Drive for Detroit: Week 9 Preview
October 19, 2017
By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Maybe because it still feels like summer some days downstate, but it seems like we’ve gotten to Week 9 of the football season more quickly this fall.
So let’s get right into it. Playoff fields will be announced at 7 p.m. Sunday on FOX Sports Detroit PLUS. But there is still much to be decided. There are 80 automatic playoff bids still available in 11-player – this observer’s guess is that 55 will be filled by weekend’s conclusion – and a handful of league titles remain up for grabs.
Our “Drive for Detroit” preview below might look like it’s not hitting on some of the best games in your area this weekend, but that’s by design – today’s report, powered by MI Student Aid, is focused on those final league-deciding battles, some key rivalries, but for the most part picks out games that could have the most bearing on who continues on into next week.
There were 20 games statewide Thursday, and those results like all this weekend can be found on the MHSAA Score Center. Click to monitor records and playoff points for all 614 football teams in Michigan this weekend as the field of 288 continues to take its final shape. Click for more information on the “Sunday Selection Show” and a list of games that will be broadcast live tonight on MHSAA.tv.
Bay & Thumb
Clare (7-1) at Beaverton (8-0), Friday
This has been Beaverton’s season, starting with wins over Breckenridge and Harbor Beach – the only losses for those teams as both have gone on to win league titles – and continuing through a dominant run over the first six games of the Jack Pine Conference schedule. The Beavers tonight can clinch their first league championship since 1989, but the greatest obstacle of all stands in the way. Clare also is 6-0 in the league, having lost only to still-undefeated Ithaca on opening night, and has won or shared nine of the last 10 Jack Pine titles. The winner tonight claims the whole thing.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Williamston (5-3) at Lake Fenton (7-1), Midland (7-1) at Midland Dow (7-1), Flint Carman-Ainsworth (5-3) at Lapeer (5-3), Croswell-Lexington (5-3) at Goodrich (7-1).
Detroit East English (8-0) vs. Detroit Martin Luther King (7-1) at Ford Field, Friday
This Detroit Public School League A Final might be the most important game between King and East English since East English was formed out of the former Crockett and Finney high schools in 2012. King is a regular in this league finale but usually faces Detroit Cass Tech, which instead it defeated in last week’s semifinal 17-7. After falling to East English in their first meeting ever in 2012, the Crusaders have won the last seven games between the two – including taking two from the Bulldogs in back-to-back weeks in 2016 by a combined 10 points.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Madison Heights Lamphere (5-3) at Madison Heights Madison (8-0), Canton (7-1) at Livonia Churchill (7-1), SATURDAY Dearborn Divine Child (7-1) vs. Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard (7-1) at Ford Field, Warren DeLaSalle (6-2) vs. Detroit Catholic Central (5-3) at Ford Field.
Okemos (5-3) at East Lansing (6-2), Friday
The Trojans started this season 1-2 taking losses to Dearborn Divine Child and Grand Ledge, which are a combined 14-2. Riding a defense that has given up a combined 28 points over the last four weeks, East Lansing battled through most of the rest of the Capital Area Activities Conference Blue and is headed to the playoffs for the second straight season thanks in part to three wins by five points or fewer. Okemos started 4-0 but then lost three straight before getting back on the positive side last week against Holt. This season has been a success regardless, with more wins than the last two combined, but the Chiefs would love to beat an old rival to get back to the playoffs for the first time since 2014.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Saranac (5-3) at Blanchard Montabella (4-4), Ionia (4-4) at Lake Odessa Lakewood (7-1), Marshall (4-4) at Portland (7-1), St. Louis (5-3) at Breckenridge (7-1).
Northern Lower Peninsula
Traverse City St. Francis (8-0) at Boyne City (8-0), Friday
The matchup has become one of the best small-school games statewide each season. It’s decided the Northern Michigan Football Conference Legends championship the last three years with one of the two teams then going on to at least the Division 6 Regional Finals each of those seasons. Like last year, these teams meet tonight both undefeated in league play. St. Francis handed Boyne City a 22-0 defeat in 2016 and also gave the Ramblers their only losses of 2015 – the first in Week 5 and the final in a Regional rematch. Boyne City is banking this time will look more like the three straight wins in this series from 2012-14, and the Ramblers look that caliber giving up no more than 13 points in a game so far. Then again, the Gladiators have given up 45 points total this fall and haven’t lost a regular-season game since that 2014 Boyne City loss.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Harbor Springs (4-4) at Johannesburg-Lewiston (5-3), Grayling (5-3) at Kalkaska (4-4), Evart (4-4) at Maple City Glen Lake (5-2), Oscoda (5-3) at Tawas (2-5).
