A Game for Every Fan: Playoffs Week 2
November 5, 2015
By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Emotions run high by nature during the football playoffs. But this weekend’s schedule of 11-player District Finals and 8-player Regional Finals is especially charged.
Rivalry games dominate this second round of the postseason as teams that competed for league titles meet again for another trophy – or in the case of Division 8, contenders for an MHSAA title a few years ago find themselves on the field together again.
See below for some of the most intriguing from this week’s list, and follow all weekend on the MHSAA Score Center for results as they come in and updated brackets. Watch as well four games at once Friday on Fox Sports Detroit’s Prep Zone, and catch another marquee matchup live on MHSAA.tv with subscription. All games below are Friday unless noted.
Romeo (9-1) at Lapeer (10-0)
Lapeer is 20-1 in two seasons as a program after the merger of the former Lapeer West and East in 2014. Its lone loss was by three in last fall’s District Final to eventual champion Clarkston – and after the Lightning beat Romeo by eight in the playoff opener. Romeo earned this rematch by ending Clarkston’s reign last week, but its defense – giving up a meager 6.5 points per game – should receive its toughest challenge since Lapeer put up 23 last season.
Others that caught my eye: Brighton (9-1) at Grand Ledge (10-0), Hudsonville (7-3) at Rockford (7-3), Ann Arbor Pioneer (7-3) at Saline (9-0), Utica Eisenhower (7-3) at Macomb Dakota (8-2), Saturday.
Muskegon (8-2) at Muskegon Mona Shores (10-0), Saturday
This gets higher billing than the matchup below between undefeated teams because it might be the state’s most anticipated game regardless of division. More than 10,000 fans watched Mona Shores’ 21-18 win over the Big Reds in Week 8, and an additional few thousand are anticipated for Saturday’s 5 p.m. kickoff. Last time, Mona Shores jumped out to a 21-3 third-quarter lead before Muskegon came back with two scores during the fourth. This one should stay closer from the start.
Others that caught my eye: Midland Dow (9-1) at Fenton (9-1), Birmingham Groves (10-0) at Walled Lake Western (10-0), Detroit East English (8-2) at Grosse Pointe South (7-3), Southfield (7-3) at Berkley (8-2).
Edwardsburg (10-0) at St. Joseph (9-1)
The Eddies already scored one for the Wolverine B Conference over the Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference by eliminating Stevensville Lakeshore last week. Now they get SMAC West co-champ St. Joseph, and on the road. The Bears’ only loss this season was to Lakeshore, by a pair of scores in Week 4, but they closed the regular season with three wins over playoff teams over the final month.
Others that caught my eye: Zealand East (7-3) at East Grand Rapids (7-3), St. Johns (7-3) at DeWitt (9-1), Chelsea (9-1) at Trenton (9-1), Vicksburg (8-2) at Coldwater (10-0).
Comstock Park (8-2) at Ada Forest Hills Eastern (9-1)
Forest Hills Eastern can take the next step in a record-setting season that’s already seen the Hawks win their most games ever and first in the playoffs – and come within three points of being undefeated. Offense should reign. Forest Hills Eastern runs well and Comstock Park gave up more than 200 yards to Swan Valley’s leading rusher last week, and the Panthers are dangerous throwing and running and could find some gaps in an FHE defense giving up 19 points per game.
Others that caught my eye: Benton Harbor (6-4) at Zeeland West (10-0), Pontiac Notre Dame Prep (8-2) at Richmond (9-1), Big Rapids (7-3) at Remus Chippewa Hills (8-2), Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood (9-1) at Detroit Country Day (9-1), Saturday.
Lansing Catholic (9-1) at Portland (10-0)
This either will be the first and only loss for a Portland team seeking its second MHSAA championship in four seasons, or final game for a Lansing Catholic group that came within five points of winning Division 5 a year ago – and will graduate University of Minnesota quarterback recruit Tony Poljan. Portland won their regular-season matchup 28-6 in Week 4, but can’t expect the Cougars to repeat an uncharacteristic four turnovers. They’ve both been impressive since; Lansing Catholic entered the postseason with wins over playoff teams Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard and Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central by a combined 77-23, while Portland allowed only Marshall to come closer than 22 points and held a record-setting Stockbridge offense to only 18 last week.
Others that caught my eye: Grand Rapids West Catholic (8-2) at Reed City (10-0), Frankenmuth (9-1) at Freeland (10-0), Berrien Springs (9-1) at Buchanan (10-0), Almont (8-2) at Algonac (9-1).
Montague (10-0) vs. Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian (10-0) at Comstock Park
The Wildcats have nearly come all the way back to their former roost among the elite after going 2-7 a year ago. But NorthPointe Christian provides a substantial obstacle as Montague pursues its first District title since 2011. NorthPointe’s only loss in the last 19 games came last season in an MHSAA Semifinal, and it’s giving up only 7.6 points per game.
Others that caught my eye: Sanford Meridian (10-0) at Ithaca (10-0), Jackson Lumen Christi (7-3) at Manchester (9-1), Clinton (10-0) at Madison Heights Madison (9-1), Calumet (8-2) at Boyne City (9-1), Saturday.
Flint Beecher (7-2) at New Lothrop (10-0)
Beecher easily is the smallest school on its side of the Genesee Area Conference, the only Class C school in a Red group of otherwise all Class B. This matchup will satisfy some curiosity, as New Lothrop hasn’t lost a game in the Class C-dominated GAC Blue since 2009 – and in Week 8 defeated Flint Hamady 49-0. Beecher just edged Hamady 30-28 to open the playoffs last week.
Others that caught my eye: Saugatuck (10-0) at Pewamo-Westphalia (10-0), Class City (8-2) at Sandusky (10-0), Dansville (9-1) at Homer (8-2), Cassopolis (8-2) at Bridgman (9-1).
Muskegon Catholic Central (7-2) at Beal City (9-1), Saturday
One of these two has played in the Division 8 Final the last three seasons, and they met in the 2013 championship game, a 35-12 MCC win. This Crusaders’ team has a much different lineup than the one that won back-to-back championships the last two seasons, but new players gained valuable experience in losses to Division 5 Muskegon Oakridge and Division 4 Detroit Country Day. Beal City has a few who were part of the 2013 loss, setting this up as a potential classic as they seek a different result.
Others that caught my eye: Onekama (9-1) at Frankfort (8-2), Crystal Falls Forest Park (6-3) vs. Bark River-Harris (8-2) at Northern Michigan University's Superior Dome, Ottawa Lake Whiteford (8-2) at Morenci (8-2), St. Ignace (9-1) at Johannesburg-Lewiston (9-1).
Lawrence (8-2) at Battle Creek St. Philip (10-0)
St. Philip regained the upper hand on Lawrence in Week 9 after three straight losses – and now has to keep it as the favorite to follow Lawrence as the 8-player champion. St. Philip won that meeting two weeks ago only 47-44 but led by 14 points halfway through the first quarter and by 15 points heading into the fourth. Lawrence obviously can score quickly, meaning this one should again come down to the final minutes.
Other Regional Finals: Rapid River (7-3) at Powers North Central (10-0), Cedarville (8-2) at Posen (10-0), Deckerville (9-1) at Morrice (9-1).
PHOTO: Lapeer has 20 wins over the last two seasons, including against Saginaw Heritage this fall. (Click for 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.)