Football Playoffs: Semifinals in Review

November 21, 2011

It’s always hard to wave good-bye to another high school football season.

But stories of this fall’s playoffs will no doubt be retold a few times this winter -- especially after one of the most memorable Semifinals weekends in recent memory,

Nine of Saturday’s 16 games were decided by eight points or fewer. Two games were decided by three points, and three more games by just one. Twice, overtime was necessary to decide which team would advance to this weekend’s MHSAA Finals at Detroit’s Ford Field.

We’ll kick off Finals week with our regular round-up of the previous weekend’s playoff action – including the first 8-Player Final in MHSAA history. Later this week, we’ll take a brief look at every team hoping to finish by hoisting a championship trophy.

All eight games will be broadcast on Fox Sports Plus. Click for a full schedule and playoff scoreboard. And click here for a list of Fox Sports Plus channels in your area.

(Rankings are by The Associated Press’ panel of media voters.) 

1st and 10

Division 1: Detroit Catholic Central 23, Rockford 20 (OT) – Rockford kicked a field goal for a three-point lead to begin overtime, but No. 2 beat No. 1 when DCC running back Anthony Darkangelo ran in the game-winner from seven yards out. Read more in the Novi News.

Division 1: Detroit Cass Tech 6, Utica Eisenhower 3 – Here’s why they play the games. Unranked Cass Tech continued an impressive defensive stand (see lower in this post for more) in knocking off the No. 3 Eagles. Read more in the Detroit Free Press.

Division 2: Lowell 42, Walled Lake Western 35 (OT) – Walled Lake Western came back from 14 down in the third quarter and then took a lead, but couldn’t keep the Red Arrows from booking a third-straight trip to the Finals. Read more in the Grand Rapids Press.

Division 2: Birmingham Brother Rice 27, Detroit Martin Luther King 26 – The Crusaders fought back from an early 21-0 deficit, and Brother Rice scored all of its points during the first half. But the Warriors held on twice at the end – once on a two-point conversion try that would’ve given King the lead, and then once more on the Crusaders’ final possession. Read more from the Oakland Press.

Division 3: Mount Pleasant 38, East Grand Rapids 37 – The Oilers were probably thinking less about EGR’s 28-game playoff winning streak and more about how the Pioneers had knocked them out of the playoffs two of the last three seasons. Now, Mount Pleasant can focus on playing in its first MHSAA Final. Read more in the Mount Pleasant Morning Sun.

Division 5: Lansing Catholic 42, Grand Rapids West Catholic 35 – The teams exchanged shots until just about the end, with this season’s No. 1 taking down the reigning champion despite trailing twice during the first half. Read more in the Lansing State Journal.

Division 6: Constantine 45, Ecorse 44 – The Falcons have shown they are tough to stop when it matters most, winning their third playoff game by seven or fewer points to advance to their first Final since 2004. Read more in the Sturgis Journal.

Division 7: Pewamo-Westphalia 22, Hudson 14 – The Pirates, making their second Semifinal appearance ever, earned their first Finals berth by ending the 26-game winning streak of the reigning champion Tigers. Read more from the Lansing State Journal.

Division 8: Mendon 34, New Lothrop 13 – The No. 3 Hornets had given up 47 points over their first 12 games, but top-ranked Mendon nearly doubled that while holding a New Lothrop offense averaging 52 points to just a pair of touchdowns. Read more in the Sturgis Journal.

8-Player Final: Carsonville-Port Sanilac 59, Rapid River 20 – It’s arguable what was more impressive – the Tigers’ offensive might, or that its defense held Rapid River scoreless in the second half of the first-ever MHSAA 8-player Final. Read more in the “First Pitch” at MHSAA.com.

Numbers Game

16 – Number of points Detroit Cass Tech has given up during the postseason, including three to Utica Eisenhower in Saturday’ 6-3 victory. The Technicians have held opponents to seven or fewer points in nine of 13 games this fall.

34 – Number of minutes Constantine held onto the ball – and kept Ecorse’s offense off the field – in a 45-44 Division 6 win.

901 – Number of yards, combined, put up by Carsonville-Port Sanilac and Rapid River in the inaugural 8-player Football Final.

324 – Passing yards by Carsonville-Port Sanilac quarterback Hayden Adams, who likely will be remembered as this state’s first 8-player star. Five of his 12 completions went for touchdowns, and he also ran for 130 yards and two scores. 

