A Game for Every Fan: Week 1 Preview
August 26, 2015
By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
The first weekend of high school football season always is filled with new beginnings. But that doesn't mean that all making fresh starts are completely unfamiliar.
A pair of grand old stadiums will have new looks. Thousands of fans are expected to file into Flint’s Atwood Stadium on Thursday and Mount Pleasant’s Community Stadium on Friday for the first games after both received major renovations this offseason.
And plenty of stars from last season are back for another go. Thousands more will likely pour into Wayne State University on Saturday for the Prep Kickoff Classic to watch six of the Detroit area's annual MHSAA Finals contenders, and top teams from all over the state are facing off against each other to get 2015 underway.
There are no shortage of games to watch, no matter where you call home. Below is a look at games that stand out from each of eight regions across the state, plus from our group of 8-player matchups. All are Friday unless noted. Records listed are from 2014.
And make sure to follow results as they come in on the MHSAA Score Center, and come back to Second Half later Monday for our round up of the most significant results from the first week.
Bay & Thumb
Marysville (7-4) at Richmond (10-2) (Thurs.)
Richmond advanced to the Division 4 Regional Finals last season with its first double-digit win season since 2003 and thanks to two over Marysville – 47-0 on opening night and 48-6 in the District Final. But the Vikings quietly have earned six playoff berths in seven seasons and might have an opening for revenge this week with an experienced lineup taking on a Richmond team filled with new starters.
Others that caught my eye: Saginaw Nouvel (4-5) at New Lothrop (11-1) (Thurs.), Millington (9-2) at Vassar (5-4) (Thurs.), Davison (4-5) at Fenton (9-1) (Thurs.), Grand Blanc (5-4) at Flint Carman-Ainsworth (8-3).
Warren DeLaSalle (11-3) vs. Detroit Martin Luther King (8-2) at Wayne State (Sat.)
The reigning Division 2 champion, DeLaSalle, takes on a favorite this season in King. The Crusaders are keyed by some of the state’s most impressive offensive players in receiver Donnie Corley and running back Martell Pettaway, while the Pilots will attempt to slow them returning important cogs back from a defense that gave up only 12.8 points per game last fall.
Others that caught my eye: Clarkston (14-0) at Macomb Dakota (8-3) (Thurs.), East Kentwood (11-2) at Farmington Hills Harrison (10-3), Muskegon (12-2) at Detroit Catholic Central (4-5), Southfield (9-4) vs Detroit Cass Tech (12-1) at Wayne State (Sat.).
Beal City (10-3) at Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart (5-5)
These nonconference rivals have opened with against other all but two seasons going back to 1991, and this weekend will do so to debut the renovated Community Stadium. The Aggies are coming off another long playoff run, just missing a third straight trip to the MHSAA Finals with a three-point loss in the Semifinal. Sacred Heart hasn’t made the Finals since 2010, but is riding 10 playoff appearances over 11 seasons and looking to avenge some heavy losses to Beal City as of late.
Others that caught my eye: Clare (8-3) at Ithaca (13-1) (Thurs.), Mason (8-4) at Okemos (6-4) (Thurs.), Madison Heights Madison (9-3) at Pewamo-Westphalia (10-3) (Thurs.), Midland Dow (10-1) at Mount Pleasant (7-4).
Northern Lower Peninsula
Mendon (10-2) at Boyne City (12-1) (Thurs.)
Boyne City is following up tying its best record ever and falling by only four in last season’s Division 6 Semifinals by taking on perennial power Mendon in what should be one of the state’s best games outside Detroit this weekend. The Hornets have won at least 10 games eight straight seasons and in 11 of the last 12. Boyne City has made the playoffs 10 of the last 12 seasons and set a school record scoring 500 points in 2014.
Others that caught my eye: Reed City (9-3) at Baldwin (10-2), Marquette (7-3) at Traverse City St. Francis (9-3), Johannesburg-Lewiston (9-2) at Mancelona (6-4), Sault Ste. Marie (5-4) at Petoskey (9-3).
