QB Gives MCC New Look, Same Success

October 31, 2017

By Tom Kendra
Special for Second Half

Beating Muskegon Catholic Central in the playoffs was hard enough before Cameron Martinez came along.

Martinez, a 5-11, 180-pound, dual-threat sophomore quarterback, has added many new dimensions to the Crusaders’ offense – which had become synonymous around the state with ground-and-pound, power football.

“It’s pretty apparent that if we’re sitting in the T (formation) all the time, we’re not maximizing his abilities or our other guys’ abilities,” said fifth-year MCC coach Steve Czerwon, who has won a Division 8 championship in each of his first four seasons as the Crusaders’ head coach. “Cameron makes us coaches look good, too, because with him sometimes a bad play turns into a good play.”

MCC, which is 8-1 and ranked No. 1 in Division 8 by The Associated Press, goes on the road this week for a showdown with a familiar foe and another playoff powerhouse, Mendon (10-0 and ranked No. 3), in a MHSAA District championship game at 1 p.m. Saturday.

Mendon fans will see a different MCC team than they have become accustomed to during the two schools’ seven prior meetings (MCC has won five) – a team that often operates with Martinez in the pistol formation, with just one running back, no tight ends and four receivers spread wide across the field.

The point man is Martinez, whose athletic ability was noticed by Central Michigan University two years ago as a 14-year-old eighth grader. His potential was so apparent that he was offered a scholarship at the conclusion of that camp, before he ever played a snap of high school football.

Last fall, he split time at quarterback with senior Trenton Bordeaux, and started to prove himself on the field as a quarterback, free safety and punt returner. Many other Division I schools are now following him as he is the unquestioned leader of this year’s Crusaders.

Martinez, who was born on the infamous day of Sept. 11, 2001, knows that college is still three years away. More immediate on his mind is the challenge of a 240-mile roundtrip journey to face a Mendon program which has amassed 10 MHSAA championships, the most recent in 2011. MCC has won 12 MHSAA titles during the playoff era.

“We’re all very excited,” said Martinez, whose older brother, Christian, guided MCC to Division 8 titles in 2014 and 2015 and now plays quarterback at Northwood University. “It’s a little bit of a trip, but I’ve always liked playing on the road. We know all about them and their tradition.”

Mendon will have to, first and foremost, contain Martinez if it wants to snap a three-game losing streak to the Crusaders.

The numbers tell the story: Martinez has rushed for 979 yards on 90 carries (10.9 yards per carry) and 15 TDs, more than double as many yards as MCC’s second-leading rusher, sophomore Tommy Watts (441 yards). Others sharing carries in the backfield-by-committee are juniors Dawson Steigman and Avery Davis and senior Riley St. Amour.

Martinez’ completion percentage is down considerably from a year ago, but he has still hit on 45 of 94 passes for 720 yards, six touchdowns and three interceptions. His primary targets are seniors Ryder Smith (14 catches) and Jackson Riegler (11 catches) and sophomore Nolan Convertini (10 catches).

Martinez & Company looked flat-out unbeatable and a mortal lock to complete the “Drive for Five” – and join East Grand Rapids and Farmington Hills Harrison as the only schools to win five titles in a row – until Montague rolled into Kehren Stadium on Oct. 20 for the first-ever meeting between the two schools.

Montague frustrated the Crusaders with a disciplined pass rush and stingy coverage, limiting Martinez to just 10 of 31 passing for 131 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions, as MCC’s 27-game winning streak was snapped in a stunning 34-10 loss.

 “I put that loss on me,” said Martinez, who did rush for a team-high 80 yards in the defeat. “I need to react better and make better adjustments during games. All respect for Montague, they are a great team, but that game was a wake-up call for us.”

MCC bounced back with a 42-20 win over visiting Decatur last week, in a game that was much closer than many expected.

Now comes the big test against Mendon, which appears to be back to its old, powerful self after posting its first undefeated regular season since 2104.

 “This is a classic Mendon football team,” said Czerwon, who is 2-0 against the Hornets as a head coach, posting playoff wins in 2013 and 2014. “They are a power team that wants to run downhill on you. They make very few mistakes and rarely have a negative-yardage play.”

Mendon, champions of the Southwest 10 Conference, are led by quarterback Cole Decker and running backs Wyatt Cool and Austin Rensi. Bobby Kretschman, a former standout player and 10-year assistant coach for the Hornets, is in his second year as head coach after taking over from legend John Schwartz.

MCC will use many different formations, all directed by Martinez, in an attempt to move the ball against a Mendon defense which has six shutouts in its first 10 games.

“We are very diverse, which is what I like about this team,” said Martinez. “Our coaches come up with a lot of different schemes for every game. We just have to go out and execute it.”

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) Muskegon Catholic Central’s Cameron Martinez, a 5-11, 180-pound sophomore, surveys the field while awaiting the snap from center Owen Linstrom during the Crusaders' 42-20 victory over visiting Decatur in last week's Division 8 Pre-District game. (Middle) Martinez goes airborne for an incredible interception from his free safety position during the Crusaders' 31-6 victory at Frankfort on Sept. 1. (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.)