Prep Zone: Regional Final Previews
November 10, 2011
Two top-ranked teams and four of the best from metro Detroit highlight tonight's Prep Zone football games streamed live on FoxSportsDetroit.com.
This is the final week of home field advantage for any opponent. Next week’s Semifinals and 8-player Final all will be played at neutral sites. The winners of two of tonight’s Prep Zone games will meet in a Division 1 Semifinal on Nov. 19.
Here’s a preview of all four Prep Zone games. All kick off at 7 p.m., and all also will be archived for on-demand viewing at MHSAA.tv. (Rankings below by The Associated Press' panel of media voters.)
DIVISION 1: Walled Lake Central (8-3) at Utica Eisenhower (10-1)
Utica Eisenhower entered the postseason ranked No. 3 and is playing in its second straight Regional Final, with its best offensive output since finishing MHSAA runner-up in 2003. That 30-points-per-game effort is led by a pair of juniors – quarterback Joe Zerafa has thrown for 1,301 yards and 12 touchdowns, and junior running back Shane King has rushed for 687 yards and 12 scores. But the Eagles’ strength might be on defense. They haven’t given up a point since the first weekend of October, and have five shutouts total this season with senior linebacker Ray Shepler just two tackles from 100. Unranked Walled Lake Central, meanwhile, might be one of the surprises of this round after knocking out reigning state champion Lake Orion and then No. 8 Clarkston to open the playoffs. But remember, the Vikings did make the Division 2 Semifinals last season. And they are led again by senior quarterback Zac Leimbach, a master running the team’s option offense. He’s rushed for 1,610 yards and 21 touchdowns and thrown for 931 yards and six more scores.
Click to read more from the Detroit Free Press and Mlive.com.
DIVISION 1: Detroit Cass Tech (8-3) at Warren DeLaSalle (9-2), at St. Clair Shores Lake Shore
Considering five Cass Tech defensive players have committed to sign with Division I college programs in February – including hard-hitting linebacker Royce Jenkins-Stone (Michigan) – it’s not surprising that the Technicians haven’t given up more than 18 points in a game since opening night, or more than seven in a game since mid-October. DeLaSalle’s records aren’t always flawless like others going into the playoffs, thanks in part to a tough Catholic League schedule. But the Pilots are playing in their fourth-straight Regional final and were ranked No. 5 in the final Division 2 regular-season poll before moving into Division 1 for the postseason. Those losses came to still-alive Detroit Catholic Central and Orchard Lake St. Mary, so guys like senior quarterback Shane Morris (1,658 yards, 19 TDs passing) and senior running back/safety Mike Abiragi (the team's leading rusher and tackler) have seen their share of star-studded opponents.
Click to read more from Mlive.com.
DIVISION 5: Dowagiac (10-1) at Lansing Catholic (11-0), at Holt Junior High
Lansing Catholic senior quarterback Cooper Rush continues to ascend MHSAA records lists in just about every passing category. His 2,792 yards this fall are good for 17th for one season, and his 33 touchdown passes are tied for 16th. Senior receiver Matt Macksood has caught 69 of those tosses for 1,094 yards and 15 touchdowns, and run for 750 yards and 10 more scores. Both have done that damage in 10 games, with the top-ranked Cougars’ 11th win a forfeit. Dowagiac’s defense could be up to the challenge though – the No. 9 Chieftains haven’t given up more than 14 points in a game this season. They’ve doubled their win total from 2010 and hit double-digit victories for the first time since 1996. Although leading tackler D.J. Hunt has missed all but the beginning of the playoff run with an injury, defensive ends Dontrell Tucker and Carl Grant combined for five sacks against Hopkins last week. They’ll be counted on to keep the rush on Rush.
Click to read more from the Lansing State Journal, Niles Daily Star and South Bend Tribune.
DIVISION 7: Harbor Beach (11-0) at Saginaw Nouvel (10-0)
Top-ranked Nouvel is off to its strongest effort since winning back-to-back MHSAA titles in 2006-07. The Panthers are averaging 48 points per game and scored fewer than 40 only twice, keyed by a pair of seniors – running back Bennett Lewis has rushed for 1,463 yards and 22 touchdowns, and quarterback Joe Buchalski has thrown for 1,000 yards and 18 scores. Harbor Beach, tied for the No. 7 spot, comes in with much less fanfare. But the Pirates have been here before, winning 12 games in 2007 and 10 in 2003. Junior Sloan Klaski will be a focal point – he leads the team with 146 tackles, and also 1,011 yards and 19 touchdowns running the ball. As a team, Harbor Beach averages 262 yards on the ground and could ride that in an attempt to keep Nouvel's offense off the field. The Pirates rise at crunch time: four of their last seven wins were by 12 points or fewer.
Click to read more from the Huron Daily Tribune and Saginaw News.
(Photo courtesy of Terry McNamara Photography.)
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.)