Grass Lake Thriving But Driving for More

September 13, 2019

By Doug Donnelly
Special for Second Half

GRASS LAKE – Cameron Darrow remembers the play like it was yesterday.

“It was the third quarter and there was nine minutes left,” the Grass Lake middle linebacker said. “I had 14 tackles in the game already. I came up through the hole and it was raining, and I tackled the running back. As I was lifting him up, my foot got caught in the ground and twisted and popped.”

Darrow broke his ankle in two spots in that game against Addison, which was near the end of his sophomore season. It was a long road back, but the Warriors senior captain made a full recovery. He’s one of the reasons Grass Lake is off to a 2-0 start and has its sights set on a big season.

“We just take it game by game,” Darrow said. “We just want to keep winning. Our goal at the end of every week is to be 1-0.”

The reigning Cascades Conference champions earned a spot in The Associated Press’ Division 6 top 10 poll earlier this week. And going into tonight’s game against East Jackson, the Warriors are in midseason form. Grass Lake beat Stockbridge 58-12 in the season opener and handled Vandercook Lake 51-0 in the first game of league play.

“You can’t argue with how the kids have played,” said 20th-year Grass Lake head coach Randy Cole. “It’s very early in the season, though. We have a long way to go. We just have to keep getting better.”

Over the past six seasons, Cole has employed a high-powered, up-tempo offense. His son Anthony was an assistant coach at Albion College when Cole asked him his thoughts about implementing the offense at Grass Lake. It’s worked.

“It gives us a lot of versatility,” Cole said. “We spread the ball around. We get the ball out quick. It’s fun. The kids like it.”

Grass Lake is used to winning. The Warriors have made the playoffs 13 of the last 14 years and are 145-60, a winning percentage above .700, during Cole’s tenure.

This year’s offense is led by junior quarterback Carson Farley. He’s been dynamite through two weeks, completing 26 of his 30 passes for 440 yards and nine touchdowns. He hasn’t thrown an interception.

“He’s new,” Cole said. “He was our JV quarterback last year. He’s off to a great start. He makes good decisions. He has good knowledge of the offense. We run the same thing on the JV, and he ran it well last year. He knew coming in that he was going to be our quarterback, so he worked hard this summer.”

Farley has spread the ball around. Over just two games, six Warriors have at least one rushing attempt and eight receivers have caught passes. Six of those eight pass-catchers have a touchdown.

“We don’t really have a No. 1 receiver,” Cole said. “We spread it around. We take what the defense gives us.”

Trenton Holden leads the Warriors in rushing with more than 300 yards on nearly 12 yards per carry.

Grass Lake never huddles on offense.

“We don’t even use the word huddle,” Darrow said. “We call it a gathering. The only time we ‘gather’ is late in a game if we are trying to use up the clock.”

On defense, Darrow is the signal-caller from his middle linebacker spot. He’s been in on 24 tackles over two games – credited with 20 solo tackles and four assists. He has three tackles for loss and one sack.

“He’s the guts and glue of our defense,” said Cole.

Grass Lake’s No. 1 goal, as usual, is to win the Cascades Conference. After that, the Warriors are hoping to make a deeper run in the playoffs. Last season they started 8-0 before losing to eventual Division 8 champion Reading in the Week 9 Big 8 Conference crossover game 55-7 and then to Cascades foe Michigan Center 35-6 in the first round of the playoffs.

“We were humbled,” Darrow said. “We really wanted to be the third team in Grass Lake history to go 9-0 in the regular season, but we just fell short. We definitely have that in the back of our minds. We want revenge and want to make it further in the playoffs.”

During the winter and summer workouts, Darrow said, those two losses were motivation for the Warriors players.

“We had 30 to 40 kids there lifting all summer,” he said. “We talked about those losses. We want to be better this year.”

Darrow, who is one of three team captains along with Gage Lee and Shane Holcomb, said this year’s Warriors are a tight group.

“We play for each other,” he said. “We all have the same goals. We’ve been playing together since the third grade and we just love football. When I was coming back from my injury last year, everyone lifted me up and helped me get back. Not coming back wasn’t an option. I love football too much.

“Football is a brotherhood. We play for each other.”

Doug Donnelly has served as a sports and news reporter and city editor over 25 years, writing for the Daily Chief-Union in Upper Sandusky, Ohio from 1992-1995, the Monroe Evening News from 1995-2012 and the Adrian Daily Telegram since 2013. He's also written a book on high school basketball in Monroe County and compiles record books for various schools in southeast Michigan. E-mail him at [email protected] with story ideas for Jackson, Washtenaw, Hillsdale, Lenawee and Monroe counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Cameron Darrow is back leading the Grass Lake defense this season. (Middle) Carson Farley looks downfield for a receiver (Photos courtesy of Amy Farley.)

Mendon 8-Player Championship Game Run Paced by Record-Setting Rushing

By Geoff Kimmerly 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.)