Eagles Stone-wall Bellaire in 8 Final

November 16, 2012

By Dean Holzwarth
Special to Second Half

GREENVILLE – Deckerville sophomore Ryan Stone had serious doubts about playing on the varsity team this year.

Stone thought he was better suited for the junior varsity. But following Friday night's MHSAA 8-player football championship game, everyone in the city of Deckerville is glad he opted for the jump to the next level.

The scrawny 5-foot-8, 140-pound Stone made perhaps the biggest play of the game as the Eagles survived a late rally from Bellaire to pull out a 14-12 victory at Greenville High School's Legacy Field.

Stone stopped Bellaire's two-point conversion run try short of the goal line with 49 seconds remaining to prevent a tie score and possible overtime.

“I was lined up and saw him coming around the corner,” Stone said. “I was hustling to him, hoping I could get him before he crossed the line. I just got to him.”

And doing so gave Deckerville its first MHSAA championship in its first Final appearance, to cap its first season in 8-player football. Bellaire made the switch to 8-player three seasons ago, and also made its first MHSAA Final appearance. The first 8-Player Final was last season.

On Friday’s game-saving play, Stone popped out his right shoulder and laid on the turf for several minutes while athletic trainers tended to him.

He eventually stood up and walked gingerly to the sidelines.

“I thought that was amazing,” said Deckerville senior fullback Chris Wolfe, who rushed for 108 yards on 20 carries and scored a touchdown.

“To put his body at risk to stop a two-point conversion for us not to go into overtime – I thought that was amazing to help our team like that.”

Deckerville coach Bill Brown wasn't surprised to see Stone put himself in harm's way for the benefit of his team.

“He has made big plays for us all year, and it takes a lot of heart and guts to make that happen,” he said. “This whole team is just like him, and what a heck of a play. He's one of those kids who thought he might not want to come up as a sophomore, but he came up, and what a great addition to our team.”

Stone also came up with a key interception in the third quarter, and scampered 23 yards for a touchdown on the Eagles' ensuing possession that put them ahead 14-6.

“It's my sophomore year, and to already win a state championship is pretty amazing,” Stone said. “I wanted to stay on the junior varsity this year because I didn't think I could make it on the varsity very well, but I think I did pretty good.”

Stone's effort was almost for naught, as Bellaire recovered an onside kick and threatened in the final seconds.

A 31-yard pass from quarterback Zach Smith to Wes Villafane put Bellaire at the Deckerville 4-yard line.

But Deckerville's defense smothered the run on the game's final play to preserve the win.

“We didn't spike it down there because I live by the philosophy of, let's catch them so the defense can't get set,” Bellaire coach Ron Bindi said. “We hit a big play earlier with that running play, and it just didn't work out.

“The kids have played like this all year. With only 13 of them, they are always outnumbered, but there is no quit in them. We just didn't get it done at the end this time.”

Trailing 14-6 late, Smith tossed a long bomb to Villafane, who hauled in the 52-yard score and trimmed the deficit to14-12.

Bellaire (9-4) failed multiple times to capitalize on scoring opportunities.

The Eagles were inside Deckerville's 30-yard line five times, but only scored once on a 1-yard quarterback keeper by Smith in the final minute of the second quarter.

“We came out ready to play, but our offense did things that we haven't done all year,” Bindi said. “We made mistake, after mistake, after mistake, and you can't win football games like that.”

Deckerville closed with a 12-1 record en route to the title. Its lone loss came in Week 2 against Cedarville.

“Ever since Week 1, it has been a great ride,” Wolfe said. “We learned a lot of things. We learned responsibility, dedication and how to become a team.”

Said Brown: “It means a lot to the program, our community and all the alumni who have played before us and busted their tails. We just happened to have a great year with a great group.”

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PHOTOS: (Top) Deckerville running back Christopher Wolfe prepares for an oncoming tackler during Friday's 8-Player Final. (Middle) Bellaire's Zach Smith (12) dives for his team's first touchdown. (Click to see more from the Regional Final at 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:

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.)