By Mike Mattson
Local Sports Journal
MUSKEGON – Fowler forced Muskegon Catholic Central to punt on its first possession in Friday’s Division 8 district championship game.
Big deal? Yeah, that just doesn’t happen to the Crusaders.
“I knew we were going to be OK,” MCC senior quarterback Nick Holt said. “(We thought), ‘oh we’ve got a game on our hands.’ Every game so far, the first drive we’ve scored. The biggest thing is how our kids bounced back. They stopped us, but we had to keep doing what we know.”
Top-ranked MCC responded by scoring 42 unanswered points and cruised to the Division 89 district title with a convincing 42-0 win at Kehren Stadium against the fifth-ranked Eagles (10-1). The hosts relied on what they do best – solid line play, a speedy backfield and a tenacious defense.
The Crusaders (11-0), the defending state champs, will host the regional championship game next weekend against the winner of Saturday’s district showdown between Climax-Scotts and Mendon. If Mendon wins, the regional contest likely will be played next Saturday.
After nursing a sprained ankle the past three weeks, the dual-threat quarterback was at full strength against the Eagles. He carried six times for 77 yards and three first-half touchdowns and added 55 passing yards.
Holt ran over many Fowler defenders on his first-quarter TD runs of 32 yards and 20 yards and added a 4-yard TD run in the second quarter.
“It was a lot of fun,” said Holt, a standout pitcher who made a commitment this week to play baseball at Hillsdale College. “Sitting on the sidelines for so long, you finally feel 100 percent. Even last week when I went in, I was able to play, but not 100 percent.”
Senior Tommy Scott contributed second-quarter TD runs from 46 and 6 yards for the Crusaders, who led 35-0 at halftime that forced a running clock to start the second half.
Scott finished with 61 yards on seven carries and fullback Logan Helton chipped in with 82 yards on nine carries.
LaTommy Scott’s 14-yard TD run capped the scoring for MCC, while Griffin Seymour made all seven of his extra-point kicks.
Fowler had trouble slowing down MCC after the first drive.
“This is the first game Nick really got in the flow of our offense,” MCC coach Steve Czerwon said. “He had a heck of a game. It’s tough to defend when you have Nick and Tommy in the backfield. I think any Class A team would like to have those two in their backfield.”
MCC dominated on both sides of the ball.
The Crusaders had the advantage in rushing yards (315-73), passing yards (68-3), first downs (18-4) and total yards (383-76).
Fowler cruised to its 10-0 season behind a powerful ground attack led by running back Austin Cook. But the Eagles had trouble moving the ball all night against MCC.
“We have big strong physical kids up front,” said Czerwon, who’s led his team to 23 straight victories. “They’ve scored their points this year being a physical football team against the teams they’ve played. We had to rise to that challenge tonight. I thought our kids did a nice job in matching how physical they were.”
Leading MCC’s defense were Jaeden MacPherson and Nate Jones with seven tackles apiece, while Joe Pallas and Lamar Jordan each had six stops. Zach Winzer also had two interceptions and Pallas recovered a fumble.
It was a frustrating night for Fowler, which hurt itself with three turnovers.
Cook also was injured and finished with 16 yards on 14 carries. Austin Shinaver led the Eagles with 30 yards on four attempts.
MCC also beat Fowler the last two seasons in the district championship game, winning 42-0 last year and 14-0 in 2012.
“They are a great team,” Fowler coach Kris Ernst said. “They are outstanding up front and they have some great kids behind them to run the football. They’ve done a heck of a job in the offseason. We felt like we’ve gotten better from last year and so have they.”