More Fantastic Finishes

Division 3: Orchard Lake St. Mary 14, Battle Creek Harper Creek 10 – They were tied going into the fourth quarter. Harper Creek added a go-ahead field goal – and then St. Mary’s Grant Niemiec scored on an 11-yard run with 49 seconds left to take the final lead.

Division 4: Zeeland West 30, Comstock Park 6 – The Dux moved to 13-0 to tie the school record for wins and make a second MHSAA Final – in just seven seasons of existence.

Division 4: Marine City 45, Grosse Ile 6 – The Mariners shut down Grosse Ile until the final five minutes of the game to earn their second Finals berth in five seasons.

Division 5: Flint Powers Catholic 27, Almont 10 – Why they play the games, Part II. Powers is the latest to make the rare trek from 5-4 qualifier to potential MHSAA champion after taking out Nos. 2 and, most recently, 4 from the final AP regular-season poll.

Division 6: Ithaca 28, Iron Mountain 0 – The Yellowjackets returned to the Superior Dome and beat Iron Mountain for the second straight season to advance to Detroit.

Division 7: Saginaw Nouvel 14, Traverse City St. Francis 3 – The Panthers’ defense also has been awesome during this postseason, giving up just 23 points over four games.

Division 8: Fowler 45, St. Ignace La Salle 8 – The Eagles have gone from losing their coach the weekend before practice began in 2010 to making their first Final since winning Class D in 1998.

Up Next: MHSAA 11-player Finals

FRIDAY

Division 8: Mendon (13-0) vs. Fowler (11-2), 10 a.m. – These are two of the most storied small-school programs in state history, both ranking among the top 14 in the state in winning percentage since 1950 according to Michigan-football.com. Mendon was expected to be here, but surprise Fowler has been to this point plenty of times as well.

Division 2: Birmingham Brother Rice (9-4) vs. Lowell (12-1), 1 p.m. – Brother Rice’s tough schedule always gives it a decent shot of making the playoff field even at 5-4, but getting to the Final after coming in with that record is new ground for the Warriors (they made the Semifinals in 2009 after entering 5-4). Lowell was just about everyone’s pick to get this far – and will try to make it two titles in three seasons after losing in the 2010 championship game.

Division 6: Constantine (11-2) vs. Ithaca (13-0), 4:30 p.m. – Constantine’s 1-2 start is a distant memory as the Falcons go for their first championship in seven seasons. Ithaca made its first Final just a year ago, but can further its reputation as an elite power but claiming two titles in a row and extending its winning streak to 28.

Division 4: Marine City (13-0) vs. Zeeland West (13-0), 7:30 p.m. – It’s rare for the combination of bracket assignments and rankings to play out like this, but Marine City entered the postseason No. 1 and Zeeland West No. 2. The Mariners last won a championship in 2007, but have the chance to also finish 14-0 this time. Same story as the Dux try to improve just that little bit on their 2006 title run. 

SATURDAY

Division 7: Pewamo-Westphalia (13-0) vs. Saginaw Nouvel (12-0), 10 a.m. – The Panthers are going for their third MHSAA championship in six seasons and have no problem raising their game; not counting two against Canadian teams, Nouvel played 10 games this season against teams that qualified for the playoffs. P-W joins Fowler as finalists from the Central Michigan Athletic Conference, and is led by a senior class that might be one of the best in the program’s successful history.

Division 1: Detroit Cass Tech (10-3) vs. Detroit Catholic Central (12-1), 1 p.m. – The Technicians seemingly have been building toward this weekend after making their first Semifinal appearance in 2010, and after losing by three in that game before going on to win by three in last week’s semi. Now they get the Shamrocks, who can move into a third-place tie with 11 MHSAA football championships.

Division 5: Flint Powers Catholic (9-4) vs. Lansing Catholic (13-0), 4:30 p.m. – The Cougars defeated Powers 37-17 in Week 2, but it’s fair to say much has changed. The Chargers haven’t given up that many points in a game since – but Lansing Catholic also hasn’t scored that few.

Division 3: Mount Pleasant (13-0) vs. Orchard Lake St. Mary (11-2), 7:30 p.m. – The Eaglets lost the last two Finals to East Grand Rapids by eight and three points, respectively. No matter what happens in this finale, there will be a new Division 3 champion for the first time in five seasons.

(Photo courtesy of Sharon Weber via the Lansing State Journal.)
 

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.)