By Mike Mattson
Local Sports Journal
GRAND HAVEN – What’s it like to run behind a big, strong, powerful offensive line at Muskegon Catholic Central?
“It’s like a running back heaven,” Crusaders’ halfback Tommy Scott said with a smile. “I have to give the credit to our offensive line. They are so good this year. They are more physical and stronger than last year.”
The Mendon Hornets would have to agree after Scott and the Crusaders rolled to 48-7 victory in Saturday’s Division 8 regional final played at Gene Rothi Field at Buccaneer Stadium.
Scott rushed for 176 yards and four touchdowns on 10 carries to lead the way for MCC (12-0), which advances to next Saturday’s semifinal contest against Harbor Beach.
MCC took control against Mendon right away by forcing a Hornets punt. Then Scott raced 47 yards on MCC’s first play. He had plenty of running room cleared by interior linemen Jacob Schulte, Michael Caughey, Jaeden MacPherson, Jacob Holt and Nate Jones, along with tight ends Lamar Jordan and Savion Thompson.
Blake Sanford added a 50-yard TD burst and the Crusaders were off and running with a 13-0 lead in the first quarter.
Three more big plays followed in the second quarter – TD runs by Scott of 22 and 47 yards and a 31-yard run by quarterback Nick Holt – as the Crusaders cruised to a 34-7 halftime lead.
“It’s something we’ve done all year long,” MCC coach Steve Czerwon said about his big-play offense. “We have a fast quarterback. We have a fast halfback. I think we proved our fullback is a threat too.
“We feel we can move people off the ball in our T against a lot of people. We have a lot of explosive kids we can do things out of a T package or a spread package. Today being in the T with our base stuff was good enough.”
Fullback Logan Helton showed his speed by racing 63 yards for a touchdown on the first play of the third quarter. He also had another long TD run in the third quarter called back due to a penalty.
Scott added his final TD on a 24-yard run that produced a running clock at the 9:05 mark in the third quarter.
MCC finished with 478 total yards, with all of it on the ground.
Nick Holt also carried 10 times for 140 yards and Helton added 103 yards on five carries.
Czerwon lauded his offensive line for taking charge again like it has done all season.
“I’ve said it lots of times,’’ Czerwon said. “Those kids made a commitment to get bigger and stronger in the offseason. I think in some ways we are a bigger stronger version of last year and I think it showed.”
Defensively, the Crusaders were as stingy as ever, allowing only 168 yards. Mendon (10-2) managed just 73 yards rushing on 38 attempts, while quarterback Trey Cook completed 8-of-19 passes for 95 yards and two interceptions.
Mendon’s lone score came on a 38-yard TD in the second quarter from quarterback Cook to Parker Cupp, who made a nifty grab while being closely covered.
Workhorse back Elijah Klepper finished with 29 yards on 13 carries.
“The defense played outstanding,” Czerwon said. “We knew they didn’t have the passing team they’ve had in years past. We figured we had to stop their run, stop their base stuff and we did a good job doing that.”
MacPherson led MCC with 13 tackles, including four solos. Kimbrough contributed nine tackles and had both interceptions, while Jacob Holt and Jordan added eight tackles and seven tackles, respectively.
The regional loss was Mendon’s second-worst playoff defeat. Detroit St. Martin de Porres defeated the Hornets 48-0 in the 2003 state championship game.
MCC also beat Mendon for the third straight year in the regional final and improved to 5-2 in playoff games against the Hornets.
But Saturday’s win in the cold at Grand Haven High School was the most impressive effort yet for the Crusaders.
“We thought we had the better personnel this year,” Czerwon said. “We know that’s not the case every year. So we had to go play fundamental sound football. We played a good hard game today on both sides of the ball.”
Added Scott: “We came in prepared. We practiced hard all week. I’m not surprised by the outcome. It’s a good win for us.”
MCC will now prepare for Harbor Beach, which defeated Morenci 21-7 for its regional title. Harbor Beach also defeated the Crusaders 32-27 in the 2012 state semifinals en route to the state title.
“The goal for this group of guys, it’s a veteran group, I think they know the urgency each week in play,” Czerwon said. “I think that loss in 2012 kind of stings in their minds because a lot of those kids were on the field as freshmen and sophomores. I think it feels good for them to know they are playing another week.”