Performance: Morrice's Hunter Nowak

November 15, 2018

Hunter Nowak
Morrice senior - Football

Morrice’s third-year varsity quarterback continued the play Friday that has helped his team to the best season in program history. Nowak ran 28 times for 158 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Orioles to a 40-8 win over Colon in an 8-Player Division 1 Semifinal, earning the senior signal-caller the Michigan Army National Guard “Performance of the Week.”

Nowak has run 204 times for 1,922 yards (9.4 yards per carry) and 33 touchdowns this season, and completed 24 of 49 passes for 529 yards and eight more scores. His 232 points rank third all-time since MHSAA-sponsored 8-player football was added a decade ago. He took over the QB spot in 2016, and Morrice went 4-5, but the Orioles improved to 9-2 last season and this fall finished the regular season 9-0 for the first time in the program’s 11 or 8-player history. Last week’s Semifinal was the team’s second ever and first since 1996, and this Saturday’s championship game against Pickford at Northern Michigan University’s Superior Dome will be the Orioles’ first trip to the MHSAA Finals in this sport. Along the way, Morrice avenged last season’s playoff loss to North Central Thumb League Red rival Deckerville – which went on to finish 2017 Division 1 runner-up – and handed Wyoming Tri-unity Christian its only defeat this fall in the Regional Final two weeks ago.

Nowak plays only football at Morrice, but does also play on a high school-level rugby club team based in Howell. He carries a 4.0 grade-point average while dually enrolled at Lansing Community College, and hopes to study aviation after high school with aspirations of becoming a commercial airline pilot.

Performance Point: “The defense played great. They played shutout. The defense really won us the game, I think,” Nowak said of the Semifinal win over Colon. “We were able to put up 40 points, but that was a great offense they had. … It’s the first time we ever went to a state final for this, and we’re just really excited about it. We’ve been playing football since third grade, and we’ve always had successful seasons. We always thought that especially our senior year, we always thought, man, we really need to do really good that year. For it to happen, I think it’s great, because we’ve been working hard all year (and) ever since we started playing varsity. We’re thankful to the town for showing up at the games. Everyone comes out. It’s a big deal.”

That’s when we knew: “Our sophomore year, we didn’t do too great. We got four wins as sophomores; we could’ve done better. Last year we were OK – we lost to Deckerville in the second round (38-0). … Our first game (this season), we beat Deckerville (34-14). I think that was big. We went there, we won by 20 points, and that’s when we realized we’re a good team this year – we really have a shot to go far. We had lost the second round of playoffs the year before by a lot there. So to have our first game, since playing there, be right there again, and to be able to win – it put behind all the doubt that we had last year.”

Taking this on together: “I think it’s the combination of a lot of us have been playing since third grade together. And there’s not a whole lot of us, so that bond has just grown through the years. And I think we’re just really good at football, and the whole speed thing really helps too. … I think it’s just knowing what someone else is going to do. If I’m running the ball, I can get a sense of where my lead blockers are going to go, what they’re going to do. We can try to get a sense of what other people are going to do. We can communicate easier. If something happens, we can fix it real quick, because we know how to talk to each other.”

It’s a speed thing: “I think 11-man was more about who’s going to be bigger on the line and then trying to work around that. (Eight-player) is not so much who is bigger on the line, it’s who can get off the line quicker and find the hole faster. We’re not the biggest team, but we’re a very fast team. That definitely helps us out.”

Revved and rallying: “When you’re done with the game and you’re walking back to the stands, there’s a lot of people I’ve never met before. But they’re all congratulating us, and they seem really excited about it. They’re there. They don’t know us personally, but they’re excited for the football team and they want to tell us, ‘Good job.’ There’s a lot of people talking about coming up (for the Final).”

- Geoff Kimmerly, Second Half editor

Every week during the 2018-19 school year, Second Half and the Michigan Army National Guard will recognize a “Performance of the Week" from among the MHSAA's 750 member high schools.

The Michigan Army National Guard provides trained and ready forces in support of the National Military Strategy, and responds as needed to state, local, and regional emergencies to ensure peace, order, and public safety. The Guard adds value to our communities through continuous interaction. National Guard soldiers are part of the local community. Guardsmen typically train one weekend per month and two weeks in the summer. This training maintains readiness when needed, be it either to defend our nation's freedom or protect lives and property of Michigan citizens during a local natural disaster. 

Past 2018-19 honorees

November 8: Jon Dougherty, Detroit Country Day soccer - Read
November 1:
Jordan Stump, Camden-Frontier volleyball - Read
October 25:
Danielle Staskowski, Pontiac Notre Dame Prep golf - Read
October 18:
Adam Bruce, Gladstone cross country - Read
October 11: Ericka VanderLende, Rockford cross country - Read
October 4:
Kobe Clark, Schoolcraft football - Read
September 27: Jonathan Kliewer, Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern soccer - Read
September 20: Kiera Lasky, Bronson volleyball - Read
September 13: Judy Rector, Hanover-Horton cross country - Read

PHOTOS: (Top) Morrice quarterback Hunter Nowak (32) pulls away from a Colon defender during last week’s Semifinal win over the Magi. (Middle) Nowak and teammate Sam Koresky celebrate one of his touchdowns. (Photos courtesy of the Lansing State Journal.)

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.)