A Game for Every Fan: Week 9
October 23, 2014
By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
For 90 MHSAA football teams, this weekend could be the end – or a new beginning.
While 167 teams have qualified for this fall’s 11-player playoffs – and one more is assured of doing so thanks to a forfeit victory – 90 more still control their postseason destinies.
It’s win and in, with only eight games featuring matchups of 5-3 teams – meaning 82 at most can earn automatic berths this weekend. The average since the 256-team playoff format was introduced in 1999 is 234 automatic qualifiers. My guess for 2014: 230. Tune in Sunday.
Playoff pairings will be broadcast during the Sunday Selection Show at 7 p.m. on Fox Sports Detroit and posted to MHSAA.com at its conclusion. I’ll also post on Second Half my now-annual breakdown of some of the tougher decisions we faced as we grouped teams for the nine divisions.
Total, 272 will reach the playoffs – the top 16 8-player teams qualify for that bracket based on playoff-point average. Until then, the following will be among games we focus on most this weekend. All are Friday unless noted (there are 15 games statewide tonight and 10 on Saturday.).
Detroit Martin Luther King (8-0) vs. Detroit Cass Tech (8-0) at Ford Field
With all Detroit Public School League teams playing in one division this fall, but these two not meeting during the regular season, this has been even more highly anticipated than usual. Cass Tech has running back Mike Weber, committed to the University of Michigan, and is the team almost always talked about most from this league thanks to its four straight seasons of 11 or more wins and recent pair of MHSAA titles. But consider King’s quiet body of work – the Crusaders haven’t given up a point since September, have five shutouts total, and are led by Michigan State University-bound linebacker Tyriq Thompson.
Others that caught my eye: Orchard Lake St. Mary's (7-1) vs. Birmingham Brother Rice (8-0), Saturday at Ford Field; Clarkston (8-0) at Farmington Hills Harrison (7-1), Madison Heights Madison (7-1) at Walled Lake Western (7-1), Monroe (6-2) at Dearborn Fordson (8-0).
Muskegon Mona Shores (7-1) at Muskegon (8-0)
The top three games on this side of Michigan all feature Muskegon-area teams, and this has to be the biggest with Mona Shores capable of making it interesting again after arriving in 2013 with its first playoff berth after pushing the Big Reds to 26-20 in the Ottawa-Kent Conference Black opener. This time, this matchup concludes the league season with both tied for first; Mona Shores’ only loss was 10-7 to Rockford in Week 3, the last week this season as well that the Big Reds were challenged.
Others that caught my eye: Muskegon Orchard View (5-3) at Muskegon Oakridge (7-1), Muskegon Catholic Central (8-0) at Ravenna (7-1), Holland West Ottawa (5-3) at Rockford (6-2), Ada Forest Hills Eastern (4-4) at Cedar Springs (7-1).
Lower Up North
Traverse City Central (6-2) at Cadillac (8-0)
This Big North Conference decider has been foreseeable for about a month. Central suffered a 16-13 Week 6 loss to Petoskey, keeping this from being a true championship game. But the Trojans are driving to take a share of the title from Cadillac after falling to the Vikings 14-7 in their Week 9 matchup a year ago – and then missing the playoffs by a win. Cadillac has won 17 straight regular-season games and impressively scratched out two league wins by five or fewer points.
Others that caught my eye: Johannesburg-Lewiston (7-1) at Indian River Inland Lakes (7-1), Traverse City St. Francis (6-2) at Kingsley (5-3), Frankfort (5-2) at Onekama (5-3), Grayling (4-4) at Boyne City (8-0).
Marquette (7-1) at Menominee (8-0)
The Great Northern Upper Peninsula Conference championship comes down to this; both are undefeated in the league, although with different stories along the way. Menominee is coming off two Wisconsin wins and didn’t let another league opponent within 14 points. Marquette is riding strong wins over Constantine and Negaunee the last two weeks, but won its other league games by two, eight and five points, respectively – and lost to the Maroons the last two seasons by a combined 93-14. That said, Marquette also is headed to the playoffs for the first time since 2011 and lost only on opening night.
