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St. Mary’s defeats Muskegon, wins sixth state title

By: Tom Markowski, November 29, 2014, 11:15 pm

Detroit – Orchard Lake St. Mary’s has experienced some hard luck at Ford Field but on Saturday its defense wouldn’t allow any chance happening, individual performance or wild ending take a title away.

St. Mary’s held Muskegon to 168 yards and eight first down and defeated the Big Reds 7-0 in the Division 3 final at Ford Field.

St. Mary’s (12-2) won its second title in four years and sixth overall. The Eaglets also lost in the final in 2007, ’09, ’10 and ’12. The ’07 game against East Grand Rapids (46-39) went five overtimes. Two years ago St. Mary’s lost to Grand Rapids Christian 40-37 in overtime.

Last October in the Catholic League Prep Bowl title game St. Mary’s led Birmingham Brother Rice 28-21 with 2:20 left before losing 35-28.

The Eaglets took advantage of a short field to score on their first drive. Brandon Adams’ 1-yard touchdown run completed a 34-yard drive that took nine plays, all on the ground. Adams made the conversion and that was it.

Neither team came close to scoring after that.

Muskegon’s best chance might have come on its final possession. The Big Reds took over on the St. Mary’s 38 and it drive ended four plays with Dwayne Chapman’s interception. It was St. Mary’s’ third interception. The Eaglets did not have a turnover.

“He picked that ball off, but I was just hoping he’d hang on to it,” St. Mary’s coach George Porritt said. “We tried to not have turnovers and we know their defense is going to hold people pretty tight. (Muskegon) did a great job of stopping us there in the second half. I thought we were going to run the ball a little bit better, but you have to give them credit too.”

St. Mary’s was held to 164 yards, 133 rushing, and 10 first downs.

Ross Moore and Tyler Cochran had the other interceptions for the Eaglets. Chapman, Josh Ross and Jared Mosley each had seven tackles.

 For Muskegon (12-2) Tarrion Hill-Mckay had 20 tackles and Alezay Coleman had 13.

“When we gave them that short field, that’s when they scored,” Muskegon coach Shane Fairfield said. “Other than that, we made the adjustments. We focused on first down and tried to get them in second and third-and-8. They’re uncomfortable in the passing game.”

Muskegon lost its third consecutive state-final game. The last two seasons it lost to Brother Rice in the Division 2 final.

Once it had the lead St. Mary’s was hesitant to take chances. Quarterback Brendan Tabone attempted just 10 passes and completed three, but one was instrumental in the Eaglets maintaining possession on the game’s final drive.

After Chapman’s interception St. Mary’s took over on its 31 with 6:37 left. After four plays the Eaglets faced a third-and-eight from their 46 when Tabone completed a 12-yard pass to Moore in the left flat. St. Mary’s ran nine more running plays to end the game.

St. Mary’s lost twice to Brother Rice this season and entered the playoffs with a bit of a chip on its shoulder. The Eaglets came up short in the league title game and last season they were 5-4 and didn’t make the playoffs.

“It’s great to be back,” Porritt said. “Like I’ve said many times before, if you play in the Central Division and you get in the playoffs, you’re a happy team. It’s easy to get knocked out and not make it. 

“You never know what kind of game it’s going to be. We have a great defense and they have a great defense and that’s what happens. The defenses did better than the offenses today.?”