By Mike Mattson
Local Sports Journal

MUSKEGON – Muskegon Catholic Central and Mendon are true heavyweights in Michigan high school football.

The two schools have combined to win 20 state championships (Mendon 11, MCC 9). History shows that they both know how to finish their playoff runs.Shoreline football instory art

So of course, plenty is at stake again when top-ranked MCC (11-0) and sixth-ranked Mendon (10-1) meet Saturday for the Division 8 regional championship. Kickoff at Kehren Stadium is 1 p.m.

“It will be a hard-fought game,” said MCC coach Steve Czerwon, whose Crusaders are the defending state champs. “Your season could be done if you don’t play well. I think the kids recognize the urgency involved and I’m sure their kids do too. Each team will give each other their best shot on Saturday.”

Watervliet handed Mendon its lone loss (18-13) in Week 3. It was not a fluke loss because Watervliet (10-1) is playing for a Division 6 regional title against Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian.

In the playoffs, Mendon routed Colon 49-8 and Climax-Scotts 35-8 to win its district.

Blake Sanford on the return for MCC. Photo/Tim Reilly.

Czerwon said this is a typical Mendon team – power ground attack and physical on both sides of the ball.

“They just seem to put new athletes into their system,” Czerwon said. “They run similar stuff year to year and they throw something new at you that you don’t have a way to prepare for, so you have to react on the fly. We anticipate some new looks and we also have to prepare for the traditional stuff.”

Mendon’s ground attack is led by Elijah Klepper, who rushed for 201 yards on 26 carries and three touchdowns in a district title win over Climax-Scotts.

MCC and Mendon will meet for the fourth straight time in the regional final. MCC has won the last two regional meetings by scores of 28-12 and 28-6, respectively.

Overall, MCC has a 4-2 playoff record against the Hornets since 2000.

The Hornets’ system is well established under Coach John Schwartz, who’s compiled a 269-42 career record and ranks No. 14 on the state’s all-time win list.

Mendon must deal with MCC’s tenacious defense, which has five shutouts – three in the last four games. Lamar Jordan, Nate Jones, Jaeden MacPherson and Zach Winzer are some of the Crusaders’ defensive leaders.

Mendon also must deal with MCC’s potent offense, which averages 48 points per game.

The Crusaders are led on offense by quarterback Nick Holt, running back Tommy Scott and a big, physical offensive line.

MCC has taken care of the football all season with only four lost fumbles and a muffed punt. Czerwon said turnovers will be the key again Saturday against Mendon.

“We always felt like the 2011 game didn’t go well because we made mistakes,” Czerwon said about that 28-21 loss to Mendon. “In 2012 and 2013 the goal for playing Mendon was to play sound football and not turn the ball over. With the team we have now, we just have to play fundamental football, limit our mistakes and line up and play defense.”

MCC has made the last three trips to Mendon for the regional finals. Czerwon said the Crusaders are pleased about securing the home field for Saturday’s showdown.

“That was a goal of this year’s team,” Czerwon said. “Coming off a state title, we thought ‘What can be goals we haven’t achieved?’ And one of those goals was to get as many home games as possible.

“The kids have earned the right to play this game here. No doubt it beats going down there like we have the last three years.”