Sailors spoil Czerwon’s debut
By Mark Lewis
Local Sports Journal
MUSKEGON – The stage certainly was set for drama Thursday night at historic Kehren Stadium as two long-time rivals, host Muskegon Catholic Central and Mona Shores, faced off for the 50th time in as many seasons.
The storylines were practically bursting at the seams: MCC’s Steve Czerwon, taking over head coaching duties from Mike Holmes (the school’s first coaching change in 25 years); Mona Shores’ head coach, Matt Koziak, unable to coach his team from the sidelines due to a two-game suspension from the Michigan High School Athletic Association resulting from a minor recruiting violation; and the big school (Division 2 Mona Shores) versus the little school (Division 8 Muskegon Catholic) dynamic.
But in the end, it all came down to the visiting Sailors’ performance in the second half, as they scored the final 18 points to win 25-16 after falling behind 16-7 just prior to halftime.
“We made some adjustments (at halftime),” said Shores assistant coach Todd Conrad, who coached the squad in Koziak’s stead. “Our defensive line is very inexperienced and they saw a lot of things they haven’t seen before. The kids lowered their pad level, the linebackers kind of dialed it in, and that’s what led to our success in the second half.”
On the game’s first drive, the host Crusaders looked like the MCC of old, putting together a dominating 11-play drive, chewing up five minutes of the clock with a mixture of tackle traps and up-the-gut blasts that culminated in an eight-yard TD run by junior back Tommy Scott. Catholic was helped by a late-hit by Shores on the drive’s sixth play, helping to move the ball down to Sailor 21.
Then, Shores hurt its own cause on its first drive. After going three-and-out, punter Asantay Brown accidentally downed the ball attempting to receive the snap, giving MCC the ball on the Sailor 13. Eight plays later, and despite working the ball down to the Sailor one (and then committing two penalties), the Crusaders had to settle for a 28-yard field goal to give the home squad the 10-0 lead.
The vaunted Sailor offense final put together a scoring drive mid way through the second quarter. Set up by sweep around the right end by sophomore Hunter Broersma that picked up 57 yards, Brown took a misdirection handoff around the left end for the 27-yard score. Catholic led 10-7 .
If you thought the Crusaders’ first scoring drive was old school, it’s second, starting with 7:47 remaining in the half, traveled 70 yards in 14 plays, and was capped with an 11-yard QB keeper from Nick Holt around left end to make it 16-7, where the scored stayed at the break after the PAT snap was mishandled.
“The first half went about as good as it could’ve for us,” said Czerwon. “We possessed the ball, we sustained drives, and we kept the ball away from them, which was something we knew we’d need to do.”
“I knew all we had to do was get our offense the ball more often,” said Conrad. “(Catholic’s) last drive in the first half, they ran us over for eight minutes and punched it in and did exactly what they wanted to do. I knew if we could just get the ball back in our quarterback’s hands, and let him get the ball where it needs to be, we’d be OK.”
And they were OK in the second half, as junior quarterback Tyree Jackson started to get into rhythm right out of the gate, going 4-for-5 on the Sailors first drive of the second half, and culminating with a 27 yard Jackson-to-Marquon Sargent TD strike to make it, after a failed extra-point try, 16-13.
After a Catholic punt, the Sailors took their second drive 80 yards in 12 plays, giving the Crusaders a bit of their own medicine. While junior DeOntay Moffett did most of the work on the ground, Jackson went 6-for-6, hitting a variety of receivers on bubble screens and quick flat passes, finally connecting with senior Logan Smith from 29 yards away to make it, after the extra point was blocked, 19-16 Mona Shores.
The Sailors final score came with under eight minutes left in the game. Brown briefly excited the Sailor faithful with a 90-yard punt return that was called back due to an illegal block call. But Shores fans wouldn’t have to wait very long to cheer again, as Broersma took an option pitch from Jackson around left end and down the east sideline 86 yards for the score.
“Shores had success running the ball, and we were concerned, quite frankly, about their slant pass. So we were willing to give them the bubble (screen pass) and they were getting big chunks with it. They run that with such great efficiency and it proved to be the difference.”
Without Koziak on the sidelines, one might suspect his absence may account for the squad’s tentative start, though Conrad said the team, not the coaches, must execute the game plan.
“Our leadership on both sides of the ball really stepped up in the second half,” said Conrad. “Ultimately, the coaches can’t go out and play for them, and our kids know that. Tyree Jackson is a three-year starter, and he took control in the second half, Cody Snider is a three-year starter at safety, and he took control in the second half on defense. The leadership on both sides of the ball made the difference.”
* Note: due to a pressbox error, game stats for this contest will be provided as they are received.