The expectations as a Muskegon Catholic Central football player are always to bring home a state title. After winning back-to-back state championships in 2013-14, the pressure on the 2015 squad was intense.
“We only had seven seniors on the roster,” said Muskegon Catholic Central coach Steve Czerwon. “All seven seniors started for us, though, so that was really special for us as far as leadership.
“The toughest thing for this team was that the 2014 team was a historically good team. That team finished seventh all-time in scoring at any division. So they had a lot to live up to, and the bar was set almost unfairly high for them.”
Those expectations quickly turned to questions of whether the Crusaders would even make the playoffs after a 45-26 loss at Oakridge to start the season, followed by a controversial cancellation of its Week 2 game at Muskegon Heights after a fatal shooting forced the school to consider the students’ safety and pull out of the game.
“We got humbled a little bit in that first game,” Czerwon added. “Next thing you know, we’re getting ready for Week 3, and we’re 0-1. That’s a weird place to be as a team. I give a lot of credit to the senior leadership on this team for getting us through that stretch.”
For Czerwon, the turning point of the season was the Crusaders’ 29-26 comeback win at Fruitport in Week 6.
“We were down two scores with six minutes to go. We were able to come back and win a close game, which I think served us well in the playoffs, because we had a few games where we had to focus on execution in tight spots, and we could always look back to that fourth quarter against Fruitport and know that we were capable of doing it. I think that game gave us the confidence we needed to push through the rest of the season.”
Road to State Championship
District opener: Defeated Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart, 49-7
In the opening round of the Division 8 playoffs, Muskegon Catholic Central thrashed visiting Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart, 49-7. Senior linebacker Nate Jones tied a state record with two interception returns for touchdowns in the same quarter, giving the Crusaders an early 14-0 lead before the team even ran an offensive play from scrimmage.
District Final: Defeated Beal City, 48-13
After a scoreless first quarter, the Crusader offense found its groove and never looked back, racking up more than 500 yards of total offense, and routing the host Aggies, 48-13, to capture its 12th district championship in 13 years.
Junior tailback LaTommy Scott rushed for 202 yards and three touchdowns on 10 carries to lead MCC, while Walker Christoffersen added 106 yards rushing and one touchdown and 126 yards receiving and two touchdowns on four receptions. Logan Helton added 91 yards and one touchdown rushing and quarterback Christian Martinez was 4-for-4 passing for 126 yards and two touchdowns.
Senior Jacob Holt led the Crusader defense with eight tackles, including one sack, while Adam Benoit and Logan Helton each added seven tackles.
Regional Final: Defeated Frankfort, 22-12
After trailing for the majority of the game, including a 12-7 deficit entering the fourth quarter, the Crusaders reeled off 15 unanswered points to escape Frankfort with a 22-12 win in the Division 8 regional finals.
Junior running back LaTommy Scott was bottled up for the first three quarters, but broke off a 44-yard touchdown run with just over seven minutes left in the game to give MCC a 15-12 lead.
Scott finished with 77 yards and one touchdown on nine carries, while Walker Christoffersen added 43 yards on eight carries and fullback Logan Helton added 23 yards on five carries.
Senior defensive lineman Jacob Holt added 11 tackles, four for loss and one interception to help anchor a MCC defense that was forced to play on a short field all game.
Semifinal: Defeated St. Ignace, 33-20
In their fourth consecutive Division 8 state semifinal appearance, the Crusaders let a big lead dwindle down to eight points early in the fourth quarter against upset-minded Saint Ignace at Thirlby Field in Traverse City.
Senior quarterback Christian Martinez answered the challenge by directing an impressive 60-yard scoring drive, capped by his own 10-yard touchdown run with 5 minutes left in the game.
MCC’s Nate Jones followed that with a midfield interception, then running back LaTommy Scott turned in a highlight reel 25-yard touchdown run, giving the Crusaders the breathing room they needed to capture a 33-20 victory in cold and slippery field conditions.
MCC dominated in total offense, 383-150 yards, including a huge 318-98 advantage in rushing.
Final: Defeated Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes, 7-0
Through the first 37-plus minutes of the Division 8 state championship battle between Muskegon Catholic Central and Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes, neither offense was able to solve the opposing defense.
MCC senior quarterback and defensive back Christian Martinez intercepted a pass late in the third quarter to fend off a Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes scoring opportunity. The two-way starter then engineered the only scoring drive of the day, capped off with a quarterback sweep from eight yards out to give the Crusaders a 7-0 lead with 10:20 left in the game.
Our Lady of the Lakes would march all the way down to the MCC 13-yard line on the ensuing drive, but junior defensive back Walker Christoffersen dove in front of a pass in the end zone for his second interception on the day and fourth as a team.
Christoffersen also led the MCC rushing attack with 113 yards on 18 carries, including a 30-yard scamper that sealed the game in the closing minute of play. Martinez added 45 yards rushing and one touchdown on 10 carries, while junior running back LaTommy Scott added 49 yards on 12 carries.
Senior defensive end Jacob Holt recorded 6.5 tackles to lead the stingy Crusader defense that shut out an offense that hadn’t scored fewer than 32 points all season, while fellow seniors Nate Jones and Andrew Schulte each added six tackles.
The win gave the Crusaders their third straight Division 8 state championship and 11th all-time, trailing only Farmington Hills Harrison (13) and now-closed Detroit St. Martin dePorres (12).
The Crusaders finished 11-2 on the season and left Czerwon with memories he won’t soon forget.
“I’ll never forget that week of prep for the state finals,” Czerwon said. “They had an amazing week of practice and everyone was dialed in. That carried over to the game with guys like Brody Keift and Savion Thompson having huge games for us on defense.
“Then you look at four-year varsity starters like Nate Jones and Jacob Holt, and how rare that is to have that much experience at such important positions. Christian Martinez really took his game to a new level in his senior season, too, and capped it off by scoring the game-winning touchdown in the state title game.”
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