A Game for Every Fan: Playoffs Week 3
November 12, 2015
By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Through the rain, and fog, and in some places up north a few flakes of snow, we see the MHSAA Football Finals finally approaching – even if predicting which teams will be playing is still no easy task.
Plenty of opponents facing off this weekend have seen each other at this late date before. For a handful of others, this has been a wild first-time ride.
Here’s a look at what might be the most intriguing of this weekend’s 11-player Regional Finals, plus a longer glance at both 8-player Semifinals. All games are tonight unless noted.
Detroit Cass Tech (9-2) at Macomb Dakota (9-2)
It’s hard to believe Macomb Dakota hasn’t played in an MHSAA championship game since 2007, but the 2010 and previously-undefeated 2013 teams both saw their seasons end in Regional Finals against Cass Tech. The Technicians, led by standout quarterback Rodney Hall, have lost only to Detroit Martin Luther King this season, twice. They are playing to make a third straight Semifinal – and get a shot at getting back to the championship game for the first time since 2012.
Other Regional Finals: Rockford (8-3) at Grand Ledge (11-0), Detroit Catholic Central (9-2) at Romeo (10-1), Canton (9-2) at Saline (10-0).
Muskegon (9-2) at Lowell (10-1)
Muskegon’s path has been such that every week’s game has been one of the state’s most anticipated. After eliminating previously undefeated Traverse City Central and Muskegon Mona Shores in the District, the Big Reds must hit the road again to take on a Lowell team that is only two three-point losses from perfection. Not that this is an unfamiliar position for either program – although they didn’t meet last year, Lowell and Muskegon ran across each other in the playoffs six straight seasons from 2008-13.
Other Regional Finals: Midland Dow (10-1) at Walled Lake Western (11-0), Livonia Franklin (8-3) at Berkley (9-2), Detroit East English (9-2) at Detroit Martin Luther King (11-0), Saturday.
Coldwater (11-0) at St. Joseph (10-1)
This trip into uncharted waters keeps getting longer for the Cardinals, who won their first playoff game ever two weeks ago. Although this level of the tournament is new, St. Joseph isn’t a completely unfamiliar opponent – the Bears beat Coldwater on opening night 2013. St. Joseph has downed league champions three of its last four games and is seeking its first Regional title since 2007.
Other Regional Finals: Chelsea (10-1) at Allen Park (10-1), East Grand Rapids (8-3) at Mount Pleasant (9-2), Saturday; St. Johns (8-3) at Orchard Lake St. Mary’s (9-1), Saturday.
Flint Powers Catholic (9-2) at Richmond (10-1)
The first game between these schools features two programs looking to get over the Regional hump. Powers has fallen in two Regional Finals in three seasons since winning Division 5 in 2011. Richmond lost in the Regional Final last year after falling in District Finals both of the two seasons prior; the Blue Devils are trying to make their first Semifinal since 2003. After winning its playoff games by a combined eight points, Richmond will have to contend with a Chargers defense that hasn’t given up a point in these playoffs and has six shutouts total in 11 games.
Other Regional Finals: Remus Chippewa Hills (9-2) at Ada Forest Hills Eastern (10-1), Hudsonville Unity Christian (8-3) at Zeeland West (11-0), Milan (9-2) at Detroit Country Day (10-1), Saturday.
Grand Rapids West Catholic (9-2) at Menominee (11-0), Saturday
This has become an annual game at some stage of the playoffs. Saturday will mark the sixth straight postseason meeting between these two, including Semifinals last season, 2010 and 2012 and the 2013 Division 5 Final. The Maroons usually can take advantage of opponents not familiar with their single-wing offense, but West Catholic should be plenty familiar; what Menominee can boast this time is its most impressive defense since the back-to-back undefeated seasons of 2006 and 2007.
Other Regional Finals: Lansing Catholic (10-1) at Freeland (11-0), Buchanan (11-0) at Ida (11-0), Algonac (10-1) at River Rouge (10-1).
Boyne City (10-1) at Traverse City St. Francis (11-0)
The first battle between these rivals this season wasn’t much of one by the end, with St. from running back Malik Smith, and fumbled three times – which makes it feel like this rematch will be much closer if the Ramblers keep mistakes to a minimum. It’s fair to say St. Francis creates its own opportunities, though; the Gladiators have five shutouts in 11 games.
Other Regional Finals: Laingsburg (8-3) at Ithaca (11-0), Jackson Lumen Christi (8-3) at Clinton (11-0), Constantine (7-4) at Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian (11-0), Saturday.
Sandusky (11-0) at New Lothrop (11-0)
Sandusky is stacking accomplishments like no football team at the school before. The Redskins have more than nine wins for the first time and won a District title for the first time, and now will take on the powerhouse Hornets for the first time. Few teams in Michigan have put together a run over the last six seasons like New Lothrop, which is 65-5 during that span. But the Hornets have been stopped short of the MHSAA championship game all of those seasons, and surely would like a first Finals appearance since 2006 to add to its recent local dominance.
Other Regional Finals: Cassopolis (9-2) at Pewamo-Westphalia (11-0), Dansville (10-1) at Detroit Loyola (9-2), McBain (8-3) at Ishpeming (10-0).
Crystal Falls Forest Park (7-3) at St. Ignace (10-1)
In pursuit of its third Regional title in five seasons – and really, in pursuit of its first MHSAA Final appearance since 1985 – St. Ignace has shown well against the toughest competition of its season. Three of the last four games, all four against playoff teams, have been decided by eight points or fewer, and the Saints came back from a second trip to rival Johannesburg-Lewiston last week with a second win over the Cardinals. Forest Park has no losses left to avenge after winning rematches the last two weeks against the two in-state teams it fell to during the regular season. But the Trojans did fall to St. Ignace in their last meeting, a 2011 Regional Final.
Other Regional Finals: Ottawa Lake Whiteford (9-2) at Climax-Scotts (11-0), Saturday; Muskegon Catholic Central (8-2) at Frankfort (9-2), Saturday; Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary (10-1) at Waterford Our Lady (11-0), Saturday.
Cedarville (9-2) at Powers North Central (11-0)
North Central is led by a talented quarterback making the entire state take notice – junior Jason Whitens is up to 41 touchdown passes without an interception to go with his 10 scores on the ground, and junior running back Bobby Kleiman has run for 17 touchdowns and caught 14 of Whitens’ scoring tosses. But Cedarville doesn’t give up too many scores. The Trojans handed Owendale-Gagetown and Posen their only losses of the season the last two weeks, giving up only 48 points total over those two games – a respectable total in the wide-open 8-player format.
Deckerville (10-1) vs. Battle Creek St. Philip (11-0), Saturday at Battle Creek Central
St. Philip got past rival Lawrence one final time last week, but the path to Legacy Field remains blocked by another past champion. Deckerville avenged its lone loss of the season by doubling up Morrice last week and has run over opponents for nearly 3,400 yards, with senior Jared Philpot and juniors Austin Fritch and Brandon Pattullo combining for 2,300 yards and 37 touchdowns on the ground. The Eagles have thrown only 48 times, but St. Philip is much more balanced. The Tigers have nearly the same rushing and passing yardage totals this season – within 77 yards – with senior Brendan Gausselin throwing 35 touchdown passes and senior Brayden Darr running for 23 scores and catching 14 touchdown passes.
PHOTO: Traverse City St. Francis, here against Elk Rapids, is 11-0 for the first time since its undefeated season of 2009. (Photo courtesy of St. Francis athletic department.)
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.)