Drive for Detroit: Week 9 Preview

October 20, 2016

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

The sun is setting on another Michigan high school football regular season. 

But the lights haven't gone off yet for 180 teams holding out hope of playing their way into this season's playoff field.

Heading into Thursday night, 160 teams in 11-player could either qualify automatically with a win this weekend or set themselves up for a possible at-large bid. And 20 8-player teams, give or take a few, still look to be alive for one of 16 spots in that field.

A number of games including Detroit Public School League and Big 8/Cascades Conference crossovers were played Thursday. See the MHSAA Score Center for those scores and the schedule for tonight and Saturday. Be sure to tune in to Fox Sports Detroit at 7 p.m. Sunday for the announcement of this season's playoff brackets in all nine divisions. Click for more details on the Selection Sunday Show.

And see below for the final regular-season Drive for Detroit preview, powered by MI Student Aid, with some emphasis placed on games that could help decide the playoff field. All games are tonight unless noted.

Bay & Thumb

Frankenmuth (8-0) at Freeland (8-0)

This is a repeat of last year’s Week 9 scenario, when these Tri-Valley Conference champions – Frankenmuth from the East and Freeland from the Central – met in the final regular season game. Freeland won big, 42-7, and then won 35-12 when they met again two weeks later for a Division 5 District title. The numbers indicate a closer game between the two this time; Freeland’s defense remains stellar giving up only 8.6 points per game, but Frankenmuth’s is giving up only 5.4 and could be the key to reversing last season’s results.  

Others that caught my eye: Lapeer (6-2) at Flint Carman-Ainsworth (6-2), Flint Powers Catholic (5-3) at Davison (8-0), Fenton (6-2) at Linden (6-2), Midland Dow (7-1) at Midland (4-4).

Greater Detroit

Detroit Cass Tech (8-0) vs. Detroit Martin Luther King (7-1) at Ford Field

As anticipated, these two will meet for the PSL Division 1 championship after also facing each other in division play three weeks ago. Cass Tech won that game 31-18, being held to its fewest points of the season but also locking down a King offense that has scored fewer than 39 only one other time. The Crusaders already got a taste of a rematch last week, when they played Detroit East English for the second straight and escaped with a two-point win after downing the Bulldogs by 38 the week before. King will hope for a similar tightening up of the score in this second meeting with the Technicians. 

Others that caught my eye: Lake Orion (5-3) at Bloomfield Hills (8-0), Detroit Denby (7-1) vs. Detroit Mumford (7-1) at Ford Field, Oak Park (6-2) at Southfield Arts & Technology (5-3), Detroit Catholic Central (8-0) vs. Orchard Lake St. Mary’s (5-3) on Saturday at Ford Field


Walled Lake Western (7-1) at Brighton (7-1)

This Lakes championship game features the winners of the Kensington Lakes Activities Association West (Brighton) and North (Western) in their first meeting since 1997. The Warriors are undefeated aside from having to forfeit an opening-night victory and have beaten three teams already qualified for the playoffs and two more that could get in at-large. Brighton has four wins against teams that are in or close, but did lose Week 2 to Northville – which lost to Western in Week 3.

Others that caught my eye: Grandville Calvin Christian (5-3) at Belding (5-3), Laingsburg (7-1) at Durand (5-3), Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central (4-4) at Lansing Catholic (7-1), Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary (6-2) at New Lothrop (8-0).

Northern Lower Peninsula

Boyne City (6-2) at Traverse City St. Francis (8-0)

Boyne City’s rough start to this season is barely a memory two months later as it has a chance to finish this comeback with a Northern Michigan Football Conference Legends-clinching victory against reigning champion St. Francis. The Ramblers will have a little vengeance in mind after St. Francis' 32-13 win in their 2015 meeting decided the league title. But the Gladiators are riding high; St. Francis downed playoff-bound Kalkaska 49-0 last week, has given up 15 points over its last four games and no more than 14 in any game this fall.

