By Mark Lewis
Local Sports Journal
MUSKEGON – Last week, the Muskegon Catholic Central were charged with stopping the potent Mendon ground game.
This week, trouble may come from the air.
The Crusaders draw the difficult job of holding the potent New Lothrop offense, which averages over 50 points per game, in check. And that won’t be easy, especially considering the Hornets’ roster contains Division 1 running back/receiver prospect Amari Coleman. Heading for Central Michigan next fall, Coleman has rushed for nearly 1,000 yards, has more than 225 yards receiving, and has combined for 27 touchdowns.
And chew on this: all five of Coleman’s punt return attempts have resulted in scores.
Muskegon Catholic head coach Steve Czerwon isn’t taking lightly Coleman’s game-breaking ability.
“He’s good, real good, and fast too,” said Czerwon. “He’s the kind of player that you have to always keep an eye on. We’ll know where he’s at at all times.”
Benefiting from the Crusaders’ added scrutiny on Coleman could be Hornets’ quarterback Ben Muron, who piled up 195 yards on the ground against Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes in the district finals. The Hornets’ spread option offense is perfect for the Coleman/Muron option combination, and teams that don’t remain disciplined will get scorched.
“It’s a case of playing to the whistle,” said Czerwon. “A lot of times, you’ll think you have Coleman or (Muron) down and give up on the play, and they bust off an extra 40 yards on you.”
Though the New Lothrop offense is formable, the Crusaders are no slouch in the stopping great players department. Starting with defensive linemen Michael Caughey, Jacob Holt, Ian Tyler and Jaeden MacPherson, the MCC defenders will have to adhere to their assignments and not get sucked into playing beyond their spots on the field.
And while the Hornets will put a lot of pressure on the Crusader defense, MCC’s offense certainly will put pressure on New Lothrop’s defense.
Led by junior quarterback Nick Holt and running back Alex Lewandoski, the Crusaders have accumulated a school-record 495 points. Juniors backs Tommy Scott and Blake Sanford offer the MCC offense additional backfield weapons, while tight end Tyler is a passing threat.
“Offensively,” said Czerwon, “we have to do what we do best and get the job done. Defensively, it’s been alignment and assignment all week. This is going to be a different game than the Mendon game. They are extremely well coached and they have a scheme that can get you into trouble very quickly.”
The Crusaders have fallen twice in the state semifinal game since the 2008 state title team, a streak Czerwon is hoping to break this time around.
“We’ve been disappointed the last two times we’ve made it this far,” he said. “We don’t want to be disappointed this time around. But that’s going to take a lot of work to happen.”
Saturday’s state semifinal game happens at Greenville High School. Kickoff is slated for 1 p.m.