The Crusaders struggled to sustain and finish drives on offense last week, with sophomore quarterback Cam Martinez attempting a career-high 31 pass attempts in a comeback effort during the 34-10 loss at home.
The good news for MCC is that the regular season doesn’t matter anymore, and anything that happened since Week 1 is thrown by the wayside in Week 10. They will look to bounce back at home in the opener round of the Division 8 playoffs with a matchup against Decatur on Friday night.
Muskegon Catholic Central vs. Decatur
Crusaders’ Record: 7-1 (4-0 Lakes Eight) Last Game: Lost to Montague, 34-10
Raiders’ Record: 6-3 (6-3 SW-10) Last Game: Defeated Eau Claire, 50-6
Last Meeting: MCC defeated Decatur, 41-17, in the D7 regionals on Nov. 10, 2006
Time: Friday, 7 p.m. Location: Kehren Stadium
Scouting the Raiders
The Raiders have enjoyed some success against weaker opponents this season, but haven’t fared as well against the top-tier teams in their league.
Decatur defeated Marcellus (28-24), Bangor (50-6), Centerville (30-0), Bloomingdale (38-14), White Pigeon (48-0) and Eau Claire (50-6) for their six wins on the season.
However, against playoff-qualifying teams, the Raiders are 0-3 with losses to Cassopolis (42-0), Hartford (39-38) and Mendon (41-0).
Decatur uses a Wing-T offensive set, but deploys multiple formations from that base set to confuse defenses.
“They are a run-oriented team, and they use an unbalanced line to create mismatches,” said MCC head coach Steve Czerwon. “They will move an extra offensive lineman around for extra blocking and they mix up their formations, too.
“Defensively, we have to worry about alignment and maintaining gap integrity up front. They do some unique stuff on offense, so we have to be prepared.”
Running back Jakob Southworth is the team’s top performer in the run game, while fellow tailbacks Justin Leonard and Colin Warkentien also provide plenty of playmaking ability for the Raiders.
Senior quarterback Erik Mroczek is a three-year starter for the Raiders, but hasn’t experienced playoff football in his time as the team’s signal-caller.
“Southworth can lineup anywhere. He doesn’t always get the ball, but he’s always active as either a blocker or a ball carrier,” added Czerwon. “Leonard gets some carries, as well. Mroczek is a three-year starter at quarterback, so he’s experienced and knows their offense well.”
Other names to watch on offense are Jaron Baushke at tight end and Anthony Hicks at tackle.
On defense, the Raiders will attempt to clog up the middle of the field against MCC, and force Martinez to be a passer.
The team uses a 4-3 base defensive front and rely on a lot of offensive players to double as defensive playmakers, as well.
Leonard and Warkentien double as the team’s starting corners, while Baushke and Southworth are both defensive ends for the Raiders. Jared Checkley is the team’s leading tackler at outside linebacker. He will likely have a busy day, attempting to track down the speedy playmakers that the Crusaders will use on offense.
“They like to stay strong up the middle, and they are good up front,” Czerwon added. “They don’t play a lot of spread teams, so we present some challenges for them in that regard. We just have to focus on executing and playing our style of game.
“We can’t turn the ball over in the postseason and expect to win. We have to play a clean game and force them to match our speed and athleticism on the outside.”
Key to the Game
Rushing Yards. MCC wants to get back to basics after getting pushed around up front last week by Montague. If the Crusaders are able to establish a consistent rushing attack, while slowing down the Raiders’ Wing-T attack, they will likely run away with this one.
Josh: “MCC always turns up the intensity when Week 10 rolls around, but this week might be an even more inspired stretch of practices after a home loss to Montague to end the regular season. I don’t think Decatur can keep up with the Crusaders’ outside speed for four quarters in this matchup.” MCC 42, Decatur 7
Duncan: “In their first trip to the playoffs since 2014, I don’t see the 6-3 Raiders making much of a run. After clinching their playoff berth with 48 and 46-point wins in their last two weeks of the season, I don’t think Decatur will be able to put up those numbers against a playoff-ready Crusader defense. MCC 35, Decatur 7