20 YEARS OF STATE CHAMPS! 20 STATE CHAMPIONS SERIES: 2016 ORCHARD LAKE ST. MARY’S
Orchard Lake — The final state football title of for legendary Orchard Lake St. Mary’s head coach George Porritt in 2016 was like something out of a movie script.
St. Mary’s edged a stacked Muskegon squad 29-28 on the final play of the Division 3 state finals to give Porritt the most dramatic state-championship win in his seven-crown career coaching on the gridiron. A Caden Prieksorn-to-Ky’ren Cunningham’s 18-yard touchdown connection on a fade route into the right part of the end zone with just four ticks left on the clock propelled the Eaglets to the pulse-pounding victory that capped a “3-peat” for the nationally-respected program.
“The ending to that 2016 state championship game was as special and as clutch as you can get,” Porritt said. “It was a great pass by Cade and a great catch by Ky’ren with defenders draped on him. Caden found that tight window and delivered when we needed him to. That was a tremendous three-year run and it ended on the perfect note possible.
Porritt, who stepped down following last season and has state titles in basketball and lacrosse on his resume, too, knows that when it comes to championship play, nothing can be taken for granted.
“We lost on the last play of the state finals in 2007 and 2012, I think because of that, we appreciated that ’16 title a little more than most for how we won it,” he said.
Porritt’s 2007 Eaglets team fell in a 46-39 5-overtime instant classic to East Grand Rapids in the state championship game. In 2012, St. Mary’s lost to Grand Rapids Christian 40-37 in overtime.
Prieskorn is playing tight end at Memphis right now. Cunningham is a running back at Duquesne in Pittsburgh. The Muskegon team St. Mary’s beat in 2016 featured New York Giants receiver Kalil Pimpleton (Virginia Tech) and 2017 Mr. Football and current Western Michigan running back LaDarius Jefferson, who started his college career at Michigan State.
Prieskorn was 13-of-21 for 202 yards and 2 touchdowns in the 2016 state finals. Eaglets’ all-state tailback Rashawn Allen (Lehigh) rushed for 145 yards and senior wide receiver Clay Antishin hauled in 6 catches for 106 yards in the game as well.
“Rashawn was a real workhorse, he’s definitely one of the best to ever carry the ball at St. Mary’s,” Porritt said.
Baltimore Ravens rookie linebacker Josh Ross (Michigan) triggered St. Mary’s defense during the entire 3-peat effort. Ross registered 6 tackles in the ’16 state championship game and is the most recent of the pipeline of Porritt-coached St. Mary’s alums to land in the NFL.
“Josh Ross is everything you could want in a captain and team leader,” Porritt said. “He’s just relentless as a linebacker and more importantly, he’s an even better human being. That Ross family made a tremendous impact on the program.”
James Ross, Josh’s older brother, won a state championship on Porritt’s 2011 St. Mary’s squad. The elder Ross played at Michigan before a brief stint in the NFL. Today, he coaches linebackers at the University of Cincinnati.
Besides Josh Ross, Porritt’s 2016 Eaglets defense also boasted defensive tackle Ralph Holley (Western Michigan/USFL), linebacker John Pearson (Hillsdale). linebacker Dwayne Chapman (Western Michigan), safety Julian Benavides (Valparaiso), defensive back Sy Dabney (Bowling Green) and defensive back Richie Bowens (Central Michigan-Iowa State). Benavides had transferred into St. Mary’s for his senior campaign from Rochester Adams where he was an All-OAA selection.
The 2016 Eaglets went 10-4 and showed steely resolve all season long. The club bounced back by a 17-14 loss to Detroit Catholic Central in the final seconds of the Prep Bowl that year to run the table in the playoffs, after entering the postseason with a 5-4 mark.
“Just like all my state title teams, the memories are there to be cherished for a lifetime,” Porritt said.