A Game for Every Fan: Playoffs Week 1

October 28, 2015

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

This first week of the 41st MHSAA Football Playoffs will be filled with firsts and familiar faces.

Benton Harbor, Detroit Cesar Chavez Academy and Parma Western will take part in the first playoff games in their football programs’ histories. Ten more teams will be making their first postseason appearance in more than a decade.

Beal City will enjoy the playoffs for the 33rd time, most of any MHSAA school and one of 18 that have appeared in the tournament at least 25 seasons. Rockford will play in its 21st straight playoffs and Menominee in its 20th, those two enjoying the two longest active streaks. Eight of nine champions return from 2014 – and Clarkston, Grand Rapids West Catholic and Muskegon Catholic Central hope to be playing in five weeks for their third straight MHSAA titles.

But first things first – below are some of the most intriguing openers, all to be played Friday, unless noted. Keep up with the MHSAA Score Center all weekend as scores come in, and check out the Football Page for up-to-date pairings and scores by division.

Division 1

Clarkston (7-2) at Romeo (8-1)

A 1-2 start – albeit, with losses to eventual league champions Macomb Dakota and West Bloomfield – knocked Clarkston out of most conversations about the state’s elite this season, despite the Wolves coming off back-to-back Division 1 titles. But Clarkston won its next six games – including over playoff team Oak Park last week – and drew a Romeo team that started 8-0, beat Dakota by two touchdowns, but is coming off an unexpected three-point loss to Utica Eisenhower in Week 9.

Others that caught my eye: Grandville (6-3) at Rockford (6-3), Plymouth (6-3) at Northville (9-0), Ann Arbor Pioneer (6-3) at Belleville (8-1), Utica Eisenhower (6-3) at Clinton Township Chippewa Valley (7-2).

Division 2

Muskegon (7-2) at Traverse City Central (9-0)

Traverse City Central is undefeated for the first time since its Class A championship season of 1988, and at home, hosting a team with a few hours of road time ahead. And yet, it’s fair to assume most will consider the Trojans underdogs against a Muskegon program that has finished each of the last three seasons at Ford Field. The Big Reds are back in Division 2 after finishing Division 3 runner-up a year ago, and have lost only to Detroit Catholic Central and Muskegon Mona Shores – a possible opponent next week for the winner of this game.

Others that caught my eye: Midland (7-2) at Midland Dow (8-1). Farmington Hills Harrison (7-2) at Birmingham Groves (9-0), Lincoln Park (6-3) at Wyandotte Roosevelt (7-2), Detroit East English (7-2) at Warren DeLaSalle (6-3).

Division 3

Grand Rapids Christian (5-4) at East Grand Rapids (6-3)

The Pioneers held a 26-0 lead in the first matchup between these Ottawa-Kent Conference White rivals, in Week 6, before the Eagles outscored them 39-7 the rest of the way. The math worked out such that East Grand Rapids is the host this time after Christian qualified with an at-large bid, and it's fair to expect another close tilt between teams that have split their last eight meetings, including two during the playoffs.

Others that caught my eye: Haslett (6-3) at DeWitt (8-1), Parma Western (6-3) at Coldwater (9-0), Ortonville-Brandon (6-3) at Linden (7-2), Warren Fitzgerald (6-3) at Redford Thurston (5-4).

Division 4

Flint Powers Catholic (7-2) at Goodrich (7-2)

Both of these teams should be among the most prepared to up their games for the postseason. Powers quietly put together one of the most solid defensive performances in the state, giving up only 101 points total while shutting out four teams and finishing second to Division 2 contender Midland Dow in the Saginaw Valley League Blue. Goodrich emerged as one of five playoff teams from the seven-team Genesee Area Conference Red and played two more playoff teams nonleague, so it too is used to playoff-caliber competition.

Others that caught my eye: Dowagiac (6-3) at Benton Harbor (5-4), Big Rapids (6-3) at Escanaba (5-4), Detroit Denby (5-4) at Detroit Collegiate Prep (9-0), Harper Woods Chandler Park (6-3) at Detroit Country Day (8-1), Saturday.

