By Mark Lewis
Local Sports Journal
MUSKEGON – Although he had yet to ascend to the head coaching position, first-year Muskegon Catholic head coach Steve Czerwon remembers something about last year’s district title game versus Fowler.
“They were extremely tough to score on,” said Czerwon, who assisted now-retired Mike Holmes in last year’s 14-0 victory.
One year later, Czerwon and his Crusaders get another crack at the 8-2 Eagles, who travel to Catholic’s Holmes Field at Karen Stadium Friday night to battle for the district title.
MCC enters the game with an identical 8-2 record.
As last year’s low point total showed, the Eagles, said Czerwon, are well prepared to face a team like the Crusaders.
“They will stack the box trying to stop the run,” he said. “But they can also play a 4-3 (defense) if a team comes out in the spread.”
And yet, don’t let the low score of last year’s game deceive you into thinking MCC was completely shut down. The Crusaders did roll to 327 total yards, with MCC running back Alex Lewandoski rushing for a game-high 154 yards, including a 70-yard score early in the second half.
Lewandoski returns, as does junior back Tommy Scott, who ran for 74 yards last year against the Eagles, while junior signal caller Nick Holt, who can bite a team from the air and the ground, takes over the reins from the graduated Zach Campell.
The Eagles’ offense, which is based off the I-formation, is led by two running backs named Austin – Austin Cook and Austin Feldpausch. Cook eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark this season.
QB Mason Miller can be an effective short-range passer.
Although many were surprised last year’s Fowler defense could hold MCC to just 14 points, for its part the Crusader defense was nearly impenetrable, holding the Eagles to just 170 total yards.
This year’s Crusader defense, particularly the D-line (Michael Caughey, Jaeden MacPherson, Jacob Holt and Ian Tyler) is every bit as stingy as last year’s team.
Czerwon dismisses the notion that because his team has been so dominant, it’s ripe for a letdown.
“With this team,” he said, “there is just no sign of that. Look at the way they played against Traverse City St. Francis (in Week 9, a 42-0 win). We had already secured a playoff spot, and probably a home playoff game. But that didn’t stop us. We played hard. I don’t think that will change this week.”
If the Crusaders do make it past the Eagles, a rematch with Mendon, whom Catholic dismissed 28-6 in last season’s regional final game, could be in the cards.
When asked how head coaching a playoff team differs from being an assistant, Czerwon said the scope of responsibility broadens.
“You’re in charge of the whole team’s mindset,” he said. “You set the plan for the week. It’s my job to make sure the emotions of the whole team are right, that everyone is focused on the next game.”
Then he added with a laugh, “Besides that, it pretty much the same.”