By Ron Rop

The Muskegon Catholic Central Crusaders had a front row seat on Friday night.

What they saw was a fast, confident, yet loose, football team in the Lawton Blue Devils.

Lawton put on a show to remain undefeated with a convincing 41-22 victory over the Crusaders. The undefeated Blue Devils advance to the Division 7 state semifinals next week where they will face the winner of Saturday’s regional game between Detroit Loyola and Jackson Lumen Christi.

Friday’s 19-point margin of victory over the Crusaders was the closest game for the Blue Devils, which average more than 50 points per game.

Friday night’s game was moved to Muskegon High School’s Hackley Stadium due to poor field conditions at Muskegon Catholic’s Kehren Stadium.

The Blue Devils feature all-state running back Jake Rueff, who came into the game with 2,029 yards rushing and 45 touchdowns. He added 13 carries for 226 yards and two rushing touchdowns. He also caught a 33-yard pass for a touchdown.

But the Blue Devils were much more than the Jake Rueff show. Quarterback Landon Motter also had a standout performance with a 33-yard touchdown pass along with running 15 times for 78 yards and two touchdowns.

“They have a real nice team,” MCC coach Steve Czerwon said. “They were big up front and have real capable backs. They are an excellent team.

“You can’t just key on one kid because they have other people who can do some stuff,” Czerwon said. “He’s (Rueff) an excellent runner and obviously has nice speed. He’s a nice player.”

Lawton scored two touchdowns in the opening quarter that set a favorable tone for the visitors. Motter connected with Rueff and then Rueff went untouched on a 66-yard jaunt.

The Crusaders cut the margin to 14-6 late in the opening quarter when quarterback Elliot Riegler connected with Dane Rutz on a fourth-down play that covered 20 yards.

The only score of the second quarter was a 54-yard run by Rueff and the Blue Devils led 20-6 at the half. The Crusaders had a golden scoring opportunity the latter stages of the half, but a penalty negated a touchdown then a couple sacks resulted in two big losses and the half ended with Lawton leading 20-6.

“That doesn’t get called back and it’s a one-score game all of a sudden with us with the possession after half,” said Czerwon. “You have to play from there from what they call.”

The Blue Devils forced a three-and-out on MCC’s first drive of the second half then went on a eight-play drive that culminated on Motter’s 5-yard touchdown run to make it 27-6.

Lawton scored again in the final seconds of the third quarter on a 6-yard run by Motter.

The Crusaders gave their faithful followers reason to cheer in the fourth quarter when Riegler hit Rutz on a 55-yard touchdown pass and later, on a 9-yard pass to David Hill.

Riegler, in his final game for MCC, completed 14 of 23 passes for 228 yards and three touchdowns. Rutz, also a senior, hauled in eight of those passes for 161 yards and two touchdowns.

Defensively, the Crusaders (10-2) were led by Sam Kartes, a junior linebacker, who had 12 tackles. Nick Powell added seven.

For Lawton, it was the school’s first regional title.

“The boys had confidence they were going to do it,” Blue Devil coach Wade Waldrup said. “We have a pretty good football team right now. They’ve known they were going to get here since they were little. They’ve talked about it for a very long time.”

Check out photos shot by Joe Lane.