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MHSAA Football State Championship - The Finals Countdown

This is what we have been waiting for since December 1st of last year! Many players and coaches feel the same way I do; after a week or so of sitting around, I’m ready to get back to practice and back to the games. That’s when the hard work is put in. Now is when that hard work pays off. There are 634 teams that play in Michigan, but only nine will walk off the field state champions. Carsonville-Port Sanilac has already enjoyed that feeling, winning the 8 man football state title in the first year the MHSAA has sponsored a title game. Eight more teams will play this weekend for the honor of their schools, community, and the fellow players who have come and gone before them. When it’s all said and done, some players may never play organized football again. A few lucky individuals will continue their playing career in the collegiate ranks. With my sappy introduction to the state finals out of the way, LET’S GET TO THE GAMES!

Division 1

Detroit Cass Tech (10-3) vs. Detroit Catholic Central (12-1) (Saturday November 26, 1pm)

The Technicians of Detroit Cass Tech are finally in a position they have been trying to get to for many years. Over the past few seasons, they have been one of the top teams in the Detroit Public School League. Along with Detroit Martin Luther King, they are the only schools in the PSL to make the state championship game in football. King won a state title by defeating Midland back in 2007. Last week, they defeated Utica Eisenhower by the score of 6-3. This is the recap I posted about the game this past Tuesday, “This game is very much like the game that Cass Tech won last week; a low scoring affair with plenty of defense. The weather didn’t help much with the winds whipping at Troy Athens High School. Cass Tech quarterback Jayru Campbell completed six of his 15 passes for 38 yards and ran four times for negative two. Royce Jenkins-Stone carried the ball 21 times for 113 yards and scored the game’s only touchdown. Deon Drake ran 14 times for 49 yards.” Coach Thomas Wilcher talked about walking to the game because they are so close to Ford Field. It’s either going to be a very happy or very disappointing walk home.

Detroit Catholic Central is in a position they have enjoyed many times over the years. This is their 14th state title game and the school has won 10, including the previous eight they have played in. Their coach, Tom Mach, is 315-76 over his 35 year coaching career. His squads are always well prepared and execute his game plans. Over the years, he has coached many high quality young men as well as football players. In their 23-20 overtime in against Rockford, Coach Mach utilized the play action pass to perfection because DCC is known for running the football. It was that kind of pass from quarterbacks Kyle Cooper to running back Anthony Darkangelo from seven yards out that gave the Shamrocks the victory in OT. For the game, Cooper completed seven of his 12 passes for 94 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception. Darkangelo gained 37 yards on 11 carries, completed two halfback passes, and made that huge reception in overtime. David Houle ran the ball 24 times for 82 yards. David Racey caught three passes for 62 yards. This will be an epic battle between two great teams from Detroit.

Division 2

Brother Rice (9-4) vs. Lowell (12-1) (Friday November 25, 1pm)

Al Fracassa’s Brother Rice Warriors were very close to watching the game on TV instead of playing in it. They won the game 27-26 over Detroit Martin Luther King,  but scored all their points in the first half. It could have been two teams from the PSL playing in state title games instead of two teams from the Catholic School League. Running back Devin Church had a very nice game. He ran the ball 33 times for 215 yards and a score. Brian Walker ran 13 times and gained 75 yards and scored once. Austin Echols only ran twice, but gained 51 yards and scored a 50 yard touchdown. Jason Alessi nailed two 37 yard field goals. It will be very interesting to see how these two teams square off. Coach Fracassa knows the game as well as anyone in the state of Michigan and should have a solid game plan to stop Lowell’s spread option offense.

Lowell had a crazy game. In overtime, they took home the win 42-35. The second half was pretty nuts; the two teams scored nine touchdowns and for the game, Lowell’s Gabe Dean and two Walled Lake Western quarterbacks combined for over 700 passing yards. Lowell scored with one minute left, only to see WLW hit a 47 yard field goal with 1.8 seconds to go in the game. Dean finished the game with 30 rushing attempts for 52 yards and two touchdowns to go along with his passing stats of 16 for 23 for 316 yards and three touchdowns. Josh Addington ran seven times for 78 yards and a touchdown. Blake Lyman caught eight passes for 198 yards and two touchdowns…none of which was bigger than the 13 yard reception for a score in overtime. Coach Noel Dean has been able to coach in five of the past eight state title games. He knows what it takes as well as his players. They don’t get too high or too low, but are ready to play.

