Preview: Peninsula Powers Collide

November 20, 2015

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

For the fourth time in five seasons of the MHSAA 8-Player Football Tournament, tonight’s championship game will match finalists from the Upper and Lower Peninsulas.

And there’s little argument both teams are the best from their sides of the bridge.

Battle Creek St. Philip and Powers North Central are both undefeated and have both dominated opponents all fall in earning this trip to Legacy Field in Greenville.

See below for a glance at both teams. Tickets for the 8-player Final cost $8. The game also will be broadcast live on, with live audio streaming on On-demand video will be available shortly after the game’s conclusion at

Coach: David Downey, fourth season (38-7) 
League finish: First in Southern Central Athletic Association.
Championship history: Class D 11-player champion 1985.
Best wins: 65-32 over Morrice, 47-44 and 58-14 (Regional Final) over Lawrence, 52-24 over Deckerville in Semifinal, 55-16 over Waldron.
Players to watch: RB/LB Brayden Darr, 5-10/185, sr. (1,465 yards/27 TDs rushing, 993 yards/17 TDs receiving, 114 tackles); QB Brendan Gausselin, 6-2/190, sr. (2,333 yards/38 TDs passing, 338 yards/8 TDs rushing); WR/DB David Downey, 6-1/150, sr. (739 yards/13 TDs receiving, 83 tackles/5 interceptions); WR/LB Drew Latinga, 6-2/160, jr. (319 yards/5 TDs receiving, 138 tackles), OL/DL Trevor Searls, 6-0/190, sr. (124 tackles/13 sacks).
Outlook: After three seasons finishing a combined 26-7 but falling in the Regional Final at the end of each, St. Philip has broken through with a perfect run and entered the playoffs with the highest playoff point average of any 8-player team. Only rival Lawrence, in their first of two meetings this fall, came within four touchdowns of St. Phil. The offense runs through Darr, who scored seven touchdowns – four rushing and three receiving – in the Semifinal and also combines with Latinga and Searls to lead a defense giving up an incredible 17.2 points per game, which would be impressive even without considering the offense-driven nature of 8-player.

Coach: Kevin Bellefeuil, 10th season (52-52)
League finish: First in Western 8 Conference.
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 70-6 over Cedarville in Semifinal, 82-20 and 64-8 (Regional Final) over Rapid River, 68-16 over Engadine.
Players to watch: QB/DB Jason Whitens, 6-4/200, jr. (2,315 yards/43 TDs passing, 605 yards/10 TDs rushing, 24 tackles/5 interceptions); WR/LB Dawson Bilski, 6-3/170, jr. (857 yards/15 TDs receiving, 62 tackles/6 interceptions); RB/OLB Bobby Kleiman, 6-0/165, jr. (1,414 yards/21 TDs rushing, 760 yards/16 TDs receiving, 26 tackles/3 interceptions); DE Morgan Cox, 6-2/210, sr. (48 tackles/14 sacks); DB Dylan Gagne, 5-11/160, jr. (413 yards/5 TDs rushing, 243 yards/4 TDs receiving, 37 tackles).
Outlook: North Central has taken 8-player football by storm in its first season, averaging 71.4 points per game and giving up only 11.1. No opponent has come within 46 points of the Jets. Not coincidentally, Whitens and Bilski also started on last season’s Class D championship basketball team, while Kleiman was the first sub off the bench and a handful of other football players were contributors. Whitens’ 43 touchdown passes have come on 165 attempts – and with zero interceptions. But the defense is averaging two interceptions per game – junior defensive back Marcus Krachinski has grabbed eight, while senior linebacker Max Krachinski has two and also has recovered two fumbles.

MHSAA, MHSFCA to Provide Spring Evaluation Camps for College Football Hopefuls

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

March 27, 2023

The Michigan High School Athletic Association, in partnership with the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association (MHSFCA), will be hosting first-ever Spring Evaluation Camps to provide athletes with aspirations of playing college football opportunities to show their skills and abilities to college coaches at one of five locations.

The one-day camps will take place between May 15-18 at Jenison High School, DeWitt High School, Jackson High School, Brighton High School and Detroit Country Day High School. The MHSAA’s involvement will allow for the opportunity for Division I college coaches to attend, and representatives from college football programs at all levels are expected.

Athletes who will be juniors or seniors in Fall 2023 may register to participate via a link on the Football page.

“This is an attempt by the MHSAA to help our athletes get exposure during the spring evaluation period in a way that does not intrude on spring sports,” said Brad Bush, an MHSAA assistant director and past high school and college football coach. “We are working with the MHSFCA to help put together a first-class experience for the athletes and college coaches.”

Cost is $20 per player, and each registrant will receive a shirt to wear based on the athlete’s graduation year and registration number so college coaches in attendance can monitor their camp performance. College coaches also will receive registration information for each athlete in attendance.

All athletes must have a coach from the athlete’s school staff present at the camp, and that coach must be a member of the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association.

MHSFCA executive director Andrew Pratley called the Spring Evaluation Camps a tremendous opportunity for high school athletes in Michigan.

“We are very excited with the partnership with the MHSAA that allows our kids the opportunity to wear a helmet and do drills in front of college coaches in the spring at a minimal cost,” Pratley said. “College coaches are thrilled, and it's a unique opportunity to have the rules waived by the MHSAA at these events only in order to showcase the tremendous talent all over the great state of Michigan.”

The Michigan High School Football Coaches Association (MHSFCA) has been devoted to the promotion of high school football since its inception in March 1972. The MHSFCA has more than 2,500 members and provides several educational and development opportunities for members and their athletes, including an annual coaching clinic, an annual leadership conference for coaches and potential team captains, and the annual summer East-West All-Star Game for graduated seniors. Additionally, the MHSFCA’s Leadership Development Alliance is in its third year of training coaches and offering veteran members of the association as mentors.

The MHSAA is a private, not-for-profit corporation of voluntary membership by more than 1,500 public and private senior high schools and junior high/middle schools which exists to develop common rules for athletic eligibility and competition. No government funds or tax dollars support the MHSAA, which was the first such association nationally to not accept membership dues or tournament entry fees from schools. Member schools which enforce these rules are permitted to participate in MHSAA tournaments, which attract more than 1.3 million spectators each year.