March to Marquette: 8-Player Preview

November 13, 2018

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

The following statement is both rare and thrilling to announce:

We are guaranteed Saturday to celebrate two first-time MHSAA champions at the 8-Player Football Finals at Northern Michigan University’s Superior Dome.

In fact, three of Saturday’s four finalists will be playing in their first championship game. Both Division 1 contenders – Morrice and Pickford – are making their first trips past the Semifinals. In Division 2, Rapid River is a two-time runner-up and Onekama another first-time finalist.

Kickoff for the Division 1 game is 11 a.m., with the Division 2 game following at 2 p.m. Tickets cost $10 and one is good for admittance to both games. Both games also will be broadcast live on and the FOX Sports app, and replayed on FOX Sports Detroit’s primary channel on Nov. 20 – Division 1 at 8 p.m. and Division 2 at 11 p.m. Audio of both games will be streamed live on

Below is a look at all four finalists. Team “rankings” are based on their playoff-point averages heading into the postseason.

Division 1

 12-0, No. 4
Coach: Kendall Crockett, fifth season (41-14)
League finish: First in North Central Thumb League Red
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 40-8 over No. 5 Colon in Semifinal, 44-14 over No. 2 Wyoming Tri-unity Christian in Regional Final, 34-14 over No. 8 Deckerville, 40-0 over Division 2 No. 5 Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart.  
Players to watch: QB Hunter Nowak 5-11/164 sr. (1,922 yards/33 TDs rushing, 529 yards/8 TDs passing), RB/LB Austin Edington 5-9/152, sr. (851 yards/15 TDs rushing, 313 yards/4 TDs receiving; 54 tackles), OG/NG Sam Koresky 5-7/170 sr. (68 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, 10 sacks), FB/LB Connor Lucas, 5-10/180 sr. (91 tackles, 16.5 tackles for loss).
Outlook: Morrice had an often-solid 11-player program before switching to 8-player in 2014, and has since become elite. The Orioles are a combined 21-2 over the last two seasons and have allowed only 62 points this fall over 11 games (one win was a forefeit) – with six straight shutouts from Weeks 5-10. Junior defensive back Shane Cole with seven interceptions leads an opportunistic unit that is enjoying nearly three turnovers per game. Nowak made the all-state team as a junior and will enter the record book with 232 points and counting this fall.

 12-0, No. 1
Coach: Josh Rader, 16th season (99-53)
League finish: First in Great Lakes Conference East
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final. 
Best wins: 50-20 over No. 3 AuGres-Sims in Semifinal, 48-42 over No. 7 Suttons Bay in Regional Final, 52-7 over Division 2 No. 2 Engadine, 58-12 over Division 2 No. 7 Rapid River.
Players to watch: QB/LB Jimmy Storey, 6-0/180 jr. (1,638 yards/30 TDs passing, 920 yards/18 TDs rushing; 89 tackles, 3 interceptions); RB/DB Stephen LaMothe, 5-9/165 jr. (913 yards/15 TDs rushing; 4 interceptions); RB Matt Bush, 5-10/170 jr. (786 yards/10 TDs rushing; 62 tackles); SE/DE Nick Edington, 6-8/220, jr. (836 yards/16 TDs receiving; 46 tackles).
Outlook: Pickford also has been on the cusp of this opportunity, emerging from a third-straight Semifinal appearance to make the championship game for the first time. The Panthers are a combined 39-7 since switching to 8-player four seasons ago, and the dominance should continue as only two of this year’s players are seniors (although both start). Storey guides an offense averaging 54 points per game that hasn’t slowed in the playoffs with 51, 48 and 50 in its three postseason wins. Juniors Isaiah May (96 tackles) and Sam Burton (67 tackles/12 sacks) are two more impact players.

Division 2

 10-2, No. 4
Coach: John Neph, second season (19-4)
League finish: Third in Midwest Central Michigan Conference West
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final. 
Best wins: 28-14 over No. 10 Portland St. Patrick in Semifinal, 52-0 over No. 8 Brethren in Regional Final, 22-6 (Pre-Regional) and 30-0 over No. 12 Marion.
Players to watch: HB/LB Ben Acton, 6-2/175 sr. (726 yards/7 TDs rushing, 241 yards/2 TDs receiving); QB/DB Luke Mauntler (5-8/145) jr. (659 yards/9 TDs passing, 433 yards/6 TDs rushing); HB/LB Aaron Powers, 6-0/175 jr. (625 yards/11 TDs rushing); WR/DB Ben Johnson, 6-0/150, sr. (6 interceptions).
Outlook: The Portagers navigated a tough league finishing behind two Division 1 playoff teams and just ahead of reigning Division 1 champion Central Lake before opening up their longest postseason run ever. Onekama is another 8-player success story at 19-4 over the last two seasons after a solid recent run in 11-player as well. The numbers above might seem modest, but the team played only 10 games on the field as two wins came by forfeit. Not modest is the defense’s giving up only 8.1 points per game, with the team’s two losses by a mere seven points combined.

