Drive for Detroit: Week 1 in Review

August 27, 2018

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

A new season means new beginnings on high school football fields all over Michigan.

Owosso surely is feeling a resurgence after ending a 35-game losing streak with a 23-18 win over rival Corunna. Same for Memphis, which saw a 26-game losing streak end with a 14-12 win over Burton Bentley. And don’t forget Farwell, which ended a 17-game winless streak by beating Coleman 20-18.

And how about all of 8-player, which saw both MHSAA champions from a year ago defeated this opening weekend? Just like that, those brackets seem a little wider open this fall.

Every team has a chance to create something memorable, and below are some from each region of the state that got off to the quickest starts. “Drive for Detroit” is sponsored by MI Student Aid.   

Bay & Thumb

HEADLINER: Ortonville-Brandon 26, Fenton 21 The Blackhawks ended Fenton’s Flint Metro League winning streak at 29, earning their first win over the Tigers since 2011. Fenton has won at least a share of the league title all seven seasons this decade, but hasn’t had to play catch-up since losing its 2012 opener. Click for more from the Flint Journal.

Also of note: New Lothrop 48, Maple City Glen Lake 16 The Hornets have won 72 of their last 73 regular-season games, and this one could end up among the most impressive of the string.

Remember this one: Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker 36, Hudson 6 These are both annual small-school powers, and last year Laker went on to finish 10-2 despite losing to the Tigers in Week 1.

More shoutouts: Marysville 14, Richmond 0 Beating the playoff regular Blue Devils to start the season always is a good sign, especially after Marysville lost last year and finished 4-5. Grand Blanc 38, Midland Dow 35 The Bobcats have moved to the Saginaw Valley League this fall; although Dow is in the other division, this was an impressive start.

Greater Detroit

HEADLINER: Belleville 40, Brighton 35 Brighton quarterback Will Jontz starred but Belleville prevailed, scoring during the final minute to pull ahead for good. The Tigers are considered MHSAA championship contenders coming off a one-loss season. Click for more from the Detroit News.

Also of note: Oak Park 31, Utica Eisenhower 13 Beating the reigning Macomb Area Conference champ is big, especially after Oak Park lost last year’s matchup 24-7.

Remember this one: Northville 28, Livonia Franklin 14 The Patriots went on to finish Division 2 runners-up after a close win over Northville last year in Week 3. Northville is looking to bounce back from a 3-6 finish.

More shoutouts: Detroit Martin Luther King 52, East St. Louis, Ill. 38 The Crusaders made a statement beating one of the top programs in Illinois. Detroit Cass Tech 40, River Rouge 7 Both made the MHSAA Semifinals last season.


HEADLINER: Pewamo-Westphalia 38, Ithaca 0 The Pirates ended Ithaca's 73-game winning streak in the most unexpected way, dealing the usually high-scoring Yellowjackets their first shutout since 2004. P-W may have graduated some big names from the back-to-back Division 7 championship teams, but there's still plenty of power. Click for more from the Lansing State Journal.

Also of note: Haslett 28, Coldwater 7 The Vikings' vast improvement in 2017 is carrying over, as Haslett won big against a Coldwater team riding five straight playoff appearances.

Remember this one: DeWitt 22, Grand Rapids Christian 10 A year ago, DeWitt lost to Christian in the opener and came back to beat the Eagles in the Pre-District round. Could they meet again?

More shoutouts: Breckenridge 20, Beaverton 19 The Huskies avenged last season's opening-night loss, their only regular-season defeat of the last two seasons. East Lansing 40, St. Johns 6 After a one-point game in 2017, the Trojans more comfortably made it three straight against the Redwings.

Northern Lower Peninsula

HEADLINER: Alpena 30, Escanaba 21 Beating an Escanaba team that made the Division 3 Semifinals a year ago might be the best victory for Alpena since its last playoff season in 2004. The Wildcats had lost eight of the last nine to the Eskymos and are coming off back-to-back 2-7 seasons – but have plenty to be excited about this week. Click for more from the Alpena News.

Also of note: Tawas 48, Lincoln Alcona 24 The Braves are looking to bounce back from a 2-6 finish a year ago, and what a way to start than by avenging last season’s 33-point loss to the Tigers.

Remember this one: Traverse City West 17, Midland 15 The way the maps sort out, these opening-night foes could end up in the same playoff District for the second year in a row – and West owns a 4-2 advantage in their recent series.

More shoutouts: Rogers City 20, Whittemore-Prescott 17 The Hurons fell to W-P by 37 a year ago and had lost all five games of their recent series with the Cardinals. Roscommon 44, Grayling 34 The Bucks also avenged a big 2017 loss, having fallen to Grayling by 46 a year ago.

Southeast & Border

HEADLINER: Jackson Lumen Christi 34, Grand Rapids West Catholic 12  The Titans have now won three of four recent openers against West Catholic, with this one notable as Lumen is the back-to-back Division 6 champion and West Catholic has won five straight Division 5 titles. Both have new contributors taking over key roles, but with aspirations surely high again. Click for more from the Jackson Citizen Patriot.

