March to Marquette: 8-Player Preview

November 22, 2019

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

For the second straight season, the majority of teams making the trip to the 8-Player Finals at Northern Michigan University’s Superior Dome will come seeking their first MHSAA football championship.

Colon, Suttons Bay and Pickford will be first-time title hopefuls Saturday. Portland St. Patrick is seeking its first football title since 1992, long before any of these current players was born.

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. 26 – 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. 2
Coach: Robbie Hattan, fourth season (28-13)
League finish: First in Southern Central Athletic Association A
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 27-8 over No. 6 Morrice in Semifinal, 56-12 over No. 3 Martin in Regional Final, 60-12 (Pre-Regional) and 55-0 over No. 13 Camden-Frontier, 43-8 over No. 11 Bellevue, 42-0 over Division 2 No. 5 Climax-Scotts.
Players to watch: RB/DL Brandon Crawford, 6-2/240, jr. (1,491 yards/22 TDs rushing); SL/DB/P Jonathan West, 6-2/160, sr. (653 yards/7 TDs rushing, 498 yards/12 TDs receiving); QB/DB Phillip Alva, 5-9/140, sr. (954 yards/19 TDs passing, 903 yards/17 TDs rushing).
Outlook: Colon moved to 8-player before the 2018 season after a nice recent run in 11-player that had included eight playoff appearances over the previous 14 seasons. But the Magi have succeeded at a higher level since making the switch, putting up double-digit wins last season for the first time and again this fall. Last season’s champion Morrice was the first opponent to hold Colon to under 34 points and also the first to come within 34 of catching the Magi this fall. Crawford and West both earned all-state honorable mentions in 2018, and 6-4 junior Brayden Ireland gives Alva another big target in the passing game. West also has scored off interceptions and punt and kickoff returns this season.

 12-0, No. 4
Coach: Garrick Opie, second season (21-2)
League finish: First in Midwest Central Michigan Conference West
Championship history: Division 6 runner-up 2004 (11-player).
Best wins: 45-14 over No. 8 Kingston in Semifinal, 36-30 over No. 14 Gaylord St. Mary in Regional Final, 36-14 over No. 16 Brimley in Pre-Regional, 20-14 and 29-18 over Division 2 No. 9 Onekama.
Players to watch: RB/DB Lucas Mikesell, 5-11/175, sr. (1,259 yards/29 TDs rushing, 501 yards/9 TDs receiving), QB/DB Bryce Opie, 6-4/194, sr. (1,167 yards/15 TDs passing, 692 yards/13 TDs rushing); OG/DT Gavyn Shananaquet, 6-0/230, sr.
Outlook: Suttons Bay has run its record over three seasons of 8-player to a combined 28-6 after being forced to end its final 11-player season early in 2016. The Norsemen had only three games decided by single digits this fall. The first was a six-point win over Onekama, and Suttons Bay won the rematch by 11, and the other two were against Gaylord St. Mary – a one-point loss on the field that became a forfeit win and a six-point win in the Regional Final. The defense has been especially impressive, giving up 16.7 points per game on the season but more than 18 only twice (both times to St. Mary). Bryce Opie also has five interceptions, and the team had a 23-14 turnover advantage heading into last week’s Semifinal.

Division 2

 12-0, No. 3
Coach: Patrick Russman, 13th season (88-48) 
League finish: Does not play in a league. 
Championship history: Division 2 runner-up 2017 (8-player), Class D champion 1992, runner-up 1991 and 1997 (11-player). 
Best wins: 49-6 over No. 5 Climax-Scotts in Semifinal, 51-16 over No. 11 Kinde North Huron in Regional Final, 45-0 over No. 16 Bay City All-Saints in Pre-Regional, 42-24 over No. 9 Onekama. 
Players to watch: RB/DL Ned Smith, 5-10/195, sr. (1,510 yards/24 TDs rushing); QB/DB Connor Cross, 6-2/175, jr. (1,688 yards/36 TDs passing); WR/DB Zach Spitzley, 6-2/180, sr. (1,133 yards/19 TDs receiving). 
Outlook: The Shamrocks have made at least the Semifinals the last three seasons and four times since switching to 8-player in 2012, and this has been their most successful run of all four. St. Patrick has won all of its games by at least 18 points (not counting a 2-0 forfeit in Week 3) and by an average score of 52-10. Senior linebacker Alex Kissane, sophomore linebacker Derec Fedewa, senior defensive back Riley Kissane and senior lineman Jeff Davlin are among leaders of a defense that has given up more than 16 points only twice and a combined 22 points over three playoff games.

11-1, T-No. 1
Coach: Josh Rader, 16th season (110-55)
League finish: First in Great Lakes Eight Conference East
Championship history: Division 1 runner-up 2018 (8-player).
Best wins: 22-14 over T-No. 1 Powers North Central in Regional Finals, 40-8 over No. 4 Hillman in Semifinal, 57-12 (Pre-Regional) and 58-15 over No. 6 Engadine, 48-16 over No. 7 Crystal Falls Forest Park, 64-20 over No. 12 Cedarville, 46-23 over Division 1 No. 14 Gaylord St. Mary.
Players to watch: QB/LB Jimmy Storey, 6-0/185, sr. (1,400 yards/19 TDs passing, 1,809 yards/24 TDs rushing); TE/DE Nick Edington, 6-7/220, sr. (307 yards/3 TDs receiving); RB/DB Stephen Lamothe, 5-10/175, sr. (752 yards/11 TDs rushing, 813 yards/11 TDs receiving).
Outlook: After reaching last season’s Division 1 championship game with a junior-heavy roster, Pickford is back playing for its first Finals championship with many of the same standouts. Edington, Storey and senior lineman Isaiah May all made the all-state team last season, and Storey was the statewide Player of the Year for 8-player by The Associated Press. The team’s only loss this fall came in Week 3, by six points, to Powers North Central – and the Panthers avenged the defeat in the Regional Final. The Jets also were the only team able to hold Pickford under 40 points this fall. Senior running back Isaac Brown provides another valuable option on offense with 613 yards and 12 touchdowns rushing.

