Quick Study Central Lake Clinches 1st Title

November 18, 2017

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

MARQUETTE – Central Lake may not have been totally sure what it got itself into switching to 8-player football heading into this fall.

Clearly it didn’t take the Trojans long to figure things out.

A year after finishing 2-7 with 11 players on the field, Central Lake finished Saturday afternoon at the Superior Dome with its first football championship, downing Deckerville 32-30 in the inaugural 8-Player Division 1 Final.

The championship was the first for the school in any MHSAA tournament sport since claiming the Class D softball title in 1980. The Trojans also finished 13-0 this fall.

“Last year it was not even something. Or just growing up, you’re watching the Finals on TV … ‘I’m never going to be there,’ but it’s cool to watch,” Central Lake senior quarterback Gavin Mortensen said. “You dream about it. And then all of a sudden, you’re a state champion. It’s crazy.”

And so was the finish, as Mortensen put his team ahead to stay on a six-yard touchdown run with 2:49 to play. Central Lake came back from 10 points down with under a minute to play in the third quarter, riding a powerful running game to the final two of four rushing touchdowns on the day, while also halting two Deckerville fourth-quarter drives that reached the Trojans’ 21-yard line.

“Those get your heart pumping, don’t they, those stops? But what a great way to win,” Central Lake coach Rob Heeke said.

Junior running back Grant Papineau went over 2,000 yards rushing for the season, adding 183 for a final total of 2,067 while also rushing for his 26th touchdown of the fall. Junior Skyler Spangler had 101 yards and two scores on the ground to finish the season with 1,753 yards and 28 touchdowns rushing.

Mortensen, in addition to running the show, made it count when his number was called, adding a 49-yard touchdown pass to senior Jayce Hoogerhyde. And Hoogerhyde, who had 15 pass break-ups as a defensive back entering the game, made an equally significant play on that side of the ball batting down Deckerville’s final pass into the end zone.

Those are the guys who got most of the attention during the perfect run. But a most unlikely contributor deserved his share as well Saturday. Junior center Dalin Clark (6-foot, 265 pounds) left the game with an injury near the end of the first half. In came sophomore Vance Hoeksema (5-6, 140), who had played that position only a couple of times this fall. But the Central Lake attack just kept rolling.

“We just kinda rallied around Vance, and he did a great job,” Mortensen said. “After we got the first few bad snaps out of the way, exchange-wise, he did really well.

Guys on the line picked him up and told him what to do if he didn’t know, and it worked out.”

Hoogerhyde said it wasn’t until a 14-point Week 8 win over Onekama – that clinched for the Trojans the Midwest Central Michigan Conference championship – that he and his teammates started to realize what they might be capable of accomplishing this fall.

Deckerville had been to this level before, winning the 8-player championship in 2012 and finishing runner-up to two-time champion Powers North Central a year ago. That the Eagles (11-2) returned to the final game Saturday was impressive though, considering they replaced nearly their entire backfield from a year ago and then didn’t have injured leading rusher Cruz Ibarra for the last two games.

Senior Kenton Bowerman ran for 83 yards and also caught three passes for 93 yards and a score in the Final. Sophomore quarterback Isaac Keinath threw for three scores total.

“We’d love to win that state championship, but I think we overachieved maybe a little bit,” Deckerville coach Bill Brown said. “They really came together as a team midway through the season and as a head football coach, when you watch your kids and they come together and they’re playing as a team, and you’re getting those selfless acts … we have kids giving just everything they have out there. When you’re a coach, that’s all you ask for.

“I’m disappointed in the outcome of course. That doesn’t define this football team. We could play that game again, and we might win by two touchdowns.”

Spangler had 15 tackles, Mortensen 14, Papineau 13 and senior Dylan Michael 12 for Central Lake. Junior Curtis Vogel had 20 tackles and senior Wyatt Janowiak had 15 for the Eagles.  Senior Zach Ostrowski also caught a touchdown pass, and senior Brendan Hadley ran for a score.

Click for the full box score.

The MHSAA Playoffs are sponsored by the Michigan Army National Guard.

PHOTOS: (Top) Central Lake quarterback Gavin Mortensen begins to turn the corner on the way to scoring the go-head touchdown Saturday. (Middle) Deckerville’s Wyatt Janowiak hauls in a third-quarter touchdown pass over the tight coverage of Jayce Hoogerhyde. (Photos by John Johnson.)

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.)