Others that caught my eye: Traverse City Central (7-1) at Cadillac (6-2), Kalkaska (6-2) at Grayling (5-3), Clare (7-1) at Houghton Lake (5-3), Frankfort (8-0) at Onekama (6-2).

Southeast & Border

Birmingham Groves (8-0) at Saline (8-0)

Trying to pick an angle on this one is tough; it’s just a great matchup. Both teams went 9-0 last season, so the winner going undefeated won’t be something new. Both also rank among the highest in any division for playoff-point average, so the winner of this one could be looking at a nice playoff road – but the loser will be in good shape as well. Both are keyed by strong defenses: Saline has given up 12.7 points per game but only 31 points over their last four. Groves, meanwhile, has given up only 34 points over the last seven games and no more than eight since Week 2.

Others that caught my eye: Morenci (5-3) at Adrian Madison (4-4), Dearborn (7-1) at Ann Arbor Skyline (4-4), Sand Creek (7-1) at Petersburg-Summerfield (5-3), Grass Lake (7-1) at Springport (7-1).

Southwest Corridor

Portage Central (7-1) at St. Joseph (6-2)

Portage Central no doubt has been looking forward to this one; the Mustangs were cruising along to an outright Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference West title and perfect regular season last year when St. Joseph busted both with a 22-6 Week 9 win. The teams ended up sharing the league title, and the Bears are in the same position of trying to force another share after losing to Stevensville Lakeshore in Week 4. Portage Central’s only loss this fall was on the road to one-loss Traverse City Central.

Others that caught my eye: Traverse City West (6-2) at Coldwater (6-2), Lawton (7-1) at Decatur (4-4), Portland (8-0) at Marshall (4-4), DeWitt (7-1) at Portage Northern (5-3).

Upper Peninsula

Newberry (7-1) at St. Ignace (7-1)

The Indians could add a major highlight to their best season since 2004 by avenging last year’s 50-20 playoff loss to the Saints. St. Ignace went on to the Division 8 Semifinals and this fall locked up an eighth-straight league title in its first season in the NMFL Legends division. Newberry can gain a share of the Mid-Eastern Conference title, but only if first-place and undefeated Lake Linden-Hubbell falls this weekend to Munising.

Others that caught my eye: Iron Mountain (6-2) at Norway (7-1), Kingsford (6-2) at Escanaba (6-2), Bark River-Harris (3-5) at Felch North Dickinson (5-3), Hancock (4-4) at Houghton (3-5).

West Michigan

Rockford (6-2) at Hudsonville (7-1)

For most of this season, it didn’t look like this game would mean as much as it does once again. Rockford has rattled off six straight wins after a rough start and holds a one-win advantage on both Grandville and Hudsonville in the Ottawa-Kent Conference Red. Hudsonville fell to Grandville in Week 4 but can create a three-way tie for the title if it can avenge last year’s pair of losses to the Rams – 28-27 in Week 9 and then 21-13 in their District Final.

Others that caught my eye: Grand Rapids West Catholic (7-1) at Allendale (6-2), Hudsonville Unity Christian (7-1) at Byron Center (7-1), Zeeland East (6-2) at Zeeland West (6-2), East Grand Rapids (6-2) at Grand Rapids South Christian (5-3).


Powers North Central (8-0) at Stephenson (7-1) 

The Jets have turned away all challengers in their quest to repeat as MHSAA champions. North Central has yet to lose a game in two seasons of 8-player football, and it’s scored at least 56 points in every game this fall and 76 or more four of the last five weeks. Enter Stephenson, which saw North Central twice last season and this fall has lost only to Crystal Falls Forest Park – the team to give North Central its toughest challenge so far.

Others that caught my eye: Camden-Frontier (5-1) at Waldron (4-4), New Haven Merritt (8-0) at Flint International Academy (6-2).

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. 

PHOTOS: Whitehall and Ravenna took the field under a picturesque sunset Oct. 7. (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.)