Montague Follows QB's Unstoppable Lead

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

January 22, 2021

DETROIT – Montague football coach Patrick Collins was well prepared Friday night. 

After a week of getting emotional when asked what it would be like coaching his son, Drew, for the final time in the MHSAA Division 6 Final, he told himself that he wouldn’t cry again if asked the question after the game. 

He accomplished that feat, making him perfect on the night. 

The Collins family will be celebrating their final game together forever, as they claimed Montague’s third Finals title with a 40-14 victory over Clinton at Ford Field. 

“You can’t finish any better than that,” said Patrick Collins, who has been at the helm for all three Montague titles. “How does it get any better? It’s been a phenomenal run. Just pinch me, man. I just can’t believe it. I think all the coaches feel like (the players are) all our sons. We treat them all the same. … It’s special, because we’re tight. There’s a lot of love and a lot of guys playing for each other.” 

While the postgame press conference was tear free, the Montague sideline was not as the clock ticked down in the final quarter. A program that had come agonizingly close in each of the past two years – losing in the Final in 2018 and losing a thriller of a Semifinal in 2019 – had broken through for the first time since winning back-to-back titles in 2008 and 2009. 

“Everybody on this football team, coaches, players, trainers – everybody on this football team loves high school football,” said Drew Collins, the Montague senior quarterback who accounted for five touchdowns on the night. “I love high school football. I love these coaches. I love my friends on the team. I love everybody on the team. I love the community. It’s bittersweet when you win a state championship when you’re a senior because it’s all over.” 

Drew Collins, who was The Associated Press Division 5-6 Player of the Year, made the most of his final game in a Montague uniform, throwing for 244 yards and three touchdowns on 15-of-19 passing. He also rushed for 51 yards and two scores.  

That led an offensive attack which put up 390 total yards and scored on all but two of its possessions – one of which ended on downs late in the fourth quarter as the Wildcats were attempting to run out the clock. 

“I just think they can do it all,” Clinton coach Jeremy Fielder said. “When you look at their team, look at what they have up front, look at the athletes they have in space, then you put a quarterback on that team, and you put a very experienced team out there, as well. That’s a lot to deal with. They’re a great football team, and I give them a lot of credit; they’re a great program.” 

All three of Collins’ touchdown passes went to Sam Smith (nine, 44 and 26 yards), who had five receptions for 96 yards total. Tugg Nichols added five catches of his own for 89 yards, while Dylan Everett had 52 yards and a touchdown on nine carries. 

While Montague’s dynamic offense put on a show, it was the defense’s second-half performance that allowed the Wildcats to pull away. Clinton (10-2) trailed 19-14 at the half but had put together a pair of 80-yard drives. The first finished with an eight-yard George Ames run, and was fueled by a long Brayden Randolph run. The other was a clock-killing masterpiece fullhouse backfields are known for and was closed out with a two-yard Bradyn Lehman run. 

Each of those drives followed a Montague drive that ended with a touchdown pass from Collins to Smith. The Wildcats took the halftime lead with Everett’s two-yard touchdown run. 

Clinton’s first two drives of the second half, however, ended with turnovers – the first on downs, and the second an interception by Montague’s Trey Mikkelsen. The Wildcats turned both turnovers into touchdowns – Collins’ third TD pass to Smith, and a nine-yard Collins TD rush – and started to put the game away. Collins’ final touchdown run of the game, a 23-yarder in the fourth quarter, erased any doubt. 

“I thought the coaches did a great job – our staff is phenomenal,” Patrick Collins said. “We did some adjustments. But really, this team is run by the players, and it starts with the seniors. Their determination is what makes a difference. It was about their heart coming out in the second half and finding the energy to stack up to a great Clinton team, honestly. That Clinton team can bring it, and they brought it today.” 

Randolph led the way for Clinton in his final game, rushing for 194 yards on 23 carries. He also had eight tackles, while Lehman led the Clinton defense with nine tackles, and Nik Shadley had six.  

“We’re fortunate, we have about 15 or 16 seniors, and at our level, you win with seniors,” Fielder said. “We were able to make some key plays at some key times, and I think it was really big for us, too, when we got shut down (for the statewide pause), we had that senior leadership. We had a group of seniors who had won a wrestling state championship together last year, so they’ve been here before. As a coach, you’re looking at these guys in the huddle, and you’re looking at these guys on the sidelines, you know you’re in pretty good shape. We just ran into a team that was outstanding.” 

Izac Jarka and Colton Blankstrom each had eight tackles to lead the Montague defense, while Mikkelsen and Alex Waruszewski each had seven. 

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Montague celebrates its first Football Finals championship Saturday since 2009. (Middle) The Wildcats’ Samuel Smith breaks through an opening as Clinton’s Bradyn Lehman (6) and others close in. (Click for more from Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)

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.)