North Central Extends Dominance with 37th-Straight Win, 3rd-Straight Title
By Jason Juno
Special for Second Half
November 19, 2022
MARQUETTE – What a run it’s been for North Central.
The Jets haven’t lost a game over the last three years and very few, if any of those games, have been close. They’ve won them all by multiple touchdowns and just three games have finished with a margin under 30 points. Most have been won by a lot more.
Their opponent in Saturday’s Division 2 championship game, Mendon, brought a strong tradition of its own, with 12 previous Finals appearances.
But this is North Central’s era, and that’s no secret. So imagine what it must do to a team’s psyche when that juggernaut returns the opening kickoff and adds another touchdown before a full minute runs off the clock.
The Jets turned that 14-0 lead into a 66-26 win for their third consecutive – and fifth total – 8-player championship Saturday at the Superior Dome. They also won a state-record 37th straight game.
“It’s gotta be part of the mystique and part of what these kids built,” North Central coach Leo Gorzinski said. “You want to have a two-touchdown lead in their head before you get off that bus. When you come out there and do that, set that tone, of course it’s going to get in their mind.”
And North Central did it with standout quarterback, and reigning Associated Press Player of the Year Luke Gorzinski, playing through what the Jets suspect is an ACL injury.
It was Elijah Gorzinski who returned the opening kickoff 85 yards to put North Central on the board just 11 seconds into the contest. Mendon muffed the ensuing kickoff and North Central’s kicker, Adrian Mercier, recovered. Two plays later, Lane Gorzinski caught a 14-yard Luke Gorzinski pass for a touchdown and a 14-0 Jets lead 50 seconds into the game.
And North Central didn’t let up.
The Jets scored two more touchdowns in the first quarter, one on a 36-yard run by Dillon Raab and the other a 36-yard pass from Luke Gorzinski to Lane Gorzinski to make it 28-0.
Luke Gorzinski threw two TD passes in the second quarter, a 30-yarder to Dylan Plunger and another 20 yards to Jordan Messenger for a 41-6 lead at the half.
That opening kick return that set the tone came after North Central waited and waited for the D-1 title game to get over. The Jets went from amped up to play to the concession stand getting brats.
“We were flat; they were ready to take a nap,” Coach Gorzinski said. “Once that (return) happened, it was game on from there.”
That made four touchdown passes in the half for Gorzinski, who is explosive getting to the edge normally, but not Saturday with his injury. Leo said he wouldn’t get it checked out before the game because he just wanted to play, but Leo fears it will be an ACL injury once diagnosed.
“Thank God they didn’t catch on for a whole half that Luke Gorzinski can’t run,” Coach Gorzinski said. “He never ran a single time, and they never adjusted or blitzed him. I’ll praise God for that. Because if they would have blitzed him, I would have pulled him. That, for me, was the single thing – we knew they had a weak pass defense.”
Gorzinski ran for one touchdown in the second half, from a yard out. He caught a 33-yard TD pass and Lane Gorzinski ran 38 yards for six.
Jacob and Lane Gorzinski picked up the slack running the ball with 132 yards and 90 yards, respectively, with both getting eight carries. Four receivers caught touchdowns – Lane Gorzinski, Plunger, Messenger and Luke Gorzinski.
“If you watch what Jacob Gorzinski did today (on the ground), that’s Luke to a T, that’s Luke’s specialty. With Jacob Gorzinski stepping up, with Lane stepping up, with Dylan Plunger stepping up, the heart that Dillon Raab showed up there tonight, all of them, Max Nason, Jordan Messenger, Andrew Weber,” Coach Gorzinski said.
Luke Gorzinski finished the day with the single yard on the ground, and only that one carry, but he was 13 of 24 passing for 207 yards and four touchdowns.
He didn’t want to talk about how much it hurt.
“It’s Luke, man, he can play through anything,” Jacob Gorzinski said. “He’s a tough kid.”
Any way you slice it, Luke helped boost his team to a third-straight title.
“You come into this game knowing we could probably get the edge on these guys and we had good running out of our trip set, but with a bum wheel, we were limited,” he said. “We came out throwing a little more and put faith in our pass catchers, and they got it done.”
They made so many big plays, the kick return, long runs by the other guys, those big pass plays. It’s hard for an opponent to keep up.
“We did a lot of good things; we just gave up too many big plays. That’s really been our Achilles in our losses is giving up those big plays. But I give them a lot of the credit – they made the plays, they were making plays, ” Mendon coach Robert Kretschman said. “(Gorzinski) can sling the ball, he just put the ball on the money. They’re physical on the edge. That was probably one of the best perimeter blocking teams I’ve seen in a long time, 11-man, 8-man, they get after it. … Their physicality on the edge is something I don’t think we were quite prepared for.”
Mendon had an explosive player of its own in junior back Jack McCaw. He ran for three of the Hornets’ touchdowns, a 30-yarder in the second quarter to get on the board, a 58-yard rush to start the second half and a 70-yard score a few minutes later. Evan Lukeman scored Mendon’s final TD.
“We have Jack coming back. We’re excited about that,” Kretschman said.
North Central wants to keep its run going next year, but it won’t be easy after losing such a decorated group of seniors headlined by Luke Gorzinski.
Now they can savor all that they’ve done the last three years.
“We came out here to do it again; that was the goal for this season,” Jacob Gorzinski said.
And nobody was able to stop them.
PHOTOS (Top) Powers North Central’s Lane Gorzinski (6) and Dylan Plunger (10) celebrate an early touchdown Saturday at the Superior Dome. (Middle) Mendon’s Jack McCaw (21) bursts into an opening. (Below) The Jets line up on offense, led by quarterback Luke Gorzinski. (Photos by Cara Kamps.)
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.)