Reading 'Nightmare' 2-Way Gamechanger

November 8, 2019

By Doug Donnelly
Special for Second Half

READING – Nick Affholter didn’t score a point for the Reading Rangers this season. No touchdowns, no extra points, no 2-point conversions.

But, when it came time to vote for the Most Valuable Player in the Big 8, the conference coaches left no doubt that Affholter – an offensive and defensive lineman – was the best player in the conference.

“As a coach, he has been my nightmare,” Concord coach Max Clark said.

“When game-planning for the last three years, we’ve had to begin our planning based on how we can avoid him,” said Matt Schwartzkopf, head coach at Springport.

Frank Keller of Jonesville recalled a specific play that painted the picture of Affholter’s impact.

“I remember one time we ran a sweep on the other side of the field, and he tackled our running back for a two-yard loss – on a sweep,” Keller said. “He was just dominant on both sides of the ball. He’s the best kid on the field.”

Those coaches are happy they won’t have to worry about Affholter anymore. Tonight, he’ll lead his 9-1 Rangers in a District Final against the undefeated Cassopolis Rangers. For Reading, it’s a chance to continue a journey that could the program back-to-back Division 8 championships. Both coaches will tell you the game starts up front, and that’s where Affholter excels.

“He’s been dominant the last couple of years,” Reading head coach Rick Bailey said. “I think last year our running back (Ethan LoPresto) stole a lot of the spotlight, but people knew how good Nick was. He’s the most dominant one-on-one football player that I’ve ever seen at the high school level. This is the first time I can remember in my 35 years that an offensive lineman was selected the league MVP.”

Affholter is a multi-sport, four-year varsity football player, a class officer at Reading – where he carries a 4.0 grade point average – and a member of the National Honor Society and leader of the school’s chapter of Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

“He’s humble and kind,” Bailey said. “He’s a total team player.”

Clark also saw something else in Affholter.

“He has never been anything but an amazing sport and leader,” the Concord coach said. “He stayed after, cleaning up the bench after a basketball game at our court when most of his team was all out chatting with family and friends.”

Reading is in the midst of a dominant run in football. When Affholter was a freshman, the Rangers had their second consecutive 3-6 season. As a sophomore they improved to 8-3, before bowing out of the Division 7 playoffs with a loss to Cassopolis. Last season, Reading ran the table, going 14-0 while scoring 678 points and giving up just 114 in finishing the season at Ford Field.

This year, Reading had to replace last year’s league MVP in LoPresto and started the season with a 14-0 loss to 2018 Division 7 champion Pewamo-Westphalia. Since then, however, the Rangers have been incredible, winning nine straight games while shutting out four opponents and outscoring all of them by a combined 449-38. Reading averages 420 yards rushing a game.

Affholter is a two-way starting lineman. On offense, he plays tackle and gives Bailey the closest thing to a sure thing.

“We’ve been able to dominate teams on his side. We just count on Nick’s block as a win,” Bailey said. “His technique is good, but I think people would be surprised of how athletic he is. If they watch him, they’ll see he can run. People are always surprised with his quickness and foot speed. It’s hard to simulate what he’s going to do.”

Affholter is also a difference-maker on defense.

“Two of our opponents simply chose not to run the football, and only a few tried to run it on his side,” Bailey said. “One team just lined up and threw the ball on every single play, except the last play of the game when they ran the ball when he was out.”

Clark said Concord tried something completely different against Reading.

“I showed up to Reading with a completely different offense because of him and his brother,” Clark said.

Reading still pulled out a 44-12 win.

Affholter has taken the postseason accolades in stride.

“I worked really hard for it,” he said. “It’s nice to see offensive lineman get some love. Just because we don’t touch the ball doesn’t mean we aren’t impacting the game.

“I don’t know how many offensive linemen get recognized like that. I figured I’d get all-conference, and that would be that. Seeing other people notice me and not just a running back or quarterback is pretty awesome.”

Affholter said he is 6-foot-3, 300 pounds, which makes him a half-inch taller and 20 pounds heavier than his twin brother Ben.

“I love playing football with my brother,” Nick said. “We do everything together. My little brother is up on the team now. He’s 6-foot, 230. He’s still growing.”

Their dad was an All-American offensive lineman at Hillsdale College, and their mom played volleyball there. Nick started playing football in grade school, where his grandfather began teaching him footwork.

“I love finishing my blocks,” he said. “I get excited when I get a pancake block. That was always special to me.”

He’s a student of the game, too, spending hours each week studying film of his opponent.

“I watch a lot of film of the defensive linemen or the offensive linemen,” Affholter said. “You can figure out what they are going to do in certain situations, see what their favorite move is. You know what to look for when the play starts. It definitely gives you an edge.”

Reading is sure to lean on Affholter tonight. The visiting Rangers have been just as stout as the home Rangers, outscoring opponents 403-17 this season.

“It’s going to be a great game,” Bailey said. “They are a big play waiting to happen.”

Affholter says the Reading home crowd will be rocking at Barre Field.

“Being out there on the football field is home,” he said. “It’s amazing. Every Friday night the stands are always full. I think it rivals any small-town football community anywhere.”

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 Jackson, Washtenaw, Hillsdale, Lenawee and Monroe counties.

FOOTBALL: (Top) Reading’s Nick Affholter lines up against Mendon during last week’s 38-0 playoff win. (Middle) Affholter, who also has a twin and younger brother on the varsity. (Photos courtesy of the Reading athletic department.)

Mendon 8-Player Championship Game Run Paced by Record-Setting Rushing

By Geoff Kimmerly 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.)