Fracassa's Remarkable Records Still Rule

By Tom Markowski
Special for Second Half

June 24, 2020

As a senior at Sterling Heights Stevenson during the 2009 season, Jason Fracassa lit up the high school football world with his aerial display.

Fracassa shattered the MHSAA career totals for passing yards and touchdowns held by Mill Coleman of Farmington Hills Harrison. Fracassa also etched his name into the national record book in three career passing categories before the remarkable run ended with a 31-21 loss to Detroit Catholic Central in the Division 1 Final at Ford Field.

The numbers he posted at Stevenson indeed were staggering. And just more than a decade later, after securing two undergraduate degrees and a masters in finance from Walsh University in Ohio, Fracassa lives in Auburn Hills and continues to crunch numbers – now for a development company in Birmingham – while also planning for a Sept. 12 wedding to fiancé Kelsey Torzy.

Fracassa has always been a highly-motivated person, and that held true in the classroom and as a three-sport varsity athlete and continues now in the business world. But while driven by success, Fracassa doesn’t dwell on what he accomplished in the sports world – which also included Division II college careers in both football and baseball. What was important then remains so now, and those are the relationships he built through trust, hard work and having a little fun.

“I miss going to practice each day and hanging out with my friends,” he said. “Just walking around school and trying to set an example to the kids, that’s what was important. I’ll go to the golf course now and I’m with all of my friends. That’s what it’s all about. That was the best part. We had the best relationships, no matter if we won or lost. Playing for Coach (Rick) Bye and your friends, that’s the best memories I have.”

A four-year varsity starter for Bye, Fracassa led Stevenson to a combined 23-3 record over his last two seasons, culminated by that fourth trip in program history to an MHSAA Final.

During his junior season, Fracassa threw for 3,353 yards and 34 touchdowns over 12 games. He then took aim at Coleman’s career passing records for touchdowns (77) and yards (7,464), records that had stood for 20 years.

Fracassa and his teammates put on a show that 2009 season as he threw for 4,433 yards and 44 touchdowns. His career (10,615) and single season (4,433) passing yards remain MHSAA records, the career total by nearly 2,000 yards. Fracassa also continues to own the records for career passing attempts (1,104) and completions (656), accrued over 44 games, and he briefly held the MHSAA record for career TD passes with 97 before it was broken in 2013. The career attempts and yards and senior-season yardage all rank in the National Federation record book as well.   

Fracassa credits the coaching staff at Stevenson for the success he and his teammates enjoyed. He couldn’t have imagined playing for anyone but Bye and his staff. Fracassa said he’s spoken with many of Bye’s former players, and they all agree playing for Stevenson and Bye was a phenomenal experience.

Like Fracassa, Bye – who retired after 2009 with a record of 268-94 over 35 seasons – also keeps tabs of his cronies by playing golf once a week with former assistants like Ken Fiott, Jerry Lajeunesse, Larry Zimmerman, Joe Emanuele and D.J. Hill among others. Bye is quick to point out that many of his former players, including Fracassa, keep in touch on a regular basis.

“I saw (Fracassa) at a Stevenson playoff game,” Bye said. “He calls me at least once every two months or so to see how I’m doing. I appreciate that. He was always a highly-respected kid. He’s not a kid anymore.”

Bye recalls hearing about Fracassa when Fracassa was in the eighth grade at St. Lawrence in Utica. Fracassa enrolled at Davis Junior High, Stevenson’s feeder school, for his ninth grade and tried out for the football team not knowing whether he’d make the varsity or not.

“His dad wasn’t pushy one bit,” Bye said. “(Rick Fracassa) asked if Jason was going to be on the JV. A big reason he wanted his son to come (to Stevenson) was Joe Emanuele, who was our baseball coach, and Rick knew Joe had a good program. He wanted Jason to play baseball, too.

“Jason came out and won the (quarterback) job. He proved himself. And he had to win over our seniors.”

Jason Fracassa said that was the hard part – convincing a group of seniors that a freshman could come in, start at quarterback and lead the team can be daunting.

“I knew I could compete at that level,” Fracassa said. “It was more of my getting to associate myself with the older players. That was the most difficult part. The coaches were always there to back me.”

Stevenson made the playoffs that 2006 season finishing 5-5. The next season was rough as the Titans lost a number of close games and finished 2-7. Stevenson improved substantially to 10-2 in 2008, losing to Lake Orion, 38-36, in a Regional Final.   

That all built up to the memorable 2009 season, which included a tense Semifinal game against Clarkston won by Stevenson 37-35 on a Fracassa scoring pass on the final play.

Emotions also ran high the game before when Stevenson took on Detroit Public School League power Detroit Southeastern, led by Michigan State-bound and now-NFL defensive end William Gholston. Fracassa threw for a career-high 494 yards, and Stevenson defeated Southeastern, 38-32.

After a busy and accomplished prep career, Fracassa maintained a hectic athletic schedule in college first at Northwood University – where he started on the baseball team for three seasons and was a member of the football team for two.

After sitting out a term, Fracassa transferred to Walsh, located in North Canton, Ohio. There he revived his football career starting at quarterback his last two years. Walsh, then a recent addition to the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, nearly upset conference power and undefeated Ferris State in Fracassa’s final game. Fracassa threw his second touchdown pass of the game to give Walsh a 42-32 lead with 9:38 left before Ferris State came back with two touchdowns, the second with 36 seconds left, to win 46-42.

Fracassa hasn’t completely abandoned football since his last game at Walsh. He and his father coached the Oakland University club team in 2018 and that team reached a championship game. Jason was the offensive coordinator, his father the head coach – branches from the coaching tree rooted with Jason’s grandfather Al Fracassa, the second-winningest high school football coach in MHSAA history and Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice legend.

Jason’s competitive juices continue to flow. 

“We had a great run,” Fracassa said, “and any other year could have taken the championship trophy.”

Made in Michigan 2020

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Tom Markowski is a correspondent for the State Champs! Sports Network and previously directed its web coverage. He also covered primarily high school sports for the The Detroit News from 1984-2014, focusing on the Detroit area and contributing to statewide coverage of football and basketball. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Jason Fracassa rolls out during the 2009 Division I championship game at Ford Field. (Middle) Fracassa and fiancé Kelsey Torzy. (Below) Fracassa drops back to pass while playing for Walsh. (Middle and below photos courtesy of Jason Fracassa.)

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.)