By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Legacy Field in Greenville will welcome Friday two teams that have steamrolled the competition on the way to this season’s MHSAA 8-Player Final – and two of the most prolific offensive stars in the young history of the sport in this state.
Rapid River quarterback Jake Pearson will be making his second MHSAA Finals appearance, while Peck running back Cody Abrego also enters the season’s last game with more than 2,000 yards rushing.
Both will be added to the MHSAA and national record books when this season is done – and together with their teammates could make this championship game one of the most fast-paced score fests of this entire season.
Tickets for the 8-player Final cost $8. Can’t make the trip? Watch it live on FoxSportsDetroit.com, with live audio streaming on MHSAANetwork.com. Because of conflicts with collegiate and professional games, the game will be broadcast delayed on FOX Sports Detroit at 9 a.m. Saturday and again on Nov. 26 at 8 p.m. The on-demand video archive will be available shortly after the game’s conclusion at MHSAA.TV.
Here’s a look at the contenders:
Coach: Rob McDaniel, third season (20-11)
League finish: First in North Central Thumb 8-Man League
Championship history: Has never appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 61-38 and 73-34 (Semifinal) over Lawrence, 24-12 over Kinde-North Huron.
Players to watch: RB/CB Cody Abrego, 5-11/170, jr. (2,121 yards, 35 TDs rushing); RB/CB Caleb Dudley, 5-9/160, jr. (980 yards, 16 TDs rushing); QB/LB Tristen Haener, 6-3/210, sr. (54-98, 1,166 yards, 12 TDs passing).
Outlook: Peck is in its second season of 8-player football but had recent success in the 11-player game as well – the Pirates won 10 games in both 2001 and 2003 and made the playoffs three straight seasons from 2006-08. Their perfect run this fall has included a pair of wins apiece over 2011 MHSAA 8-player champion Carsonville-Port Sanilac and 2012 champion Deckerville. Abrego ran for 449 yards and seven touchdowns in last week’s Semifinal win over Lawrence, when Peck broke 70 points for the first time and 50 for the seventh. The 8-player game is generally more high-scoring than the 11-player format, but Peck’s defense is solid – the Pirates give up only 15 points per game and held half their opponents to single digits.
Coach: Steve Ostrenga, 15th season (82-66)
League finish: First in Bridge 8-Man Alliance
Championship history: MHSAA runner-up 2011.
Best wins: 45-28 over Cedarville, 74-42 over Bellaire, 40-8 over Kinde-North Huron in the Semifinal, 50-21 over Engadine in the Regional Final.
Players to watch: QB/LB Jake Pearson, 6-3/220, sr. (2,525 yards, 42 TDs rushing; 55-92, 1,009 yards, 15 TDs passing); RB/DB Pat Pryal, 5-10/155, sr. (791 yards, nine TDs rushing); FL/DB Mike Casey, 5-10/165, jr. (16 catches, 349 yards, five TDs receiving).
Outlook: Pearson has been incredible, adding 359 yards rushing, three touchdown runs and two touchdown passes in Rapid River’s Semifinal win. The Rockets are in the Final for the second time in three seasons, and Pearson threw touchdown passes for the team’s two scores in its 2011 championship game loss to Carsonville-Port Sanilac. Rival Cedarville, loser by only 17 points, came the closest to challenging Rapid River this season as the Rockets also were sound defensively giving up just under 20 points per game despite playing six during the regular season against eventual playoff teams.