Michigan's Football Past: A Must Read

September 27, 2016

By Ron Pesch
Special for Second Half

This week, the contents of my mailbox reminded me about one of my favorite items to collect – booklets and programs celebrating the history of Michigan high school football.

Contained within was the 2016 edition of the book, “Orchard Lake St. Mary’s Prep Football History.” Featuring a glorious image on the cover, it’s a delight to flip through. Rob Goddard and crew are to be commended on the fantastic job they’ve done with this 104-page chronicle.

The package recalled the first in my collection – a publication I helped create.

The 25-year celebration of Muskegon Mona Shores football was a modest piece, created before the days of desktop publishing. Because I had assembled the scores of the district’s games, I approached the school and found an individual willing to take a chance. Jerry Fitzpatrick, Sailors athletic director at the time, approved the idea of a booklet celebrating the school’s Silver Football Anniversary.

With gusto, we tapped into a host of resources and dove into digging out photos and details designed to capture everything we could on the years 1962 through 1985, with room for fans to collect details on the coming season. We even included a page on cheerleaders and Homecoming Kings and Queens in hopes of broadening our market.

My second acquisition was a document on Battle Creek Central football, created by MHSAA historian Dick Kishpaugh. It totaled 42 pages in length and included most everything there was to know about the Bearcats, Kishpaugh’s alma mater.

A souvenir football program celebrating Kalamazoo Central’s history followed, also heavily influenced by the work of Kishpaugh. A 60-year history of all sports at Gaylord St. Mary soon landed in my hands, passed on to me by sportswriter and historian Jay Soderberg, editor of the publication. A history of little Grant High School football, published, I believe, in 1979, was the next to arrive.

In 1993, I partnered with baseball historian Marc Okkonen to produce “100 Years of Muskegon Big Red Football 1895-1994,” a 90-page history of our alma mater. That publication was marketed by the school’s Athletic Foundation as a fundraiser and sold well. To my delight, it seemed to spark the publication by a number of other districts of their football histories. Grand Haven and Escanaba followed a similar format and were both quick to market. Each book also celebrated a centennial of gridiron action. Other publications began to surface.

Riding a string of gridiron championships, Farmington Hills Harrison produced a 108-page program, highlighting the accomplishments from their 25-year football history, in 1994. Additional histories from Cadillac, Frankenmuth, Lowell, Negaunee, Boyne City, Niles, Sturgis and Traverse City appeared, some focused on football, others on all sports. So too did one highlighting the Centennial football game between Saginaw and Saginaw Arthur Hill, as did one a few years later celebrating the M & M game, among the nation’s oldest cross-border battles staged between Menominee and Marinette, Wisconsin.

But since then, things seem to have fallen silent. I believe a lengthy history on Grand Rapids Catholic Central made it to press, although I don’t possess a copy. I’ve seen, but have yet to acquire, a football booklet on Sparta High School football.

Do others exist? Enquiring minds want to know.

During the gap, John Hulsebus has created, and continues to maintain and enhance a dream website, Michigan-football.com, containing an exhaustive collection of scores, season win-loss marks and records versus opponents for games played since 1950. The site lists schools, past and present for every high school in the state. Like many, I reference it often. Yet, for many schools in the state, that means as many as 55 years of gridiron action remains unrecorded.

Also missing are the stories that sit behind the scores: the players, the coaches, the drama, the locals and pageantry of a Friday night or a Saturday afternoon at the stadium. In the meantime, scrapbooks containing news clippings, game programs, and photographs, once prepared for our fathers, grandfathers and great-grandfathers, gather dust or disappear.

Tell me please, we haven’t forgotten to capture those details from our past?

Ron Pesch has taken an active role in researching the history of MHSAA events since 1985 and began writing for MHSAA Finals programs in 1986, adding additional features and "flashbacks" in 1992. He inherited the title of MHSAA historian from the late Dick Kishpaugh following the 1993-94 school year, and resides in Muskegon. Contact him at [email protected] with ideas for historical articles.

PHOTOS: (Top) Orchard Lake St. Mary's annually produces an updated history of the school's football program. (Middle) Niles and Muskegon Mona Shores are among other programs that have documented their histories in book form. (Below) The program for the 100th game between Menominee and Marinette, Wis., was a keeper as well. 

Mendon 8-Player Championship Game Run Paced by Record-Setting Rushing

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com 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.)