A Game for Every Fan: Week 8
October 16, 2014
By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Consider this little-known, or perhaps lesser-stated fact about the MHSAA football playoffs:
Two weeks remain in the regular season. But 50 percent of the 616 teams eligible for the postseason still control their futures with opportunities to earn automatic berths.
And that’s fewer teams than at this point the last few seasons – meaning more opportunities remain for a larger pool of teams to receive at-large bids.
Read on for more on some of those teams and some the games that matter most this week as the last available league titles are being locked down and playoff selection sits just 10 days away.
Bay and Thumb
Lapeer (7-0) at Flint Carman-Ainsworth (6-1)
It’s accurate to say Lapeer High has never been in this situation – this is the first season for the school, made up of the former Lapeer West and East. But a fair argument can be made that the Lightning has opened better than either school did over the last decade. It has clinched a share of the Saginaw Valley Association Red title and given up 20 points – total – this fall. Enter Carman-Ainsworth, last season’s champion of the former SVA South and a one-point loss to Mount Pleasant from also being perfect this fall.
Others that caught my eye: Flint Beecher (7-0) at Montrose (6-1), Birch Run (6-1) at Millington (7-0), Harbor Beach (7-0) at Marlette (5-2), Walled Lake Central (5-2) at Grand Blanc (5-2).
Southwest and Border
Watervliet (6-1) at Decatur (7-0)
Decatur has guaranteed a fourth straight winning season and is 30-11 since the beginning of 2011 – with three of those losses coming in the playoffs and seven coming in the competitive Southwestern Athletic Conference South. The Raiders never finished higher than third in the five-team league during the last three seasons. But the winner tonight will clinch a share of the title, although to do so Decatur must break a five-game losing streak to Watervliet – league champions the last three seasons.
Others that caught my eye: Berrien Springs (5-2) at Edwardsburg (7-0), Olivet (6-1) at Constantine (6-1), St. Joseph (4-3) at Battle Creek Lakeview (5-1), Homer (6-1) at Union City (7-0).
Ypsilanti Community (5-2) at Ypsilanti Lincoln (5-2)
The last four seasons have been like no other in Lincoln football history. The Railsplitters made the playoffs for the first time in 2011 and this season have guaranteed a fourth straight winning record – and tonight also can guarantee a third playoff berth and second straight outright Southeastern Conference White championship. Community had a brief up-and-down span, sandwiching an impressive win over Chelsea between two losses to finish September. But tonight’s win would mean for the Grizzlies a share of the league title and first playoff berth in the school’s two-year history.
Others that caught my eye: Farmington (6-1) at Birmingham Groves (6-1), Detroit Cass Tech (7-0) vs. Detroit East English (5-2) at Detroit Northwestern, Marine City (7-0) at Warren Woods-Tower (6-1), Harper Woods Chandler Park (5-2) at Warren Michigan Collegiate (7-0) on Saturday.
Lower Up North
Whittemore-Prescott (7-0) at Hillman (7-0)
This should end up the best game of the season in the northeastern end of the Lower Peninsula. Whittemore-Prescott won the North Star League Huron Shores championship and has clinched its 16th playoff berth in the last 17 seasons. Hillman won the league’s North Star division and has guaranteed its eighth playoff appearance in nine seasons with its best start since 1990. Last season marked the teams' first meeting since 1976 – and turned into a 66-26 win for the Cardinals. This time should be much closer.
Others that caught my eye: Elk Rapids (4-3) at Boyne City (7-0), Mancelona (4-3) at Central Lake (4-3), Manton (5-2) at Lincoln Alcona (4-3), Cadillac (7-0) at Manistee (4-3).
Rockford (6-1) at East Kentwood (6-1)
The Ottawa-Kent Conference Red title is down to three teams and two weeks of the season, with Rockford holding a one-win lead over East Kentwood and Holland West Ottawa – and West Ottawa next week’s opponent. The Rams haven’t lost a league game since Week 4 of 2010, and that has included two seasons of facing Muskegon in Red games. But it’s tough to argue against this being East Kentwood’s best season since 2003 – which also was the last time it won this matchup.
Others that caught my eye: Lowell (7-0) at Caledonia (5-2), Greenville (4-3) at Cedar Springs (6-1), Hudsonville (4-3) at Holland West Ottawa (5-2), Whitehall (6-1) at Ravenna (6-1).
Lansing Everett (5-2) at Lansing Sexton (7-0)
This is the most meaningful game between these rivals since probably 1986, when Everett and Sexton met in the first league game of the season and the Vikings won by a point – and then eventually won the league title by a win over the Big Reds. Everett has the top-scoring offense in the Capital Area Activities Conference Blue this season; Sexton’s defense has given up the fewest points. The Big Reds can win a share of the Blue title for the second straight season – but the Vikings are one of the few teams in the Lansing area that might be able to match Sexton's speedy pace.
Others that caught my eye: Pewamo-Westphalia (6-1) at Fowler (7-0), Harrison (7-0) at Clare (5-2), Walled Lake Western (6-1) at Hartland (6-1), Reed City (6-1) at Remus Chippewa Hills (6-1).
Negaunee (4-3) at Marquette (7-1)
This game became key to Negaunee’s season after last week, when Marquette guaranteed a playoff berth with a win over Constantine and Negaunee fell to rival Ishpeming and into a must-win situation for the rest of the regular season. The Miners have made the playoffs five of the last six seasons – and the closest loss the season they missed qualifying by a win, 2011, was a six-point defeat to the Redmen.
Others that caught my eye: Crystal Falls Forest Park (5-1) at Bessemer (4-2) on Saturday, Felch North Dickinson (3-4) at Lake Linden-Hubbell (6-1) on Saturday, Marinette, Wis. (3-5) at Menominee (7-0) on Saturday, Newberry (4-3) at Rudyard (3-4).
Portland St. Patrick (7-0) at Battle Creek St. Philip (7-0), Saturday
For the second straight week, it’s nearly impossible to pick the best from a group of 8-player games matching the state’s elite. But consider this face-off of two of the six undefeated teams left in 8-player. The Tigers fell to St. Patrick three times in their first 8-player season in 2012, but beat the Shamrocks 68-14 last fall and are 17-1 over their last 18 games. That point total should be tougher to come by this time – St. Patrick is giving up a mere 12.7 points per game, particularly strong in the high-scoring 8-player format.
Others that caught my eye: Cedarville (6-1) at Bellaire (7-0), Peck (7-0) at Deckerville (6-1).
PHOTO: Flint Carman-Ainsworth, here against Midland earlier this season, can lock up a second straight league title tonight against Lapeer. (Click to see 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.)