Also of note: Michigan Center 29, Homer 0 The Cardinals are coming off a shared Cascades Conference title and playoff berth, and shutting out another 2017 playoff team was a great way to restart a run.

Remember this one: Brooklyn Columbia Central 24, Napoleon 0 Columbia Central has opened with four straight wins over Napoleon (another of the Cascades co-champs a year ago) and made the playoffs the last three years.

More shoutouts: Pittsford 28, Morenci 0 Both teams have made the playoffs the last four seasons, but in 2017 Pittsford won their meeting by just a point. Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central 37, Harper Woods Chandler Park 30 The Falcons closed last fall winning six of their final eight games and have to be glad to open with another victory over a Chandler Park program that’s made the playoffs nine straight seasons.

Southwest Corridor

HEADLINER: Benton Harbor 19, Battle Creek Harper Creek 17 With a new coach taking over after a historic three-year run, and Harper Creek entering this season coming off one of its best finishes ever, it was tough to know what to expect for Benton Harbor last week. Expectations surely jumped after this win. Click for more from the St. Joseph Herald-Palladium.

Also of note: Battle Creek Central 34, St. Joseph 27 The Bearcats haven’t made the playoffs since 2008 but enjoyed one of its best recent wins over a Bears team that has made the postseason 10 of the last 12 years.

Remember this one: Niles 32, Battle Creek Lakeview 27 The Vikings were 2-7 last season and a combined 7-20 over the last three, but avenged last season’s 31-0 defeat to a Spartans team that also is a regular in the playoff hunt.

More shoutouts: Kalamazoo United 46, Berrien Springs 7 Eric Wenzel tossed six touchdown passes for United in a meeting of 2017 playoff teams. Dowagiac 54, Vicksburg 14 The Chieftains broke a three-year losing streak against Vicksburg and could be the early pick to push annual favorite Edwardsburg in the Wolverine Conference.

Upper Peninsula

HEADLINER: Iron Mountain 12, Negaunee 9 Half the Upper Peninsula will be watching as the newly-expanded Western Peninsula Athletic Conference sorts itself out this fall. But Iron Mountain quickly made ample noise after winning just one game a year ago. Negaunee is coming off a rare sub-.500 season too but was a regular contender in the old Mid-Peninsula Conference. Click for more from the Iron Mountain Daily News

Also of note: Norway 54, Lake Linden-Hubbell 30 Coming off two straight nine-win seasons, the Knights will have lots of competition on their side of the new West-PAC, making this opening win over a frequent contender potentially key.

Remember this one: Iron River West Iron County 14, Munising 0 The Wykons are coming off a Division 8 Semifinal run last fall and might be the team Norway sees at the end of the West-PAC Small-school race – at least literally, since they meet in Week 9.

More shoutouts: Gwinn 36, Bark River-Harris 20 The Modeltowners had beaten Bark River-Harris once in the last five season – in 2016, when they made the playoffs for the first time since 1999. Hancock 28, L'Anse 27 Hancock’s best season last fall since 2006 still included a two-point loss to L’Anse, now avenged.

West Michigan

HEADLINER: Muskegon 36, Warren DeLaSalle 21 Not much is needed to build up this game’s significance other than to remind that Muskegon is the reigning Division 3 champion and DeLaSalle last year’s winner in Division 2. The Big Reds’ running game could be in midseason form already. Click for more from the Muskegon Chronicle.

Also of note: Reed City 34, Montague 13 Even as Reed City tied its program record last fall with 11 wins, that run started with a 21-point loss to Montague – which went on to win 11 games as well.

Remember this one: Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central 21, Jenison 19 The Rangers have high expectations after last season’s record 12-win season – which could be good news for a Jenison team looking for its first playoff berth since 2003.

More shoutouts: Zeeland East 36, East Grand Rapids 27 Both won nine games in 2017, and both should be in league and playoff mixes again. Holland West Ottawa 35, Stevensville Lakeshore 10 West Ottawa went from 2-7 in 2016 to 10-2 in 2017 and may not be done after handing the Lancers their first opening-night loss since 2006.


HEADLINER: Eben Junction Superior Central 46, Crystal Falls Forest Park 24 The Cougars have made significant strides the last few seasons and won their last three games of 2017. But the Trojans beat Superior Central by 42 during the regular season on the way to winning last season’s 8-player Division 2 title. Click for more from the Iron Mountain Daily News.

Also of note: Onaway 40, Central Lake 28 Last season’s 8-player Division 1 champion also began this campaign in defeat as Onaway held the Trojans to their fewest points in 14 games of this format.

Remember this one: Stephenson 46, Cedarville 40 These two have played their last two games against each other, and Stephenson has won both. A repeat playoff meeting in a few months would make for another intriguing rematch.

More shoutouts: Engadine 64, Powers North Central 34 The Eagles posted their highest point total since Week 4 of 2016 in downing the two-time champ. Hillman 34, Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart 27 This began the 8-player chapter for two proud small-school, formerly 11-player programs.

Second Half’s weekly “Drive for Detroit” previews and reviews 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: Lapeer's defense swarms around a Lake Orion ball carrier during the Lightning's 17-7 win Thursday at University of Michigan. (Photo by Terry Lyons.)

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.)