QB Carving Place in Pittsford Tradition

August 31, 2018

By Doug Donnelly
Special for Second Half

PITTSFORD – There’s nothing quite like the return of high school football each new season to small towns in Michigan.

There’s something about the way a town buzzes when students, parents and fans put on the spirit wear and make the journey to watch kids they’ve all known since they were born put on the helmet and play football against – usually – a neighboring school district.

Pittsford is one of those towns, and Jake Burger is one of those kids.

If it seems like Burger has been around Pittsford football forever, it’s because he has been around it for all of his life. He is two games into his senior year playing quarterback for the Wildcats – his third season as a starter – but his roots go much deeper. His grandfather, Bob Clement, coached at Pittsford for three decades. His father, Mike Burger, has been the head coach since 2010.

“I used to hang around the sidelines,” Jake said. “I’d be with my friends, and we’d be having fun. But, I wanted to be out there, to be on the field.”

These days, Burger’s grandfather usually watches games from above the Pittsford press box. His uncle, Frank Clement, another longtime Pittsford coach, is closer to the action as the Wildcats’ special teams coach. Burger’s cousin Jesse Clement is a senior linebacker. Burger’s dad – also a teacher, boys basketball coach and athletic director at Pittsford – calls the plays that Burger tries to execute on the field.

“Jake really understands the game,” Mike Burger said. “He grasps concepts quickly, and then is able to put them into action. He just wants to win, and winning with his buddies makes it that much more gratifying.”

Pittsford is coming off a 9-2 season in which it qualified for the playoffs for the 12th time in the last 14 seasons. The Wildcats are members of the Southern Central Athletic Association and reigning league champions after a year when four of the five teams in the conference reached the playoffs.

Pittsford is a community of about 1,500 people and has just 186 students in its high school. Nineteen play football including 11 seniors – an unusually large class.

“I think that helps a lot because we all have a lot of experience,” Jake Burger said. “We grew up together, playing football and basketball. We all just love sports.”

The Wildcats opened the 2018 season by shutting out 2017 playoff qualifier Morenci 28-0, and then shut out Petersburg-Summerfield 10-0 on Thursday. Burger – who also starts at safety – made a key play in the end zone late in the fourth quarter to stop a potential Summerfield touchdown.

“Early season wins are so important in getting to the playoffs,” Burger said. “I think we are going to have a really good year.”

Burger was a tight end in grade school but shifted to quarterback around fifth grade. He’s played the position ever since.

“The coach moved me to quarterback,” he said. “I love the position. I like being the field general – sort of the coach on the field. I like how you get to make decisions on the fly. Hopefully, I make the right decisions.”

Burger’s decisions are usually spot-on. He was an honorable mention choice on last year’s Associated Press Division 7-8 all-state football team after throwing for more than 1,300 yards. He already holds several Wildcats records and entered Thursday’s game with 2,910 career passing yards.

At 6-foot-4, 195 pounds, Burger said he’s also not afraid to take on a would-be tackler. He has more than 1,000 career rushing yards.

“I’m not a traditional type of quarterback,” he said. “I like to pass the ball and move the ball downfield, but I’ll also run the ball. I usually don’t run out of bounds. I’m not going to juke anybody out. I’ll lower my shoulder and take on someone and try and fight for those extra yards.”

Burger grew up about five minutes from Pittsford, which is in Hillsdale County, only a few miles from the Ohio state line. The Wildcats won the 1996 Class DD championship under Clement. With the return of Burger and much of the offense and defense from last year’s playoff team, there are high hopes this season as well.

Mike Burger said it’s been a blessing to coach his son.

“Coaching your son is a tremendous experience,” he said. “I have had such a great time being able to be part of this process. Sure, it can be stressful at times with all the pressures that go with being a varsity coach and coach’s son, but it has been far more rewarding than I could ever had imagined.”

His son agrees.

“He’s always explained things to me,” Burger said of his dad. “It’s been great having him there with me. He’s a great coach. I’m grateful he is my coach.”

The two also have that bond during basketball season. This past spring, Jake developed a routine in which he would get to school by 6:30 a.m. to work on basketball, then go back to school at night to work on quarterback fundamentals. He played AAU basketball this summer and maintains a 3.7 grade-point average. He’s unsure of his college plans at this point but would entertain the idea of playing either sport at the next level – as long as the college he chooses “feels like home,” he said.

“Jake's work ethic is off the charts,” Mike Burger said. “He is a great example of someone who plays multiple sports rather than concentrate on one.  I am not sure which sport he loves the most, but I can say he loves playing both games and he plays both with a real joy.”

For Jake Burger, being part of the hometown football and basketball teams seems second nature. He wouldn’t want it any other way. Cars start filing into Pittsford football games early on Friday nights, some fans hopeful for a spot in the front row overlooking the west end zone.

“For our first game, we had a ton of people in our stands,” he said. “It’s a great atmosphere in Pittsford, no matter what sport. For basketball games, the parents and fans will get into the game and cheer and the football games are loud with a lot of fans. It’s a great place to be around.”

Doug Donnelly has served as a sports and news reporter and city editor over 25 years, writing for the Daily Chief-Union in Upper Sandusky, Ohio from 1992-1995, the Monroe Evening News from 1995-2012 and the Adrian Daily Telegram since 2013. He's also written a book on high school basketball in Monroe County and compiles record books for various schools in southeast Michigan. E-mail him at [email protected] with story ideas for Lenawee and Monroe counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Jake Burger prepares for Thursday’s game against Petersburg-Summerfield. (Middle) Burger follows through on a pregame pass. (Photos by Doug Donnelly.)

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:

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.)