Division 3

Orchard Lake St. Mary’s (11-2) vs. Mount Pleasant (13-0) (Saturday November 26, 7:30pm)

This isn’t the first rodeo for Orchard Lake St. Mary’s. Heck, it’s not even the second. This is the third straight state final for the Eaglets and that doesn’t count all the other times they have played in a championship game. This time, they won’t play the Pioneers of East Grand Rapids, but they will be seeing the blue and yellow of Mount Pleasant. Last week, the Eaglets beat Battle Creek Harper Creek 14-10 to secure a shot at their first title since 2000. Leading the charge was junior running back Grant Niemiec who ran for 129 yards and scored twice. His second touchdown was scored with less than a minute to play to take the lead. Quarterback Dan Clements completed eight of his 18 passes for 81 yards but tossed three interceptions. He also ran twice for 31 more. Watts-Jackson caught four passes for 34 yards. This will be an exciting closing game for the state championship.

This is the first state title game in Mount Pleasant history. They play in the Saginaw Valley League and have won 32 straight league games. In the past two seasons, the only losses they have been in the regional round or semifinal game. Coach Jason McIntyre has built a program in a town dominated by Central Michigan University. Last week, they Oilers finally beat East Grand Rapids and advanced to the state title game. It was a very close game; with Zac Kramer hitting a 35 yard field goal with 11 seconds to play that gave them the win. Quarterback Ryan Elliott completed 23 of his 38 passes for 307 yards, three touchdowns, and an interception. Running back Michael Tweh ran 26 times for 142 yards and a score. He has 1,868 yards so far this season and scored 25 touchdowns. Receiver Colton Odykirk caught nine passes for 107 yards and two scores while Dustin Lee caught seven passes for 119 yards and a score. This is the biggest game in the history of Mount Pleasant High School’s football team.

Division 4

Marine City (13-0) vs. Zeeland West (13-0) (Friday November 25, 7:30pm)

This game is one of two that has both teams coming into the game without a blemish. It was only four years ago that Marine City beat Detroit Country Day for a state title.  Now, they are back to the championship game. Last week, they blasted Grosse Ile 45-6. In the game, they didn’t even punt the ball. It helps when you have eight seniors on your lines. Running back Anthony Scarcelli (who is going to CENTRAL MICHIGAN!) played very well. He ran the ball 13 times for 103 yards and also caught two passes for 75 yards. Quarterback Austin Kroll completed eight of his 11 passes for 144 yards and two scores. He also ran five times for 29 yards. This is the eighth consecutive season that the Mariners have won at least 10 games and have done that 12 of the past 13 seasons. Coach Tony Scarcelli will have his team ready to play and “up” for the situation.

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In the season before Marine City last won a state title, it was Zeeland West won took home the Division 4 trophy. They will bring out the Wing T offense and try to run it down the Mariners throat. It might be a bit more difficult because running back Josh Blanton has a serious shoulder injury in the semifinals. Quarterback Clay Coatney attempted two passes, but both fell incomplete. He did run much more than normal, gaining 135 yards and scoring twice on ten attempts. Kyle Kujawa scored twice and ran for 81 yards. Coach John Shillito has a lot of experience in state title games. He has guided multiple teams to the final game and won it all with Zeeland West a few seasons ago. The Dux may be down a player, but they have worked hard all season to get to this point so they should be ready for whatever is thrown at them Friday evening.

Division 5

Flint Powers Catholic (9-4) vs. Lansing Catholic (13-0) (Saturday November 26, 4:30pm)

At the beginning of the season, Flint Powers Catholic did not look good. They had lost games and it was shaping up to be another bad season. Then they got it turned around. On September 30th, the Chargers were 2-4 and even the playoffs were not looking good. They were able to rattle off win after win and get into the playoffs, then keep getting better to make it back to the state title game. It was back in 2005 when they last won a state title. This past week, they beat Almont 27-10. Quarterback Garrett Pougnet completed nine of his 20 passes for 188 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions. He also ran eight times for 30 yards and a score. Nick Sullivan ran five times for four yards. Spencer Harchick ran once for a ten yard touchdown. Prescott Myers caught three passes for 96 yards and a score while Danny Messner’s only reception was a 60 yard touchdown. It’s hard to count out Flint Powers this season as they keep getting better.

The Cougars of Lansing Catholic have been on fire all season. From quarterback Cooper Rush (who is the Division 5/6 All-State Player of the Year and future Chippewa) to Matt Macksood (another All-State player this season) and everyone in between, they have been very, very tough. This week, they will play Flint Powers, a team they pounded 37-17 in week two. Here is the write up I did for the semifinals, “Cooper Rush completed 29 of his 43 passes for 387 yards, four touchdowns, and two interceptions. He also ran the ball 13 times for 48 additional yards and another score. Matt Macksood caught eight passes for 122 yards and two touchdowns. When he ran the ball, he gained 56 yards on six attempts. Jack Swain ran twice for 21 yards and also caught five passes for 68 yards and a score.” This game will be one of the toughest they have played all season. With so much riding on the game, it’s hard to believe that nerves won’t play a part for both squads. It will be very important to get the butterflies out and get down to playing football.