Southeast & Border
Rockford (8-3) at Saline (12-2)
Expectations are high after Saline made the MHSAA Finals last season for the first time, falling to Clarkston 33-25 in the Division 1 championship game. Quarterback Joshua Jackson is among returnees and is considered one of the state’s most dynamic at his position. But teams learned long ago they can’t look past Rockford – and that’s hardly made a difference as the Rams haven’t missed the playoffs since 1994 and went 8-3 last season despite being outscored for the season.
Others that caught my eye: Grand Rapids Northview (6-4) at Chelsea (9-3) (Thurs.), Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central (13-1) at Tecumseh (5-5) (Thurs.), Pittsford (7-3) at Morenci (10-2), Clinton (10-1) at Manchester (8-2).
Portage Northern (7-4) at Battle Creek Lakeview (9-2) (Thurs.)
These two are facing off on opening night for the second straight year and after three games of significance over the last two seasons. Although Portage Northern beat Lakeview 28-24 in last season’s opener, Lakeview beat the Huskies in their Division 2 District Final 21-0 after eliminating Northern in the first round in 2013, 31-7. Lakeview didn’t lose again after last season’s opener until falling in the Regional Final.
Others that caught my eye: Plainwell (8-2) at Three Rivers (6-4) (Thurs.), Caledonia (7-3) at Battle Creek Harper Creek (6-5), Stevensville Lakeshore (8-3) at Battle Creek Central (5-4), Mattawan (6-4) at Portage Central (7-2)
Iron River West Iron County (9-2) at Munising (12-2)
Munising made last season’s Division 8 Final and pulled off its best finish since 1980 led by a handful of elite seniors whose only other loss last fall came on opening night – 28-6 to Iron River West Iron County. The combination of both should give these Mustangs plenty of motivation against a Wykons team that has won 19 of its last 20 regular-season games.
Others that caught my eye: Crystal Falls Forest Park (9-2) at Bark River-Harris (8-3), Iron Mountain (6-4) at Ishpeming (12-1), Central Lake (6-5) at St. Ignace (10-1), Marinette (3-6) (Wis.) at Menominee (12-1) (Sat.).
Jackson Lumen Christi (11-1) at Grand Rapids West Catholic (14-0)
Few teams in Michigan are replacing superstars on the level of graduated Lumen Christi running back Khari Willis and West Catholic quarterback Travis Russell. But both teams have been down this road before. West Catholic is the two-time reigning Division 5 champion and has 10 or more wins in six straight seasons; Lumen, while coming off its most wins since 2009, has made the playoffs 17 straight times.
Others that caught my eye: Grand Rapids Catholic Central (6-4) at East Grand Rapids (6-4) (Thurs.), Walled Lake Western (9-2) at Lowell (10-2) (Thurs.), Muskegon Catholic Central (14-0) at Muskegon Oakridge (8-2), Grand Rapids Christian (6-5) at Grand Rapids South Christian (12-2)
Kingston (7-4) at Deckerville (9-3)
A couple pockets of 8-player dominance have cropped up over the first few seasons of the sport, and these are two of the best and most consistent programs coming from Michigan’s thumb. Deckerville won the MHSAA title in 2012 and made the Semifinals last season after sweeping Kingston 14-8 in Week 2 but then 72-22 in the Regional Final. They play twice this season during the regular season alone; this one doesn’t count in the North Central Thumb 8-Man League standings, but the rematch comes in Week 4.
Others that caught my eye: Owendale-Gagetown (8-2) at New Haven Merritt (6-4) (Thurs.), Rapid River (10-1) at Onaway (4-5).
PHOTO: Saline quarterback Joshua Jackson prepares to hand off during last season’s Division 1 Final against Clarkston. Both teams’ returns to the field this weekend are among the most highly-anticipated in Michigan.
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.)