By Mitchell Boatman
MENDON – All good things must come to an end, especially in the world of sports.
The Crusaders led 15-7 at the half, but surrendered three second-half touchdowns while committing three turnovers in a steady rain.
“The conditions didn’t help us at all, but that’s the way the game in Michigan is played,” said MCC head coach Steve Czerwon. “Hats off to them. We knew exactly what they were going to do, but they are pretty good and very efficient at that T-formation.”
Despite ending the season with a loss for the first time since 2012, Czerwon is proud of his team.
“I just thanked them for their hard work,” the coach said. “These kids worked extremely hard. We’re not going to win every playoff game, that’s the reality of life. They should be proud of what they accomplished.”
Mendon head coach Robert Kretschman added praise for the Crusaders, as well.
“It’s always something when you can beat them, because you know they are well coached and well prepared,” he said. “It’s a great measuring stick for our program.”
Muskegon Catholic took the lead on its opening drive on a 24-yard field goal by Caleb Muskovin.
Mendon responded with a 10-play, 80-yard scoring drive, capped by Wyatt Cool’s 19-yard touchdown run, his first of three on the day.
“He’s a big strong kid,” Czerwon said. “They do a nice job blocking up front. We tried to come up with some schemes to stop it, but they’re very efficient and we didn’t get the stops we needed.”
The Crusaders answered the first Mendon touchdown just three minutes later when Cameron Martinez found Nolan Convertini for a 21-yard touchdown to make it 9-7.
Martinez scrambled out of the pocket to keep the play alive, then found his man behind the defense.
There were several opportunities for MCC to extend its lead in the second quarter. The Crusaders had a long touchdown run called back due to holding and ended up punting. On their next drive, freshman Max Price’s pass was intercepted at the Mendon 5-yard line.
The Crusaders finally cashed in on an opportunity just 18 seconds before halftime. Martinez found Ryder Smith for a 21-yard touchdown, finishing a 64-yard drive that lasted just 31 seconds.
Muskegon Catholic led 15-7 at the break, but it was all Mendon from there.
Cool picked up his second touchdown on a four-yard run with 6:20 to play in the third quarter to cut the Crusader lead to 15-13.
After an MCC fumble, the Hornets drove down the field again. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Cool dove in from a yard out to put Mendon up 19-15.
The Crusaders were driving in Mendon territory, looking to regain the lead, but fumbled again with around eight minutes left.
Mendon scored on a six-yard run by Austin Rensi with 2:03 to play, making it a two-score game at 26-15.
Needing a miracle, MCC went to the air despite the rainy conditions. Martinez was picked off by Sam Cleveland, and the Hornets ran out the clock on the Crusaders’ quest for a fifth straight championship.
Martinez finished 5-for-7 passing for 108 yards, two scores and one interception. He also ran for 106 yards. Smith had had four catches for 87 yards and Tommy Watts ran five times for 65 yards.
Cool led Mendon with 255 yards on 36 carries. Rensi finished with 15 rushes for 83 yards. Mendon did not complete a pass all game and attempted just one.
Muskegon Catholic finishes the season 8-2. Mendon improves to 11-0 and will host Climax-Scotts for a regional title next week.