A Game for Every Fan: Week 1

August 28, 2013

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

It's opening night of another MHSAA football season. Not much more needs to be said to describe why athletes, coaches and communities are stepping a little higher with the first varsity kickoffs only a few hours away.

Every game and every team has a story. And each week Second Half will bring you the best game in each of seven regions around the state, plus another five from each that should be worth following for even casual fans. 

Make sure to visit MHSAA.com tonight and all weekend for a complete statewide scoreboard, and return to Second Half on Monday as we wrap up the most significant results from another opening night. 

(Team records that follow are from 2012, and all games are tonight unless noted. Games are designated by region based on home team. Visit the MHSAA Score Center for a complete schedule.)

Greater Detroit

Oak Park (9-3) vs. Orchard Lake St. Mary’s (11-3), Friday at Wayne State University

When last we left Oak Park, the Knights were celebrating a team record for wins, their first playoff appearance since 2005 plus league and District championships. They can kick off 2013 by giving proof they’ll be contenders again; St. Mary’s is coming off an overtime loss to Grand Rapids Christian in a memorable MHSAA Final and always is in the hunt.

Others that caught my eye: Rockford (10-3) at Utica Eisenhower (8-3) on Friday, Detroit Cass Tech (12-2) at Southfield (7-4) on Friday, Pontiac Notre Dame (9-2) at Dearborn Heights Robichaud (9-2), Macomb Dakota (10-2) at Dearborn Fordson (7-3), Zeeland West (7-4) at Detroit Country Day (11-1).

Bay and Thumb

Saginaw Nouvel (9-3) at Saginaw Swan Valley (10-3)

This is a rare matchup between Saginaw powers, but one with interesting history nonetheless. The teams have met only three times – most recently in 2001, when Nouvel beat the Vikings 30-0 in a Division 5 District Final. Nouvel also shut Swan Valley out in season openers in 1984 and 1985. But 2,000-yard rusher Alex Grace and teammates also back from last season’s MHSAA Semifinal run should find the end zone this time regardless of the final score.

Others that caught my eye: Reese (10-1) at Montrose (10-2), Hemlock (9-2) at Frankenmuth (10-1), Marine City (8-2) at Richmond (7-4), Armada (5-4) at Flint Powers Catholic (11-1), Clare (9-3) at Freeland (6-4).

Lower Up North

Big Rapids (8-2) at Reed City (10-1)

Reed City eventually finished first and Big Rapids second in the Central State Activities Association in 2012 after Reed City edged the Cardinals 14-6 on opening night. The Coyotes went on to win 10 straight before falling in their District Final. This matchup should set the tone again in one of the few league races that begins on opening night.

Others that caught my eye: Boyne City (8-2) at Maple City Glen Lake (9-2), Roscommon (6-4) at Grayling (9-1), Elk Rapids (4-5) at Mancelona (10-1), Carrollton (8-2) at Standish-Sterling (7-4), New Lothrop (10-1) at Traverse City St. Francis (4-5).

West Michigan

Grand Rapids Christian (13-1) at Grand Rapids South Christian (11-3)

Three months after continuing their annual opening-night game in 2012, Grand Rapids Christian won the MHSAA Division 3 championship a day after South Christian won the Division 4 title. The Eagles will have a significantly different look at least on offense this time after graduating most of their skill players and losing record-setting receiver Drake Harris for reportedly a month with a leg injury. South Christian quarterback Jon Wassink won’t be familiar to those who watched last season’s Finals – he was injured during the run and didn’t play in the championship game. But he’s back to lead another strong effort. 

Others that caught my eye: Grand Rapids Catholic Central (10-1) at East Grand Rapids (4-5), River Rouge (11-1) at Lowell (8-3), Muskegon Oakridge (10-1) at Grand Rapids West Catholic (10-4), Byron Center (5-4) at Grand Rapids Northview (7-3), Holland Christian (5-5) at Zeeland East (9-1).


Williamston (7-4) at Ithaca (14-0)

The Yellowjackets have won 42 straight games including the last three MHSAA Division 6 Finals, and are led by senior all-state quarterback Travis Smith. A win would tie Ithaca with 1977-82 Cheboygan for the longest winning streak in MHSAA history falling fully during the playoff era (Morenci won 44 straight before playoffs were added, and Hudson’s 72-game victory streak ended during the first year of the playoffs in 1975.) Williamston hasn’t given the Yellowjackets much of a scare during the first two years of their opening-night series, but could be the best bet as stopper until playoff time.

Others that caught my eye: Lansing Catholic (8-2) at Pewamo-Westphalia (9-4), Lansing Waverly (6-4) at Lansing Everett (9-1), Haslett (4-5) at East Lansing (7-4), Dundee (6-4) at Grass Lake (10-2), Beal City (13-1) at Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart (9-2) on Friday.

Southwest and Border

Battle Creek Harper Creek (10-3) at Mattawan (10-2)

Harper Creek kicks off its quest for a third straight season of double-digit wins against a Mattawan team coming off a school record for wins and 18 total over the last two seasons. They last met in a 2005 playoff opener. It will be a strong opening test for teams with league title aspirations again; Harper Creek won the Southwest Michigan Athletic Conference East last season, and Mattawan finished second in the SMAC West.

Others that caught my eye: Portage Central (7-4) at Sturgis (5-4), Marshall (6-4) at Stevensville Lakeshore (11-1), Otsego (6-4) at Edwardsburg (6-4), Fowler (9-2) at Mendon (11-1), Ottawa Lake Whiteford (8-2) at Blissfield (6-5).

Upper Peninsula

Manistique (6-4) at Negaunee (10-2) on Friday

Negaunee has had only one losing season over the last 23 and won the Mid-Peninsula Athletic Conference title last year ahead of eventual MHSAA Division 7 champion Ishpeming. Manistique finished with a winning record for the first time in four years despite opening with losses to Negaunee and Ishpeming, and could be in the title hunt in the MPAC.

Others that caught my eye: Traverse City Central (4-5) at Marquette (5-4), Iron Mountain (5-5) at Ishpeming (13-1), Stephenson (8-3) at Ishpeming Westwood (3-6) on Friday, Hancock (3-6) at Bessemer (6-3) on Saturday, Brimley (2-6) at Eben Junction Superior Central (6-3).

PHOTO: Ithaca takes the field for its MHSAA Semifinal last season at Saginaw Valley State University. The Yellowjackets have won 42 straight games. (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:

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.)