By Dave Hart

The Muskegon Catholic football team has been sitting atop the Lakes 8 Conference for three seasons, waiting for a challenger to try to take its crown.

Muskegon Heights entered Friday’s game against the Crusaders soaring high after a pair of league wins over Manistee and Ludington, and three straight victories overall.

But the undefeated Crusaders were more than up to the challenge, posting a 32-0 conference victory on the Tigers’ home field

Muskegon Catholic, which has now won 25 straight games, improved to 5-0 on the season and 2-0 in Lakes 8 play. The Crusaders are now in the driver seat in their bid to win their fourth consecutive league title.

MCC’s No. 21 Dawson Fisher-Steigman finds room up the middle. Photo/Tim Reilly

MCC, which has won four straight Division 8 state championships, also qualified for the playoffs with the victory.

“It’s great that we might get a conference title, but the bigger thing is we qualified for the playoffs tonight,” said Muskegon Catholic Coach Steve Czerwon. “We can now focus on the last three games of the season and try to lock on to some home playoff games.”

The Crusaders scored points against the Tigers offensively, defensively and on special teams.

“We’ve got to be a complete football team if we want to win games,” Czerwon said. “We scored in all three phases of the game, and I thought that the first half was about as good as we could have expected as a team against the Heights. It’s a team effort and a team game.”

The Crusaders opened the scoring with 8:32 left in the first quarter on a 20-yard touchdowns by quarterback Cameron Martinez. MCC failed to convert the extra point, leaving the score 6-0.

Muskegon Heights struggled on its first possession, going three-and-out, then punting the ball just one yard down the field, giving the Crusaders excellent field position at the Tigers’ 24-yard line.

Muskegon Heights quarterback JaRomeo Blackshire makes the pass with MCC’s Nolan Convertini applying pressures. Photo/Tim Reilly

MCC took advantage by scoring on its ninth play of its second drive on a 2-yard run by Dawson Steigman with 2:54 left in the first quarter. The extra point by Riley St. Amour increased the Crusader lead to 13-0.

The Tigers continued to struggle offensively, committing a turnover on their second possession on a Cameron Martinez interception. Muskegon Catholic followed the pick with a 4-yard touchdown scamper from Steigman with 3:07 left in the second quarter and took a 20-0 lead.

The Crusaders padded their advantage with 47 seconds remaining in the first half when Tiovanni Knight blocked a Muskegon Heights punt and returned it 18 yards for a TD, give MCC a 26-0 lead.

MCC scored another touchdown in the final play of the first half on a 22-yard pick-six by Ryder Smith.

The Crusaders led 32-0 at halftime, and the second half was scoreless.

Muskegon Catholic was paced by Cameron Martinez, who rushed for 110 yards on 18 carries and one touchdown. Martinez also had two interceptions while Avery Evans-Davis contributed nine tackles.

The Tigers were led by Jerry Anderson with 55 yards on 13 carries.

“We had some nerve issues early on, but I think penalties hurt in the first half and we couldn’t find a rhythm,” said Muskegon Heights coach Cory Chandler. “I was encouraged with the second half, but I am not saying that I am satisfied with the loss.”

The Tigers fell to 3-3 overall and 2-1 in the conference.