A Game for Every Fan: Regional Finals

November 8, 2012

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Let's face it. In high school football especially, it's tough to predict which teams will be around when the big trophies are awarded Thanksgiving weekend. It wouldn't take much research to figure out how many top-ranked favorites have fallen long before finishing the drive for Detroit. 

But here's a little indicator that's bearing out as this season's playoffs rush into their third weekend. 

Of 64 teams still alive in the 11-player brackets, 53 ranked among the top half of their respective divisions in playoff point average. The four teams remaining in the 8-player bracket all ranked among the top six in that division. 

That's rather logical, you might say. But it's also an endorsement for playing tough competition, and further makes it special when a team with a lower average breaks through at the end. 

Those teams still alive despite bottom-16 playoff point averages? Congrats on great efforts by Detroit Catholic Central, Caledonia, St. Johns, Three Rivers, Clare, Newaygo, Constantine, Britton-Deerfield, Pewamo-Westphalia, Flint Beecher and Johannesburg-Lewiston.   

This week's games are split evenly between Friday and Saturday, with 17 each day. Four Friday games will be streamed live on FoxSportsDetroit.com's Prep Zone: Montrose at Ithaca, Detrot Cass Tech at Saline, Saginaw Swan Valley at Croswell-Lexington and Three Rivers at Grand Rapids South Christian.

Below are all of the Regional Finals with a little extra on some of the best matchups, plus a look at both 8-player Semifinals. Visit the MHSAA Score Center for game times and dates, and all weekend for updated scores and schedules.

Division 1

Rockford (9-2) at Clarkston (11-0)

These two easily come to mind when Division 1 football is discussed. But oddly enough, they've never met. The Wolves are playing for their fourth Semifinal berth and second in four seasons, and were the most popular pick in Division 1 heading into the playoffs. But three-time MHSAA champion Rockford is finally humming after opening 1-2 this fall and losing quarterback Kyle Short for a time. He’s back, and the Rams are playing in their fifth-straight Regional Final.

Other Regional Finals: Detroit Catholic Central (7-4) at Plymouth (9-2), Detroit Cass Tech (9-2) at Saline (10-1), Macomb Dakota (10-1) at Lake Orion (10-1).

Division 2

Muskegon (10-1) at Midland (11-0)

The Big Reds no doubt enjoyed a sigh of relief after edging Lowell in last week’s District Final. But life gets no easier. Midland is working toward what would be the first 14-0 season in its similarly-impressive history, and is keyed by a likely all-state candidate at quarterback in Alec Johnson. Not that Muskegon will be intimidated – this will be its eighth game this fall against a playoff team.

Other Regional Finals: Caledonia (8-3) at Mattawan (10-1), Birmingham Brother Rice (9-2) at Walled Lake Western (9-2), Oak Park (9-2) at Wyandotte Roosevelt (10-1).

Division 3

Grand Rapids Christian (10-1) at Stevensville Lakeshore (11-0)

This may be the game of the weekend in Michigan. Neither has lost to an in-state team – Christian’s only defeat was to Ohio power Cincinnati Moeller – and both have crushed the majority of their opponents this fall. The Eagles scored a season-high 68 points against Zeeland West last week thanks to four touchdown passes plus four touchdown runs by quarterback Alex VandeVusse. This is Lakeshore’s fifth Regional Final over the last decade, and comes after a perfect run through the Southwest Michigan Activities Conference West – one of the state’s most competitive leagues this season.

Other Regional Finals: St. Johns (8-3) at DeWitt (9-2), Tecumseh (9-2) at Battle Creek Harper Creek (9-2), Detroit East English (9-2) at Orchard Lake St. Mary (9-2).

Division 4

Grosse Ile (10-1) at Detroit Country Day (9-2)

The Red Devils have won 10 games for the second straight season after making the Semifinals in 2011. This fall’s success has come against a schedule that has included six playoff teams. Country Day’s slate has included only three teams that made the postseason, but the Yellow Jackets beat a strong one last week in Pontiac Notre Dame and opened the playoffs by dropping previously-undefeated Clinton Township Clintondale 35-0.

Other Regional Finals: West Branch Ogemaw Heights (8-3) at Comstock Park (10-1), Three Rivers (8-3) at Grand Rapids South Christian (8-3), Saginaw Swan Valley (9-2) at Croswell-Lexington (11-0).

