Monroe SMCC Wins Championship Grind
November 29, 2019
By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
DETROIT – If Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central could draw up the perfect game for its preferred style of play, it might look a lot like Friday’s Division 6 Final.
Yes, the Falcons defeated Maple City Glen Lake to win their first championship since 2014, so that makes it memorable no matter what. And sure, SMCC would’ve loved to score more – the offense averaged 34 points per game heading into the night.
But look past all of that and consider: The Falcons had 63 plays to Glen Lake’s 32, and ran the ball 58 times. They had 22 first downs to Glen Lake’s six. They had the ball nearly twice as long – 31:17 to 16:43 – and didn’t have one penalty called against them. And the defense posted its first shutout of the season.
Offensive efficiency and defensive prowess have been hallmarks of a program that was playing in its eighth MHSAA Final – and the victory was proof again that the workmanlike approach remains a viable a championship approach during an era dominated by wide-open and fast-paced attacks.
“It’s not really the score that we anticipated, but it’s OK – we’re a grinding team, we have faith in our defense and our offense to eat up time on the clock,” SMCC senior quarterback Wyatt Bergmoser said. “We just rep our plays, and if it does come down to the defense we let them do their thing and it’s not a big deal – we have trust in the other players on the field.
“We were on different teams (before high school) but we knew we’d come together and play together in the future, and that’s something we dreamed of and hoped for forever. As a kid, I went to the 2014 state championship game. I just remember sitting in the stands and thinking to myself, I want to be here one day. I want to be here with my friends, with my other players and grind it out and get a state championship for myself. And that’s what we did, and I love all my players and teammates for that.”
The Falcons finished 12-1, their only defeat this season 28-21 to Division 4 Milan in Week 3.
That close loss, which eventually decided the Huron League title, provided a lesson that would serve St. Mary as it worked to finish off its mission for the ultimate playoff prize.
SMCC led in the fourth quarter by a point, and punted on 4th-and-4 with just under seven minutes to play. Milan went ahead on the next possession, and the Falcons ran out of time.
On Friday, SMCC punted only twice and converted on four of five fourth-down tries, including two during a 14-play, 55-yard fourth-quarter possession that didn’t result in a score but did drain 7:48 off the clock. That possession also left Glen Lake to try to tie beginning at its own 7-yard line with 2:27 to play.
“Earlier in the year we were hitting some big runs, but three, four, five yards are great plays for our offense,” SMCC coach Adam Kipf said. “We don’t need to hit a home run. We don’t need to get 10 yards every time we touch it. But if we’re getting three yards a pop … 2½ yards, we’re in great position. We like to do that, and we’ll chew up 35, 36, 37 seconds on the play clock too, and that’s by design. We want to keep it out of their hands.”
The game’s lone score came on a Bergmoser six-yard touchdown run just under five minutes into the second quarter, which capped a 10-play, 94-yard drive lasting 5:22.
The Falcons ran for 249 yards total, led by senior Alex Morgan’s 123 on 22 carries. They held Glen Lake (12-2) to 127 yards total, 75 of it coming through the air on passes by senior quarterback Reece Hazelton. The Lakers got no deeper into SMCC territory than the 36-yard line.
“They were probably the biggest team we faced all year, since we’re pretty big ourselves,” Glen Lake junior receiver/defensive back Finn Hogan said. “It was a little different change of pace for us. It took a drive or two for us to get used to, and they capitalized.”
The seven points tied the fewest Glen Lake gave up in a game this season – seven times the Lakers gave up seven, and they allowed a solid 16.2 on average over the entire fall. Hogan and senior linebacker Jonathan Wright led Friday’s effort with 12 tackles apiece, and as a team Glen Lake had six tackles for loss.
Bergmoser also was his team’s high tackler with seven.
Glen Lake had last appeared in a Final in 2016, also finishing Division 6 runner-up that year. The Falcons, meanwhile, finished a rare 4-5 that fall, but came back with seven wins in 2017 and nine last season to set up this year’s run.
“Going into high school my freshman year, I knew we had a special group in our class. I think everyone knew we were special,” Morgan said. “My sophomore year we had 11 starters on the team that made the playoff run. Our junior year we had a ton of juniors starting on that team. So we had one goal in mind this senior year, and it was to be right where we are right now.”
PHOTOS: (Top) St. Mary’s Alex Morgan (26) is slowed by Glen Lake’s C.J. Helfrich (2) and Finn Hogan. (Middle) A Glen Lake defender works to bring down the Falcons’ Samuel Cousino.
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:
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.)