Zeeland West Rumbles to Another Title

November 27, 2015

By Bill Khan
Special for Second Half

DETROIT — The Zeeland West offensive machine was in good hands the last three seasons with Casey Brinks directing the attack.

The Dux’ senior quarterback brought two teams to Ford Field during his varsity career, and ended it Friday night helping hoist a second MHSAA championship trophy.

West scored its first of five touchdowns with 35 seconds left in the first quarter and didn't let up from there, pounding its way to a 40-14 victory over Flint Powers Catholic for a fourth championship in 10 years.

"That one (in 2013) was really fun, but this one to me is a lot better, just being a senior and it's my last year," Brinks said. "To end my football career playing on a state championship team in Ford Field is amazing."

Brinks was the starting quarterback as a sophomore when West won its last title, throwing for one touchdown and running for another in a 34-27 victory over DeWitt in the Division 3 championship game. He also led West to the Semifinal round a year ago.

Brinks was one of three Dux who played in the 2013 championship game, the others being running back Dakota Geurink and lineman Zach VanValkenburg. Geurink ran 14 times for 71 yards and a touchdown Friday. VanValkenburg had two sacks among three tackles for losses.

With his team facing fourth-and five near the end of the first quarter, fullback Darius Perisee scored on an 8-yard run for the opening touchdown and then added a 2-point conversion run. He was the top gainer for West's powerful T offense, finishing this season with 1,982 yards and 30 touchdowns rushing.

Brinks doesn't pass often but he was highly effective when he did. He finished 4 for 4 for 103 yards, with three straight completions on the team’s third possession. Tyler Thompson capped that drive with a 5-yard touchdown run, then added a 2-point run to make it 16-0 with 4:03 left in the second quarter.

Powers (11-3) drove to the West 18 late in the first half, only to be denied on the final play before halftime when Brinks picked off a pass in the end zone. He also had an interception in the third quarter, playing defense for only the second time this season.

"I played defense last week for the first time," said Brinks, who ran five times for 45 yards and a touchdown. "Otherwise, I didn't play defense. It was nice to play. Mostly in the playoffs, we've been playing running teams. We've played two passing teams the past two weeks."

West came into the game running the ball 94 percent of the time and averaging 8.6 yards per carry. Even though Powers knew what was coming, the Chargers were unable to stop the Dux’ power-running attack.

Powers did get a huge stop when Reese Morgan caught Brinks for no gain on fourth-and-three from the Chargers' 5-yard line on the first series of the game, but West went on to score on its next five drives before running out the final 3:55 on its final possession.

"It's just a very deceiving offense they run," Morgan said. "It's hard to know who has the ball."

The Chargers nearly turned the momentum from that first defensive stop into a scoring drive of their own, marching down to West's 14-yard line on their first possession. On fourth-and-one, however, quarterback Noah Sargent came up inches short of a first down with 4:53 left in the first quarter.

"That was tough, but you can't say we lost the game on one play," said Sargent, who ran 17 times for 89 yards and a touchdown while going 12 for 19 for 158 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions through the air. "You've got to play the whole game."

Powers got on the board on the first possession of the second half, scoring on a 15-yard run by Sargent, but a 2-point run by Morgan was stopped by Riley Brinks. With West cashing in on all five of its 2-point conversion tries, the Chargers couldn't afford to miss theirs.

West (14-0) responded with a 13-play, 80-yard march that ended on a 4-yard run by Geurink with 3:14 to go in the third quarter. Following Casey Brinks' second interception, West built its lead to 32-6 on a 2-yard run by Thompson with 10:36 to go in the game.

Luke Brcic caught a 35-yard touchdown pass from Sargent and threw a 2-point conversion to Morgan with 7:28 remaining, getting Powers within 32-14, but Aaron Sleeman recovered the onside kick for the Dux.

Four plays later, West capped the scoring on a 39-yard run by Casey Brinks and Perisee's third 2-point run with 5:13 remaining.

Geurink picked off a pass with 3:55 remaining, and West was able to run out the rest of the clock and celebrate another championship.

"We've won four," West coach John Shillito said. "They're all different, but this one might have been the most complete on both sides of the ball. It's maybe not the deepest team, because we were playing a lot of guys two ways. I looked out there and we looked a little tired at times, because it's warm in here. It's maybe not the deepest (team), but the guys on the field were probably the best we've had."

West was able to score 40 points against a Powers team that had a school-record six shutouts, allowing only 21 points over its first four playoff games.

"I really just figured we had to score every time we had the ball, because no one has really stopped them all year," Powers coach Bob Buckel said. "Playing them, you start doing things you're uncomfortable doing, because you don't want to turn the ball over to them." 

Thompson ran 16 times for 117 yards and two touchdowns to lead a West ground attack that had 318 yards and five touchdowns on 55 carries.

Matt Wiskur caught five passes for 70 yards, while Morgan ran 13 times for 61 yards for Powers. Both of them had brothers on the Chargers' 2011 Division 5 championship team. 

Click for the full box score.

The MHSAA Football Finals are sponsored by the Michigan National Guard.

PHOTOS: (Top) Darius Perisee breaks free for yardage in leading the Zeeland West rushing attack Friday. (Middle) The Dux hoist a championship trophy for the second time in three seasons.

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.)