Everett 'family' sticks together, wins together

October 19, 2012

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

At the end of Thursday’s practice, another chance at history only 24 hours away, Lansing Everett’s football team met for a players-only “family meeting” in the shadow of Archie Ross Stadium’s high concrete bowl.

These brief night-before-game gatherings have become a staple of the Vikings’ best season in more than a quarter century.

With seniors Jaleel Canty and James Mills leading, the players discuss expectations for the team as a whole and each other individually.

This is what was missing two seasons ago when Everett, with 16 of these players on the roster, finished 0-9. The transformation began to take root last fall as the Vikings finished 4-5. Tonight, they can end the regular season 9-0.

“We knew what we could do. We knew our abilities. We’ve known each other since sixth or seventh grade,” Canty said. “We knew that all it took was a little hard work. Everyone dedicated themselves, and we stuck together.

“Honestly, I think it’s because we’re like brothers. We say ‘family’ when we break the huddle, and everyone on this team loves each other. We argue, we fight all the time, but we love each other. We always stick together.”

Everett gets a Second Half High 5 this week because it's one of the top football teams in the state, but also for pulling off a tremendous turnaround – and against a schedule this fall that included annual powerhouses Grand Ledge, Holt, Lansing Sexton, East Lansing and nonleague foe DeWitt.

The Vikings have outscored opponents by a combined 234-64, after being outscored 223-102 during that winless season of 2010. Four this year's seniors joined the varsity as freshmen in 2009, and 15 plus junior quarterback Lucas Barner played significant roles on that winless squad.

History, recent and ancient

Don’t try to stump the Vikings on their family history. They’ve already scoured the Internet to figure out the context of what they’ve accomplished so far – and the meanings behind two important dates:

1986 – The last season, before this fall, that the Vikings won a league championship. The clinched a share of the Capital Area Activities Conference Blue title by beating Sexton last week, and can win it outright tonight at Jackson.

1954 – The last season Everett finished the regular season without a loss, although Canty was quick to point out that team played only eight games. His can finish 9-0.

“They’re excited. They know they’re doing something – or they’re close to doing something,” coach Marcelle Carruthers said.

“We wanted to know if we could make history,” Canty added. “It’s really crazy, seeing where we came from.”

Carruthers said only a handful of players are familiar with the stars that led to Everett’s resurgence last decade – like quarterbacks Mike Canfield and Reggie Williams and receiver Michael Stevenson.

But none are old enough to remember what Carruthers tackled when he took over the struggling program in the spring of 2000.

The streak

From opening night 1995 until Sept. 17, 1999, Everett didn’t win a game. The streak reached 39 losses, and in eight of them the Vikings didn’t score.

Coach Fred Ford shepherded Everett as it finally won that September night and then the next week too before closing 1999 with four more losses. A mission accomplished, he stepped down after the fall – and was at the press conference to greet Carruthers, considered by many the best quarterback and perhaps  best player ever from the Lansing area.

Three more losing seasons followed, running that streak to 16 in a row. But the Vikings were making visible strides. Finally, they broke through with a 6-4 finish in 2003 that included the first of four playoff appearances over six seasons before having to hit the restart button again with a 2-7 record in 2009.

As mentioned above, four of these seniors played on that team as freshmen. They were joined by 11 more classmates and Barner among underclassmen in 2010. The record turned ugly, but the experience resulted in 19 returning starters heading into 2011. Everett finished last season 4-5, but with two losses by a combined eight points. Those taught the players what was necessary to finish a winning effort.

“You're always aware of where you came from, and how good it feels now,” said Carruthers, a Lansing Eastern grad who then played and coached at Central Michigan. “But you also have to know the trials and tribulations too, which makes you humble. You appreciate it and you stay humble because you know how (difficult) it is to stay up; you can go right back down.

“So I think about it all the time. I do.”

More to accomplish

Carruthers told his players Thursday how proud of them he is for sticking together and sticking it out.

That often doesn’t happen when programs hit bumps in the road like Everett did the last three years. Players quit, or move to other schools, or keep playing but keep struggling.

But this team always had talent. Canty, a receiver and defensive back, will sign this winter to play next fall at the University of Cincinnati. He's just one of a large group of standouts with Mills, Barner and running back/linebacker Anthony White other names that have been written and said frequently this fall. Senior Alec Cambric has been a pleasant surprise in his first season with the team, emerging as one of the Lansing area’s top running backs.

Regardless of what happens tonight, Everett will make its sixth playoff appearance ever next week. The Vikings have won playoff games only twice, and have never advanced beyond the District Final.

So there are more goals to achieve. And be sure those will be discussed at the next family meeting, as a large group of players who grew up together look to make history one more time.

“We aren’t having any of that playing around, any of that joking. We’re taking it real seriously,” Canty said. “And that’s one of the things we didn’t have our sophomore year when we went 0-9, someone to push us and let us know what we needed to do. And we’ve been there before, as far as losing.

“But we haven’t been here before. This is a first.”

PHOTO: Lansing Everett's Jaleel Canty will sign this winter with the University of Cincinnati and is arguably the top player in the Lansing area this fall. (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:

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.)