Drive for Detroit: Week 6 Preview

September 29, 2016

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Don't think of tonight as the end of another warm September. Instead, consider it the start to a momentous final month of another Michigan high school football regular season. 

Nine games this weekend feature teams with perfect records facing off. Add in that 72 teams statewide can clinch the first automatic playoff berths awarded this fall, and most fans won’t have to drive far to find a game with significant implications.

Check out our preview below of the best games in every corner of the state, powered by MI Student Aid. For the weekend's full schedule, check out the MHSAA Score Center. All games below are Friday unless noted.

Bay & Thumb

Holly (4-1) at Fenton (3-2)

Fenton loaded the front of its schedule with Caledonia and Temperance Bedford and came away with an 0-2 start, but bounced back nicely in pursuit of a sixth straight Flint Metro League title. The Tigers are tied for first with Holly, which also bounced back from an opening-night loss to competitive Berkley and is seeking its first win over Fenton since 2011. Regardless of tonight’s result, Fenton may still hold one more upper hand in the league race – it already has beaten Ortonville Brandon (4-1), Holly’s opponent in Week 9.

Others that caught my eye: Midland (3-2) at Davison (5-0), Flint Carman-Ainsworth (3-2) at Bay City Central (3-2), Corunna (5-0) at Montrose (3-2), Marine City (1-4) at St. Clair (3-2).

Greater Detroit

Detroit Martin Luther King (5-0) at Detroit Cass Tech (5-0), Saturday

These Detroit Public School League rivals have lined up for some colossal tilts over the years – see last season’s 31-28 and 27-25 King wins in their first meeting and then PSL championship game. But this might be the most hyped matchup of the series to date. Cass Tech, last season’s MHSAA Division 1 runner-up, has outscored its opponents by a combined 268-45 while giving up scores to only Oak Park and Detroit East English. Then there’s King, which has outscored its opponents 243-6, giving up its only points to Detroit Central in Week 2. This matchup with likely decide the PSL East Division 1 champion; regardless, they’ll likely meet again in the PSL tournament final in Week 9. And regardless of that as well, both could end their seasons playing again at Ford Field in MHSAA Finals for the second year in a row.

Others that caught my eye: Trenton (5-0) at Allen Park (5-0), Redford Union (4-1) at Dearborn Fordson (5-0), Birmingham Groves (5-0) at Farmington Hills Harrison (3-2), Orchard Lake St. Mary's (3-2) at Birmingham Brother Rice (3-2) on Saturday.


Pewamo-Westphalia (5-0) at Laingsburg (5-0)

Few think defense first when it comes to the Pirates, last season’s Division 7 runner-up. But they haven’t given up a point this season since Week 1 to Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central and haven’t given up more than seven in Central Michigan Athletic Conference play since 2014. Laingsburg ended up winning a District title last year after falling to P-W 50-7 in Week 7 and could be best-suited among league opponents to know how to get on the board this week. But the Wolfpack still must slow down P-W star running back Jared Smith as he attempts to go over 1,000 yards rushing for the season tonight despite carrying the ball only 73 times heading into this game.

Others that caught my eye: Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary (4-1) at Ithaca (5-0), Lake Odessa Lakewood (5-0) at Olivet (4-1), Durand (4-1) at New Lothrop (5-0), Williamston (3-2) at Fowlerville (3-2).

Northern Lower Peninsula

Maple City Glen Lake (4-1) at Frankfort (5-0)

Teams without a league loss face off this weekend in all three divisions of the Northern Michigan Football League, but this Leaders matchup is the most intriguing, arguably, based on past history and the past few weeks. Glen Lake and Frankfort have played each other yearly going back at least to the late 1950s, with their meetings often the best of the season in the old Northwest Conference. Glen Lake set up the intrigue this time by handing Charlevoix its first loss this season last week, and big, 49-7. Frankfort won the Leaders last fall, but lost 10-6 to Glen Lake, which played in the Legends division in 2015.

Others that caught my eye: St. Ignace (4-1) at Gaylord St. Mary (5-0), Kalkaska (5-0) at Boyne City (3-2), East Jordan (4-1) at Charlevoix (4-1), Traverse City St. Francis (5-0) at Grayling (3-2).

