Muskegon Catholic overcomes turnovers, rallies down the stretch to secure a 22-12 victory in Division 8 regionals

By Justin Haggerty

FRANKFORT – The game didn’t go exactly according to plan, but the Muskegon Catholic Central Crusaders are headed to their fourth straight Division 8 state semifinal game next week, against St. Ignace in Traverse City.

It took a furious fourth quarter comeback, with big plays when they mattered the most, for the Crusaders to rally past the Frankfort Panthers 22-12 before a stunned home crowd.Sport clips 2015 football sponsor logolsj-fb-logo

“I told them after the Fruitport game (also a late come-from-behind victory) that I thought there’d be a time later in the season that we’d be down and we would have to draw on what we did in this game,” said MCC head coach Steve Czerwon, whose team is trying to secure its third straight state title.

“Maybe this was a game that we drew on. We were down with a little adversity, we didn’t have the ball pretty much at all in the third quarter with the wind and we found a way to get two scores in the fourth quarter.”

Fumbles have been a problem for the Crusaders all season, and they nearly cost them a victory on Saturday.

MCC's No. 77 Jacob Holt reaches to block Frankfort QB Nate Frieswyk's pass. Photo/Tim Reilly

MCC’s No. 77 Jacob Holt reaches to block Frankfort QB Nate Frieswyk’s pass. Photo/Tim Reilly

On just the fifth play of the game, Crusader quarterback Christian Martinez threw what appeared to be an incomplete screen pass to Walker Christofferson. But the referees ruled it a lateral, and therefore a fumble, giving Frankfort the ball at the MCC 30.

“You do drills and hope you don’t fumble, but if you do in a game you just have to pick yourself up and get out there and play some defense,” said Czwerwon, whose team lost two fumbles in the contest.

MCC got the ball back on downs, but then was forced to punt.

On the ensuing drive, with 4:06 to play in the first quarter, the Panthers opened the scoring with an eight-yard touchdown pass from QB Nate Frieswyk to Sam Tiesworth, putting Frankfort up 6-0.

The Crusaders next drive ended with another fumble, this time at the Frankfort 48-yard line.

Frankfort launched a ten play drive to the MCC six yard line, before Nate Jones ended it with an interception on the goal line.

Jacob Holt added another interception for MCC at midfield, and MCC capitalized and tied the score on a three-yard run by Martinez with 1:41 left in the first half. The extra point gave the Crusaders a 7-6 halftime edge.

Frankfort opened the second half with a 10-play, 70 yard drive that culminated with a nine-yard touchdown run by Kole Hollenbeck. The two-point conversion attempt failed, leaving the Panthers with a 12-7 lead.

MCC seized control of the momentum in the fourth quarter, beginning with a smart play by Martinez on defense. Frankfort had the ball around midfield and completed a pass, and the receiver went to lateral the ball to a teammate, but Martinez knocked it out of the air and recovered the fumble.

“Coach told me all week to take the guy getting the pitch,” Martinez said. “I saw him coming around and I just wanted to take him out.”

Just two plays later, MCC’s LaTommy Scott broke loose down the left sideline for a 42-yard touchdown, giving the Crusaders a 15-12 lead with 7:33 remaining on the clock.

Martinez played the hero again with 2:27 left to play, this time on offense. He kept the ball and broke free down the left sideline for a 58-yard touchdown to ice the game.

No. 20 LaTommy Scott breaks free to score the go ahead fourth quarter TD for MCC. Photo/Tim Reilly

No. 20 LaTommy Scott breaks free to score the go ahead fourth quarter TD for MCC. Photo/Tim Reilly

Martinez appreciates the position his team is in – one win shy of its third straight appearance ini the state championship game.

“It feels great,” he said. “When you’re younger, you take it for granted. As you get older, you realize how much it means and it’s an honor to be able to play with the people I grew up with my whole life for another week.”

Martinez finished with 10 carries for 74 yards and two touchdowns while Scott rushed nine times for 77 yards and a touchdown.

Jones led the MCC defense with 15 tackles. Holt finished with 11 tackles, four for a loss, and an interception in his 50th consecutive varsity game.

“This was the best Division 8 school by far,” Holt said, referring to Frankfort. “They played hard, they had speed behind them, they were a very versatile team.

“We know we have to take it game-by-game and can’t think about our past right now. Hopefully this team can be as successful as the last few.”

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