History-Making Huskies Reverse Course

October 12, 2016

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Breckenridge football coach Kris Robinson is doing his best to remain guarded despite his team’s history-making run to begin this season.

But the signs something special is playing out in his community are impossible to miss.

Like the multiple TV crews that came to practice Tuesday, one from WJRT, a local channel that still is based more than 60 miles away in Flint. The second crew, from Fox Sports Detroit, was putting together a feature for its statewide audience.

And they are just the latest to take note of the undefeated Huskies, who are 7-0 and clinched their first league championship Friday since 1946 after finishing 0-9 last season.

“The atmosphere here Friday night against Merrill was ridiculous. Our student section, the outpouring has been pretty awesome,” Robinson said. “I was always told – our AD Ryan Sklener played basketball here in the (19)80s and he said when our team was good, they would line up four deep around the basketball court. He said that would happen (for football). I was waiting for it. It didn’t happen when we went 5-4, so I’ve been anxious to see it happen. And it sure has.”

The Breckenridge football team is the first Applebee’s statewide Team of the Month for the 2016-17 school year.

The Huskies have the opportunity to become the first Michigan team in the playoff era (beginning in 1975) to follow an 0-9 finish with a 9-0 regular season – not counting Bellaire, which went 0-9 in 11-player in 2010 but then 9-0 in 8-player the following fall. Even if Breckenridge falls short on that goal, it has guaranteed it will become just the eighth team since 1975 to come back from a winless season to make the playoffs the following year.

A “perfect storm” is how Robinson describes how his team has gone undefeated heading into this week’s matchup with Vestaburg. But truly, a number of pieces have fallen into place to help the Huskies make history – with more opportunities to do so on the way.

Robinson is in his fourth year as coach, having taken over a program in 2013 that went 1-8 the year before and hadn’t made the playoffs since 1993 before qualifying this season with a 38-0 win over Carson City-Crystal on Sept. 30.

His first team finished 2-7, and the Huskies improved to 5-4 in 2014. But they felt all the way back to square one last fall with only three seniors on the team and freshmen at quarterback and running back. Breckenridge scored 68 points over nine games and lost all of them by at least 21.

But things were about to change – and quickly.

“They were ticked off, especially that (current) sophomore group,” said Robinson, who previously coached wrestling at the school and as a football assistant at Farwell and Roscommon. “They’ve won at every level, and for them to come out last year and not win a game, there were some moments last year that were really tough on them.”

First, Breckenridge – a Class C school with 235 students – is enjoying a roster of 28 players after finishing last fall with only 12. With that jump in numbers has come the opportunity to fit players at their best-possible positions, and at least half on both sides of the ball are playing only one way. Although this team will graduate 14 seniors, another solid group is waiting that is 4-1 at the junior varsity level with only a two-point loss to Fowler. Of 110 boys in the school, 50 are playing football.

Many also put in the time during the offseason. Robinson credits commitment to the weight room for a lot of this team’s turnaround as well, pointing to players like sophomore Lukas Ebright, who was a good JV player last season but added 25 pounds and increased his vertical jump to 32 inches during the offseason to line up this fall as a 5-foot-5, 155-pound cornerback.

It's also helped greatly that those freshmen playmakers from a year ago have become leading sophomores. Quarterback Carter Staley had run for 773 yards and 10 touchdowns and completed 62 percent of his passes for 711 yards and 12 scores heading into last week’s Merrill game. Including that 12-0 win over the Vandals, Hunter Collins has run for 762 yards and seven touchdowns, averaging more than nine yards per carry. (Click to watch the replay of Breckenridge vs. Merrill on MHSAA.tv.)

In front of them is an offensive line that averages 240 pounds, sizable for sure relative to the size of their school. It’s also been brought up that Breckenridge moved to a league this fall – the Mid-State Activities Conference – that is a better fit, as the Huskies have the third highest enrollment among eight schools in the league compared to when they were the third-smallest of eight schools in the Tri-Valley Conference West in 2015. But that doesn't mean the MSAC is some easy run; Breckenridge included, five of eight teams are 4-3 or better, and four teams are tied for second place in the league at 4-2 in conference games.

The Huskies can clinch the title outright Friday, which would represent another accomplishment – Breckenridge hasn’t won an outright conference championship since 1941. 

Trophies celebrating those long-ago league championship seasons are among five total owned by the school – with two others a cup from 1917 and a 1931 trophy with a player kicking a football, except all that’s left is the foot. But that will change shortly, as well.

“We broke the season scoring record in Week 6, and they knew we broke the season scoring record and actually asked me that night if we’ve broken the record for breaking the most records yet,” Robinson said. “So they get it.

“But I don’t think they understand the gravity of the situation. This is older than their grandparents.”

PHOTOS: (Top) A pair of Breckenridge defenders wrap up a Merrill ball carrier during Friday’s 12-0 league title-clinching win. (Middle) Huskies coach Kris Robinson (left) speaks with quarterback Carter Staley. (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:

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.)