MCC Extends Streak, Hands Off Legacy

November 25, 2016

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

DETROIT – A trio of running backs who played major roles in Muskegon Catholic Central’s last three MHSAA championships closed their high school careers celebrating the school’s fourth straight title Friday. 

Along the way, they also handed off the program’s future. 

Seniors LaTommy Scott, Logan Helton and Walker Christofferson had become Ford Field fixtures the last few seasons, and each contributed to their combined four touchdowns in this Division 8 Final. But the fifth score of MCC’s 35-6 victory over Ottawa Lake Whiteford was scored by a freshman who will take over from here – and showed the promise that makes the Crusaders look good to continue these annual trips to Detroit. 

Splitting time at quarterback with senior Trenton Bordeaux, freshman Cameron Martinez ran for a team-high 154 yards and a touchdown and threw for 61 yards and a score to help MCC pull into a tie for second all-time with its 12th MHSAA football title. 

Although a freshman, the scene wasn’t entirely unfamiliar for Martinez; his brother Christian had quarterbacked the team to its 11th title last year as a senior.

“Every time we made it, I was watching from the crowd. I couldn’t wait to put on the gold helmet and bring this team back again,” Cameron Martinez said. “I love this group of seniors. I’m going to miss them, and that’s what I wanted to do – give them their fourth straight title.”

With four straight, the Crusaders (14-0) are now one shy of the MHSAA record of five consecutive titles shared by the Farmington Hills Harrison teams from 1997-2001 and East Grand Rapids’ teams from 2006-10. With 12 championships total, MCC is tied with now-closed Detroit St. Martin dePorres for second most in the sport, one behind Harrison’s record 13 football titles.

Martinez entered the Final third on the team with 614 rushing yards, tallying 12 touchdowns on the ground, and second to Bordeaux with 540 passing yards plus nine scoring passes. Also a starting linebacker, he didn’t play offense in MCC’s 35-0 Semifinal win over St. Ignace last week. But he was impacting the Crusaders’ offense by the end of Friday’s first quarter.

Martinez’ first carry came on the final play of that quarter, for three yards, and he opened the second with a 26-yard run. He also had a 19-yard run and 23-yard pass to set up Helton’s five-yard scoring run that put the first points on the board with 9:05 to go in the first half.

After coming up shy on another drive late in the half and then pushing the score to 14-6 on a 35-yard Helton run to cap its first possession of the second, MCC made it 21-6 with 3:08 to play in the third quarter with a drive that included 55 rush yards on five Martinez carries, including the final one for three yards into the end zone.

“Anytime you have a running quarterback, you have to defend 11 and not 10; it’s just simple math sometimes,” MCC coach Steve Czerwon said. “Having somebody in the backfield as dynamic as Cameron, with the ability to make plays … people are like, ‘He’s a freshman.’ Well, he’s a freshman, fine. But he doesn’t play like a freshman.”

MCC welcomed its captains from the last three seasons to Thursday’s practice, and after, Czerwon asked Christian Martinez if he was nervous for his brother. Christian’s response to Czerwon: “Nah, he’s made for these big moments.”

“After he said that – and he knows him a heck of a lot better than I do – I felt good about using him today,” Czerwon added. “And I thought he performed very well.”

So did those seniors. Helton ran seven times for 67 yards and those two scores, and Scott ran eight times for 69 yards and scored on the 25-yard touchdown “pass” which was more of a front pitch on a sweep around the left side. Christofferson, who ran for 200 yards and three touchdowns in the Semifinal win, added the day’s final score with 1:04 to play.

Helton, also a linebacker, had 10 tackles and Christofferson, a defensive back, had seven to follow up all-state senior linebacker Andrew Schulte's team-leading 13. The Crusaders never trailed this season, and the defense was a big reason why; including 13 points surrendered over five playoff games, MCC allowed only 77 points this fall (5.5 per game).

But Friday’s score didn’t tell well how close this matchup was for most of it. Whiteford had six turnovers on downs, falling short of first downs by only a yard four times. Twice, MCC sophomore defensive back Dawson Steigman made rally-ending stops. Three of the fourth-down misses came in Crusaders territory.

Whiteford junior quarterback Thomas Eitniear was especially impressive, completing 7 of 10 passes for 96 yards and running nine times for 111 yards including the team’s lone score, an 81-yard sprint around the left end that made it 7-6 with 2:37 to go in the first half. 

“Coming into halftime, that was the exact kind of game we were looking to play – to chew clock, and we just didn’t articulate a couple of our possessions into scores,” Whiteford coach Jason Mensing said. “Second half, they found some things offensively against us and took advantage. And on top of that, we didn’t articulate our drives as well.

“Overall, I’m pleased with the effort and passion, and probably the thing I’m most proud of was I didn’t feel like the moment was too big for our kids, which oftentimes you get into this type of stage, the moment can be a little large. I thought our kids handled themselves with great composure, and that’s one of those attributes for life that really matters.”

Whiteford made its first appearance in an MHSAA Final, following up its second straight – and second ever – Semifinal appearance. The Bobcats finished 13-1.

“Me and a bunch of the senior guys, we dreamed about this since freshman year,” said senior running back Jesse Kiefer, who finished as the school’s career record holder in rushing yards, points and total offense. “Coming in and being able to play on this field, it’s just not real to me. Obviously, we wanted it to come out a different way than this, but it’s still an experience I’ll never forget.” 

Kiefer had seven tackles at linebacker, following senior safety Herbie Bertz’ 13 and junior tackle Jared Atherton’s eight. Kiefer also broke up three passes.

With it being their last, MCC’s seniors asked to not come out of this game early as they have most of this season with the Crusaders beating all of their opponents by at least two touchdowns.

But as they left Ford Field once more, surrounded by 13 underclassmen, they were confident with who might lead MCC back next time.

“Handing it off the Cameron, our program is in good hands,” Helton said. “I don’t expect anything less than what we’ve been doing.”

Click for the full box score.

The MHSAA Football Finals are sponsored by the Michigan National Guard.

PHOTOS: (Top) Muskegon Catholic Central’s Cameron Martinez stretches toward the goal line for a score late in the third quarter. (Middle) Martinez works to elude Whiteford’s Hunter Lake.

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.)