By Steve Gunn
Local Sports Journal

MUSKEGON – Based on the scores of its games this season, Muskegon Catholic seems more than ready for a stiff challenge from a tough opponent.

And Detroit Country Day, which visits MCC on Friday, is still a pretty darned good team.Shoreline football instory art

It may not seem that way to the casual observer. Country Day, a traditional state power, is not having its best season, posting a 4-3 record to date.

But Muskegon Catholic Coach Steve Czerwon isn’t fooled.

He’s quick to point out that Country Day has been beaten by two defending state champions – Zeeland West and Birmingham Brother Rice – while a third loss came against Detroit Loyola, a state runner-up last season.

If anything the Yellowjackets will be more dangerous than ever, because their three losses have left them in danger of missing the state playoffs. They need to beat MCC and win their last game to guarantee a postseason bid.

Missing the playoffs would be painful for a program that won three state titles in the 1990s and was a state runner-up in 2007, 2008 and 2012.

And as Czerwon noted, Country Day is one of only three schools to have an overall winning record against MCC. The Yellowjackets have taken 4-of-7 from the Crusaders over the years, with the last meeting being a 34-27 Country Day victory in 2009.

“We know about (Country Day), we’ve watched film,” said Czerwon, who was at the Pontiac Silverdome to watch MCC lose to Country Day in the 1986 Class C state championship game. “They have 11 quality athletes on both sides of the ball.”

The same is obviously true for the Crusaders, the defending Division 8 state champions who come into Friday’s game with a 7-0 record.

After a tough opening week victory against Columbus (Ohio) Bishop Hartley (24-14), MCC has rolled past Muskegon Heights 70-28, Ludington 54-0, Spring Lake 49-0, Fruitport 56-7, Fremont 55-7 and Orchard View 49-14.

Some observers have been a bit surprised by MCC’s weekly domination. Everyone knew the Crusaders would be good, but some thought they would be challenged in their first year in the Lakes 8 Conference, which is comprised of much larger schools, including several traditional football powers.

That obviously never occurred.

“Some of the teams we beat were quality teams,” said Czerwon, whose team wrapped up the Lakes 8 title last week. “Sometimes you start rolling and things just go your way.

“It would be good to get a good game. We definitely want that.”

That doesn’t mean Czerwon thinks his team is performing at peak level. He said the Crusaders had too many penalties, too many turnovers, and a tough time running the ball last week at Orchard View.

“I don’t know if that was our worst game of the year, but Orchard View gave us some problems,” said Czerwon, who added that MCC’s top goal is to win every game and secure home field advantage for as many playoff games as possible.

“They forced us to throw the ball a lot more than we usually do. But it was good for our team. It was good to find out we can throw the ball effectively when put in that situation.”

They are running backs Tommy Scott (943 yards, 1

The running game is clearly MCC’s bread and butter. The Crusaders have five runners who have accumulated at least 100 yards on the ground this fall. 7 touchdowns), Blake Sanford (346 yards and three touchdowns), LaTommy Scott (356 yards, four touchdowns) and Logan Helton (175 yards, two touchdowns); along with quarterback Nick Holt, who has 640 rushing yards and 11 TDs.

Overall they have outrushed opponents 2,553-661.That’s a big reason they’ve outscored opponents 357-70.

Detroit Country Day is not the only strong team on the tail end of MCC’s schedule.

The Crusaders will renew acquaintances with their old rival Ravenna next week, in the first meeting between the two schools since 2005. The Bulldogs are 6-1 heading into this week’s game with Whitehall.

The series with Ravenna dates back to 1990, and the Crusaders won 11 times between that year and 2005. But there have been several classic games between the teams, including a 34-33 MCC victory in four overtimes in 1990.

“It’s always good to have quality games at the back of the schedule, as long as we come out healthy,” Czerwon said. “We’ve been telling the kids a little bit about our history with Country Day and Ravenna. They know what’s at stake.”