Football Playoffs: Pre-Districts in Review
October 31, 2011
A total of 272 MHSAA playoff football teams has been cut in half heading into this weekend's District finals. Here's one take on the highlights from the opening weekend of the postseason – and a look at some matchups to watch as we move on to the next round.
See a game or a highlight I should've mentioned? Post below and let us know. And click here for results, schedules and more.
DIVISON 1: Canton 24, Plymouth 21 – These schools are located about five football throws from each other, and were ranked adjacently in the final Associated Press state poll; Canton was No. 6 and Plymouth was No. 5. Three weeks earlier, Plymouth beat Canton 31-30. Plymouth also knocked Canton out last season.
DIVISION 2: Rochester Adams 26, Oxford 20 – Rochester Adams has more experience this time of year, with 15 straight playoff appearances, while Oxford was making its first since 2008. But thanks to a 22-16 win over Adams on Sept. 30, Oxford was ranked No. 6 (Adams was unranked) and home for this one, which qualifies this as an upset.
DIVISION 3: Adrian 28, Carleton Airport 21 – This gets the upset tag as well, with Carleton Airport entering No. 8 in Division 3 and Adrian unranked. The Maples had snuck into the playoffs at 5-4 and after losing their regular-season finale by 14 to Traverse City West.
DIVISION 4: Detroit Crockett 13, Detroit Country Day 12 – Country Day opened with a 12-0 lead, but Crockett – ranked No. 5 – emerged with a Pre-District win for the third straight season. Crockett also downed Country Day in last season’s District final.
DIVISION 5: Hemlock 21, Carrollton 14 (OT) – These former Tri-Valley Conference West league mates needed overtime to settle their Pre-District game. Hemlock finished the regular season among those getting votes in Division 6 before moving into 5 for the postseason.
DIVISION 6: Morley Stanwood 10, Shelby 7 – Maybe the finish of the night (see explanation and link below). Also a notable upset, as Shelby was ranked No. 6 heading in – although both were 8-1 during the regular season.
DIVISION 7: Iron River West Iron County 26, Ironwood 22 – These two actually aren’t that close to each other, in case you’re wondering from their communities' similar iron-themed names. But they are league rivals going back decades, and West Iron made up for last season’s loss to Ironwood with two wins this fall – by four points this time and five when they met in mid-September.
DIVISION 8: Muskegon Catholic 28, Saugatuck 0 – This game had statewide eyes watching, with Muskegon Catholic tied for the top spot in the final state poll and No. 5 Saugatuck the reigning state runner-up.
8-PLAYER: Bellaire 76, Akron-Fairgrove 58 – The number players on the field might be fewer, but the number of points frequently are more in the 8-player game.
8: Number of overtimes, combined, needed to decide two Division I games. Romeo needed five to outlast Troy Athens 34-31, and Grand Blanc downed Holt 59-52 in three overtimes.
1: Total playoff victories for Holland High, thanks to a 27-16 win over Stevensville Lakeshore in Division 3. This was Holland's second playoff game ever.
111: Number of points combined scored by Grand Blanc and Holt, which ranks 14th in the MHSAA football record book for most points scored by two teams in a game in which the losing team finished with at least 40.
13: Number of straight seasons Marine City has led off the playoffs with a win, going back to 1999, and including this fall’s 45-21 victory against Croswell-Lexington. Marine City was ranked No. 1 in Division 4 and Croswell-Lexington was No. 8
MORE FANTASTIC FINISHES
Walled Lake Central 20, Lake Orion 17 – A fake punt followed by a 15-yard penalty eventually turned into a 20-yard winning field goal by Bryan Maxwell – and the defeat of last season’s Division 1 state champion. (Read more in the Detroit Free Press).
Temperance Bedford 28, Brighton 20 – Brighton jumped to a 20-0 lead in this Division 1 game. But Temperance Bedford quarterback Aaron Czesak ran for 133 of his 164 yards during the second half including the 27-yarder midway through the fourth quarter to give his team its final advantage. (Find out more in the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus).
Morley Stanwood 10, Shelby 7 – This was named above, but worth mentioning a second time in more detail. After Morley-Stanwood took the lead with a field goal with 2 seconds to play, Shelby brought the kickoff back to inside the Mohawks’ 1-yard line – but didn’t cross it. (Read about it in Muskegon Chronicle).
Crystal Falls Forest Park 50, Stephenson 43 – I can’t find a link to a story on this one, but the score itself means it was a wild night.
UP NEXT – DISTRICT FINALS
DIVISION 1: Canton (8-2) at Detroit Catholic Central (9-1) – By beating its closest rival, Canton earned a shot at No. 2 Detroit Catholic Central. DCC knocked Canton out in 2009.
DIVISION 2: Muskegon (8-2) at Lowell (9-1) – The Red Arrows are ranked No. 2 and Muskegon is No. 3. They’ve met in the playoffs the last three seasons, with the winner of this matchup twice eventually claiming a state title.
DIVISION 3: East Grand Rapids (7-3) at Grand Rapids Christian (10-0) – Their meeting two weeks ago – a 50-49 Eagles win – was arguably the most hyped regular-season game west of I-75. East Grand Rapids is No. 9 and Grand Rapids Christian is ranked No. 2.
DIVISION 4: Pontiac Notre Dame Prep (10-0) at Marine City (10-0) – These are two of four undefeated teams left among the top six in this state poll, with Marine City entering No. 1 and Notre Dame Prep No. 6 – and coming off a win over No. 7 Marysville last week.
DIVISION 5: Portland (9-1) at Lansing Catholic (10-0) – These two determined the CAAC White title Oct. 8, a game the top-ranked Cougars won 42-24. But if No. 3 Portland has figured out a way to at least slow Lansing Catholic quarterback Cooper Rush, the rematch could be much closer.
DIVISION 6: Ithaca (10-0) at Montrose (10-0) – Ithaca is No. 1 and Montrose is No. 2, and that right there is enough to make this arguably the biggest game of the weekend in any division. Throw in that the Yellowjackets are the reigning state champions and are riding a 24-game winning streak – and that Montrose’s last loss was to Ithaca in last season’s Regional final – and it gets that much more intriguing.
DIVISION 7: Royal Oak Shrine (9-1) at Detroit Loyola (10-0) – This might not look like as great a matchup given Loyola’s 40-0 Prep Bowl win over Shrine just two weeks ago. But Shrine still hung on to a No. 10 ranking to start the playoffs; Loyola came in No. 2.
DIVISION 8: Muskegon Catholic Central (9-1) at Mendon (10-0) – Arguably the state’s toughest District closes with a final matching the two teams that finished the regular season tied for the No. 1 spot in the state poll. The only things separating these two are a Muskegon Catholic loss (to a Class A school) and Mendon’s receiving one more top-spot vote from the Associated Press’ five-person panel.
8-PLAYER: Eben Junction Superior Central (8-2) at Rapid River (9-1) – Of the eight teams remaining in the 8-player tournament, these two had the fourth and third-highest playoff points, respectively, at the end of the regular season.
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:
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.)