By Nate Thompson
The Crusaders are just two wins away from a fourth straight Division 8 state football championship, which would put the program in rare company as far as postseason success.
During the last decade, only East Grand Rapids in Division 3 and Ithaca in Division 6 have won four or more consecutive state titles. The Pioneers won five straight titles from 2006 through 2010, while the Yellowjackets captured four out of the past five Division 6 titles, beginning in 2010.
MCC has a good chance to join that elite club, yet Czerwon said he hasn’t thought much about it.
“All that stuff hasn’t really crossed my mind,” said Czerwon, whose 12-0 Crusaders will face Saint Ignace LaSalle on Saturday at 1 p.m. in the Division 8 state semifinals at Petoskey High School.
“Honestly, my real concern is getting these kids ready for Saint Ignace and helping them achieve as much success as possible.
“We’ve got some new kids experiencing this for the first time, but a lot of them have been through this already. It’s like a culture here. They know what to expect and know their jobs. We’ve had some really good practices this week. The weather has cooperated and we’ve accomplished a lot.”
Saint Ignace LaSalle is a team that Czweron and his players know well. MCC defeated the Saints 21-6 in Week 2 this season, as well as 33-20 in last year’s state semifinals.
The Saints come in at 11-1, with their only loss obviously coming against MCC. They have outscored their opponents 472-131 in the regular season and playoffs.
Their rushing game is powered by senior running back Mitchell Peterson, who has gained 1,275 yards and scored 15 touchdowns, as well as senior David Lavake, who has rushed for 881 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Lavake is also the team’s leading receiver with 37 receptions for 630 yards.
Senior quarterback Steve Seccia has completed 111 of 203 passes for 1,550 yards with 20 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
St. Ignace LaSalle advanced to the semifinals by defeating Hillman 55-20 and Newberry 26-2 in district competition, and Norway 14-12 in last weekend’s regional final.
“They’re a ground-oriented team,” Czerwon said about the Saints. “They’ll line up in a double wing and run some power and some traps. They have a capable quarterback who has shown he can throw and run.”
Czerwon noted that Seccia struggled while throwing the ball in the Week 2 clash between the two teams. The Saints held the Crusaders to a season-low 21 points in that game, but Czerwon said his squad was stung by penalties, several of which he thought were poor calls.
St. Ignace will be seeing an MCC squad that has evolved throughout the season, particularly on offense.
While the Crusaders remain primarily a running team, featuring standout senior backs LaTommy Scott, Logan Helton and Walker Christoffersen, they have also developed their passing game since they played the Saints the last time.
That evolution is due to the continued development of MCC’s two quarterbacks – senior Trenton Bordeaux and freshman Cameron Martinez. The two signal-callers, who have split duties all season, combined for a season-high 257 passing yards in a 35-0 romp over Frankfort last Saturday in the Division 8 regional finals.
Czerwon said Martinez and Bordeaux’s playing time depends on what opposing defenses are offering and the situation of the game.
“It depends on the situation where they can maximize their abilities to the fullest,” Czerwon said, noting that Martinez is a better scrambler and Bordeaux the more accurate passer. “We’ll continue to use them where I think they can thrive in the best scenarios.”
Czerwon said the shining star of the regional championship victory over Frankfort was the Crusaders’ defense, which has been tremendous all season, holding opponents to 71 total points. They limited the Panthers to just 41 rushing yards on 20 carries.
“That’s exactly what we needed to do to beat them,” Czerwon said.