Familiar Story Ends With Ishpeming Title

November 30, 2013

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor 

DETROIT – The knowledge gap covering 466 miles between Ishpeming and Detroit Loyola certainly was bridged when the two met in last season’s Division 7 Final. 

Ishpeming – winner that day 20-14 – knew what Loyola had coming back this fall, and heard about a new quarterback coming in. The Hematites watched from afar as the Bulldogs continued to dominate against a beefed-up schedule – and laughed perhaps a little anxiously when 50-0 scores regularly showed up among the Friday night results.

Loyola finished the regular season ranked No. 2. Ishpeming was No. 1. Needless to say, the interest continued to intensify. 

“We knew they were going to be in the Finals,” Ishpeming senior quarterback Alex Briones said. “Right when they were doing selection Sunday, we saw Loyola on the other side of the bracket and we kept them in the back of our heads. We knew we were probably going to meet up with them. But we had to take care of our business first.”

The Hematites did again Saturday, in much the same way but with a few twists as when they beat Loyola a year ago. 

With similar toughness but a little different strategy, Ishpeming came away with its second straight MHSAA title and fourth overall by downing the Bulldogs 22-12.

“It was the same story. From what a lot of people said, we were still the underdog – and rightfully so,” Ishpeming coach Jeff Olson said. “They’re a good team, big and strong. I think it really came down to we made plays.” 

Ishpeming displayed the same toughness as in 2012 in standing up against a much larger Bulldogs team that had beaten its previous playoff opponents by a combined score of 205-14.

But how the Hematites made the deciding plays this time was a little bit different. After running for 236 yards and throwing for only 29 in the 2012 win, Ishpeming managed only 146 yards on the ground – but got a key 76 through the air with Briones utilizing play-action to complete six passes including two for touchdowns against a defense stacked for the run. 

The first scoring strike, 17 yards to junior Marcus Antilla, came three minutes after Loyola fumbled the opening kickoff. Briones completed a two-yard scoring strike to senior Mitch Laurin seconds into the second quarter and then scored on a two-yard run a little more than halfway through the third to push Ishpeming’s advantage to 22-0.

“Obviously this was a pretty big thing after last year, coming back to this. And when we turn the ball over like that on the opening kickoff, put them in scoring position and they capitalize … it makes it hard to climb out,” Loyola coach John Callahan said. “It’s not that we couldn’t have done it and shouldn’t have done it. It just wasn’t there.”

There was another unfortunate similarity to last season’s Final for Loyola that certainly played a part this time again. During the first series in 2012, the Bulldogs lost towering offensive tackle KaJohn Armstrong for the game with an injury. Saturday, they lost two-way starting guard Anthony Fitzpatrick, which added salt to the wounds of that fumble plus three interceptions. 

Ishpeming hadn’t seen much passing during its regular season. But the Hematites were prepared for Loyola’s air game after getting tastes against Lake City and Harbor Beach the last two weeks, respectively.

They also hadn’t had to resort to the pass much themselves during a season that saw only Negaunee and Lake City get within 30 points before Saturday. But when called upon, Briones and his receivers were ready. 

“Sometimes, we’re coming out and trying to pass the ball. We’ll incomplete one and Coach says, ‘That’s it. We’re not passing anymore,’” Briones said. “He’s a little stubborn on that subject, … but we were able to execute it today, so that was good.”

Briones also ran for 60 yards total, and senior fullback Adam Prisk ran for a game-high 77. All four Hematites ball carriers Saturday were seniors, as were four of five who caught passes and the team’s top five tacklers. Total, 16 Ishpeming contributors played their final high school game. 

“Over the last two years, we’ve developed a brotherhood. We work together, hang out together, laugh together and we even pick on each other,” Prisk said. “That’s what brothers kinda do, and it’s one thing we’re going to miss.”

Bulldogs senior quarterback Garrett Schaller did throw for 201 yards and two scores, both to senior receiver Keith Graves. They are two of 10 seniors on their team, but Loyola should return a number of standouts in 2014 including leading rusher Marvin Campbell and some of its defensive leaders. 

“There’s no loser in this game. You’re either a winner, or you learn,” Loyola junior linebacker Darryl Clemons said. “We’ve just got to come back next year and do better.”

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Ishpeming quarterback Alex Briones attempts to leap two Detroit Loyola tacklers during Saturday's Final. (Middle) The Hematites pose with their trophy after winning Division 7 for the second straight season. (Click to see more from Terry McNamara Photography.) 

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.)