Southeast & Border
Reading (7-1) at Michigan Center (7-1), Friday
The champions of the Big 8 and Cascades conferences meet in Week 9, and it’s a crowning regular-season achievement for a Reading team that had won six games combined over the last two seasons and earned its first league title since 2012. It’s a great opportunity as well for Michigan Center, which shared the Cascades title with Napoleon and Addison – the Cardinals’ first piece of a championship since sharing in 2013. To the victor tonight goes a little more pride, and also possibly enough points to earn a home playoff game.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Hudson (7-1) at Blissfied (5-3), Brooklyn Columbia Central (6-2) at Hillsdale (4-4), Milan (5-3) at Ypsilanti Lincoln (6-2), Morenci (5-3) at Petersburg-Summerfield (6-2).
Three Rivers (7-1) at Vicksburg (6-2), Friday
Technically, the Wolverine B Conference can still finish with three teams sharing the title. It would take, in part, co-leader Edwardsburg falling to two-win Sturgis. So while that seems less likely to occur, Three Rivers faces a much tougher task to hold on to its share of the prize. The Wildcats find themselves tied for first because of a three-point win over the Eddies two weeks ago, and can keep what would be a first league title since 2009. But Three Rivers beat third-place Vicksburg by only a point last year after losing three straight to the Bulldogs. And with that slim chance at a three-way title still alive, the Wildcats are sure to see Vicksburg’s best again.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Kalamazoo United (6-2) at Schoolcraft (5-3), Paw Paw (4-4) at Dowagiac (5-3), Coloma (5-3) at Watervliet (8-0), Climax-Scotts (6-2) at Athens (5-3).
Escanaba (7-1) at Kingsford (6-1), Friday
Escanaba won two weeks ago a game that lined up like a meeting of the two best teams in the Upper Peninsula, handing the only loss to then-undefeated Gladstone. But Kingsford has belonged in that conversation too, and tonight’s game has the same feel – and with the winner claiming the outright Great Northern Conference championship. Kingsford’s only loss was on opening night to Menasha, Wis., which has gone on to go 8-1. The Flivvers actually have been a little better against their league opponents too, scoring three more points than Escanaba and giving up 48 fewer – not to mention they have three straight losses to the Eskymos they’d love to avenge.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Gladstone (7-1) at Calumet (5-3), Bark River-Harris (4-4) at Munising (4-3), Negaunee (4-4) at Ishpeming Westwood (7-1), Menominee (5-3) at Marquette (4-4).
Zeeland West (6-2) at Zeeland East (8-0), Friday
This matchup between schools literally next door to each other is always one of the most anticipated on the west side of the state. But it means more again as both are undefeated in the Ottawa-Kent Conference Green and with the possibility they could see each other in the playoffs at some point as well. The Chix have put up 41 or more points in every game – their most impressive offensive output this decade. West has won their last three meetings, and its two defeats this fall – to Muskegon Mona Shores and Grand Rapids West Catholic, a combined 13-3 – no doubt prepared the Dux for games of this caliber.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Grand Rapids South Christian (7-1) at East Grand Rapids (8-0), Grandville (6-2) at Holland West Ottawa (7-1), Lake City (8-0) at Morley Stanwood (7-1), Montague (8-0) at Muskegon Catholic Central (7-0).
Bay City All Saints (6-2) at Kinde-North Huron (7-1), Friday
A lot of the hype this season deservedly has gone to teams playing – and succeeding – in their first seasons of 8-player football, and All Saints is part of that group. The Cougars were 3-6 last fall in 11-player and had one winning season over their last six before making the switch. Kinde-North Huron, meanwhile, has played 8-player since 2012 – and it’s having its most successful regular season since 2007. Both are undefeated in the North Central Thumb League Stripes division, with the winner tonight taking the outright championship.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Battle Creek St. Philip (5-3) at Bellevue (7-1), Stephenson (7-1) at Powers North Central (5-2), Suttons Bay (5-3) at Mesick (5-3), Webberville (5-3) at Morrice (7-1).
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: Zeeland East (yellow helmets) downed Saginaw Swan Valley on opening night and will face arguably its toughest opponent since in rival Zeeland West this weekend. (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.)