Haisenleder Provides Lift-Off as Revitalized Cardinal Mooney Continues Rise

By Paul Costanzo
Special for MHSAA.com

November 9, 2022

Brendan Haisenleder understands the specialness of his senior football season, which came to an end Friday with a 42-21 Division 8 District Final loss to Clarkston Everest Collegiate.

Bay & ThumbHe is well aware that what he accomplished at Marine City Cardinal Mooney was extraordinary.

But when asked to recap it, none of the personal milestones came up.

“It’s really awesome seeing the program and how it used to be a couple years ago and how it’s turned around,” Haisenleder said. “Just seeing the growth as a program, going from having a roster of 15 kids and now we’re at 30. It’s really awesome, and I’m really proud of how far the Mooney program has come.”

He’s certainly not wrong. Mooney was 8-3 this season, winning a playoff game for the first time since 2011 when the team was playing in the 8-player format. The first-round victory against Marlette was the first 11-player playoff win for the Cardinals since 2005.

They won the Detroit Catholic League Intersectional 2, and the 15 wins over the past two seasons were more than the previous six seasons combined.

“I think that one big thing is the work in the offseason that all of the kids put in and all of the coaches,” Haisenleder said.

Haisenleder works to break a tackle during a Week 8 win over Whitmore Lake. “We were getting a lot of stuff we needed to get done going into the season, we took everything very seriously, and we played very hard and physical on gamedays.”

But it’s undeniable that Haisenleder was at the heart of it, and his statistics tell quite a bit of the story.

He rushed for 2,302 yards, easily setting a new Mooney season record, and scored 30 offensive touchdowns. On defense, he recorded 148 tackles and five interceptions.

Mike McAndrews, Mooney’s director of admissions and boys basketball coach, didn’t mince words when he tweeted about Haisenleder’s status in Mooney history.

“The best football player to ever wear a Mooney uniform,” McAndrews wrote, tagging Haisenleder. “He took this program to new heights. He will be playing on Saturdays next year and will make a college coach very happy.”

Haisenleder wouldn’t say that he was surprised by his success this season. But he did admit that he exceeded his own very high expectations. By Week 4, he already had eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark.

“When I play, I have a lot of confidence,” he said. “I put a lot of pressure on myself that I have to put the work in so I can do the best I can to help my team. One of the goals I had was to become the single-season rushing leader at our school. … My offensive line did a great job.”

Haisenleder’s success has led to college interest. He has six offers to play at the next level, four from NAIA schools and two from Division III.

At 5-foot-8, 190 pounds, he knows he’s fighting an uphill battle in that regard, but it’s made him even more driven to succeed.

“There kind of is a chip on my shoulder,” he said. “Seeing guys that are very similar to me getting offers, and I think, ‘Man I’m right there.’”

Haisenleder’s football idol is Barry Sanders, who he was able to meet at an event in October. The size is an immediate comparison to make, and it’s easy to see how any athlete – even if they were born six years after Sanders retired – could be engrossed by Sanders highlights. But it’s Sanders’ humility that Haisenleder most wants to emulate.

“One of my favorite things about him was how humble he was,” Haisenleder said. “When he would score, he would just hand the ball to the ref and act like he’d been there before. That’s another thing I take very big pride in.”

Haisenleder said he will now take more time to figure out what his next step will be, although things won’t really slow down much for him. Conditioning for basketball already has started.

He’s a guard on the Cardinals’ basketball team, and an outfielder on the baseball team. While football became his main focus as he neared high school, he said he loves all three.

It helps that all three teams are seeing quite a bit of success at Mooney, and that many of Haisenleder’s teammates overlap on all three.

“It is cool at a small school that a lot of the same guys play the same sports,” he said. “There’s a really big brotherhood between the same guys. The family never really changes that much, and we’re really growing in chemistry with one another.”

Paul CostanzoPaul Costanzo served as a sportswriter at The Port Huron Times Herald from 2006-15, including three years as lead sportswriter, and prior to that as sports editor at the Hillsdale Daily News from 2005-06. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Sanilac, Huron, Tuscola, Saginaw, Bay, Arenac, Midland and Gladwin counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Cardinal Mooney’s Brendan Haisenleder finishes one of his 30 touchdowns this fall. (Middle) Haisenleder works to break a tackle during a Week 8 win over Whitmore Lake. (Photos by Lindsey VanTiem.)

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.)