QB Follows Mentors in Leading Montague

October 4, 2017

By Tom Kendra
Special for Second Half

Sebastian Archer didn’t have to look far to find role models as Montague’s starting quarterback.

Pat Collins, Montague’s 14th-year head coach, was the quarterback who first brought the Wildcats to the promised land, culminating a dream season at the Pontiac Silverdome with a 12-7 loss to powerhouse Detroit dePorres in the 1992 Class CC championship game.

Cody Kater, now the Wildcats’ quarterbacks coach, took it a step further and led Montague to back-to-back Division 6 titles with wins over Leslie (41-20) in 2008 and Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central (24-21) in 2009.

“I’m pretty lucky that I get to learn from both of them every day,” said Archer, a 5-foot-9, 175-pound junior who is off to an impressive start, following in the footsteps of recent Montague quarterbacks Jacob Buchberger and Dylan Stever. “They push me pretty hard, but I know it’s only to make me better.”

Archer will try to glean all he can from Collins and Kater this week, as the 6-0 Wildcats (ranked No. 3 in Division 6 by The Associated Press) prepare to host 5-1 Muskegon Oakridge (ranked No. 6 in Division 5) in a key battle for the West Michigan Conference championship and playoff seeding.

Montague has bolted to its 6-0 start behind one of the highest-scoring offenses in the state, averaging 57 points per game. Collins said the key for his team to stay unbeaten with a grueling final three games against Oakridge, Ravenna and then Montague’s first-ever meeting against unbeaten and four-time reigning Division 8 champion Muskegon Catholic Central, is for Archer to continue his dynamic play while taking care of the ball. Archer has thrown for 945 yards, 12 touchdowns and just two interceptions.

“Sebastian distributes the ball well and makes good decisions,” Collins said. “We anticipated having a good team this year and hoped to be in the position where we are right now, but this is where things get really tough and we’ll see what we’re made of.”

While Archer is continuing the Montague tradition of strong quarterback play, he is a completely different style of QB than his two mentors.

Collins engineered the tightly-packed, wing-T offense during his playing days, which usually meant about one or two passes per game.

Kater was more of a prototypical pocket passer, standing 6-4 and throwing 79 touchdown passes over his career. Kater played college quarterback at University of Cincinnati, Grand Rapids Community College and finally Central Michigan. He worked his way up to the starting job for the Chippewas as a junior, but broke his collarbone in the first quarter of CMU’s 2013 season-opening game against Michigan in “The Big House.”

Archer, meanwhile, is described by Collins as more of a “point guard” on the football field.

“He is definitely a dual threat,” Collins said. “Like a good point guard, he is capable of taking it into his own hands if need be. But first and foremost, he’s looking to get our other guys involved.”

That supporting cast, many like Archer part of Montague’s loaded junior class, has been stellar through the first two-thirds of the season.

Bryce Stark is explosive out of the backfield, rushing for 625 yards and 13 touchdowns this fall. Kenyan Johnston is the team’s most prolific receiver, highlighted by his nine catches for 129 yards and two touchdowns in a thrilling 46-44 win at rival Whitehall on Sept. 22. The main downfield threat is burner Jake Jancek.

For the past 40 years, the road to the WMC title has gone through Oakridge, a perennial playoff team which has qualified for the postseason 21 of the past 22 years and won MHSAA championships in 1997, 2005 and 2008. The main rival for Oakridge for many years, particularly the 1990s, was Ravenna, but since the turn of the century the biggest challenges have come from the White Lake area duo of Whitehall and, especially, Montague.

Montague edged Oakridge 29-26 two years ago and led 28-14 last year at Oakridge before the Eagles rallied for a 31-28 win.

Archer expects another classic game.

 “I can’t wait for Friday night,” said Archer, who, in addition to his quarterback duties, starts at safety and punter and hold on kicks. “It will probably be like the Whitehall game where the stands are full and people are sitting on the grass. Those are the games we love to play in.”

Part of the reason for the year-in, year-out success at Montague and Oakridge is coaching stability. Montague has had just two head coaches in the past 32 years, with Ken Diamond coaching from 1986-2003 and Collins from 2004 to present. Oakridge has had an even longer stretch with just two head coaches, led by Jack Schugars from 1979 to 2010 and now Harger from 2011 to present.

Montague has made the playoffs in 12 of 13 seasons under Collins, with the back-to-back championships in 2008 and 2009 capping an amazing stretch which saw the Wildcats make it at least to the Semifinals five straight years from 2005 to 2009.

Getting back to that elite level is what motivates Archer to come in to “Camp Kater” on Monday and Friday mornings before school. Kater emphasizes building up arm strength on Mondays, and switches the focus to pocket awareness on Fridays. Those sessions have transformed Archer from a running back playing quarterback to a well-rounded QB, Collins said.

Archer grew up idolizing Kater in small-town Montague, but he lists his favorite professional quarterbacks as Tom Brady and Doug Flutie, the 5-10 quarterback who was an inspiration to little guys everywhere. Flutie retired in 2005 when Archer was just 4 years old.

“The roster lists me as 5-9, but I’m 5-7; I’m not gonna lie to you,” said Archer, who also plays basketball and baseball for Montague. “I’ve watched old films of Flutie, and I love how he found a way to make things happen even though he was a little guy. That’s what I try to do.”

Tom Kendra worked 23 years at The Muskegon Chronicle, including five as assistant sports editor and the final six as sports editor through 2011. E-mail him at [email protected] with story ideas for Muskegon, Oceana, Mason, Lake, Oceola, Mecosta and Newaygo counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Montague junior quarterback Sebastian Archer, a true dual-threat for the unbeaten Wildcats, looks for running room Sept. 22 during his team's 46-44 victory over rival Whitehall. (Middle) Archer tries to throw over 6-4 Whitehall defensive end Brandon Rake; Archer completed 14 of 20 passes for 217 yards, four TDs and no interceptions in the win. (Below) Montague coach Pat Collins played quarterback for the Wildcats in the early 1990s, leading them to the Class CC championship game in 1992. Collins, now in his 14th year, has a 121-38 record at Montague, highlighted by back-to-back MHSAA titles in 2008 and 2009. (Photos by Tim Reilly.)

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.)