By Mitchell Boatman
SCHOOLCRAFT – While many Michiganders have been dreading the irst snowfall of the season and the inevitable messes that come with it, it’s just what Montague Coach Pat Collins and his players have been waiting for.
Collins has been saving carries for senior running back Bryce Stark all season, to have him ready for a game like Saturday’s, when the field looked like more of a mud pit than a playing surface.
Stark definitely answered the call, piling up 245 yards on 40 carries with three touchdowns, to help the Wildcats defeat host Schoolcraft 30-14 in a Division 6 regional championship game.
Montague, now 10-2 on the season, won its first regional crown since 2009, when it won a second-consecutive state title.
The Wildcats now move on to the Division 6 state semifinals against Traverse City St. Francis (12-0) next Saturday at 1 p.m. in Mount Pleasant.
“I told coach that when in doubt, I’m ready,” Stark said of the massive workload he had on Saturday. “I’ve been waiting for it all season. The time came today where the conditions were bad and we just had to be able to pound the rock. There were holes everywhere, our line was just tossing them around.”
“The conditions kind of put us in hog mode,” Coach Collins said. “The hogs up front (the offensive line) decided to get muddy, they love that stuff. Today we knew we would be giving (Stark) the rock more than he’s gotten it all year. We tried to put enough guys in the box to put a hat on a hat and let Bryce do the rest.”
The Wildcat defense was equally impressive, holding Schoolcraft to negative yardage in the first quarter and scoreless until the final minutes of the game,
“Our defense has been playing great all year,” Collins said. “Defense wins championships and right now, they’ve got three under their belt (conference, district and regional titles). We’re trying to get four, that’s the goal.”
After forcing a three-and-out to open the game, Montague opened the scoring on its first possession. Stark took a fourth-down handoff up the middle for a 34-yard score and a 7-0 lead.
The Eagles fumbled away the ensuing kickoff and David Rumsey connected on a 25-yard field goal to make it 10-0 at the end of the first quarter.
Montague quarterback Drew Collins scored the lone points of the second quarter on a 22-yard touchdown run. A failed extra point left the score 16-0 at halftime.
Stark tacked on two more touchdowns in the second half, a 24-yarder in the third quarter and a one-yard plunge in the fourth to put the Wildcats up 30-0.
Schoolcraft scored a pair of passing touchdowns in the final five minutes of the game. Quarterback Alex Thole found Parker Lawrence (41 yards) and Kobe Clark (54 yards) for the TD passes, bringing the final score to 30-14.
Drew Collins ran for 42 yards on five tries and was 4-for-5 passing for 48 yards. Sebastian Archer finished the day with 35 yards on 11 carries and forced a fumble for Montague. Nick Steever had a fumble recovery and Sam Smith snagged an interception.