By Adam Knorr
Local Sports Journal
MUSKEGON – On Saturday afternoon, Muskegon Catholic topped Harbor Beach 42-6 in a Division 8 semifinal matchup.
MCC (13-0) hasn’t been tested in its playoff run. In fact, the Crusaders haven’t had a win by fewer than four touchdowns since their season opener against Columbus Bishop Hartley – a 24-14 victory.
The Crusader offense and defense have been working as a steamrolling tandem for nearly three months now.
On Friday morning at 10 a.m., the Munising Mustangs will do their best to sabotage MCC’s effort to grab back-to-back state championships.
Munising (12-1) has rolled through its season in similar fashion to MCC. Following a loss in the opening week of the season, the Mustangs coasted to 12 consecutive wins – the majority being blowouts.
Munising’s lone test came in the semifinal game last week – a 10-7 escape against Beal City.
Ford Field awaits the two squads over Thanksgiving weekend. Despite the Crusaders’ sheer domination throughout the playoffs, MCC head coach Steve Czerwon does not envision any sort of letdown from his squad.
“Personally I fear it,” Czerwon said of the showdown with Munising. “But I don’t think the kids do. The kids have come out and they’re a very motivated group. They’ve come to play every game so far.”
Although the Crusaders post gaudy numbers each week, the team rarely throws downfield. Rather, MCC operates out of its tried and tested Wing-T offense, combining long runs with clock management.
Senior quarterback Nick Holt has been a fixture under center nearly all season for MCC, but a left ankle injury suffered in the Harbor Beach game leaves his status for Friday as uncertain.
If Holt is unable to play, junior Christian Martinez will man the controls for the Crusaders. Martinez effectively piloted the offense against Harbor Beach, also filling in for an injured Holt in games against Detroit Country Day and Ravenna earlier in the season.
Regardless of who stands under center, senior running back Tommy Scott will stand behind him. Scott, an explosive runner, carried the ball 24 times for 253 yards and two touchdowns behind a dominating offensive line in the semifinal game.
Senior Blake Sanford and sophomores Logan Helton and LaTommy Scott will help shoulder the load offensively for MCC as well. Sanford rushed for 58 yards and two scores on Saturday while Helton and LaTommy Scott combined for 70 yards and a touchdown.
“A lot of the stuff that Tommy and Nick and Blake do is due to the offensive line,” Czerwon said. “They’ve managed to open up some big holes.”
Sanford cites MCC’s versatility – and the squad’s competitive nature – as reasons he doesn’t fear a lapse in focus.
“We’re always hungry for wins,” he said. “Our defense is unstoppable – you can’t get past them. Our rushing attack is great and we can pass if we need to.”
Defensively, MCC is led by Jaeden Macpherson, Lamar Jordan and Jake Holt – the latter a key blocker in the Crusader’s offensive scheme as well.
“If you’re game planning against us it would give you some problems because of our size, strength and speed,” Czerwon said. “We give teams problems with the personnel that we have.”
MCC has not given up 14 points in a game since a 70-28 win against Muskegon Heights on Sept. 5. The Crusaders are allowing just over five points per game in their playoff run – surrendering no more than a touchdown in any game.
The Mustangs will counter with a similarly styled offense. Munising runs an I-formation offense, which is a run-centric attack that places an emphasis on time of possession.
Czerwon said he expects to see tailback Garrett Blank get a lot of touches for Munising. Blank rushed for 226 yards and one touchdown on 26 carries against Beal City.
“We got to do what we’ve been doing all year which is making defensive stops when we need to,” Czerwon said.
MCC brings 18 seniors with championship experience back to Ford Field. The Crusaders trumped Beal City 35-12 in the state final last year.