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STATE FOOTBALL FINALS: Back-up field generals reign supreme in state title tilts

By: Scott Burnstein, November 26, 2012, 9:00 am

DETROIT – It was a back-up quarterback’s paradise over the weekend at Ford Field in the 2012 MHSAA state football finals, as a trio of reserve signal-callers put up dazzling performances, helping lead their teams to titles, while another was heroic in defeat.

Ithaca’s Logan Hessbrook and Grand Rapids South Christian’s Derek Woltjer stepped in for their respective squads’ injured all-state field generals and were sizzling from the opening whistle.

Hessbrook, replacing Travis Smith, who took Ithaca to a Division 6 state crown last fall but was lost to injury early in the first quarter of the finals, was slicing and dicing his way through the Constantine defense all game long to spark his team to a 37-27 victory and the program’s third straight title.

Completing 7-of-13 passes for 104 yards and rushing the ball 23 times for 140 yards, Hessbrook scored two touchdowns through the air and another two on the ground. His one-yard touchdown trot late in the third quarter proved the go-ahead score.

Woltjer, normally Grand Rapids  South Christian’s star receiver, had to move under center as a result of cannon-armed starting quarterback Jon Wassink breaking his collar bone in the team’s win in the semifinals. Before going down, Wassink had racked up close to 4,000 yards passing, torching opposing secondaries on the club’s march to the state championship game.

Looking like an old pro running Grand Rapids South Christian’s offense, Woltjer combined for over 200 yards of total offense and accounted for four touchdowns in his team’s 40-7 throttling of Birmingham Detroit Country Day to raise the Division 4 state trophy. Toting the ball 15 times, he rushed for 153 yards and two touchdowns. He was perfect passing the pigskin, connecting on 7-of-7 attempts and two touchdowns, including a 20-yard scoring toss to wide out Austin Deikever to open the second half and extend a slim 14-7 lead.

The Division 3 state finals pitting defending champion Birmingham Brother Rice and Muskegon saw a pair of standout efforts by back-up quarterbacks.

Brother Rice repeated as state-title holders, partially on the arm of sophomore Alex Malzone. An up-and-coming pro-style phenom in the pocket, Malzone had been seeing spot duty since the playoffs began, sharing time in the huddle with senior and second-year starter Cheyne Lacanaria. In the Warriors spine-tingling 35-28 triumph, Malzone was efficient and clutch, completing 8-of-10 passes for 167 yards and two touchdowns, one of them being a 77-yard bomb down the right sidelines to junior receiver Corey Lacanaria, on a flea-flicker late in the fourth quarter to give Brother Rice a 28-21 advantage on the scoreboard.

For Muskegon, junior back-up field general Deshaun Thrower was forced into action when senior all-state Big Red signal-caller Jalen Smith went down in the second half and made sure his team didn’t miss a beat on offense. In less than a half of play, Thrower was 8-of-17 through the air for 143 yards and scored two touchdowns, the first coming on a one-yard quarterback sneak and the other on a critical 51-yard hook-up with split end Keondre Craig with less than three minutes remaining, knotting the game at 28-28 heading down the stretch.