Edwards, Lakers Run Away With 1st Title

January 23, 2021

By Jason Schmitt
Special for Second Half

DETROIT – It was never really a matter of if, but rather when Donovan Edwards was going to bust a big run.

On Saturday, the West Bloomfield senior answered the call, scoring on runs of 71 and 78 yards en route to a three-touchdown afternoon while leading his Lakers to a 41-0 victory over 2019 champion Davison in the Division 1 Football Final at Ford Field.

Edwards, who has signed to play collegiately at the University of Michigan, finished the afternoon with 257 yards on just 14 carries. Despite not playing in the fourth quarter, he totaled the eighth-highest rushing total in MHSAA Finals history. And it was enough for West Bloomfield head coach Ron Bellamy to make a major declaration.

“This here is the best football player in the state of Michigan,” Bellamy said of Edwards. “Five star. Big college. Whatever it may be. Teams come to stop one football player, and he had 200-some yards (today).

“I’m from Louisiana, and I had a chance to play against Ed Reed in high school. I had a chance to play against Reggie Wayne, Eli Manning, I played against NFL Hall of Famers in high school, on the same field, and he looks like them. It ain’t the cliche, ‘Best player on the field.’ He looks like a dude that’s gonna play for a long time in the NFL and be an all-American at the University of Michigan. Obviously some things have to happen in his favor, but you saw it. He just looks different from everybody else on the field.” 

Edwards’ talents were on display right away. After the two teams traded early fumbles, Edwards broke free on the first play from scrimmage for a 78-yard touchdown to give his team a 7-0 lead. 

West Bloomfield would expand its lead to 17-0 by halftime thanks to a 39-yard field goal by senior Jake Ward and a 13-yard touchdown run by senior Mekhi Elam.

The Lakers defense was on display all afternoon, limiting the Cardinals offense to just 136 total yards. It forced a pair of fumbles and converted them into 14 points. Senior defensive end Niles King stripped the ball from the hands of Jay’len Flowers and returned it 40 yards to give his team a 24-0 lead less than a minute into the second half.

“We know that when you come to Ford Field you’ve got to play defense,” Bellamy said. “Davison has a heck of a defense, but our defense was better today. Those guys were lights out. 

“We had an early fumble in the game and they were playing Davison smash-mouth football. They hit us in the mouth. I told the kids, defensively, ‘They’re going to hit us in the mouth early; it’s how you respond to adversity.’ Once they fumbled the ball and we got it back, our defense was balling out.”

Senior linebacker Travis Reece led the Lakers with seven tackles, two for a loss, and added a sack. Senior linebacker Jordan Hoskins had six tackles.

West Bloomfield kicker Jake Ward connected on a pair of field goals, from 39 and 45 yards out, while converting all five of his point-after attempts. All seven of his kickoffs went for touchbacks.

Davison, which defeated Brighton 35-25 to win the 2019 championship, was playing without its regular-season starting quarterback Brendan Sullivan, who enrolled early at Northwestern University. The Cardinals also suffered a loss in-game, when senior defensive end Harrison Unger went down with a leg injury. He left the game with eight minutes remaining in the first quarter.

“Harry is our best player,” Davison head coach Jake Weingartz said. “Defensive end, he plays tight end, slot receiver. He does a lot for us on both sides of the ball. It was unfortunate because he’s a huge part of our gameplan. It was rough.”

Without him, Davison had trouble stopping Edwards and Co. Senior Clarke Hamilton led the Cardinals (11-1) with six tackles. 

“If anyone has watched us play, it was very uncharacteristic of us,” Weingartz said. “I just think we struggled with their speed. Their front six is real good. We missed a lot of opportunities. You just can’t miss them here, and you definitely can’t miss them against a team like West Bloomfield.

 “I’m very proud of our kids for battling all the adversity this year, with the stop and start and losing our quarterback to early graduation. Obviously this is not how we wanted it to end.” 

For West Bloomfield (10-1), Saturday’s championship was the first in school history. The Lakers lost to Clarkston, 3-2, in the 2017 Division 1 title game.

“It’s surreal. It’s so, so surreal,” Bellamy said. “We’ve waited so long for this moment. These last few years, since we lost (to Clarkston), everything in my power, in my coaching staff’s power, we wanted to develop a champion. We’ve been so close, but yet so far. 

“It’s a special feeling. We’ve made many sacrifices this year. The kids’ mental health was challenged with the shutdowns. But we’re here, we made it here. We felt we had a good football team, and we had a chance to win a state championship.”

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) West Bloomfield’s Donovan Edwards (6) strides toward the end zone Saturday, as Davison’s TeAvion Warren pursues. (Middle) The Lakers’ Travis Reece (2) and BJ Rankin (21) work to bring down the Cardinals’ Payton Pizzala. (Click for more from Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)

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.)