Shores' QB Stands Tall During 2-0 Start

September 6, 2017

By Tom Kendra
Special for Second Half

Muskegon Mona Shores certainly has a scary offense, with Division I college receiving prospects on the edges, two powerful running backs and a much-improved offensive line.

If only the Sailors had a taller quarterback.

If seventh-year Mona Shores coach Matt Koziak had a nickel for every time he’s heard some variation of that statement, he’d be an extremely wealthy man.

“People who say things like that don’t know Tristan Robbins,” Koziak said of his 5-foot-10, 173-pound senior quarterback in his second year as the starter. “He is tough, he is fearless and he is a leader – the guys rally around him. We are very happy with our quarterback.”

Robbins has come up big in two impressive wins – completing 7 of 11 passes for 137 yards and rushing for another 47 yards in a 41-23 win over Canton at the University of Michigan on Aug. 26, then turning around and completing 7 of 13 passes for 129 yards, with 90 yards rushing, in a come-from-behind, 42-20 win at Zeeland West last week.

Robbins has the chance to prove the doubters wrong again this Friday, in the first of two blockbuster home games on the Mona Shores schedule this fall.

Rockford, the perennial Ottawa-Kent Conference Red powerhouse, comes to the lakeshore this week, led by 6-5 senior quarterback Jason Whittaker, who has committed to continue his career at Northwestern University. On Oct. 13, the Sailors welcome cross-town rival Muskegon, the winningest program in state history, which features a Division I quarterback of its own in 6-2 senior La’darius Jefferson, who has verbally committed to sign with Central Florida.

Robbins is ready to rise to the challenge.

“I just go out there and do what I can with what I’ve been given,” said Robbins, the middle child and only son of Brent and Jane Robbins. “Our offense has been doing great so far. Now we get a home game and it should be a huge crowd, and that will just add to the excitement.”

Robbins was thrust into the starting role in last year’s opening game as a junior after senior starter Drew Switzer broke his collarbone in the preseason scrimmage. Robbins threw four interceptions as the Sailors struggled to a 1-3 start, which ultimately kept them out of the playoffs for the first time in three years. But since that rough beginning, Robbins has thrown 13 TD passes without a single interception, leading Shores to six wins in its last seven games.

“He has grown more and more comfortable in his role,” explains Koziak, who led Shores to the Division 2 championship game in 2015. “We rely on our quarterbacks to make a lot of reads, before the play and during the play, and he’s done a great job.”

Robbins follows in the footsteps of two standout, pro-style quarterbacks in Tyree Jackson (6-7), who is now the starting quarterback at the University of Buffalo, and Tyler Trovinger (6-1), the starting shortstop on the Oakland University baseball team.

Koziak said Robbins makes up for his lack of size with a series of intangibles.

•  First, Robbins is a 4.0 student whose intelligence pays dividends in a complicated offense.

Lining up almost exclusively in the pistol formation, Robbins triggers an offense which features a pair of Division I prospects at wideout in junior Damari Roberson (6-2, 190) and senior Keyshawn Summerville (6-0, 175). Charles Allen and Ke’Sean Sandifer are dangerous in the slot and senior Dee Davis and junior Sincere Dent have been a potent 1-2 punch in the backfield.

Who gets the ball on any given play depends largely on the position of the defense, explains Koziak, and the responsibility of reading the defense falls largely on Robbins.

•  Second, he possesses incredible leadership skills.

Understand that Robbins is far from a prima donna quarterback; he’s a wrestler in the winter and played rugby for the first time last spring (“I loved it,” Robbins explained). He regularly inspires his teammates by lowering his shoulder and “laying it out” for his team.

•  Third, and perhaps most importantly, what he lacks in size and/or pure athletic ability, he makes up for in an underrated category: grit.

Robbins’ true grit was on display at a critical moment of the Sailors’ victory at Zeeland West on Friday. Holding a slim 21-20 lead midway through the third quarter, Shores faced a crucial 4th-and-4 situation at the Zeeland West 16-yard line. After a timeout, Shores ran its outside veer, where Robbins had the ball with the choice of handing off to Dent, pitching wide to Allen or keeping it himself.

“The linebacker went right for (Dent) and I saw a little room and thought I could get it, so I kept it myself,” explained Robbins. “I was able to get around the corner and make it to the end zone.”

After opening the season with a 340-mile roundtrip to Ann Arbor and 88 miles back-and-forth to Zeeland last Friday, the unbeaten Sailors are expecting a packed house for their showdown with Rockford. This will be the fourth straight season the teams have played; the Rams hold a 2-1 edge in the recent series and won last year 37-23.

Adding to the excitement (and certainly the crowd size), Friday’s game will be the second “Sailor Salute” – a massive tribute to all of those who serve the country and their communities, complete with military responder vehicles, a U.S. Army Lakota Helicopter, 300 motorcycles, elementary students singing the national anthem on the field and even a pre-game performance by a U.S. Army rock band.

Robbins can’t wait to do his “small” part on what could be another huge night for the new-look Mona Shores football program, which made the playoffs for the first time since 2013 but has returned twice and posted four straight winning seasons.

“We do so much work and so much conditioning when no one else is around, which is no fun while you’re doing it, but it pays off on Friday nights,” said Robbins. “I can’t wait for Friday night.”

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 Mona Shores quarterback Tristan Robbins finds a crease during his team’s Week 1 win over Canton. (Middle) Robbins drops back to pass during that victory. (Photos courtesy of Muskegon Mona Shores High School.)

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.)