Division 5

Marine City (6-3) at Almont (7-2)

With its proximity to Port Huron, it’s easy to forget that Marine City plays in the Macomb Area Conference Gold and not the Blue Water Area Conference, and actually has faced BWAC power Almont only once over the last 65 seasons – in a District Final a year ago. Both have deceiving records this time around; Marine City’s three losses were by a combined 12 points to three playoff teams, while Almont’s two defeats came by a combined 15 points to two playoff qualifiers (both fell to Algonac).

Others that caught my eye: Muskegon Oakridge (7-2) at Grand Rapids West Catholic (7-2), Hillsdale (6-3) at Buchanan (9-0), Clinton Township Clintondale (5-4) at Algonac (8-1), Harrison (7-2) at Kingsford (6-3), Saturday.

Division 6

Clinton (9-0) at Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central (8-1)

Division 6 might have the most intriguing set of opening games, topped by this matchup of the reigning champion Falcons against one of two undefeated teams that finds itself on the road this week. This is a rematch of last season’s District Final, won by St. Mary; in 2013 it was Clinton that reached Ford Field and finished runner-up in Division 6. St. Mary’s earned this home game with a schedule loaded with Class A and B teams, but that doesn’t mean Clinton doesn’t know how to ramp up for good competition – the Redskins are one of four playoff teams from the Tri-County Conference.

Others that caught my eye: Vassar (8-1) at Ithaca (9-0), Millington (8-1) at Sanford Meridian (9-0), Calumet (7-2) at Negaunee (7-2), Jackson Lumen Christi (6-3) at Vandercook Lake (8-1).

Division 7

Saugatuck (9-0) at Hesperia (9-0)

Matchups of undefeated teams in the first round are rare, but so is having three undefeated teams in the same District, which these two share with Pewamo-Westphalia. Hesperia is one of the incredible stories of this season. The Panthers, known best for their wrestling, were 1-8 a year ago and hadn’t made the playoffs since 2002 – but did have four 0-9 seasons during the drought. Only once this fall, in Week 4 against Morley-Stanwood, did an opponent come within 25 points of Hesperia. But Saugatuck has been both impressive and consistent on offense, scoring no fewer than 42 points in any game and beating their opponents by an average of 48.

Others that caught my eye: Flint Hamady (7-2) at Flint Beecher (6-2), Cass City (7-2) at Ubly (7-2), Concord (7-2) at Dansville (8-1), Harbor Springs (6-3) at Iron Mountain (6-3), Saturday.

Division 8

Mendon (5-4) at Climax-Scotts (9-0)

A first-round game between an at-large qualifier and an undefeated host is generally viewed as a slam dunk for the home team. But it’s doubtful anyone recently has considered Mendon and its eight straight seasons with at least 10 wins an easy out. The four losses this fall were all to playoff teams, three now playing in higher divisions. Climax-Scotts has seen its last four seasons end against the Hornets and is the last team that would take them lightly, even after giving up a total of only 27 points this season.

Others that caught my eye: Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart (6-3) at Muskegon Catholic Central (6-2), Bark River-Harris (7-2) at Munising (7-2), Ottawa Lake Whiteford (7-2) at Petersburg-Summerfield (7-2), Crystal Falls Forest Park (5-3) at Lake Linden-Hubbell (9-0), Saturday.


Rapid River (6-3) at Engadine (7-2)

Engadine’s Week 5 62-30 win over Rapid River sent a shockwave through 8-player football, as it was Rapid River’s first regular-season loss since 2012. The Eagles still haven’t lost since Week 3, with only Stephenson coming reasonably close to taking a game. But the short history of 8-player football in this state has shown that this division allows more than any other for massive turnarounds between the regular-season and playoff meetings between teams – and Rapid River knows well the possibility this weekend after beating Cedarville 20-19 during the 2014 regular season and then falling to the Trojans 28-0 five weeks later in a Regional Final.

Others that caught my eye: Cedarville (7-2) at Owendale-Gagetown (9-0), Peck (7-2) at Deckerville (8-1).

PHOTO: Montrose, carrying the ball, earned an at-large bid to its 23rd MHSAA Playoffs as one of five qualifiers from the Genesee Area Conference Red. 

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.)