Lumen Repeat 'Club' Inducts Newest Class

November 24, 2017

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

DETROIT – The challenge came one more time over text Thursday night, from a pair of assistant coaches who had something their players desperately wanted.

Tony Panici and Tyler Aldridge were part of Jackson Lumen Christi’s repeat Division 5 champions in 2003 and 2004, and they had one question for today’s Titans: “Do you have what it takes to join the back-to-back club?”

“That really stuck with us,” Lumen Christi junior linebacker Nick Thomas said. “And I think it gave us that little edge to be able to come out and leave everything on the field, and just join that club.”

Panici and Aldridge – who also were part of the 2005 runner-up team – sent along photos of their championship rings as well. And now the program will need to mint another 80 or so more.

Indeed the Titans won their 10th championship Friday at Ford Field, for the second straight season in Division 6, completing their first repeat since Panici and Aldridge’s sophomore and junior years more than a decade ago. And Lumen Christi did it by holding off arguably the state’s most successful program of the last decade – five-time champion Ithaca – by holding on for a 40-34 win.

The Titans led by 20 midway through the fourth quarter before the Yellowjackets pulled to within six with 2:27 to play. Lumen Christi (12-1) was able to run off those final minutes but needed every last yard – securing the victory by getting two on a 4-and-1 dive by senior Kyle Minder with under a minute to play.

It was a symbolic way to end the final rally. The Yellowjackets (12-1) have won their five titles over the last eight seasons with offenses led by dynamic dual-threat quarterbacks, and made this run led by senior signal-caller Joey Bentley – who ended the fall with 2,144 yards and 31 touchdowns passing and 1,656 yards and 27 scores rushing.

Lumen Christi’s attack is far more old school, a grind-it-out style that this season headlined senior Sebastion Toland with Minder mostly blocking in front of him and behind a powerful offensive line. The Titans didn’t throw a pass during the second half Friday, aside from a two-point conversion try, mostly because they were able to follow up Ithaca’s defensive stops with long runs – Minder ripped off scoring sprints of four, 43 and 63 yards over the final two quarters, and Toland had an 80-yarder to make the lead 19 points just more than a minute into the fourth.

“The offensive line really came off the ball in the second half,” said longtime Lumen Christi coach Herb Brogan, who finished his 38th season running the program. “We felt all year long that offensive line was the strength of our team, and we’ve got some pretty good people to run behind them. I really thought they asserted themselves in the second half and took control of the line of scrimmage.”

The Titans ran for 514 yards on 67 carries, averaging 7.7 yards per attempt. The carries were the second most by one team in an MHSAA championship game.

Toland finished with 244 yards on 33 carries, and Minder had 206 on 23 attempts. Both made the MHSAA record book list for rushing yards in a Final, Toland’s total tying for seventh highest. He had 176 of those yards during the second half. Thomas also scored his team’s first touchdown on a 72-yard reverse.

“They’re a fantastic team offensively, and we knew that. Our challenge was getting off the field,” Ithaca coach Terry Hessbrook said.

“Our defense is fast, but obviously we’re not very big. They asked me at halftime on TV what (Lumen’s) adjustment was going to be. And I said I expected a lot more power running game from them in the second half, and unfortunately that’s exactly what we got.”

A 51-yard touchdown run by Bentley gave Ithaca a 13-8 lead it carried into halftime. Lumen Christi swung the score 24 points to take a 31-12 advantage into the fourth quarter, but the Yellowjackets remained dangerous. Three of Bentley’s four touchdown passes came over the final 9:36.

He finished 11 of 21 passing for 240 yards and those four scores, and ran for 89 yards and one touchdown. Senior Adam Culp caught five passes for 70 yards and two of those scores.

“I’m glad the clock ran out when it did,” said Brogan, also the fifth winningest coach in MHSAA history with a 343-83 record. “They’re really explosive.”

Senior linebacker Ethan McCormick led Ithaca with 15 tackles, while senior nose guard Nathan Bellinger had 11 and senior linebacker Zach Hessbrook had 10.

The Yellowjackets have won 118 of their last 123 games.

“All I can say is this: When you coach a team, all you ask from them is that they play as hard as they can possibly play,” Terry Hessbrook said. “My kids do that. They do that for me, for my coaching staff.

“I told those guys at halftime, Jackson Lumen Christi has never a team like Ithaca High School, because we have no quitters. These kids, I’m so proud of them for it.”

Minder and Thomas both had six tackles to pace the Titans.

Click for the full box score.

The MHSAA Playoffs are sponsored by the Michigan Army National Guard.

PHOTOS: (Top) Lumen Christi’s Sebastion Toland works to break away from a tackler during the Titans’ Division 6 Final win Friday. (Middle) From left: Cameron White, Joe Barrett, Luke Stanton and Hunter Richmond celebrate with the championship trophy.

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.)