Whiteford Scores 1st Title with Epic Offense

November 24, 2017

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

DETROIT – Next time, no one will leave Ottawa Lake Whiteford out of the conversation.

It wasn’t like the Bobcats felt overlooked. But coming into this season’s Division 8 playoffs, it was pretty easy to pencil in four-time reigning champion Muskegon Catholic Central to win again.

Then, when the Crusaders lost to 12-time champion Mendon in the Regional Finals, the Hornets assumed the status as favorites – while on the other side of the bracket, reigning runner-up Whiteford continued building a run historic both locally and statewide.

“Everybody kinda knew Muskegon (CC) was the favorite going in, and Mendon beating them, that was a big win,” Bobcats senior lineman Lucas Tesznar said. “But we knew what we had. We knew we were talented. We just had to play our game every game, and good things would happen.”

And they experienced the best Friday – the first MHSAA football championship in school history, with a 42-21 win over previously-undefeated Saginaw Nouvel to kick off the weekend at Ford Field.

Last year’s trip to the Division 8 Final was Whiteford’s first appearance in an MHSAA title game in this sport.

The Bobcats lost to MCC 35-6, but a year later left the field having scored 737 points this fall – tied for second most in one season with Beal City’s 2013 team – to average 52.6 per game, tied with the Aggies for ninth-most all-time.

Whiteford finished 14-0, winning all of its games by at least 16 points. It’s 27-1 over the last two seasons and 37-4 over the last three.

“Four years ago if you would’ve told me we were going to be in back-to-back states, and win it my senior year, I wouldn’t have believed you,” Tesznar said. “It wasn’t just us. It was the whole community. Everybody around us just pushed us to get better, and the support was non-stop. It was just amazing.”

Whiteford put nonstop pressure on Nouvel, starting with the opening kickoff – an onside bouncer recovered by Bobcats senior quarterback Thomas Eitniear, the first successful onside kick to open an MHSAA Final since Spring Lake succeeded against Jackson Lumen Christi in the 2000 Division 5 game.

Two plays later, Eitniear ran 37 yards to put his team on the board. By the end of the first quarter, junior Logan Murphy had added two running scores to push the Bobcats’ advantage to 20-0. Eitniear ran for another four minutes into the second quarter to make the score 28-0 and give Whiteford all of the offense it would need for the day.

The Bobcats gained 484 yards, with Eitniear running 10 times for 129 and three touchdowns and throwing for 143 on 7 of 11 passing. Murphy had 126 yards rushing and three scores as well.

They succeeded behind an all-senior line anchored by the 6-foot-5, 285-pound Tesznar. He was joined up front by Jordan Book, Jacob Lewis, Alex Kohler, Jarret Atherton and tight end Matthew Taylor.

“We work every day in practice, just to get better each and every day. But I’m not surprised … our o-line has worked as hard as they can all year,” Eitniear said. “That whole offense is all based on them. All of that is all them.”

Nouvel had a tougher time stopping the Bobcats’ attacking defense, which had 11 tackles for losses including four sacks by junior Ian Slick and two by Taylor. Whiteford didn’t allow more than 22 points in a game this season, an impressive feat that got lost a little behind all of the accomplishments on offense.

Senior Tate Hausbeck threw for 175 yards and two touchdowns on 11 of 26 passing for Nouvel (13-1), with senior Ken Kujawa catching both scoring tosses. Junior Joshua Kuligowski added a score on the ground. Senior Alex Wrobel led Nouvel with 14 tackles, and Kujawa had 10.

“All the looks we had out there were pretty much what we planned for. When you’re playing against a good football team, you’ve got to make some plays, try to find a way to make plays,” Nouvel coach Mike Boyd said. “I thought at times we moved the ball extremely well. I think probably when we reflect on things, we’ll see some opportunities that got away from us. They got a lot of pressure on Tate, and if we had more from a protection standpoint we might have had some big plays out there.” 

Whiteford coach Jason Mensing talked after of the support his program has received from various groups in the community since he and his staff took over six years ago – and how all of it has made a difference as the Bobcats have continued to rise.

On their way back to Detroit, they found what they needed to climb one step more and finish as the last Division 8 team standing.

“The chemistry this year was just so amazing. Everybody got along with each other, and it was just a family. I think that’s what put us over the top,” Tesznar said. “We put Whiteford on the map, and it’s amazing. I think we all wanted a little revenge on Muskegon, but this feels just as good winning the state title.”

Click for the full box score.

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

PHOTOS: (Top) Whiteford's Logan Murphy rumbles into the end zone for one of his two touchdowns Friday. (Middle) Bradyn Clark-Gilmore holds on to a catch as Nouvel's Ken Kujawa wraps him up.

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.)