ADRIAN – A couple of years ago it would have been easy to image Brady McKelvey scoring a last-second shot for Adrian Lenawee Christian to win a basketball game or for him to find the back of the net with a game-winning goal in soccer.
But fast forward to today and McKelvey might be more likely to kick a game-winning field goal for the No. 2-ranked Cougars 8-player football team.
“I watched football of course, but I never played it until last year,” McKelvey said. “It’s interesting. It’s been a lot of fun. I’m glad Coach (Bill) Wilharms asked us to try out.”
McKelvey is a two-sport athlete in the fall, playing for both the Lenawee Christian soccer and football teams. He’s played on MHSAA championship teams in both sports. Last week McKelvey reached rare territory when he kicked his 100th career extra point – the state record for 8-player football.
“We were never big football players,” McKelvey said, referring to him and his brother, Jacob, now a student at the University of Michigan. “We just always had a soccer ball in our hands.”
Wilharms is the strength and conditioning coach and varsity football coach at Lenawee Christian, which has grown into an 8-player powerhouse, winning Division 1 championships in the 2020 and 2021 seasons. Brady and Jacob McKelvey were working out at the LCS facilities two springs ago when Wilharms asked if they wanted to try out kicking for the football team.
“I always wondered what it would be like to kick a football,” Brady McKelvey said. “I’ve always wanted to, but never had the opportunity. We were excited to try it out.”
Both came out for the team last season and were coached by Casey Opsal, a former Hudson kicker and now a Lenawee County sheriff’s deputy who is one of Wilharms’ assistants. With Opsal’s guidance, Jacob and Brady blossomed into outstanding kickers.
“He’s been the person who has taught me everything I know about it,” McKelvey said. “He helped me improve a lot.”
McKelvey has never attended a football camp or had a lesson in kicking a football from anyone outside of the LCS staff. Yet, his statistics are nothing short of amazing.
Last season, McKelvey had a string of 52 consecutive extra points at one point and finished the season making 59-of-61 attempts. He has a current streak of 23 straight makes heading into this week’s game and is 44-for-45 overall this year. In two seasons, that makes him 103-for-106. He kicked his first field goal earlier this season, giving him 106 career kicking points.
Twice in his career he’s kicked 10 extra points in a game. This year he’s hit at least eight PATs four straight weeks. He also averages about 45 yards per kickoff.
Wilharms said he’s happy McKelvey decided to try his leg at football and said the senior is still learning nuances of football, such as where to place the ball on kickoffs.
“He is a good athlete,” Wilharms said. “His PATs are consistent. We are definitely glad to have him on the team.”
Brady and Jacob shared duties last season, although by the end of the season Jacob was kicking off and Brady was handling the bulk of the extra points.
“At first, one of us would go out and kick and the next time the other one would go out there,” McKelvey said. “Toward the end of the season, I was better at extra points, and he was better at kicking off. It is cool to be on a team that scores a lot because you get to kick a lot.”
LCS has no trouble scoring. The Cougars are 6-1 and average 49.8 points per game.
Soccer continues to be McKelvey’s favorite sport. The Cougars are having a solid season on the pitch as well, and he is a big part of that team’s success too.
“I still love soccer,” McKelvey said.
Cougars soccer coach Nathan Sharpe said McKelvey is a team leader. He has three goals and three assists this fall. “He’s a captain and a key player on our team,” Sharpe said.
McKelvey said kicking the ball in soccer and kicking the football are very different things requiring different technique.
“It’s surprisingly different,” he said. “A soccer ball is a lot bigger. You have more room to hit it. You want to lean over and try and keep it toward the ground. A football you have to make a much different type of contact because you want to get it up into the air.
“The first time I kicked a football with no coaching, it was interesting. I had to try and completely switch how I was kicking.”
He’s learned the technique so much that this winter he is considering not playing basketball so he can go to football kicking camps. He’s hoping to become good enough to try out or walk-on to a football team in college.
“I didn’t really expect to be as consistent as I have been,” he said. “You watch college kickers, and even they miss sometimes. I work at it as much as I can. With soccer games, there are times I cannot go to football practice, but I try and get out there as much as I can.
“I think it would be awesome to kick in college,” he added. “I plan on going to some camps this winter. If I’m able to walk-on somewhere, that would be fine with me.”
Besides soccer, the McKelveys have a basketball background as well. Their dad Scott has coached boys and girls basketball in Lenawee County for years. He recently was hired as the boys varsity coach at Blissfield. The boys grew up being managers and hanging around the teams that Scott coached.
McKelvey is setting the bar high in the 8-player football record book. LCS still has two regular-season games remaining and is considered among the favorites to make a long postseason run – meaning he could push that extra point number a lot higher.
“I’m very happy I tried out for the team,” he said. “Being part of it is a lot of fun. The guys on the team have always treated me as part of the team. I really like being on the team. All the success we have makes it so much fun.”
Doug Donnelly has served as a sports and news reporter and city editor over 25 years, writing for the Daily Chief-Union in Upper Sandusky, Ohio from 1992-1995, the Monroe Evening News from 1995-2012 and the Adrian Daily Telegram since 2013. He's also written a book on high school basketball in Monroe County and compiles record books for various schools in southeast Michigan. E-mail him at DougDonnelly@hotmail.com with story ideas for Jackson, Washtenaw, Hillsdale, Lenawee and Monroe counties.
PHOTOS (Top) Brett McKelvey prepares to kick off during a game this season. (Middle) McKelvey, with father Scott McKelvey and mother Melissa Dempsey. (Photos courtesy of Jeff Jameson/Lenawee Christian.)
DETROIT – Dante Moore had no tears left to cry Saturday night, even happy tears, after he played his final high school football game for Detroit Martin Luther King at Ford Field.
