Prep Zone: Semifinals Preview
November 18, 2011
And then there were 32. That's all that remains from the original 256 MHSAA playoff football teams heading into Saturday's Semifinals.
This week's Prep Zone games feature three top-ranked contenders and four that remain 12-0 with only two possible games left in this season. Next weekend, it's off to Ford Field and the Finals.
All four Prep Zone Semifinals begin at 1 p.m. and can be viewed at FoxSportsDetroit.com. They later will be archived at MHSAA.tv.
Here's a look at some of what you'll see. (Rankings below are by The Associated Press' panel of media voters.)
DIVISION 1: Rockford (11-1) vs. Detroit Catholic Central (11-1)
Battle Creek Central’s C.W. Post Field
These two entered the postseason ranked Nos. 1 and 2, respectively. Oddly, this will be just the second time these powers will meet, and first since DCC’s 27-23 win over the Rams in the 1998 Class AA Final. The Shamrocks’ only loss this fall came to Orchard Lake St. Mary in Week 8, and DCC avenged it with a 21-7 win seven days later. Not much has changed during the postseason, aside from the Shamrocks’ defense getting a little bit stingier – they’ve given up 20 points total in three playoff games. Rockford has done a little more surviving, advancing with two wins by seven points or fewer. The Rams always run the ball hard, and both Brady Gent and Ryan Hartley have had 100-plus yards in playoff games so far. This game also pits two of the winningest coaches in MHSAA history – DCC’s Tom Mach has 314 victories since 1976 and Rockford’s Ralph Munger has 271 since 1980.
DIVISION 3: Mount Pleasant (12-0) vs. East Grand Rapids (9-3)
Ferris State University’s Top Taggart Field
The top-ranked Oilers have played their part in East Grand Rapids’ 28-game playoff winning streak, getting knocked out by the Pioneers two of the last three seasons. But this is the third straight Mount Pleasant team to post at least 11 wins, and might be the best of this recent run. Sophomore running back Michael Tweh is the name to know on offense, with 1,726 yards and 24 touchdowns rushing this season, while senior Dustin Lee has run for 14 touchdowns and scored four more on passes. As for No. 9 East Grand Rapids, it could well end up the final team standing again. The Pioneers have avenged two of their losses since the start of the playoffs – against Grand Rapids Christian and Holland – and have scored at least 42 points four weeks in a row. David Drummond has run for 1,739 yards and 16 touchdowns, and Travis Palmer has 15 TD passes.
DIVISION 3: Battle Creek Harper Creek (12-0) vs. Orchard Lake St. Mary (10-2)
Jackson Withington Stadium
Orchard Lake St. Mary, ranked No. 4, is used to reaching this round, going for its fourth Finals appearance in five seasons and third straight. At least defensively, this might be the best of those Eaglets teams – linebacker James Ross, who has committed to sign with Michigan this winter, is arguably the top defensive player in the state. This will be a much newer experience for No. 3 Harper Creek, which is in its first Semifinal since 1999 but also set a school record for wins. But the Beavers’ game is a great fit on what should be a chilly afternoon on fast turf – Harper Creek runs behind a massive offensive line, led by 6-foot-4, 300-pound Kelby Latta. He blocks for an offense averaging 41 points a game.
DIVISION 8: Mendon (12-0) vs. New Lothrop (12-0)
Howell High School
Top-ranked Mendon’s run through the playoffs has included a win over co-No. 1 Muskegon Catholic and another last week against No. 8 Climax-Scotts. But this might be the toughest test of all. The Hornets have given up fewer than four points a game this fall, and no more than eight since opening night. Oh, and they also score 52 points per game, led by multi-talented junior quarterback Austin Newman. Mendon keeps on trucking in its bid for a fifth MHSAA championship in 11 years. Junior Tyler Harris is up to 1,623 yards and 22 touchdowns running the ball, and two more teammates are over 900. Harris ran for 253 yards and four scores in last week’s Regional final.
(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.)