Moyes’ memories bring back classic football state final moments, makes his state championship picks

By  Jim Moyes
Local Sports Journal

Ok – So we will not have four state champions this year but why get greedy?  How many municipalities in this state can brag of two teams with even a chance to play for a state title? Only Grand Rapids and Detroit can boast of a pair to compete with our little burg.

Incredibly, this will be the 13th time since the playoffs were founded for high school football back in 1975 that we have more than one team play on the same weekend for a state title.

It will also mark the fourth time that the Big Reds and Crusaders have appeared in the big show in the same year dating back to 1986.

1986 was the year that Muskegon’s little ‘Smurfs’ shocked the state when they completely shut down heavily favored Sterling Heights Stevenson.

The next game played at the spacious Pontiac Silverdome saw MCC lose a game that many present thought was taken away from them when a possible offensive pass interference call against Detroit Country Day, on the last play of the game, was never called.

The next two times the Crusaders and Big Reds made the same trip to the Motor City area produced much more favorable results.  On Friday afternoon of November 24, 2006, Muskegon needed a miraculous play by Ronald Johnson, stripping the ball from a Warren DeLaSalle receiver to preserve a 32-30 victory and complete a 14-0 perfect season.

Muskegon Catholic needed no last second heroics the following morning as they completely outclassed Grass Lake 35-6.

And naturally, no knowledgeable Muskegon area fan will ever forget, not only Muskegon and Muskegon Catholic winning it all in 2008, but they were joined as state champions by Montague and Oakridge.

The two teams MCC & Muskegon will face Friday during the scheduled 10:00 AM and 1:00 PM kickoff are certainly no strangers to state finals competition, Beal City and Birmingham Brother Rice.

MCC’s opponent, Beal City, who they will face to jump start the state finals at Friday’s early 10:00 AM start, will be playing in the championship game for the second straight year and 7th overall, with state titles in 2009 and 1994.

Most people will best remember Beal City for being the hometown of former Michigan governor John Engler. However my favorite Beal City alumnus was a former Central Michigan University classmate from more than a half-century ago by the name of Donald Schmidt.

Schmidt was a hunk of a man who was a standout on the Chippewa Football teams from 1959-61 and was extremely well liked by all.

I remember taking ROTC with big Don during my brief tenure at CMU, in addition to watching Schmidt star on the gridiron at Old Alumni Field. Don later entered the US Army where he earned the rank of Captain and was eventually deployed to Vietnam.

I too was in Vietnam but I was much more fortunate than the big hearted and brave graduate from tiny Beal City High School.

Sadly, Captain Donald Schmidt gave the ultimate sacrifice and was killed in action in Vietnam in June of 1966, seven months after I returned to the good ole USA.

The Detroit papers will be full of stories on the legacy of Brother Rice’s coach Al Fracassa, who will be coaching his last game for his Warrior football game.

I’m as sentimental a guy as there is in this business but sentimentality goes right out the window when it’s a contest against one of my Port City teams.

But what a story line — The state’s all time winning football coach, working his last game, against the state’s highest winning program, the Muskegon Big Reds.

And now for the ‘ole’ announcers final predictions for this exciting 2013 prep season:

Division 2:  Muskegon vs. Birmingham Brother Rice:

You can bet Muskegon will be well aware of the multiple gadget plays that Fracassa has in his bag of tricks after last year’s game winning TD claimed the state title for the Warriors and handed Muskegon their only loss in a state final game.

While awaiting the start of my first broadcast of a state final back in 1980 I remember Brother Rice pulling off a trick play in the state Class A Final against Dearborn Fordson. The quarterback, former MSU standout QB Dave Yarema, threw a lateral pass to the far sidelines that took a perfect one bounce skip to his receiver.

While all the Fordson players stopped dead in their tracks, believing the bounced pass was simply an incompletion, the receiver fired a pass down field to a streaking wide-open Brother Rice player who raced into the end zone for an apparent touchdown.

But wait —- one of the officials working the game had blown his whistle making the play dead. At the post game press conference Fracassa showed a real touch of class in defending the embarrassed official who had blown the call.

“Don’t blame the official on that call but blame me,” I recalled Fracassa saying to the media. “It was my job to inform the officials before the game to be alert to any trick plays and I didn’t do that,” said the nation’s fifth leading all time high school coach in wins.

Some six centuries back in time Fracassa was second to Muskegon’s own Earl Morrall (He was actually maybe 4th on the depth chart) as a substitute quarterback at MSU back in the early 1950s.

I believe Fracassa’s team will also be second in scoring Saturday afternoon at the conclusion of the Division 2 state championship game. The Big Reds ruin a good story for my buddy Mick McCabe at the Free Press by upsetting the Warriors.

Division 8:  Muskegon Catholic vs. Beal City:

You can bet that Muskegon Catholic will have all the respect in the world for Don Schmidt’s alma mater when they collide Friday morning. MCC has over the year’s destroyed teams against schools of like enrollments but Beal City has certainly held their own.

This will be the fourth meeting between these two schools with MCC holding a 2-1 edge, the last game being the only game contested during the regular season just three years ago with MCC winning 41-27.

Beal City will be focused on stopping MCC’s Alex Levandowski, arguably the state’s premier D8 football player, but coach Steve Czerwon’s Crusaders have many other weapons that will pose problems for the Aggies.

I still stick with my call from one of my early Moyes’ Memories predictions that Muskegon Catholic will bring home their ninth state championship trophy in their 60th year of high school football.

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