off the bat again returning star quarterback Gaetano Vallone while Lumen Christi graduated 2,000-yard rusher Bo Bell.

Others that caught my eye: THURSDAY Farmington Hills Harrison (5-4) at East Grand Rapids (8-3), DeWitt (10-2) at Grand Rapids Christian (9-2), Hudsonville Unity Christian (10-3) at Allendale (8-3), FRIDAY Detroit Country Day (13-1) at Grand Rapids Catholic Central (13-1).


Battle Creek St. Philip (5-4) at Wyoming Tri-unity Christian (11-1), Friday

Tri-unity broke into the playoffs last season for the first time and drove all the way to the 8-Player Semifinals before falling for the first and only time in 2016. So this likely won’t resemble at all the Defenders’ only other matchup with St. Philip, a 68-0 11-player loss in 2008. The Tigers, 8-player runners-up in 2015, lost four of their last five last season to just miss the playoffs – proof of the improving strength of the 8-player field. That said, it wouldn’t be a surprise if they returned to the elite.

Others that caught my eye: THURSDAY Peck (5-4) at Lawrence (8-2), Rudyard (5-4) at Cedarville (6-4), FRIDAY Rapid River (6-4) at Crystal Falls Forest Park (9-2), Bellaire (3-6) at Pickford (10-2).

Second Half’s weekly “Drive for Detroit” previews are powered by MI Student Aid, a part of the Student Financial Services Bureau located within the Michigan Department of Treasury. MI Student Aid encourages students to pursue postsecondary education by providing access to student financial resources and information, including various student financial assistance programs to help make college more affordable for Michigan students. MI Student Aid administers the state’s 529 savings programs (MET/MESP) and eight additional aid programs within its Student Scholarships and Grants division. Click for more information and connect with MI Student Aid on Facebook and Twitter @mistudentaid. 

PHOTO: A Montague receiver snags a pass over a Whitehall defender last season. (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.)