'Lights Out' D Keys DeLaSalle's D2 Repeat
By Tom Markowski
Special for Second Half
November 23, 2018
DETROIT – Not once had Muskegon Mona Shores been held under 33 points this season. Keeping opponents off-balance with their veer option attack, the Sailors averaged 45.6 over 13 games leading up to Saturday’s Division 2 Final, and 47.5 per game during the playoffs.
But Mona Shores hadn’t faced a defense like the one Warren DeLaSalle brought to Ford Field.
Since allowing 36 points to Muskegon in its opener, DeLaSalle’s defense has been as formidable as any in the state – and the Pilots demonstrated that once again on the big stage.
Led by senior linebackers Jacob Dobbs and Devon Campbell, DeLaSalle held Mona Shores to 217 yards in defeating the Sailors, 29-16.
Yes Bear Bryant, defense does indeed win championships (the iconic college football coach is considered to have been the first to make that statement). The Pilots (12-2) held their five playoff opponents to a combined 36 points on the way to not only repeating as Division 2 champions but winning their third title in five seasons.
“Our defense was lights out,” DeLaSalle coach Mike Giannone said. “They’ve been that way all year, and I want to compliment them on it.
“Offensively, we did what we had to do.”
The Pilots set the tone on the first series when Dobbs and safety Derek Roskopp stopped running back Sincere Dent for a four-yard loss on a 4th-and-1 from the Mona Shores 35. The Sailors also went for it on a 4th-and-1 on their next series and were stopped short. The latter stop led to DeLaSalle’s first touchdown, a Nolan Schultz one-yard sneak to give the Pilots a 7-0 lead.
Mona Shores (12-2) tied the game with 1:26 left in the half on a two-yard run by quarterback Casen Boersma. The Sailors had but one first down before their scoring drive, and they received a boost when Dent, a 5-foot-11, 217-pound senior, busted loose for a 24-yard run. Boersma then ran 17 yards to set up his score.
It was a ragged first half as each team gained three first downs, punted four times and combined for 183 yards.
Each team scored on each of its first two possessions to begin the second half, and Schultz’s second one-yard touchdown run gave the Pilots a 21-10 lead with 10:44 remaining.
Mona Shores answered with an eight-play, 63-yard drive that ended with Boersma’s 14-yard touchdown pass to Da’Varius Carter with 7:26 left.
The Pilots put the game away with their best drive, which took 5:29 off the clock and ended with Schultz’s third one-yard sneak for a touchdown. The 12-play drive went 65 yards, and DeLaSalle used 11 running plays, eight by running back Evan Vaillancourt. Vaillancourt gained 24 yards on the drive and had 52 for the game on 18 carries.
Roskopp ended Mona Shores’ last drive with an interception with 31 seconds left.
“Hats off to DeLaSalle,” Mona Shores coach Matt Koziak said. “Defensively, they are tough. I thought our defense did well matching up with their physicality. Then it became a possession game. They wanted to run the clock, and that’s what they did.”
Yes, it was a team effort by the Pilots – but two players stood out: Dobbs and Schultz.
Schultz, a senior, was third on the depth chart before the start of the season. Junior Anthony Stepnitz was the starting quarterback, but he suffered an injury in the fourth game against Birmingham Brother Rice, and Schultz took over the following week.
“(Assistant coach) Bob Schroeder called me up after Anthony went down and told me to try Schultz,” Giannone said. “He liked the fact he was a gamer. He was our starting safety, and I didn’t know if I wanted to do that. He started some (at quarterback) on the JV as a sophomore, and we decided to go with him.”
Giannone simplified the offense until Schultz gained confidence. Accounting for 300 yards in total offense against Detroit Catholic Central in a 24-6 victory at Ford Field in the Catholic League championship game did much to build upon that confidence. After a so-so first half against Mona Shores, Schultz was 6-of-7 passing for 132 yards and one touchdown during the second. He also rushed for 41 yards on five carries over the final 24 minutes.
“We’ve been to Ford Field before,” Schultz said. “It wasn’t a big deal for us.”
Dobbs led all players with 16 tackles and forced one fumble. At receiver he had three receptions for 65 yards and one touchdown, a 44-yarder that gave DeLaSalle a 14-7 lead.
“He has a great nose for the ball, and he has great instincts,” Giannone said. “To play with your friends, it means more. These guys have been playing a lot together. It’s more fun.”
Dobbs couldn’t decide which play was more fun, the stop on fourth down or the touchdown catch.
“Everybody did their job,” Dobbs said. “Our defense is amazing. It’s all you can asked for.
“We didn’t see any weaknesses on film (of Mona Shores). They have a big running back. They have a good quarterback, and they have two good receivers. We knew they wanted to run the midline and the veer. Our coaches prepared us for that.”
Campbell had 10 tackles to support Dobbs’ play, and Dent had 10 tackles from his linebacker spot.
Giannone completed his third season at DeLaSalle after spending 15 at Macomb Dakota, where he led the Cougars to two MHSAA Division 1 titles. Much of the credit for the play of his defense goes to Brandon Bush, a starter on the second Dakota championship team (2007), and he’s been Giannone’s defensive coordinator all three seasons at DeLaSalle.
“He was coaching the freshmen at Dakota,” Giannone said. “I saw in him somebody I could trust. It’s all continuity. At Dakota we had the same staff for 15 years. We try to pay it back.”
PHOTOS: (Top) Warren DeLaSalle’s Jacob Dobbs brings down a Mona Shores ball carrier Friday at Ford Field. (Middle) Pilots quarterback Nolan Schultz pushes for one of his touchdown sneaks.
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.)