Division 6

Constantine (11-2) vs. Ithaca (13-0) (Friday November 25, 4:30pm)

Constantine Falcons are humming along. After two losses in early September, they haven’t lost a game. Now they will be in the state title game for the first time since winning it all back in 2004. Last week, they beat Ecorse 45-44. Both teams had put up more than 400 yards of offense each. Quarterback Tommy Reed completed five of his seven passes for 84 yards and a score and ran nine times for 32 additional yards and one more score. Ben Mallo was the workhorse, running 27 times for 183 yards and two touchdowns. Payton White toted the rock 20 times for 101 yards and two scores as well. White also pulled in three receptions for 25 yards.

Ithaca is rolling along. The last time they lost was November 20, 2009 in the semifinal game versus Montague. Many people didn’t think that they would win much this season after losing Alex Niznak to Central Michigan University. They have proved them wrong. Last week, they traveled to the Superior Dome in the Upper Peninsula to take on Iron Mountain. The Yellowjackets won the game 28-0 behind a 21 point second quarter. Quarterback Travis Smith completed 13 of his 17 pass attempts for 213 yards and three touchdowns while also picking up 57 yards and a score on 14 rushing attempts. Running back Garrett Miniard gained 50 yards on nine carries. Receiver David Brown hauled in five passes for 137 yards and two touchdowns. Charles Schnetzler caught five passes for 50 yards and a score. This game will feature two very tough smaller schools in a battle for that Michigan shaped trophy.

Division 7

Pewamo-Westphalia (13-0) vs. Saginaw Nouvel (12-0) (Saturday November 26, 10am)

This is the second game featuring two undefeated teams. Pewamo-Westphalia comes into the championship game with confidence, after beating Hudson, the defending state champions in Division 7 and traditional power Ravenna in the playoffs. Last week they beat Hudson 22-14 which was Hudson’s second loss in the previous 40 games. They went into halftime all knotted up at 6 and the third quarter denied both teams any points. Defensively, Lane Simon finished with 18 tackles, followed by Collin Nurenberg’s 17 and Gavin Smith’s 16. On offense, quarterback Justin Thelen completed seven of his 12 pass attempts for 92 yards and a touchdown. He also ran nine times for 18 yards. Alex Thelen was the leading rusher with 19 attempts for 87 yards and two touchdowns. The biggest score was a 43 yard run with 1:23 left in the game to put PW up for good. He also caught two passes for 26 yards. They will need all the firepower and confidence they can get if they want to beat a very good Nouvel squad.

Nouvel has run roughshod over virtually everyone they have played this season. The closest game they played this year was last week against Traverse City St. Francis which they won 14-3. TCSF kicker Austin Currie nailed a 35 yard field goal in the second quarter for the first half’s only points. The second half belonged to the Panthers. Quarterback Joe Buchalski completed six of his 13 passes for 139 yards, a touchdown, and two interceptions. He also ran six times for 55 yards. Bennett Lewis, Nouvel’s workhorse all season, ran 21 times for 104 yards and a score. Ty Jacobs pulled in two passes for 80 yards, which included a 73 yard touchdown reception. Only four seasons ago, Nouvel put together a second straight championship season. These players are accustomed to winning and know what it will take. If they can ride Bennett Lewis, they will and he could bring them yet another state title.

Division 8

Mendon (13-0) vs. Fowler (11-2) (Friday November 25, 10am)

Mendon is a small school that plays very good football. This will be the 12th time they have reached the state title game and won 10 of the past 11. The last time they won it all was back in 2007. Now they are back and ready to go at it one more time. I wrote about their last game earlier this week and here is a quick recap, “Quarterback Chance Nightingale completed two of his three passes for 18 yards while also running 14 times, gaining 76 yards, and scoring four rushing touchdowns. Running back Tyler Harris ran 33 times for 155 yards. Tanner Cook ran 15 times for 83 yards and scored once. Cook caught both of Nightingale’s passes for those 18 yards.” It will be important for them to come out and get points early so they can do more things on defense. That defensive squad has yet to give up 100 points on the season (97). If they can take a lead and protect it with a heavy dose of the ground game, it will be time to bring home another state championship.

Fowler is playing very well. This is the first time in the state title game since they won it all in 1998. Interestingly enough, Fowler plays in the same league as Pewamo-Westphalia and took third in the conference. They lost week one to Saranac and week three to Pewamo-Westphalia. Last week, they beat up St. Ignace LaSalle 45-8. The defense forced five turnovers and held SIL to 127 total yards. Quarterback Dustin Wirth completed three of his five passes for 70 yards and two scores while also running five times for another 20 yards. Kevin Koenigsknecht caught two passes for 22 yards and a score while Jacob Schmitt hauled in one for a 48 yard score. Leading the rushing attack was Tyler Koenigsknecht with 16 rushing attempts for 88 yards and two scores. It will be very important for Fowler to also score points early. Mendon has a good defense and will challenge Fowler’s offense. The Eagles defense has been opportunistic and will need to get some turnovers that stop Mendon drives.