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MHSAA Football Playoffs - State Semifinal Edition

It’s almost here! After the slate of games this week, some teams will be preparing for a state championship game at Ford Field Thanksgiving weekend! Also on tap this week is the inaugural 8 man championship game at the “Yooper Dome” on the campus of Northern Michigan University. That grounds crew will have to work fast to adjust the field to the proper dimensions for 8 man and have it turned around for an 11 man football game the following day between Iron Mountain and Ithaca. Practices for all the teams still standing have to be short and sweet while also getting plenty done because it gets dark much earlier now. Now, onto the games this week!

Inaugural 8 Man Title Game - North

Rapid River (11-1) vs. Carsonville-Port Sanilac (11-1) (Friday November 18, 7pm) (Superior Dome, Northern Michigan University)

When the playoffs began, I figured the winner of the Rapid River vs. Cedarville game would win the state title. Cedarville was beat by Engadine in the regional finals, which was beat by Rapid River in the semifinals. If you missed my recap from the regional finals that I posted on Tuesday, here is a quick recap. Rapid River quarterback Jake Pearson had a monster of a game. He completed five of his eight passes for 111 yards, one touchdown, and an interception. When he tucked and ran, which he did 16 times, he gained 112 yards and scored three times. On top of the rushing and passing, he caught an 11 yard touchdown pass. Running back Jake Berglund ran 28 times for 140 yards and a score while also catching one pass for an additional 38 yards. The Rockets line played very well in the game and dominated the line of scrimmage. That allowed them to execute the game plan. If they can dominate again this week, Rapid River will bring home the first official MHSAA sponsored state championship in 8 man football. Carsonville-Port Sanilac won in a decisive fashion to make the state finals. Although they won the “state championship” last year, it was not sponsored by the MHSAA, so it wasn’t official. In the game last week, they blasted Marine City Cardinal Mooney 47-0. All the points were scored in the first half. Quarterback Hayden Adams completed 16 of his 22 passes for 191 yards and four scored. He also scored a touchdown on a 57 yard scamper. The Tigers are led by Steven Koehler, who plays middle linebacker and offensive line. On the season, he has 140 tackles. He has also made 70 PATs this season. This game is for all the marbles, so expect both teams to come out and give it their best shot. It’s a game between the best 8 man team in the UP and the best in the LP.


Utica Eisenhower (11-1) vs. Detroit Cass Tech (9-3) (Division 1) (Saturday November 19, 1pm) (Troy Athens HS)

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It’s been eight years since the Eagles of Utica Eisenhower last won a regional championship. That year, they also won the semifinal, but lost the state title game to Detroit Catholic Central. With 2,825 students, they are the largest high school in the state. They won the Macomb Area Conference Red Division this year with a perfect 5-0 record in conference play. Last week, they beat Walled Lake Central 28-21 behind a fine game from quarterback Joe Zerafa. He completed 14 of his 22 passes for 228 yards and four touchdowns. Also, he ran four times for 25 yards and scored a rushing touchdown. Shane King was the leading rusher with 12 carries for 82 yards. Receiver Yousseff Bujaidar caught eight passes for 137 yards and two scores. Daniel Venditti caught two for 23 yards and a score while Alfonso Vultaggio also caught two, gained 54 yards, and scored as well. This should be a great game. Detroit Cass Tech has been very close to a state title game the past few seasons. This is their second consecutive state semifinal game. The team is full of fast guys who play great football. Many have committed to major colleges. It was a very close game against Warren DeLaSalle last week. In the end, they won 6-0. The big drive for Cass Tech was started late in the third quarter and finished with only 1:38 left in the game. Quarterback Campbell Jayru completed eight of his 16 passes for 143 yards. He also ran twice for four yards. Royce Jenkins-Stone ran 22 times, gained 67 yards, and scored the lone touchdown. Deon Drake ran 16 times for 43 yards. Coach Thomas Wilcher has his team playing very well and will be ready for the Eagles.


