In Return to Finals, Edwardsburg Reigns

By Tom Markowski
Special for Second Half

November 23, 2018

DETROIT – Edwardsburg finished the deal on Friday, erasing much of the disappointment the final game of last season produced.

Although the Eddies’ offense was slow to jell, they controlled the clock and Chelsea’s multi-faceted attack to capture their first MHSAA Finals championship in any boys sport with a 28-7 victory in the Division 4 title game at Ford Field.

Edwardsburg has one other MHSAA title to its credit – the girls volleyball team won Class C in 1977.

“This is a huge moment for the program,” Edwardsburg coach Kevin Bartz said. “Last year was more of a surprise. Beating a good River Rouge team, we were just happy to be here. They were more focused this year and not getting involved with all of the hoopla.”

Edwardsburg defeated River Rouge, 32-21, in a Semifinal last season and then lost to Grand Rapids Catholic Central, 42-31, in the Final. Last week, the Eddies avenged that defeat, downing GRCC 46-44 in overtime in their Semifinal matchup.

The Eddies (14-0) entered this championship game averaging 48.5 points per contest this fall and had scored 196 during the playoffs. But Chelsea (10-4) was up to the task early, and its defense gave the team a chance at winning would have been its first football championship as well.

But an underrated unit is Edwardsburg’s defense. The Eddies have five shutouts to their credit this season, and their defense kept this game close until the offense got untracked.

 “You hear a lot about our offense,” Bartz said, “but it was our defense that won the game.”

Mistakes, a missed field goal attempt and a failed fourth down try kept the scoring to a minimum in the first half.

Chelsea stopped an Edwardsburg try for a first down on 4th-and-1 at the Eddies’ 34, but the Bulldogs couldn’t take advantage of the fine field position as Bryce Blue intercepted a Chelsea pass in the end zone.

That turnover set up Edwardsburg’s lone touchdown of the first half, as Caden Goggins scored from five yards out. Isaiah Mitchell’s conversion run gave the Eddies an 8-0 lead with 1:53 left in the first quarter.

Chelsea came back on the next possession and scored on a four-yard touchdown pass from Quinn Starkey to Hunter Neff, who made a one-handed catch in the left corner to complete the play. Starkey was 3-of-3 passing for 50 yards on the 64-yard drive.

The teams exchanged turnovers in the middle of the second quarter, and Chelsea couldn’t capitalize on a good scoring opportunity late. The Bulldogs drove from their 40 to the Edwardsburg 3, but a three-yard loss and an incomplete pass produced a bit of a dilemma for Chelsea coach Josh Lucas. He decided to go for the short field goal from the 6, but it missed to the right with 20 seconds left. Edwardsburg clung to an 8-7 lead at the break.

There were just two possessions in the third quarter, and only Edwardsburg made good on its opportunity.

The Eddies took the second half kickoff and drove 83 yards in 12 plays. Mac Gaideski, on his only carry of the drive, scored on a five-yard run. Quarterback Tre Harvey’s conversion run gave Edwardsburg a 16-7 lead with 6:39 left.

Chelsea used up the rest of the quarter, but its drive stalled at the Edwardsburg 32, and third and fourth down passes were incomplete.

Edwardsburg’s first drive of the fourth quarter didn’t produce any points, but it was just what Bartz wanted. His team burned 6:31 off the clock and pinned the Bulldogs on their 15.

Chelsea did not make a first down on its next drive, and the Eddies put the game away as Harvey ran five yards around right end for a touchdown and a 22-7 lead with 3:10 left.

“I came back with a vengeance this year,” Harvey said. “I wanted it. (Chelsea) came out strong in the beginning. They’re a good team. We preach playing strong in the third and fourth quarters. We definitely wear teams down.”

Edwardsburg rushed for 382 yards on 50 carries. The Eddies did not complete a pass in two attempts, but that’s not unusual for a T-formation team that prefers physicality at the line of scrimmage over big pass plays.

“The running backs deserve the credit,” Harvey said. “They’re the ones carrying out the fakes.

“We came in here not so much in awe as last year. I might have stared at the ceiling here too much a year ago.”

Goggins led Edwardsburg with 125 yards on 15 carries, and Chase Segar had 119 yards on 14 attempts.

For Chelsea, Starkey was 16-of-27 passing for 178 yards and one touchdown. The Bulldogs were held to 69 rushing yards.

“All of the credit goes to the line,” Sager said. “They made the holes. We had a mindset after last year. We weren’t used to the atmosphere then. I think now people will know where Edwardsburg is (located). We’re making them pay attention.”

Edwardsburg is located in the southwest part of the state, by the way.

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Edwardsburg celebrated earning its first MHSAA Finals championship in any boys sport Saturday at Ford Field. (Middle) Eddies linebacker Drew Bidwell brings down a Chelsea ball carrier.

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.)