By Steve Gunn
Sure, the Crusaders dropped two regular season games, including a pretty bad loss to Detroit Country Day in Week 8 of the regular season.
They opened their Division 8 playoff run with an easy 49-7 victory at home over Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart.
They followed that last Saturday with a 48-13 win over a Beal City squad that many people expected to give the Crusaders a fight.
“There’s no shame in going down in Week 8 – overall we’ve been improving,” said MCC Coach Steve Czerwon. “I hoped to be playing in November and we’re definitely playing games in November. After this week, there will only be 32 teams playing in the state of Michigan and we want to be one of them.”
Next on the assignment list is Frankfort (9-2) in a regional matchup on Saturday at 1:00 p.m. The winner will advance to the state semifinals.
The game will be played in Frankfort, due to an unusual coin flip between the two schools.
“We were tied in playoff points,” Czerwon said about the site of the game. “The next tiebreaker is head-to-head, but we didn’t play each other, and the next tiebreaker is the win percentage of the opponents you’ve beaten and we were tied in that.
“It’s odd to have that many ties, but we had to have a coin flip. There was not talk about a neutral site.
“Frankfort is only two hours away. That’s not a long road trip for us. We played that far away last week. So I don’t think there is anything to it.”
The Crusaders seem to be clicking at the right time, particularly when it comes to big offensive plays. They put on quite a display against the shell-shocked Beal City team on its home field.
After a scoreless first quarter, MCC took a 21-7 halftime lead with a 51-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Christian Martinez to Walker Christoffersen, a 65-yard scoring run by LaTommy Scott and a 94-yard touchdown run by Christoffersen.
The Crusaders nailed down the victory in the second half with 66- and 61-yard touchdown runs by Scott, a 48-yard scoring run by Logan Helton and a 68-yard touchdown strike from Martinez to Christoffersen.
Scott finished with 202 yards rushing on only 10 rushes and three touchdowns. He passed the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the season.
Christoffersen finished with 109 yards rushing, four catches and three touchdowns – two through the air and one of the ground.
Helton had 91 yards rushing and one touchdown while Martinez was 4-for-4 passing for 126 yards and two touchdowns.
Christoffersen brings a third element to the MCC backfield. He was injured for part of the regular season, and his stats don’t compare to Scott’s or Helton’s, but his explosive speed and ability to catch passes make life even more difficult for Crusader opponents.
“He missed three games with a problem with his hip,” Czerwon said about Christoffersen. “He gives us another fast guy who can break a run. One thing he has done is given us a passing game. Beal City kind of ignored that. Teams have to focus on our run game, but he makes us diverse.”
Frankfort, 9-2 under Coach Matt Stapleton, is having its best season since 2011 when it won eight games. The Panthers did not make the playoffs in 2012 or 2013 and were 6-4 last season, bowing out in the first round.
Frankfort’s two losses this season came in Week 1 against Maple City Glen Lake and Week 9 against Onekama.
But the Panthers have been hot in the playoffs, blowing out Baldwin 56-32 in the first round and gaining revenge with a 28-21 win over Onekama in the district finals last weekend.
Overall they have outscored their opponents 319-116.
Frankfort’s offense is heavily dependent on leading rusher Kole Hollenbeck, a senior who also catches a lot of passes out of the backfield.
Freshman Griffen Kelly is also dangerous after turning in a big performance against Onekama, while quarterback Nate Frieswyk has proven he can throw, completing 12 of 16 passes for 140 yards against Onekama.
“They are athletic, they spread the ball around a little bit, they utilize their athletes they have and are very well coached,” said Czerwon about Frankfort.