Mendon (12-0) vs. New Lothrop (12-0) (Division 8 ) (Saturday November 19, 1pm) (Howell HS)

These are two of the top programs in Division 8. Both have enjoyed a ton of success in recent years. New Lothrop hasn’t missed the playoffs since 1999 and are only five years removed from a state title. Mendon is four seasons removed from a state title and have played in the regional championship every season since. Heck, both teams are even called the Hornets! Last week, Mendon played Climax-Scots and rode running back Tyler Harris to victory. He scored four of his team’s five touchdowns and finished with 253 yards on 16 carries. He may only be 5’6” and 140 pounds, but he runs tough. On the season, he has 1,623 yards and 32 touchdowns. Quarterback Chance Nightingale completed one of his two passes for zero yards but ran nine times for 35 yards and the team’s other score. Cody Henckel caught that pass for no gain. Cody Bingaman led the defensive effort with 16 tackles and a sack. Kevin Kunlman and Cody Ross each chipped in 10 tackles. The Hornets are tough and this could be the state championship game if things had fallen a little differently. New Lothrop is enjoying another fantastic season. Last year, they rolled through the season without a blemish but lost in the district championship to Fulton Middleton. This year, they have put 622 points on the board while only surrendering 47. They gave up no points from the middle of September to late October while putting at least 56 points on the board in every game. They also had another shut out to give them six on the season. Last week, they shut out Petersburg Summerfield 21-0. Quarterback Austin Newman played pretty well. He completed only three of his nine pass attempts, but it gained 75 yards and he did toss a touchdown and an interception. When he ran, he gained 65 yards and scored a touchdown on his 13 attempts. Spencer Gross led the rushing attack with 15 runs for 95 yards and a score. Michael Mucha caught the lone touchdown pass and gained 55 yards on two receptions. Four different players made interceptions for the Hornets. This should be a big time showdown between two big time small schools for the right to play at Ford Field.

Capital Area

Grand Rapids West Catholic (10-2) vs. Lansing Catholic (12-0) (Division 5) (Saturday November 19, 1pm) (East Kentwood HS)

I love Division 5 football. It’s about the size for the school I played at. Division 5 is Class B schools with good football, but not the kind that sends players to major colleges year after year. Grand Rapids West Catholic is the defending D5 state champs. It will be a huge game for them, with a chance at a state title on the line. Last week, they played one of my favorite teams in the state, Menominee. The Falcons won the game 55-34. Quarterback Tommy Staskiewicz completed seven of his 14 passes for 160 yards, a touchdown, and two interceptions. He also ran the ball 19 times, gained 128 yards, and scored once. The workhorse was Jalin Faison who toted the rock 31 times for 205 yards and five touchdowns. Kyle O’Hearn caught six passes for 150 yards and a score. At one point in the Falcons scored 21 points in 1:10 after Menominee had closed the gap 28-20. This game will be awesome for the spectators. Lansing Catholic is, in my opinion, the best team in Division 5. One of the best players in the state is Lansing Catholic quarterback (and future Chippewa) Cooper Rush. He played lights out last week, breaking or tying four state records in their 61-13 win over Dowagic. Rush completed 21 straight passes for over 400 yards and hit on eight touchdown passes. For the game, he was 25 of 29 for 535 yards and ran twice for an additional 15 yards. Receiver Matt Macksood hauled in 11 passes for 312 yards and four touchdowns. Conor Bartlett caught six passes, gained 121 yards, and scored three times as well. Jack Swain caught four passes for 71 yards and a score. Leading the rushing game was Cedric Lee with 31 yards and the only rushing touchdown. Nine different players ran the ball for the Cougars. The records Rush set were 21 straight completions, eight touchdown passes in a game, five touchdown passes in a quarter, and seven touchdown passes in a half. That was a fantastic game for him and should give his team confidence going against the defending state champions.