After jumping out to an early 14-0 lead, the Raiders answered back with 14 points in the second quarter to enter halftime even with the four-time defending state champions. The Crusaders found some offensive rhythm in the second half, outscoring Decatur 28-6, and pulling away for a 42-20 win in the Division 8 pre-district matchup.
MCC can’t afford any missteps this week, as they travel to an old playoff nemesis in the Mendon Hornets. The two programs have won a combined 27 state championships in the modern playoff era, and both teams will be fighting to add another trophy to their already crowded mantel.
When these two teams meet in the playoffs, the winner often goes on to raise the championship trophy at Ford Field. In their seven playoff matchups, the winner between the Hornets and the Crusaders has gone on to win the state title in six times.
The Crusaders hold a 5-2 all-time series advantage over Mendon, but their two losses have been on the road.
Muskegon Catholic Central @ Mendon
Crusaders’ Record: 8-1 (4-0 Lakes Eight) Last Week: Defeated Decatur, 42-20
Hornets’ Record: 10-0 (9-0 SW-10) Last Week: Defeated Lake Michigan Catholic, 28-12
Last Meeting: MCC defeated Mendon, 48-7, in the D8 regional on Nov. 14, 2014
Time: Saturday, 1 p.m. Location: Schwartz Field
SCOUTING THE HORNETS
Sophomore fullback Austin Rensi (5’7, 170 pounds) rushed for 171 yards last week. Rensi is the team’s quickest athlete, often taking counters and outside sweeps the distance from various positions along the backfield.
Senior running back Wyatt Cool (5’11, 190 pounds) rushed for 111 yards against Lake Michigan Catholic. He’s the bruiser of the backfield, but also has some breakaway speed if he gets a head of steam going.
Senior Hunter Lovell (6’5, 185 pounds) and junior quarterback Cole Decker (5’10, 150 pounds) split duties at quarterback for the Hornets. Decker operates as the signal caller when the team is in its basic Wing-T formation, while Lovell takes over as the team’s quarterback whenever they go to a spread or ace formation.
The Hornets finished with 442 yards of total offense (415 rushing) last week against St. Joseph Lake Michigan Catholic, and senior Noah Slaughter (5’11, 215 pounds) was a big reason why. He is the team’s starting guard and helps establish a bruising rushing attack for Mendon.
On defense, Middle linebacker Mikki Feister (6’0) is the team’s leading tackler and had six solo stops last week. Lovell doubles as a hard-hitting outside linebacker, Rensi is the other middle linebacker in the Hornets’ 4-4 scheme
Cool plays as a crashing defensive end, often disrupting plays off the edge.Slaughter pairs with Cool at the other end of the line. Weinberg is ball-hawking safety who will be looking to force turnovers, while James Hunter is one of the team’s starting cornerbacks is also active in run support.
“It’s basically your typical Mendon team this year. They run the Wing-T on offense and they are physical upfront. They have some playmakers in the backfield that they try and get out in open space, and they have a couple of big bodies on their offensive line that spring plays open for them.
“On defense, they are very disciplined and they tackle well. They seem to be able to cover well in the passing game, too. We’ll have to be assignment sound in our execution in order to be successful against them.
“We will have to adjust to them, but they will have to adjust to us, as well. I don’t think they’ve gone up against a lot of teams that can throw multiple formations with different athletes at them the whole game. It’s going to be a physical, hard-nosed football game and we’re hoping we can come out and execute on the road. They always play a little harder at home, so we know we will have to be mentally and physically ready to go.”
KEY TO THE GAME
Special Teams. In a game so evenly matched, it may come down to field position and special teams play. MCC has an experienced kicker in Caleb Muskovin and a game-changer in Cam Martinez as a punt returner. If Martinez can make a big play as a returner, it could make all the difference in an otherwise dead even matchup.
Josh: “Mendon has only allowed 57 points this season, so scoring on their defense will be a difficult task for an MCC offense that hasn’t exactly been firing on all cylinders lately. However, the MCC defense is no slouch, and I expect both teams to struggle to score early on. I think Cam Martinez will make a few splash plays late and a missed extra point by Mendon to be the difference in a wildly entertaining game.”
MCC 28, Mendon 27
Duncan: “Mendon and MCC have a tremendous playoff history. In seven postseason meetings, the Crusaders have taken five victories. The last two meetings have spoiled perfect seasons for the Hornets. After struggling to get going early against Decatur last week, MCC will have to be on their A game early to win this one. If they aren't, I don’t think Mendon will give them any leeway.” Mendon 32, MCC 28.