Harris Soars, Eagles Fly to D3 Championship

November 24, 2012

By Bill Khan
Special to Second Half

DETROIT — A funny thing happened on Drake Harris’ way to hoops stardom.

He discovered he’s even greater on the gridiron.

The junior wide receiver didn’t intend to play high school football at Grand Rapids Christian, but now figures that’s his meal ticket in college — and perhaps beyond — after a record-breaking season that culminated with an epic performance in the MHSAA Division 3 championship game against Orchard Lake St. Mary’s.

Harris made three clutch catches in the final eight minutes to keep scoring drives alive and finished with a MHSAA Finals record of 243 yards on eight catches in the Eagles’ 40-37 overtime victory Saturday night at Ford Field.

Twice on the game-tying drive, Harris made leaping catches on fourth down. His 7-yarder on fourth-and-three and 15-yarder on fourth-and-eight set up a 28-yard field goal by Joel Schipper with four seconds left in the fourth quarter.

After the Eagles stopped St. Mary’s on fourth-and-three on the first series of overtime, Schipper came out on first down and kicked the championship-clinching 27-yard field goal.

In the process, Harris became only the 12th player nationally and first from Michigan to rack up 2,000 receiving yards for one season. He finished the season with 2,016.

“It’s a great achievement for me,” Harris said. “I have to thank the quarterback, the line and my coaching staff for putting me in the right position to make plays. All I care about is that state championship.”

It's the first for Grand Rapids Christian, which also made its first MHSAA Final appearance and finished this fall 13-1. St. Mary's, last season's Division 3 champion, ended 11-3.

Harris had hoop dreams coming into high school, figuring he would specialize in basketball to enhance his college opportunities. After getting talked into playing football by Eagles coach Don Fellows, Harris discovered a hidden talent. He wound up making a verbal commitment last summer to Michigan State to play both sports, but football may eventually win out.

“I never realized the talent I had for football,” the 6-foot-4, 180-pound Harris said. “I’m putting it all together. I’m going to keep working hard to achieve my goals.

“(MSU basketball coach Tom Izzo) loves players that play football. He told me that. He encouraged me. He’s with me with the whole situation and loves that I play football. I’m kind of starting to lean more towards football. I just feel like I’m probably better in football and that I can go further in football.”

Grand Rapids Christian quarterback Alex VanDeVusse was 16 for 26 for 307 yards and a touchdown, but deflected any credit for his performance to his outstanding wide receiver. VanDeVusse noted that a couple of Harris’ catches late in the game came on passes that would’ve eluded the grasp of most high school receivers.

“He makes me look really, really good,” VanDeVusse said. “Balls that are behind him, he slows down and catches it with one hand if he has to. Balls that are too high, he jumps and gets flipped. People don’t necessarily think he’s tough or something, but to have a guy go three or four feet in the air to get flipped, catch the ball and land on his back and his head, he’s pretty tough in my book. I’ll take him on my team every single day. He’s amazing.”

VanDeVusse looked to Harris in every clutch situation, of which there were several in a wild fourth quarter.

“We joke around that he’s our toy,” VanDeVusse said. “If you have a toy, you’re going to want to play with it all the time. We use him a lot and he does every bit that we ask of him.”

The Eaglets knew that Harris would be targeted when Grand Rapids Christian needed a big play, but even double coverage couldn’t stop him.

“He makes you shift,” St. Mary’s coach George Porritt said. “You have to bring more people to him. You can’t guard him with one. It might leave somebody else open. He forces you to bring two, maybe three.”

A 42-yard run by VanDeVusse gave Grand Rapids Christian a 20-7 lead with 4:42 left in the first half, but St. Mary’s rallied behind a ground game that rolled up 459 yards to take its first lead at 30-27 with 9:37 left in the fourth quarter.

Harris made a 38-yard catch on third-and-27 with 8:00 remaining, one play before a 32-yard touchdown run by Seth McIntosh put the Eagles ahead 34-30 with 7:45 to go.

St. Mary’s then marched 80 yards in 12 plays to grab a 37-34 lead with 2:06 left on a 3-yard run by Grant Niemiec.

Harris made four catches for 47 yards on the ensuing drive, which culminated in Schipper’s game-tying field goal.

St. Mary’s got the ball first in overtime. A pass by Matt Linehan intended for running back Parker McInnis in the end zone fell incomplete on fourth-and-three.

Grand Rapids Christian didn’t hesitate to bring in Schipper to end the game with his right foot on first down.

“I knew it was a big kick starting off, but I just tried to block it all out,” Schipper said. “It felt just like at practice. Coach puts a lot of pressure on us during the week so these situations don’t come as big in the games. That really helped me. I’m just glad I could get the win for the team tonight.

“He’s got the whole team screaming in my ear in practice when I’m trying to make field goals. That really helps in this environment.”

St. Mary’s lost, despite setting a finals record with 579 yards of total offense. The teams combined for a record 1,033 yards.

McInnis ran 25 times for 269 yards, while Niemiec carried 28 times for 168 yards and three touchdowns for St. Mary’s.

Click for full statistics and to watch a replay of the game.

PHOTOS: (Top) Grand Rapids Christian receiver Drake Harris runs away from two Orchard Lake St. Mary's defenders for some of his record-breaking yardage Saturday. (Middle) The Eagles celebrate their first MHSAA championship. (Click for more from Terry McNamara Photography.)

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.)