Fast Start Sends DeLaSalle Soaring

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

November 24, 2017

DETROIT – Brendan Madigan kept his promise.

He was on the field as a freshman in 2014 when Warren DeLaSalle won its first MHSAA Division 2 football championship. And he enjoyed it so much, he told himself he would come back and do it again.

On Friday, the senior captain led the Pilots to title No. 2, as they rolled to a 41-6 victory against Livonia Franklin again in Division 2 at Ford Field.

“I got to see those guys (in 2014), see what it was like and get the feeling of what it is,” Madigan said. “Ever since then, I made a promise to myself to get all of my guys back here and win it again, so it feels great.”

It was a brilliant finish to a season that started with immediate adversity following a 36-6 loss against Lowell during opening weekend. But the Pilots (12-2) responded positively and proved their worth week in and week out, winning the Detroit Catholic League Central title and knocking off two-time reigning Division 2 champion Detroit Martin Luther King on their way to Ford Field.

“Nobody thought we could do it after we lost to Lowell – and we lost by a lot,” said DeLaSalle junior Evan Vaillancourt, who had 160 yards receiving and a touchdown Friday. “But we came back and had the best practice we had, and played really good (in Week 2) against Grandville, then we played good from there on.”

There was no adversity to deal with in the title game, as DeLaSalle found itself ahead 7-0 just 16 seconds in, and without having put its offense on the field.

Madigan recovered a snap that had sailed over the Franklin backfield and ran 13 yards for the touchdown on the first play from scrimmage. It was the first time since 2005 that the first play from scrimmage had resulted in a touchdown in an MHSAA Final.

“I saw the ball go over (the quarterback’s) head, and immediately I knew I had to scoop it up,” Madigan said. “It bounced good, I got to pick it up and run it in. (DeLaSalle junior) Jacob Dobbs even helped me get in, carrying me a little bit. It felt great to start the game out with points even when they started with the ball.”

DeLaSalle scored 21 points off three first-half Franklin turnovers.

“We knew going in that we couldn’t get them extra opportunities, and that’s kind of what we did there in the first half,” Franklin coach Chris Kelbert said. “Just momentum never got on our side, and that’s one of the things we had to do to win, to beat a team that good, and it just didn’t work out for us.”

DeLaSalle proved it didn’t need good field position to score points, averaging 8.0 yards per play and racking up 313 yards of offense. Senior quarterback Luke Pfromm accounted for 207 of those yards through the air, as he was 10 of 12 passing with a pair of touchdowns.

“I thought (Pfromm’s performance) was decent,” DeLaSalle coach Mike Giannone said with a laugh. “I would say he was on. Some of the things we do, play-action passing, some of the deep balls and other things that he can see – he’s developed into a real fine quarterback, and I think someone out there is going to really get a steal.”

Franklin (11-3), which was playing in its first Final since winning the first MHSAA Class A title in 1975, appeared unfazed by the unfortunate start, driving all the way to the DeLaSalle 5-yard line on the next possession. But that was as close as the Patriots would get, turning the ball over on downs before seeing the Pilots put together a 93-yard drive of their own and go up 14-0 on 60-yard pass from Pfromm to Vaillancourt.

Turnovers on Franklin’s next two possessions allowed the Pilots to essentially put the game away in the second quarter. A Josh DeBerry interception set up a 2-yard Pfromm touchdown run, and a fumble recovery set up 4-yard touchdown pass from Pfromm to Sergio Gasperoni.

“We’ve made some plays defensively (this season); we put pressure on people,” Giannone said. “One of our coaches says, with pressure, the pipes burst.”

A 2-yard touchdown run from Cordell Tannyhill and a 23-yard field goal by Riley Garrison gave DeLaSalle a 38-0 lead heading into halftime. Garrison added a 30-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter.

Franklin’s lone score came on a 5-yard run by Isaac Moore, which he set up with a 72-yard run on the previous play. Moore led the Franklin offense with 160 yards on the ground.

Click for the full box score.

The MHSAA Playoffs are sponsored by the Michigan Army National Guard.

PHOTOS: (Top) Warren DeLaSalle’s Semaj Shelton (12) leaps past a defender's outstretched arm during Friday’s Division 2 Final. (Middle) Pilots quarterback Luke Pfromm rolls out looking for an open receiver.

Mendon 8-Player Championship Game Run Paced by Record-Setting Rushing

By Geoff Kimmerly 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.)