A Game for Every Fan: District Finals
November 6, 2014
By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
One week of MHSAA football playoffs is behind us, and all nine champions from 2013 are still alive.
Maybe that's not too shocking, considering they were the elite only a short year ago. But don't be too surprised if that number is cut down by at least a few when Saturday night is done.
All nine of those reigning champions remain undefeated heading into Friday and Saturday's District Finals. But three are playing opponents also undefeated through 10 weeks.
All three matchups are among those highlighted below as we look to this week's 11-player District Finals and 8-player Regional Finals. All are Friday unless noted.
Lapeer (10-0) at Clarkston (10-0)
The Wolves have fended off a few impressive challenges in building their winning streak to 23 straight including last season's run to their first MHSAA title. Quarterback D.J. Zezula has taken on and thrived in a starring role as Clarkston has earned close wins over Macomb Dakota and Farmington Hills Harrison and double-digit victories over everyone else. But Lapeer is as daunting an unknown as they come in this tournament; the Lightning, in its first season after the combination of Lapeer East and West, also has been challenged only twice but hung tough in its playoff debut last week with a 23-15 win over Romeo.
Others that caught my eye: Hudsonville (6-4) at Rockford (8-2), Detroit Cass Tech (10-0) at Dearborn Fordson (10-0).
Muskegon Mona Shores (9-1) at Midland Dow (10-0)
On a night featuring a decent share of 10-0 vs. 10-0 District Finals, this still is among premier games. Dow must defend Midland Community Stadium against the playmaking power of Mona Shores quarterback Tyree Jackson, who has led his offense to 42 or more points five weeks running while facing the likes of Muskegon and Caledonia among others. The Chargers could be up to the task, having given up no more than 21 points in a game this fall in earning this opportunity to tie its record for wins.
Others that caught my eye: Farmington Hills Harrison (8-2) at Walled Lake Western (9-1), Southfield (7-3) at Oak Park (8-2).
Stevensville Lakeshore (8-2) at Zeeland West (10-0)
Aside from an odd opening-night score (2-0 over Battle Creek Central), Lakeshore has rather quietly won eight games for the third straight season. But the Lancers could make a major splash by knocking off the reigning MHSAA champion. If the score stays close, it could up Lakeshore's chances significantly; the Lancers are 5-1 this fall in games decided by 10 or fewer points. West has had only one opponent get closer than 27 points, and none come within 10.
Others that caught my eye: Cedar Springs (9-1) at Muskegon (9-1) on Saturday, Grand Rapids Christian (6-4) at Lowell (9-1).
Saginaw Swan Valley (10-0) at Lansing Sexton (10-0)
This could be THE game of this weekend, with the winner a favorite to at least reach Ford Field – if not win it all. These two also met in a Regional Final last fall, with Sexton winning 26-21. Vikings running back Alex Grace has at least 212 yards and two rushing touchdowns in eight straight games and is up to third on the MHSAA career rushing yards list with 7,353. He had 242 yards and two touchdowns in the 2013 loss to the Big Reds, who again are sound defensively and capable on offense of holding onto the ball as well.
Others that caught my eye: Vicksburg (8-2) at Edwardsburg (9-1), Hudsonville Unity Christian (6-4) at Grand Rapids South Christian (8-2).
Almont (10-0) at Marine City (10-0)
Despite both being successful in the postseason over the last decade, these two have eluded each other with Marine City playing in Division 4. East China Stadium should be rocking with the Mariners representing the best from the Macomb Area Conference Gold and as the reigning Division 4 champion and the Raiders the champs in the Blue Water Area Conference. Almont has set a team record for scoring while averaging 53.4 points per game, and has given up only 49 with five shutouts including 65-0 over Clawson last week.
Others that caught my eye: Clare (8-2) at Freeland (9-1), Reed City (8-2) at Remus Chippewa Hills (8-2).
Madison Heights Madison (8-2) at Flint Beecher (10-0)
The winner of this game not only moves on to the Regional – it likely will be considered a favorite by at least some to end Ithaca’s nation-best 11-player winning streak of 66 games. That’s how much both of these teams have been regarded from the start of this fall, and neither has disappointed. Beecher has set a team record for wins, and Madison’s losses were to Division 2 playoff team Walled Lake Western and Division 3 qualifier Warren Woods-Tower.
Others that caught my eye: Clinton (10-0) at Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central (9-1), Hillsdale (8-2) at Jackson Lumen Christi (10-0).
Iron River West Iron County (9-1) at Ishpeming (9-0)
The Hematites have turned back West Iron once during their 30-game winning streak, in last season’s District Final 34-0. And the shutouts haven’t ended, with Ishpeming blanking four of its last five opponents. But the Wykons have a chance to show how much they’ve learned since that loss last season – their only loss this fall was 8-6 to playoff team Bark River-Harris, and they looked ready enough in blanking Iron Mountain 40-0 a week ago. That said, Ishpeming also shut out Iron Mountain, 36-0 on opening night.
Others that caught my eye: Traverse City St. Francis (8-2) at Suttons Bay (9-1), Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary (9-1) at Whittemore-Prescott (10-0).
Fowler (10-0) at Muskegon Catholic Central (10-0)
These records are identical, but a Fowler win would be considered one of the recent best of that program’s storied history. MCC’s 22-game winning streak also includes a 42-0 District Final win over the Eagles last fall. Fowler has a tough runner in Austin Cook, the leading rusher in the Lansing area with more than 1,700 yards. He and his blockers might have the biggest task of an upset effort.
Others that caught my eye: Waterford Our Lady (9-1) at Harbor Beach (10-0) on Saturday, Johannesburg-Lewiston (9-1) at Beal City (8-2).
Cedarville (9-1) at Rapid River (10-0)
One of these years will be Cedarville’s year – the Trojans are 34-6 in four seasons of 8-player football – and they seemed to send a signal that this could be the one with a 39-0 win over Bellaire last week. Rapid River has always been in the way – the reigning MHSAA runner-up Rockets have won three straight over the Trojans including 20-19 in Week 6 and are 22-1 over the last two seasons.
Others Regional Finals: Kingston (7-3) at Deckerville (8-2), Morrice (6-4) at Peck (10-0), Lawrence (10-0) at Battle Creek St. Philip (9-1).
PHOTO: Calumet traveled to Harrison last week and won 30-21 to earn this week’s District Final matchup with Menominee. (Click to see more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com).
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.)