“Everybody sees I’m not crying – I really cried before I got here to the game. Before I walked to the gate, I was crying and I cried last night,” Moore said.
King’s four-year starting quarterback cemented his legacy, leading the Crusaders to their second-straight MHSAA Division 3 championship with a 56-27 victory over Muskegon.
The Oregon commit finished 21-of-26 passing for 275 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions to power King (10-3) to its sixth Finals title overall and fifth in eight years.
Before Moore even took the field for his first offensive series against Muskegon (11-3), junior Jameel Croft Jr. staked King to an immediate lead with an electrifying 96-yard return of the game’s opening kickoff.
The Crusaders never looked back.
“I wasn’t expecting that. I just followed my blocks. Guys were blocking for me and the coaches set it up perfectly for me, for real,” Croft said. “It gave us a lot of momentum in the beginning of the game. It helped us out a lot.”
Muskegon pulled within 14-7 midway through the first quarter and 21-14 three minutes into the second, but Moore & Co. always seemed to have an answer.
Croft scored the game’s first two TDs, as he added a 13-yard scoring catch from Moore to make it 14-0 with 6:28 left in the first quarter.
“We started out chasing. We gave up that opening kickoff for a touchdown and we just got ourselves chasing and kind of things went from there,” said Muskegon coach Shane Fairfield, whose team trailed 35-14 at halftime and pulled within 14 with five minutes left in the third but got no closer.
Croft was Moore’s top pass-catcher, finishing with six receptions for 64 yards and two TDs. Senior Sterling Anderson Jr. was a blur as King’s top rusher, totaling 207 yards on only 13 carries, highlighted by his 80-yard scoring sprint that gave the Crusaders a 49-27 lead with 10:55 remaining.
Seniors Samuel Washington and Tim Ruffin paced King defensively with nine and eight tackles, respectively. For Muskegon, senior Julian Neely registered a team-high seven stops, while junior Stanley Cunningham recorded two sacks among his six tackles.
Muskegon junior quarterback M’Khi Guy ran 20 times for 135 yards with two TDs, including a 60-yard breakaway to pull the Big Reds within 14-7 midway through the first quarter. He also completed 2-of-4 passes for 97 yards, including a 71-yard scoring strike to junior Destin Piggee.
Muskegon junior Jakob Price added 93 rushing yards and a TD on 17 carries, but the night belonged to King and Moore.
“There’s no excuse: That kid is amazing. He threw balls that we haven’t seen probably in my career,” said Fairfield, whose program was seeking its first Finals title since 2017. His Big Reds teams have been to the Finals to finish eight of his 13 seasons at the helm.
“Only one other guy threw touchdown passes like (Moore) and passes and balls like that in my career here, and that was (Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice’s) Alex Malzone – went to Michigan. Seems like we always see the (Dequan) Finns and the Dantes and Malzones and stuff when we get here, but you know, we’re here,” added Fairfield, whose 2018 squad lost to Finn and King, 41-25, in the Division 3 championship game.
King coach Tyrone Spencer said that his team overcame a lot of adversity this season. The Crusaders could not practice on their field because it’s undergoing a makeover, so they bussed to practice. They lost their season opener to Warren Central (Ind.), 44-26, and dropped the final two games of the regular season to Detroit Cass Tech (28-14) and Cincinnati Moeller (30-14).
The Crusaders got it going in the playoffs, however. They threatened the Finals record for points by one team, established Friday night by Grand Rapids West Catholic with 59.
“(The season) was up and down, but the kids, I mean, they trust us and we got it back going,” Spencer said. “They’re a resilient group of kids. It speaks to their character.”
Moore mentioned the “championship culture” at King, how one expects to be a champion once he puts on that jersey.
It’s also about giving back and respecting the game, too, which has been a custom of Moore’s since his freshman year when King lost to Muskegon Mona Shores in the Division 2 Final, 35-26.
“My freshman year, me playing against Brady Rose and Muskegon Mona Shores, I remember Brady Rose pulled me to the side and that’s where I really got it from – him taking me to the side, telling me things I can work on, and me congratulating him for what he’s done and being one of the best players to come through Michigan to be honest and leading his team on his back,” Moore recalled.
“I just knew that I had to carry that on through this past year and really pull the (opposing) quarterbacks to the side, especially (those) younger than me. Me being a senior, I’ve been through a lot. I just want to give them the keys and terms to help them be the best they can be in high school.”
Croft called the 6-foot-2, 210-pound Moore a “great leader,” who is “so poised” and one who will leave “a great legacy right here for sure.”
“Special, man,” is how Spencer reflected on Moore’s four-year run.
“You know, he’ll be the one that they’ll talk about maybe the greatest we’ve ever had here,” Spencer said. “Just really proud of him and the person that he is. He deserves it. He works hard for it, and I just couldn’t be more pleased. It couldn’t happen to a better person.”
Meanwhile, Muskegon got off to a bit of a slow start this season by Big Reds standards. They lost two of their first five games, including a 49-16 road defeat to eventual Division 2 champion Warren De La Salle Collegiate, but got healthy and played their best football at the right time leading up to Saturday night.
Fairfield said the Big Reds battled and left it all on the field.
“They played 14 and when you play 14 games, of course this is going to hurt more because it’s the very last one and now you’ve got 364 days to get back,” he said.
PHOTOS (Top) Detroit King’s Samuel Washington (10) wraps up Muskegon’s M’Khi Guy during Saturday’s night’s Division 3 Final. (Middle) Crusaders quarterback Dante Moore rolls out looking for a receiver. (Below) King’s Sterling Anderson Jr. (3) follows his blockers through a sizable opening.