Muskegon Catholic powers by previously undefeated New Lothrop; heading to Ford Field with Division 8 state title on the line

By John Jarvi

Local Sports Journal

GREENVILLE – The weather conditions favored playing it simple on offense, and the Muskegon Catholic Central Crusaders did just that on Saturday.

Alex Lewandoski starts the scoring with a break away dash to the end zone Saturday versus New Lothrop. Photo/Tim Reilly

Alex Lewandoski starts the scoring with a break away dash to the end zone Saturday versus New Lothrop. Photo/Tim Reilly

The Crusaders relied on a controlled offense featuring a full-house “T” formation on many occasions and rolled over the previously unbeaten New Lothrop Hornets 45-14 in a Division 8 semifinal game of the Michigan High School Athletic Association football playoffs.

A gusty wind and occasional blowing snow with temperatures in the low 20-degrees also favored the decision by MCC Coach Steve Czerwon.

“With the weather conditions, we can pack it in and play a power game,” said Czerwon. “We just packed it in, and it was good enough today.”

Good enough meant the Crusaders jumped ahead 21-0 in the first quarter and barely bothered looking back.

The MCC defense dogged Div. 1 college recruit Amari Coleman all day. Photo/Tim Reilly

The MCC defense dogged Div. 1 college recruit Amari Coleman all day. Photo/Tim Reilly

MCC, now 11-2 for the season, rolled up 22 first downs with 21 on rushing plays, never attempted a pass and controlled the ball for 33:52. The Crusaders did what they had to do, and usually did it very successfully. Catholic’s offense rolled for a net 397 yards in 68 tries.

Now Muskegon Catholic will play former foe Beal City in Friday’s Division 8 state championship game at 10 a.m. in Detroit’s Ford Field. Beal City advanced by beating Crystal Falls Forest Park 34-18 in the other semifinal.

Beal City beat Muskegon Catholic 14-7 in the Division 8 semifinals in 2009 after the Crusaders had won two games over three years against Beal City.

“I hear Beal City is undefeated and scored a lot of points,” Czerwon said. “We’ll get to work on it Sunday morning.”

MCC senior Ian Tyler scoops up the Coleman fumble and takes it for the score. Photo/Tim Reilly

MCC senior Ian Tyler scoops up the Coleman fumble and takes it for the score. Photo/Tim Reilly

The Crusaders played well both ways. On offense, they controlled the tempo with their power running, led by Alex Lewandoski’s 261 yards in 34 carries for a 7.7 yards per carry average. Lewandoski also scored three touchdowns and had seven tackles on defense.

On defense, the Crusaders scored a first-quarter touchdown on a 30-yard fumble return by Ian Tyler and limited the Hornets to a net 53 yards rushing on 29 carries and only two pass completions in 12 tries for 81 yards.

Tyler’s touchdown turned a 7-0 Muskegon Catholic lead into a very fast start for the Crusaders. After Lewandoski scored the game’s first touchdown on a 53-yard run, Tyler scored his TD on the fumble return on New Lothrop’s first play from scrimmage after the kickoff.

MCC junior Nicholas Holt dives for the end zone versus Coleman. Photo/Tim Reilly

MCC junior Nicholas Holt dives for the end zone versus Coleman. Photo/Tim Reilly

“I think that fumble recovery for a touchdown was great,” Czerwon said. “It was important in establishing where we were at, and it demoralized them a little bit.

“Alex had over 260 yards rushing today. He made a good case he’s every bit as good as New Lothrop’s star — Amari Coleman.”

Coleman had 17 net yards rushing in 14 carries for the Hornets and scored New Lothrop’s first touchdown on a 56-yard second-quarter run with a pass reception. That came after  Muskegon Catholic already led 28-0. He added New Lothrop’s other score on a 7-yard run late in the second quarter.

Czerwon cited the play of Mickey Caughey and Nate Jones as linemen, and said “The whole offensive line was great. We steadily moved the ball, and those seven guys accomplished something great today.”

Catholic junior Blake Sanford soars for extra yards on a kickoff return. Photo/Tim Reilly

Catholic junior Blake Sanford soars for extra yards on a kickoff return. Photo/Tim Reilly

The Crusaders’ six touchdowns came on runs of 53, 4 and 46 yards by Lewandoski, a run of 4 yards by Nicholas Holt and a run of 37 yards by Tommy Scott, in addition to the fumble return by Tyler.

Griffin Seymour kicked all six extra points and a 24-yard field goal for Catholic. The Crusaders ran their season winning streak to 11 games after an 0-2 start and have scored 41 or more points in 10 of the 11 victories in Czerwon’s first season as head coach.

Muskegon Catholic will be trying for its ninth championship since the playoff system started in the mid-1970s. The Crusaders previously won state playoff titles in 2008, 2006, 2000, 1995, 1991, 1990, 1982 and 1980.

Junior Tommy Scott nabs the interception to close out the first half. Photo/Tim Reilly

Junior Tommy Scott nabs the interception to close out the first half. Photo/Tim Reilly

The Crusaders lost championship games in the finals in 2001, 1986 and 1981.

The route to a state championship game is well-established at Catholic.

“The expectation was there,” Czwerwon said.  “Your expectations (for the season) were what they are, and we’ve got a chance to play one more game.”

The failure to use a forward pass on offense rivaled a 1978 Muskegon Catholic victory. The Crusaders turned back the Mona Shores Sailors 27-0 that night and never attempted a pass in the game.

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