The 2018 Brandon Blackhawks football team exceeded everyone’s expectations this season and gave the whole community a year to remember. The season ended in a 22-15 district playoff loss to the South Lyon East Cougars in highly contested game that featured two very good and evenly matched teams. The Blackhawks went 8-1 this season winning the Flint Metro League Title for the first time since joining the league in 2002. The Blackhawks had their second 8 win season in three years after having just four previously since 1951. The Blackhawks have now reached the playoffs in four straight seasons for the first time in school history. The Blackhawks are 22-5 in the regular season the past three years and are eager to continue on their success.
The 2018 season saw the Blackhawks give league rival Fenton their first Flint Metro League loss since 2013 in the week one victory played at historic Atwood Stadium in downtown Flint as the marquee game of the Flint Vehicle City Gridiron Classic. Week two saw the Blackhawks beat cross-town rival Goodrich in convincing fashion with a 26-7 victory in our annual “Battle for the M-15 Milk Jug” This year’s game was even more special as two great communities came together to honor our fallen officer Deputy Eric Overall and raise over $6,000 for a scholarship fund in his honor. This game will continue to honor Deputy Overall and all of our local First Responders for years to come. The Blackhawks finished the regular season with 5 straight Flint Metro league victories including four straight games scoring over 50 points, a league win over Linden avenging 2017 losses to the Eagles, a sixth straight win over cross town rival Holly and a last second victory over Swartz Creek to capture the League Title.
The 2018 Brandon Blackhawks had the league’s number one offense scoring 397 points this season and averaging 40 points a game. The offense had over 4,600 yards this season averaging over 400 yards in every game this season. The hard hitting Blackhawks defense ranked third in points allowed this season.
Several Blackhawks players were recognized for their individual performances this year. The Blackhawks were well represented on this year’s All Flint Metro Football Teams. The All Flint Metro League team is voted on by the league coaches and is a great measure of respect by our opponents to make this team. Senior Captains Matt Hill and Mike Nicaj were both voted First Team All League Offense and Defense and were the only two players to receive this honor in the entire league. Hill was voted as an offensive and defensive lineman while Nicaj was selected as a running back and offensive lineman. For Nicaj he is just one of a handful of players in the 50 year history of the Flint Metro League to be named 1st team All League three years in a row. Junior defensive back Brendan McCluskey was named 1st team all league and also received second team all league honors for his slot receiver work on offense. McCluskey had over 1,000 all purpose yards and contributed 53 tackles and 1 interception on defense. Senior wide receiver Justin Bowman was the leading receiver this year in the Flint Metro with 447 yards and 8 touchdowns also earned 1st team recognition. Senior Captain and Quarterback Mathew Harrison who was one of the leading passers in the Flint Metro this season with 1,343 yards passing with 12 touchdowns was named to the 2nd Team All League Offense. Senior Offensive Tackle Ryan Coughlin joined Harrison receiving 2nd team recognition for his play this year. Senior Captain and Linebacker Jacob Irwin was selected 2nd team All League Linebacker and also received honorable mention recognition for his play at running back. Irwin finished his senior campaign with 78 tackles and 732 yards rushing, both of these totals were second highest on the team. Joining Irwin on the 2nd Team All League defense was Sophomore Defensive End Peyton Gulledge who recorded 36 tackles and 6 quarterback sacks on the season. Other Blackhawks receiving honorable mention recognition were senior offensive lineman Cooper Hickmott, senior defensive back Devin Krause, and sophomore Offensive Lineman Colton Leslie.
The Brandon Blackhawks most decorated players of 2018 were seniors Matt Hill and Mike Nicaj. In addition to their 1st Team all Offense and Defense recognition these two young men were recognized at the metro and state level by several media outlets. Matt Hill started a school record 41 straight games. Starting all 41 at left tackle without ever missing a snap, he also started several games at defensive tackle as well during this stretch. Matt led the defensive line group this season with 50 tackles. Offensively Matt has anchored the offensive line the past three seasons. During Matt’s last three seasons the offense has scored 1155 points and averaged 37.2 a game. The offense produced 11,863 yards including 4,596 yards this season alone. This year’s production had an eye popping 3,214 yards on the ground and included 44 rushing touchdowns. Matt is the only Blackhawk to play on four consecutive playoff teams. Matthew was selected to the MHSFCA All State Dream team voted on by the state’s coaches association. Matthew was also selected All State in Division 3 by the Detroit Free Press. Matthew was voted honorable mention All State by the Associated Press for their Division 3-4 All State team. Matthew was selected first team All Flint Area by the Flint Journal and received honorable mention in both the Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News for the All Metro North Teams (Oakland County).
Mike Nicaj dominated both sides of the ball during his senior campaign. Defensively this year Mike recorded 90 tackles, 6 sacks, 1 fumble recovery and one interception. For his career at Brandon where he started 31 straight games at Linebacker Mike compiled 265 tackles and 13 career sacks. In his first year as a starter on offense Mike was one of the leading rushers in the Flint Metro League and led the league in touchdowns. Mike rushed for 1277 yards on 141 carries averaging 9 yards a carry and scoring 21 touchdowns. Mike added another 278 yards receiving on 12 receptions and two more touchdowns. He totaled 1,555 yards of offensive production scoring 23 touchdowns while averaging ten yards every time he touched the ball. Mike received several post season honors for his play this season. Mike was named first team All State for Division 3 by the Michigan High School Coaches Association. Mike was named First Team All Flint Area by the Flint Journal. Mike was named Second Team All Metro North (Oakland County) by the Detroit Free Press. Mike was named honorable mention All State by both the Associated Press and the Detroit Free Press.
High academic achievement was celebrated once again this year by the Blackhawk football team. Justin Bowman, Ian Burke, Jacob Goethals, Mathew Harrison, Cooper Hickmott, Jacob Irwin, and Colton Leslie all received the Flint Metro Scholar Athlete Award as well as the Brandon School District Scholar Athlete Award for earning a 3.5 GPA or higher during an athletic season. Senior quarterback Mathew Harrison was named to the Honorable Mention All Academic All State team by the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association for maintaining a 3.9 GPA over the past four years and scoring very high on his SAT test. Senior offensive lineman Cooper Hickmott received the highest academic honor a high school football player can receive in the state of Michigan by being one of just twenty-two young men named to the All Academic All State Dream Team. Cooper has maintained a 4.2 GPA over his four years at Brandon and scored nearly a perfect score on his ACT test.
At the annual Football Banquet all team members received their varsity letters and pins as well as their League Championship patches. Team awards were also given out as Junior Brendan McCluskey was named the team’s most improved defensive player and Senior Wide Receiver Justin Bowman was named the team’s most improved offensive player. Senior Running Back Mike Nicaj was named the team’s most valuable offensive player and Senior Linebacker Jacob Irwin was named the team’s most valuable defensive player. Senior Matt Hill received the annual prestigious Blackhawk Award for representing what it most means to embody the spirit of the Brandon Blackhawks. Senior Captains Mathew Harrison, Matt Hill, Mike Nicaj, and Jacob Irwin all received special Captains pins as well. The Blackhawks League Championship Banner will be raised later this winter. The 2019 Blackhawks Football team will kick the season off next year on August 29th at Berkley High School.