Ubly Offense, Kicker Pile Up Record Book Listings During Championship Run

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

April 12, 2024

Ubly finished a combined 27-1 over the last two seasons, following up a Division 8 runner-up run in 2022 with its first MHSAA Finals championship this past November. And the Bearcats stacked plenty of record book performances along the way.

Individually, senior Brett Mueller made the single-season extra point list again this past season with 76 in 81 tries, and he set the MHSAA career record with 220 extra points over 232 attempts, 40 games and three seasons. He has signed with Saginaw Valley State.

As a team, Ubly was added to the record book 13 times for achievements over the last two years, most notably in the rushing game. The Bearcats topped 5,200 total yards both seasons, and also made the rush yardage list twice including with a sixth-best 5,148 in 2022. Their 90 touchdowns in 2022 rank seventh all-time, and their 85 this past fall tied for 13th, and they tied the record with 10 rushing touchdowns in a 2022 win over Reese and set another record with 84 rushing touchdowns total that season.

See below for more recent record book additions in 11-player football, and click the heading to see the record book in full:

11-Player Football

Dundee’s Ben Miller has a pair of basketball record book entries, and he’s also been added in football for scoring seven touchdowns in his team’s 72-36 win over Erie Mason on Oct. 20, 2017. A senior that season, he ran for five scores and caught two touchdowns passes.

Nearly four decades later, Howard City Tri County’s Mike Wagoner has reached the record book for his work on defense in 1985. A junior that season, Wagoner returned three interceptions for touchdowns – 65, 55 and 35 yards – which would have been second on the list at the time and remains tied for third-most for one season.

Jaxon Lippert tops the list of 21 who have returned kickoffs 99 yards. Lippert, now a senior at Walled Lake Western, joined the list against Davison during his junior season.

A handful of records from Warren De La Salle Collegiate’s recent run of Ford Field teams and also one from decades ago were added. Jake Badalamenti was added three times for kickoff returns between 96-99 yards, one as a junior in 2016 and two as a senior the following fall, and Marty Wyzlic was added for his 95-yarder in 1976. Mason Muragin is the new leader for tackles for loss in a career with 71 over three seasons, and he also was added to the single-season list with 31 as a junior in 2021, as was Will Beasley for 38 as a junior in 2020. Wayne Wright was added for his 16 sacks over nine games as a senior in 1984, and Josh Cox was added for his 100-yard interception return as a senior in 2012. Muragin plays at Illinois, Beesley plays at Princeton, Cox played at Central Michigan, and Badalamenti played baseball at Wayne State.

Pinckney junior Nolan Carruthers caught 16 passes during a 13-7 loss to Jackson on Sept. 15, good to tie for ninth-most in one game and breaking the Livingston County record of 14 by Hartland’s Greg Matthyssen in 2007 – a listing that also was added.

Ethan Wissner did some major lifting, or rather carrying, during Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker’s 28-14 District Final win over Montrose in 2022. The then-senior ran 42 times to make the record book, for 289 yards and three touchdowns. He’s continuing at Siena Heights.

Senior quarterback Andrew Schuster and junior receiver DeShaun Lanier formed a game-changing pass-catch combo this past season for Clinton Township Chippewa Valley, with Schuster finishing his career with nine record book listings and Lanier totaling six with a season to play. Schuster most notably was added for 212 completions on 301 attempts for 2,766 yards and 28 touchdowns this season, and 321 completions and 4,199 career yards over two years and 22 games. Lanier was added in part for 73 receptions for 1,132 yards and 15 TDs this fall. Junior kicker Juliano Haddad also earned impressive mentions with 10 field goals and 50 extra points – and he’ll carry a streak of 35 straight extra points into next fall. Schuster has committed to Grand Valley State.

Fulton’s Evan Barton has been added to the single-game touchdowns list after catching four scoring passes Sept. 8, 2017, against Potterville. He was a senior that season.

Saginaw Heritage’s Braylon Isom completed his career this past fall as arguably the most accomplished receiver in MHSAA history. His name is listed in the record book eight times, with career records of 3,837 receiving yards and 52 touchdowns over 34 games and four seasons, and with a single-season record 26 touchdowns this past fall over 12 games. His 91 career receptions rank fifth, and he’s also listed for 82 catches and 1,617 yards (seventh-most) as a senior and 1,428 yards and 18 touchdowns as a junior. He will continue at Miami (Ohio).

Evart’s 24-8 run over the last three seasons has been its most successful of the MHSAA playoff era, and senior quarterback Preston Wallace has played an enormous part. He finished his 33-game career in the fall – he came up for one game as a freshman – on record book lists twice for single-season passing yards and touchdowns and on career lists for 662 attempts, 421 completions, 6,955 yards and 88 passing touchdowns over those 32 games and three seasons. The yardage ranks 15th all-time, and the touchdowns are tied for sixth-most for one career.  

The 2005 Midland Bullock Creek team was added for scoring 547 points over 12 games. The Lancers finished 11-1, their only loss in a Division 5 Regional Final.

PHOTO Ubly's Seth Maurer (30) carries the ball during the Division 8 championship win over Ottawa Lake Whiteford in November.