Preview: '8' Finalists Light Up Board
November 21, 2013
By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Legacy Field in Greenville will welcome Friday two teams that have steamrolled the competition on the way to this season’s MHSAA 8-Player Final – and two of the most prolific offensive stars in the young history of the sport in this state.
Rapid River quarterback Jake Pearson will be making his second MHSAA Finals appearance, while Peck running back Cody Abrego also enters the season’s last game with more than 2,000 yards rushing.
Both will be added to the MHSAA and national record books when this season is done – and together with their teammates could make this championship game one of the most fast-paced score fests of this entire season.
Tickets for the 8-player Final cost $8. Can’t make the trip? Watch it live on FoxSportsDetroit.com, with live audio streaming on MHSAANetwork.com. Because of conflicts with collegiate and professional games, the game will be broadcast delayed on FOX Sports Detroit at 9 a.m. Saturday and again on Nov. 26 at 8 p.m. The on-demand video archive will be available shortly after the game’s conclusion at MHSAA.TV.
Here’s a look at the contenders:
Coach: Rob McDaniel, third season (20-11)
League finish: First in North Central Thumb 8-Man League
Championship history: Has never appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 61-38 and 73-34 (Semifinal) over Lawrence, 24-12 over Kinde-North Huron.
Players to watch: RB/CB Cody Abrego, 5-11/170, jr. (2,121 yards, 35 TDs rushing); RB/CB Caleb Dudley, 5-9/160, jr. (980 yards, 16 TDs rushing); QB/LB Tristen Haener, 6-3/210, sr. (54-98, 1,166 yards, 12 TDs passing).
Outlook: Peck is in its second season of 8-player football but had recent success in the 11-player game as well – the Pirates won 10 games in both 2001 and 2003 and made the playoffs three straight seasons from 2006-08. Their perfect run this fall has included a pair of wins apiece over 2011 MHSAA 8-player champion Carsonville-Port Sanilac and 2012 champion Deckerville. Abrego ran for 449 yards and seven touchdowns in last week’s Semifinal win over Lawrence, when Peck broke 70 points for the first time and 50 for the seventh. The 8-player game is generally more high-scoring than the 11-player format, but Peck’s defense is solid – the Pirates give up only 15 points per game and held half their opponents to single digits.
Coach: Steve Ostrenga, 15th season (82-66)
League finish: First in Bridge 8-Man Alliance
Championship history: MHSAA runner-up 2011.
Best wins: 45-28 over Cedarville, 74-42 over Bellaire, 40-8 over Kinde-North Huron in the Semifinal, 50-21 over Engadine in the Regional Final.
Players to watch: QB/LB Jake Pearson, 6-3/220, sr. (2,525 yards, 42 TDs rushing; 55-92, 1,009 yards, 15 TDs passing); RB/DB Pat Pryal, 5-10/155, sr. (791 yards, nine TDs rushing); FL/DB Mike Casey, 5-10/165, jr. (16 catches, 349 yards, five TDs receiving).
Outlook: Pearson has been incredible, adding 359 yards rushing, three touchdown runs and two touchdown passes in Rapid River’s Semifinal win. The Rockets are in the Final for the second time in three seasons, and Pearson threw touchdown passes for the team’s two scores in its 2011 championship game loss to Carsonville-Port Sanilac. Rival Cedarville, loser by only 17 points, came the closest to challenging Rapid River this season as the Rockets also were sound defensively giving up just under 20 points per game despite playing six during the regular season against eventual playoff teams.
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.)