MCC Makes Most of 3-Peat Opportunity

November 27, 2015

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

DETROIT – Christian Martinez ran for 45 yards Friday morning according to the Division 8 championship game box score, but crisscrossed his backfield for at least a few hundred more just trying to stay on his feet. 

Muskegon Catholic Central’s senior quarterback didn’t find many opportunities to move forward during the day’s first MHSAA Final at Ford Field – but took advantage when a title-deciding opening finally came.

In a game surprisingly dominated by defense, Martinez scored the only points with 10:21 to play in a 7-0 victory over undefeated Waterford Our Lady that gave MCC its third straight championship.

The teams entered the Final averaging a combined 78 points this season. But four turnovers by the Lakers and a number of stops by both defenses kept the scoreboard blank for the first three quarters.

“I was wondering when we were finally going to bust loose and score,” Martinez said. “They were just well-coached. They read their keys well. They had a really good inside linebacker; he broke on the ball. And then they had some really big defensive linemen who stopped a lot of plays up front before they even started.”

Martinez was complimentary of the Lakers’ defense for good reason. Both defenses shined – Our Lady held MCC to 215 yards and allowed only five third-down conversions in 12 tries. The Crusaders held the Lakers to 241 yards, but intercepted four passes and allowed Our Lady only four first downs on 12 third-down attempts.

Our Lady hadn’t been shut out since 2011. MCC had been held to single digits only one other time over the last three seasons – by Division 4 semifinalist Detroit Country Day in Week 8 of this fall.

All of the offense MCC could muster came together as the third quarter turned into the fourth. Our Lady looked to have another stop in hand with the Crusaders facing 3rd-and-4, but Martinez followed his blockers for a 14-yard gain down to the Lakers' 32-yard line. Senior Walker Christoffersen followed with a 24-yard run to the 8. Martinez then watched towering offensive tackle Jacob Holt block two defenders to set the edge, and followed for an 8-yard scoring run.

MCC (11-2) entered this season on a 26-game winning streak and abruptly lost in Week 1 to Muskegon Oakridge. After two seasons of complete dominance, three games this fall were decided by 14 points or fewer – which may have paid off when it mattered most.

“I was extremely happy that we were able to gut it out,” MCC coach Steve Czerwon said. “We’ve been in quite a few close games this year, maybe some more than past years. A lot of grit, a lot of integrity out of these guys.”

And a great strategy on his staff's part. The Crusaders played with four defensive backs deep to try to contain an Our Lady offense keyed by senior quarterback Clay Senerius, who had thrown for 2,913 yards and 34 touchdowns entering the day.

Christoffersen had two interceptions, including one in the end zone as Our Lady drove for a tying score with 3:21 to play. Senerius still finished 17 of 27 passing for 193 yards, but the Lakers had difficulty stringing enough positive plays together to get other drives rolling.

Our Lady did try a field goal midway through the first quarter but missed left from 35 yards out. The Lakers gained first downs on two fourth-down conversions, but their one failed fourth-down attempt came later in the first quarter when an incomplete pass ended a drive at MCC’s 16-yard line.

“The play at the end (of the game) is the one everyone is going to remember, but we had our shots there in the first half,” Our Lady coach Josh Sawicki said. “We’ve been aggressive all year. We’ve gone for it on fourth down all year. We don’t change our strategy and who we are and what we do just because of the big stage.

“Most of the time we come up with those big plays on fourth down. That’s when we bear down. It just didn’t go our way today.”

Our Lady, back in a Final for the first time since 2002, allowed only one opponent this season to come within 25 points. The Lakers (13-1) finished with their most wins and points (542) in school history.

Clay’s brother Devin, also a senior, caught six passes for 72 yards, and senior linebacker Ryan Kostich and junior defensive back Isaac Oliver led the team with seven tackles apiece.

Holt had 6.5 tackles and senior linebacker Nathan Jones and junior linebacker Andrew Schulte both had six for MCC. Christoffersen ran for 113 yards to go with his interceptions.

“We’ve had really good coaching. We had good players run routes on us, really good teaching throughout the week, and it resulted in a really good play I made in the state championship,” Christoffersen said. “I knew that was a really big play, and I was really happy I could make a play for my team.” 

Click for the full box score.

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

PHOTOS: (Top) Muskegon Catholic Central’s Walker Christoffersen snags one of his two interceptions in the Division 8 Final. (Middle) MCC quarterback Christian Martinez works to break away from an Our Lady defender.

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.)