By Mike Mattson
Local Sports Journal
Beating state power Detroit Country Day is an impressive feat for Lamar Jordan and the Muskegon Catholic Central Crusaders.
“They were tough and they gave us a challenge,” Jordan, a senior linebacker, said after Friday night’s rout at Kehren Stadium. “We really needed that after the past couple of games in the Lakes 8. This was really important. We needed this win to gain our confidence even more going into the playoffs.”
The top-ranked Crusaders improve to 8-0 with the nonconference win and will face once-beaten Ravenna next week before the state playoffs begin for both teams.
MCC bolted to a quick 9-0 lead on a rainy, windy night and extended the margin to 16-0 at halftime. The Crusaders added a pair of fourth-quarter TDs to seal the shutout against Country Day (4-4), which will be fighting for a win against Milan and a possible at-large berth in the playoffs.
Nothing seemed to go right for the Yellowjackets, but Coach Dan MacLean gave most of the credit to MCC.
“They are very tough,’’ said MacLean, whose team was slowed by three turnovers. “They have all the things you want. They are a good team. They are solid all the way through. We knew they were. “
MacLean was just warming up.
“This is a very physical team,” MacLean said. “They play really good defense. They are very good on the line and the front seven.
“We just couldn’t get anything going all night. I thought early if we could have gotten a play things could have been different. But credit them. They did a very nice job playing defense.”
MCC coach Steve Czerwon also opted to keep star quarterback Nick Holt out of the game due to a sprained ankle suffered last week against Orchard View. Holt did his punting duties, but the MCC offense was under the direction of junior quarterback Christian Martinez, who stepped up in his first varsity start.
“It was fun,” said Martinez, who hooked up with Zack Winzer on a 79-yard touchdown pass play that broke the game open early in the fourth quarter.
“I felt like I could have done some things better. But overall I was kind of happy with my performance. It was a team effort. The line did most of it.”
MCC’s line play was dominant on both sides of the ball.
The Crusaders dominated in rushing yards (352-82), while MCC had a 445-203 advantage in total yards.
“Christian just did an outstanding job for his first varsity start,” Czerwon said. “He hit that big play to Winzer up the sideline. It really gave us momentum, put us up by another score, which gave us a lot more confidence going into the half.”
MCC running back Tommy Scott continued his stellar senior season by rushing for 231 yards on 26 carries. He opened the scoring on MCC’s second play from scrimmage with a 66-yard TD run off the right side of the line for a 6-0 lead.
Griffen Seymour, who had a rare miss on the PAT kick, booted a 22-yard field goal at the end of the first quarter as MCC took control early.
Country Day had 35 yards rushing and 75 total yards at the half.
“It was just a wonderful effort tonight out of the defense,” Czerwon said. “We knew if they were going to move the ball against they were going to have to be a little more pass oriented. I don’t think the conditions helped them at all tonight.”
Mobile Country Day quarterback Steve Mann completed 9-of-19 passes for 121 yards and a couple long connections. Mann, who was intercepted by MCC’s Jake Kimbrough, also led the Yellowjackets’ ground attack with 39 yards on 11 carries.
After a scoreless third quarter, MCC took advantage of a fumble recovery from Winzer. A 45-yard run by Scott set up a TD from Martinez, who plowed into the end zone from 2 yards out and a 23-0 lead at the 10:23 mark of the fourth quarter.
The Crusaders also put together an impressive 11-play, 80-yard drive to cap the night’s scoring. Senior Blake Sanford showed his speed and bolted 30 yards for the touchdown and final 30-0 count.
Martinez completed 3-of-7 passes with one interception.
Sanford and Logan Helton added 55 yards and 45 yards, respectively, in MCC’s ground attack.
Wide receiver Tristin Wiegers caught three passes for 81 yards to lead the Country Day offense.
Defensively, MCC linemen Jacob Holt led the way with nine tackles. Jaeden MacPherson and Nate Jones each added seven tackles and Jordan finished with six tackles and one sack. Freshman Peter Bartolameolli had the other fumble recovery for the Crusaders.
MCC will turn its attention to Ravenna next before starting its quest to defend last year’s state championship.
“Ravenna will always give you a physical game,” Czerwon said. “That is what they are known for. We know we will get another physical game. It’s another game that will prep us for the playoffs.”
MacLean, who lost his starting quarterback to injury earlier in the season, thinks the Crusaders have the talent to repeat as state champions.
“They are a good football team,” MacLean said. “I don’t know who in Division 8 is going to give them much of a challenge.”