By Mitchell Boatman
MONTAGUE — A showdown of Muskegon County’s top small-school football programs is set for next weekend, when state powers Montague and Muskegon Catholic Central will square off for a Division 6 district title.
The Wildcats (8-0) set up the local showcase by easily dismissing previously unbeaten Clare 50-7 at home on Saturday afternoon in a district semifinal matchup.
Montague and MCC, which is also 8-0 this season, have only met once in history — a 34-10 Wildcat win to close the 2017 regular season.
“It’s cool, a district final with two Muskegon County schools like that,” said Montague head coach Pat Collins. “They’ve got a great program. We’ve always wanted to play them, and we finally got that one a few years ago. To play them again is special for both sides.”
“It’s a state championship,” Wildcat quarterback Drew Collins said about preparing for MCC. “Not that we think it’s a state championship game. We prepare every week like it’s a state championship, because we want to prepare like it’s our last game.
“It’s going to be a lot more fun. There’s going to be a lot of people there that know the stakes are high.”
The Wildcat defense set the table early against Clare on Saturday. On its first five possessions, Clare managed just 18 total yards of offense on 17 plays.
Those drives resulted in two punts, two turnovers on downs and a safety. The Wildcats took advantage by scoring four touchdowns on their ensuing possessions.
“Great defense is offense, because then you get the short fields and those things,” Coach Collins said. “They work hand in hand. I think too often people separate the two sides of the ball. You really can call defense offense, because if the defense can get some three and outs, you’re basically turning yourself into an offense, because the offense almost has an extra push.
“They get momentum, the playbook’s a little different, and you can open things up. I thought the defense did that for us today.”
The Wildcat offense had a good day, too, using quick passing plays on the perimeter and quarterback runs to advance the ball down the field.
Drew Collins was 16-for-26 passing for 120 yards and two scores, and ran 13 times for 110 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
“We have a big line, so that causes a problem inside, and they had to pack the box,” Drew Collins said about the passing game effectiveness. “They have a fast defense, so they thought they were comfortable with that getting to the edge, but I think our guys made some moves and made some good plays.”
The Wildcats led 23-0 after one quarter, scoring touchdowns on a 10-yard run by Collins, a 41-yard run by Dylan Everett and a 14-yard pass from Collins to Tugg Nichols.
Montague picked up a safety late in the first when a snap sailed over the head of Clare’s punter and into the end zone.
Collins added an 11-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter to make it 30-0. Clare got on the board with 2:31 to play in the half on an 11-yard pass from Al Warner to Jon Bouchey.
Montague outscored the Pioneers 20-0 after halftime, getting touchdowns on a 33-yard pass from Collins to Owen Peterson, a 12-yard scamper from Everett, and a 94-yard pass from Andrew Kooi to Rodney Brassfield.
The Wildcat defense had big fourth-and-goal stops on two separate drives in the fourth quarter to keep Clare off the scoreboard.
Everett finished with 86 yards on the ground. Brassfield was the leading receiver with 94 yards on his lone catch. Peterson had 47 receiving yards and Nichols hauled in seven catches for 39 yards.
Sophomores Brass field and Izac Jarka led the Montague defense. Jarka had a team-high 10 tackles and four pass deflections, while Brassfield totaled nine tackles and Sam Smith added seven.