9-3, No. 7
Coach: Steve Ostrenga, 20th season (109-82)
League finish: Third in Great Lakes Conference East
Championship history: 8-Player (one division) runner-up 2011, 2013.
Best wins: 36-30 (Semifinal) and 28-20 over No. 16 Cedarville, 40-34 over No. 14 Crystal Falls Forest Park in Regional Final, 20-18 over No. 2 Engadine in Pre-Regional.
Players to watch: RB/S Tyler Sundling, 5-11/170, jr. (1,252 yards/16 TDs rushing, 504 yards/7 TDs receiving); QB/S Brent Lundquist, 6-3/180 sr. (1,424 yards/21 TDs passing); RB/LB Azariah Hernandez, 5-6/135, jr. (870 yards/11 TDs rushing); RB/DL Gunner Larson, 6-1/240 sr. (945 yards/8 TDs rushing).
Outlook: Rapid River has developed one of the strongest 8-player traditions during this first decade of the format in Michigan, appearing in the inaugural championship game and now heading for its third Finals. The Rockets held off league rival Cedarville for a second time last week after upsetting GLC East runner-up Engadine in the playoff opener and just two weeks after losing that matchup by 18. If this game is close, Rapid River can dig deep – five wins are by eight points or fewer. Senior Nate Olson is another two-way starter and the leading receiver with 685 yards and eight scores on 26 catches.

MHSAA, MHSFCA to Provide Spring Evaluation Camps for College Football Hopefuls

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

March 27, 2023

The Michigan High School Athletic Association, in partnership with the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association (MHSFCA), will be hosting first-ever Spring Evaluation Camps to provide athletes with aspirations of playing college football opportunities to show their skills and abilities to college coaches at one of five locations.

The one-day camps will take place between May 15-18 at Jenison High School, DeWitt High School, Jackson High School, Brighton High School and Detroit Country Day High School. The MHSAA’s involvement will allow for the opportunity for Division I college coaches to attend, and representatives from college football programs at all levels are expected.

Athletes who will be juniors or seniors in Fall 2023 may register to participate via a link on the Football page.

“This is an attempt by the MHSAA to help our athletes get exposure during the spring evaluation period in a way that does not intrude on spring sports,” said Brad Bush, an MHSAA assistant director and past high school and college football coach. “We are working with the MHSFCA to help put together a first-class experience for the athletes and college coaches.”

Cost is $20 per player, and each registrant will receive a shirt to wear based on the athlete’s graduation year and registration number so college coaches in attendance can monitor their camp performance. College coaches also will receive registration information for each athlete in attendance.

All athletes must have a coach from the athlete’s school staff present at the camp, and that coach must be a member of the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association.

MHSFCA executive director Andrew Pratley called the Spring Evaluation Camps a tremendous opportunity for high school athletes in Michigan.

“We are very excited with the partnership with the MHSAA that allows our kids the opportunity to wear a helmet and do drills in front of college coaches in the spring at a minimal cost,” Pratley said. “College coaches are thrilled, and it's a unique opportunity to have the rules waived by the MHSAA at these events only in order to showcase the tremendous talent all over the great state of Michigan.”

The Michigan High School Football Coaches Association (MHSFCA) has been devoted to the promotion of high school football since its inception in March 1972. The MHSFCA has more than 2,500 members and provides several educational and development opportunities for members and their athletes, including an annual coaching clinic, an annual leadership conference for coaches and potential team captains, and the annual summer East-West All-Star Game for graduated seniors. Additionally, the MHSFCA’s Leadership Development Alliance is in its third year of training coaches and offering veteran members of the association as mentors.

The MHSAA is a private, not-for-profit corporation of voluntary membership by more than 1,500 public and private senior high schools and junior high/middle schools which exists to develop common rules for athletic eligibility and competition. No government funds or tax dollars support the MHSAA, which was the first such association nationally to not accept membership dues or tournament entry fees from schools. Member schools which enforce these rules are permitted to participate in MHSAA tournaments, which attract more than 1.3 million spectators each year.