Division 5

River Rouge (11-0) at Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard (10-1)

As written on 2H on Monday, River Rouge is one of the best stories of the season – the Panthers are 11-0 for the first time and before last month had won a playoff game only once, in 2001. But this week’s opponent easily will be their toughest this season. Gabriel Richard hasn't given up a point in the playoffs, with a 24-0 win last week over a strong Lake Fenton team.

Other Regional Finals: Clare (9-2) at Menominee (10-1), Newaygo (9-2) at Grand Rapids West Catholic (8-3), Portland (10-1) at Flint Powers Catholic (11-0).

Division 6

Montrose (10-1) at Ithaca (11-0)

One of these weeks, an opponent is going to provide a strong challenge to Ithaca’s 39-game winning streak. Montrose might be it. The two have met in the playoffs the last two seasons, with Ithaca winning only 28-13 in last season’s District Final. Granted, it doesn't look as good for the Rams after surviving by a point in the District Semifinal and by just five against a good Millington team last week. But expect Montrose to bring its best, and Ithaca to match in front of a crowd that could approach 3,000 fans.

Other Regional Finals: Shelby (9-2) at Negaunee (10-1), Constantine (9-2) at Hillsdale (11-0), Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central (9-2) at Grass Lake (10-1).

Division 7

Britton Deerfield (8-3) at Detroit Loyola (11-0)

The Britton-Macon Tories hadn't made the MHSAA playoffs since reaching the Semifinals in 2000, before the school combined in 2010 with Deerfield – which hadn't fielded a football team since 1992. Britton-Deerfield has made the playoffs both years of its existence and has improved two wins on last season’s finish so far. Loyola had easily the highest playoff point average in Division 7 entering the playoffs and is in the Regional Final for the second year in a row. The Bulldogs also entered 11-0 last season and were shut out by Hudson, but have upped their offensive average this fall by a touchdown to more than 46 points per game.

Other Regional Finals: Lake City (10-1) at Ishpeming (10-1), Pewamo-Westphalia (8-3) at Decatur (9-2), Flint Beecher (7-4) at Saginaw Nouvel (9-2).

Division 8

St. Ignace (11-0) at Felch North Dickinson (10-0)

The Saints are playing for their second straight Semifinal berth, but it’s fair to say they’re even better this time around. After giving up a respectable 16 points per game last season, St. Ignace is giving up an average of only five and has five shutouts (not counting the forfeit win over Rudyard in Week 3). North Dickinson’s most noticeable improvement this fall has come on offense – the Nordics have upped their points per game from 38 in 2011 to 50 this fall.  

Other Regional Finals: Johannesburg-Lewiston (9-2) at Beal City (11-0), Muskegon Catholic Central (8-3) at Mendon (11-0), Waterford Our Lady (9-2) at Harbor Beach (10-1).

8-Player (Semifinals)

Bellaire (8-3) at Rapid River (10-1)

It’s fair to call these teams two of the original powers in MHSAA 8-player football. Bellaire is 24-8 since making the switch in 2010, and that season finished “mythical” runner-up, that being the term because the championship game was organized by the two leagues and was not an MHSAA playoff game. Rapid River is 20-4 in two seasons as an 8-player program, and was the runner-up in last season’s inaugural championship game. The Rockets stunned the 8-player community last week by beating Cedarville 22-14 after falling to the Trojans 72-12 on Sept. 28.

Deckerville (10-1) at Portland St. Patrick (11-0)

These are both first-year 8-player programs, and it’s fair to say their moves were good ones. Deckerville’s only loss also was to Cedarville, but that was back on the final day of August. The Eagles' run opened with a 42-39 win over reigning MHSAA champ Carsonville-Port Sanilac. All but one of the Shamrocks' opponents were from the southwest part of the Lower Peninsula, but St. Patrick shouldn't be stunned by facing a little bit tougher competition after years of 11-player in the highly-competitive Central Michigan Athletic Conference.

PHOTO: Detroit Country Day senior Trevor Woodland (2) tries to break a tackle by Pontiac Notre Dame senior Mark Juriga during last week’s District Final win for the Yellow Jackets. (Click to see more at Terry McNamara Photography.)

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.)