Southeast & Border

Grosse Ile (5-0) at Milan (5-0)

While Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central has made the most noise out of the Huron League over the last few seasons, these two are regulars in the mix as well. Both have a pair of 10-win seasons this decade and could be on their ways to a third – with this meeting likely deciding the league title as both have two-win leads on the rest of the conference. Milan, last year’s league runner-up, beat Grosse Ile 44-7 in 2015 and still must see St. Mary next week and then Carleton Airport to finish the Huron slate. The Red Devils, meanwhile, have one more win already than all of last season, shut out St. Mary last week, and after tonight finish the league schedule with Airport and Riverview (which are a combined 2-8).

Others that caught my eye: Chelsea (5-0) at Adrian (3-2), Clinton (4-1) at Sand Creek (5-0), Hudson (5-0) at Hillsdale (3-2), Concord (5-0) at Springport (4-1).

Southwest Corridor

Schoolcraft (5-0) at Lawton (5-0)

Lawton also got the highlighted spot from this region last week, against Gobles as both hoped for the opportunity to face Schoolcraft to decide the Southwestern Athletic Conference Central title. Lawton won 31-21 and gets first shot at the Eagles after falling to them 47-0 last season despite also entering that game 5-0. Schoolcraft quietly has built a 16-game regular-season winning streak and hasn’t allowed a SAC Central opponent to get within 21 points since joining the league a year ago.

Others that caught my eye: South Haven (3-2) at Edwardsburg (5-0), Detroit U-D Jesuit (3-1) at St. Joseph (4-1), Portage Northern (3-2) at Stevensville Lakeshore (4-1), Paw Paw (3-2) at Three Rivers (4-1).

Upper Peninsula

Menominee (5-0) at Escanaba (5-0)

The best in the Great Northern U.P. Conference face off to likely decide the championship, although the winner will need another win next week to clinch at least a share of the title. It’s been a while since Escanaba was in this conversation; a win tonight would give the Eskymos their most in a season since 2011. Breaking a 17-game losing streak to Menominee and qualifying for the playoffs too would make a win tonight that much sweeter – the Maroons, in fact, haven’t lost a league game since 2012 and have won 36 straight regular-season games total.  

Others that caught my eye: Negaunee (5-0) at Norway (5-0), Iron River West Iron County (3-2) at Calumet (4-1), Hurley, Wis. (5-1) at Hancock (3-2), Bark River-Harris (2-3) at Lake Linden-Hubbell (5-0) on Saturday.

West Michigan

Grandville (5-0) at Rockford (3-2)

It’s hard to give this game top billing over Reed City/Chippewa Hills (see below), but it’s explainable given the Ottawa-Kent Conference Red still has six of seven teams in contention for automatic playoff berths and these two arguably are the best. Grandville is enjoying its most successful run since 2006 – when it still lost to Rockford 28-0 to finish second in the league – and has outscored five opponents by a total of 231-31 after downing contenders Hudsonville 36-6 and East Kentwood 46-3 the last two weeks, respectively. Rockford has fought back gallantly from an 0-2 start that included a forfeit because of a team sickness Week 1. Extending a 21-season playoff streak – and more – looks a lot more possible now.

Others that caught my eye: Reed City (5-0) at Remus Chippewa Hills (5-0), Grand Rapids Christian (5-0) at East Grand Rapids (3-2), Cedar Springs (3-2) at Lowell (5-0), Whitehall (4-1) at Muskegon Oakridge (4-1).


New Haven Merritt (5-0) at Owendale-Gagetown (5-0)

These are the top teams in the Mid-Michigan 8-Man Football League, Merritt in the Inland division and Owendale-Gagetown in the Coastal. They are also two of the top teams statewide; Merritt has the fourth highest playoff-point average in 8-player, and Owendale-Gagetown’s is tied for eighth highest. All of this could change this weekend, however; the Bulldogs are 8-0 against Merritt since the Mustangs started their program five years ago. Owendale-Gagetown won last year’s meetings 72-42 and 54-30 – but Merritt, following two straight playoff appearances, is off to its best start ever.

Others that caught my eye: Camden-Frontier (4-0) at Lawrence (5-0), Battle Creek St. Philip (4-1) at Webberville (4-1).

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: Detroit Martin Luther King (yellow jerseys) and Detroit Cass Tech will renew their rivalry Saturday after last facing off in last season’s PSL Final at Ford Field. (Photo courtesy of the Detroit Public School League.)

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.)