By Dave Tomczak

MUSKEGON – Fueled by an opportunistic defense, Muskegon Catholic Central’s football team kicked off the new season – and started putting last year behind – with a shutout victory.

The Crusaders forced four turnovers and held Algonac to 119 total yards in a 21-0 non-conference win at Kehren Stadium on Thursday.

Now MCC, which struggled with injuries while going 3-6 in the 2018 season, are moving forward with a head of steam.

“Our defense played a heck of a game,” MCC coach Steve Czerwon said. “We had to make a few adjustments here and there, but we did a great job with that. I’m really proud of our effort.”

MCC went three-and-out on its opening possession, before punting away to Algonac.

The Muskrats picked up two first downs on their first drive, moving near midfield before Crusaders safety Lulo Mafahla picked off quarterback Caden Bell.

Solomon Waller fights his way into the end zone for Muskegon Catholic. Photo/Tim Reilly

Despite good field position, MCC’s next two drives, which ended the opening quarter, resulted in only one first down.

Algonac’s first play of the second quarter saw Bell hit Andrew Catenacci for a 55-yard pass play to the MCC 25, but the receiver lost the ball while being tackled and Mafahla recovered.

“It was just great timing for me, I guess,” Mafahla said. “I’ve been working hard on playing my position, and the results are paying off.”

MCC then put together a 15 play, 64-yard drive that ended when Dane Rutz was stopped at the goal line on fourth down.

The MCC offense may have been stalled, but not for long.

On the Muskrats’ first play from the goal line, Soloman Waller intercepted Bell at the 17.

Two plays later, Waller broke free around the left end and scored from 12 yards out for a 7-0 MCC lead with 1:45 left in the half.

The two teams combined to forced five punts in the third quarter, and headed to the fourth with the score still tied 7-0.

That’s when everything in green-and-gold seemed to involve Carson St. Amour.

The senior safety, running back and kicker started the final quarter by just missing a 39-yard field goal – plenty of leg, but wide left.

MCC’s No. 17 Josh Holden and No. 65 Landon Patterson pursue the Algonac QB. Photo/Tim Reilly

Any disappointment he may have felt disappeared 1:20 later, when he picked off Bell and sprinted untouched down the far sideline for a 48-yard touchdown.

After he added the extra point, MCC led 14-0 with 7:11 left in the game.

Algonac was forced to punt again on its ensuing drive with 3:55 left. Just 26 seconds later, St. Amour busted through the left side of the line for a 50-yard TD run.

“Carson with the interception for a touchdown, then that great run by him off tackle,” Czerwon said. “And the great first half by Mafahla, it was a great job by our two safeties tonight.”

The Crusaders finished the game with 217 total yards of offense, 210 coming on the ground. Five running backs totalled 20 or more yards.

St. Amour had 68 yards on six carries and Tommy Kartes added 49 yards on six carries.

Josh Holden led Catholic defense with six tackles and a sack, while Nolan Convertini made five stops.