Others that caught my eye: Lake Linden-Hubbell (7-1) at Crystal Falls Forest Park (6-1), Sault Ste. Marie (4-4) at Newberry (5-3), Ishpeming Westwood (6-2) at Negaunee (4-4), Iron River West Iron County (8-0) at Bark River-Harris (6-2).
Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central (8-0) at Lansing Catholic (8-0)
It’s hard to imagine a better postseason primer for these MHSAA title contenders. St. Mary crushed the Huron League with four shutouts and gave up only 21 points total in seven games (and 34 for this season overall), and looks well on the way to another playoff run to go with its five District titles over the last six seasons. Lansing Catholic had only a bit tougher time with a bit stronger Capital Area Activities Conference White, but is averaging 41 points per game and approaching the offensive numbers put up when the team made the Division 5 Final in 2011.
Others that caught my eye: Goodrich (7-1) at St. Johns (7-1), Holt (3-5) at Grand Ledge (5-3), Lakeview (7-1) at Stanton Central Montcalm (5-3), Eaton Rapids (5-3) at Charlotte (4-4).
Bay and Thumb
Montrose (6-2) at New Lothrop (8-0)
Little has been said about New Lothrop since opening night, as it again didn’t face much challenge in the Genesee Area Conference Blue. But the Hornets – seeking their fourth straight perfect regular season – can boast a couple solid nonleague wins over playoff qualifier Traverse City St. Francis and Schoolcraft, playing tonight for an automatic bid. The GAC Red is much more competitive, and Montrose finished third this season – but is expected to be dangerous in the playoffs with their losses to Goodrich and Flint Beecher by a combined seven points.
Others that caught my eye: Flint Carman-Ainsworth (6-2) at Flint Powers Catholic (6-2), Northville (5-3) at Grand Blanc (5-3), Midland Dow (8-0) at Midland (4-4), Flushing (6-2) at Swartz Creek (5-3).
Southwest and Border
Hudson (7-1) at Hillsdale (7-1)
These two have done the work to reach this championship decider in the Lenawee County Athletic Association, both edging contender Ida in consecutive weeks and turning back potential playoff qualifier Onsted as well. Save for last week’s 38-18 win over Onsted, Hudson gave up only 14 points in its other five league games and owns four wins in its last five over Hillsdale including 16-7 in 2013. But the Hornets have enjoyed incredible success since joining the LCAA in 2012, with a 19-1 record in league games – that lone loss, of course, to Hudson last year. Hillsdale thrives on offense, averaging 45 points per game not counting the mere three it put up in its lone loss to Ohio’s Defiance Tinora in Week 2.
Others that caught my eye: Gobles (6-2) at Saugatuck (5-3), Manchester (7-1) at Union City (8-0), Reed City (7-1) at Schoolcraft (5-3), Portage Central (6-1) at St. Joseph (4-4).
Lawrence (8-0) at Battle Creek St. Philip (8-0) on Saturday
These two started a nice rivalry last season, when St. Philip won 54-50 in the final game of the regular season and then Lawrence won the rematch two weeks later, 58-28 in their Regional Final. But more might be riding tonight than taking the upper hand; despite being one of four undefeated teams in 8-player, Lawrence ranks only seventh in playoff-point average and could use a nice boost to guarantee some home-field advantage over the next couple of weeks. St. Philip has the second-highest playoff average and could take over the top spot.
Others that caught my eye: Bellaire (7-1) at Rapid River (8-0), Portland St. Patrick (7-1) at Morrice (5-3).
PHOTO: Oxford defeated Bloomfield Hills 35-14 last week to earn an automatic playoff berth and faces Oak Park this week. (Photo courtesy of Matt Johnson/Oxford High School.)
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.)