DIVISION 8 FOOTBALL FINALS: Muskegon Catholic Central stymies top-ranked Beal City
BY DAN STICKRADT
DETROIT — Tommy Scott is given a reminder almost every day at Muskegon Catholic Central. The junior always passes pictures and trophies of some of the great teams in CC’s football lore.
“Whenever I walk into the weight room, especially, there’s pictures of all these great teams,” he said. “Pictures of all of the state championship teams. We wanted to be part of that (group).”
Scott and his teammates finally added a new chapter and soon to be new memorabilia to the Crusaders’ football history courtesy of their resounding 35-12 victory over Beal City in the MHSAA Division 8 state finals.
On this day, eighth-ranked Muskegon Catholic Central proved to be just too quick for previously-unbeaten Beal City, the top-ranked school in D-8.
The Crusaders, who opened the season with two losses, exploited the Aggies in open field, which led to several long gains, and used their team speed to pull away from Beal City. The Aggies lost in the title game for the second straight season.
Muskegon CC collected 419 yards of offense, all on the ground, to deflate the Aggies (13-1), who allowed over 20 points only once all season up until the state finals while averaging 55.8 points over 13 games.
“I think that even though we lost our first two games of the season, some of that by scheduling some tougher opponents, some bigger schools, helped us in the playoffs,” said Muskegon CC coach Steve Czerwon, who joined a rare club with winning a state title in his first season. “I think it paid off for us in the end.”
Muskegon CC captured its seventh crown in nine trips to the finals, joining the 1990 (Class C), 1991 (Class C), 1995 (Class C), 2000 (Division 8), 2006 (Division 7) and 2008 (Division 8) squads to raise a championship banner and championship team photos all over the school. The 1986 and 2001 teams lost in the finals.
Muskegon CC closed out with 12 straight wins — the Crusaders’ losses came again Class A and Class B schools in late August — and concluded the season by holding Beal City to its lowest point total of the season. Muskegon CC had lost in the state semifinals last season.
“The expectations were there because it was pretty much the same core group of kids who lost in the semifinals,” said Steve Czerwon. “No matter who took over, there were expectations, and the kids had expectations for themselves. We were able to take the next step.
“We talked all year about getting back to (at least) the semifinals and how important it was to win that game,” he continued. “We got to the finals, and since we’re here we thought, ‘Why not win it?’ That’s where we ended up today.”
Beal City had posted seven shutouts and scored more than 50 points in a game seven times and more than 40 points in 11 of 14 games. The Aggies’ previous low was 34 points in the state semifinals, a 34-18 victory over Crystal Falls Forest Park.
Muskegon CC scored on its first play from scrimmage on first series. Alex Lewandowski broke loose for a 78-yard touchdown sprint, followed by Griffin Seymour’s extra point for a 7-0 lead with 8:35 left in the first quarter.
Beal City became the first team to score on Muskegon CC in the first quarter all season, when Hayden Huber plunged into the end zone from 2 yards out with only three ticks left in the opening frame to cut the lead down to 7-6.
The Crusaders made it 14-6 at the half when Lewandowski scored on a 1-yard run with Seymour adding the point after with 6:09 remaining in the frame.
Muskegon CC scored 21 straight points in the second half, including two the touchdowns in the third quarter for a 28-6 advantage.
The first was a 66-yard run from Lewandowski and the other came from Scott on a 21-yard run.
Not being able to limit the Crusaders’ speed and ability to make the big play hurt Beal city throughout the contest.
“There was just some clean-up things that we didn’t do,” sighed Beal City coach Lou Rau. “We had some assignment errors here and there that were crucial and blew things up for us, and obviously they’re a big, strong, fast team, and you can’t have those kinds of mistakes.”
In the fourth quarter, the Crusaders put the game away when Nick Holt added the fifth touchdown on a 1-yard run.
Beal City scored one final time when Ryan Tillman hauled in a 8-yard strike from Tucker Gross late in the fourth quarter. The Aggies were held to just 102 passing yards and 161 rushing yards.
Huber had 52 yards on 13 carries, while Kurt Gross was 8-for-16 passing for 94 yards for Beal City.
Lewandoski finished with 218 yards on 16 rushes, while Nick Holt had 130n yards on 14 carries and Scott 62 yards on 10 carries for Muskegon CC.
“It didn’t matter who the head coach is. I’d be real happy if I was a fan right now,” added Czerwon. “I am happy to be the one coaching them right now. This was great for the kids, great for the Catholic community and it’s great for me, but there’s just happiness everywhere here at Catholic Central.”
The Crusaders are back on top again.