By Dave Hart
MUSKEGON – It would be hard for any team to match a championship run like Muskegon Catholic had a few years ago.
After winning Division 8 state titles every season between 2013 and 2016, the Crusaders hit a slump of sorts, losing in the district finals in 2017, positing a 3-6 record and missing the playoffs in 2018, then losing in the first round of the playoffs last season.
But the Crusaders are rising again, with an undefeated record and two playoff victories secured heading into next week’s Division 6 district finals.
MCC’s latest conquest came on Friday night in a 28-0 shutout of Harrison at Kehren stadium in a district semifinal contest.
The Crusaders, now 8-0 on the season, will face the winner of Saturday’s Montague-Clare matchup next weekend.
“I am just really proud of the defense,” said Muskegon Catholic coach Steve Czerwon. “I think it was our fourth shutout in a row. They seem to get to the ball and keep the other team out of the end zone.
“Who we get next week is going to be a really good team that is battle- tested. We will play the kids who are healthy, I have great faith in this team, and we will give whoever we play our best shot.”
The Crusaders opened the scoring with 4:24 left in the first quarter on a 23-yard touchdown run by Joe Waller. Lucas Carlton nailed the extra point to give MCC a 7-0 lead.
MCC increased its advantage to 14-0 on its first drive of the second quarter, scoring on a 21-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Max Price to Dane Rutz.
Price added a one-yard touchdown run on the Crusaders’ next possession to increase the lead to 21-0 with 2:39 left in the second quarter.
Price went down on that play with an ankle injury, and did not return for the second half of the game.
“Max got dinged a little bit, so we kept him out,” Czerwon said. “We will need to evaluate his injury as we go this week.”
Neither team scored in the third quarter. The Crusaders forced Harrison to turn the ball over on downs at the MCC 35-yard line late in the quarter.
The Crusaders closed out the scoring with 8:07 left in the contest on a one-yard run by Tommy Kartes.
Waller paced MCC with 112 rushing yards on 12 carries and one touchdown, while Kartes had 38 yards on six attempts and a score.
Price threw for 42 yards on 2-for-3 passing before leaving the game, and his backup Elliot Riegler completed his lone pass for 33 yards.
Sam Kartes paced the MCC defense with seven tackles, while Richie Fimbres Ward had six and both Tommy Kartes and Gunner Stout had five.