Detroit Catholic Central, which shut out Detroit Cass Tech after falling in two straight finals, will trot onto Ford Field for a third straight year. (Robin Buckson / Detroit News)
Novi — Losses in the last two Division 1 finals, one particularly embarrassing, weighed heavily on Detroit Catholic Central and coach Tom Mach going into Saturday’s semifinal at Troy Athens.
Detroit Cass Tech owned C.C. in the last two title games, winning 49-13 in 2011 and 36-21 last season. This time it was C.C. that was dominant. It never allowed Cass Tech to get comfortable on a day as cold and windy as any semifinal in recent history.
C.C. won 28-0, but for most Cass Tech fans the number that stands out is zero. Cass Tech had averaged nearly 39 points in its first 12 games.
For C.C. it’s retribution. The loss to Cass Tech in 2011 represents the largest point differential in school history and no C.C. team had given up 49 points in a playoff game.
“We’ve carried it around for two years,” C.C. coach Tom Mach said. “We knew we had to beat them to get back to the finals. Beating them does mean more than it would someone else. Absolutely. To get to Ford Field three straight years, it’s great. It’s great for the tradition of the school. It’s great for the kids.
“We emphasized the positives. We had no turnovers. That’s a key in the playoffs and that was the key for Cass Tech the last two years. I told the kids to secure the ball. The weather might have made a difference. Attitude was more important. We did what we do.”
The loss led to frustration on the part of Cass Tech junior quarterback Jayru Campbell. According to the Cass Tech coach Thomas Wilcher and C.C. athletic director Aaron Babicz, Campbell threw a punch at a C.C. player as the teams shook hands afterward. Neither Wilcher nor Babicz said the punch landed. The C.C. player had his helmet on, as all the players did, when the punch was thrown. Babicz said Cass Tech assistant coach Jermaine Crowell quickly apologized to the C.C. staff.
“I am embarrassed,” Wilcher said of the incident. “You have to handle your frustrations. You have to know how to treat people. Sports teach life lessons. Who you are is based upon how you treat people.”
C.C. (11-2) will play Clarkston (12-1) for the title at 1 p.m. Saturday at Ford Field.
The two programs have never met before.
Clarkston advanced to its first state final by blowing by Flint Carman-Ainsworth, 61-26, as running back Ian Eriksen set career-high marks for attempts (44), yards (355) and touchdowns (6).
Fellow Catholic League Central Division member Birmingham Brother Rice also will make its third consecutive appearance in a state final. The difference is Brother Rice will be seeking its third consecutive title.
Brother Rice (13-0) advanced thanks to a 43-20 victory over Detroit King at Wayne State.
“It’s unbelievable,” coach Al Fracassa said. “It’s the first time we’ve made it three in a row.
“We got up on them (26-0) and then they threw a long pass and all of a sudden it’s close (26-14). A couple of years ago, we were up and they came back (Brother Rice won 27-26). I said, ‘Is this going to be a repeat?’ ”
Brother Rice scored the next two touchdowns to put the game away.
Fracassa said he didn’t change his game plan because of the weather conditions.
“We were going to pass the ball,” he said. “We were going in with that philosophy.”
Brother Rice quarterback Alex Malzone was 11-of-21 for 181 yards and two touchdowns.
Brother Rice’s victory sets up a rematch of last year’s final against Muskegon (12-1) on Friday at 1 p.m. Brother Rice won last year, 35-28.
Muskegon defeated Portage Central, 41-35, and Muskegon coach Shane Fairfield said weather conditions forced his staff to take away the third option of its triple option offense.
“Maybe we should play the semifinals indoors,” Fairfield said. “That was the coldest day in my 26 years of coaching. We started out on fire with our perimeter games and led 14-0. After a while the ball was like a rock and our pitches were inconsistent. We had five fumbles (lost four). So we went to more fives and counters.
“Our defense played well. They gained 175 yards. They had drives of 10 and nine yards to score two of their touchdowns.”
Weather conditions played a part in DeWitt’s 21-20 victory over St. Clair.
DeWitt is accustomed to using a balanced attack but quarterback Jacob Johnson attempted just 13 passes, completing eight.
“We made mistakes we don’t usually make,” DeWitt coach Rob Zimmerman said. “We fumbled three times, got it back each time, but it cost us field position.”
DeWitt trailed 20-14 early in the fourth quarter when defensive back Ben Zamiara intercepted and returned it 45 yards to the St. Clair 15. Johnson’s 15-yard run set up Ben Reinritz’s 1-yard touchdown run.
“They were the best team we’ve played this year,” Zimmerman said of St. Clair.
DeWitt (13-0), which has never won a state title, will play Zeeland West (12-1) for the title at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
Weather conditions are low on the list of priorities for West coach John Shillito. He’s run the tight T-formation since he guided Comstock Park to the Class C semifinals (when there were just four classes) in 1983.
“We worry about it if it’s raining and were on grass,” he said. “We use our feet so we don’t like a muddy track.”
West has attempted just 30 passes this season.
Though it runs the wing-T Marine City likes to throw the ball, not a lot, but considerably more than Zeeland West.
The conditions on Saturday changed that game plan, for Marine City and its opponent, Lansing Sexton.
Marine City (12-1) upset Sexton (12-1), 12-7, at Ortonville Brandon in a game that was unlike any either team had played this season. Sexton had averaged 37.5 points; Marine City 41.3.
“The passing game was challenging,” Marine City coach Ron Glodich said. “Our defensive front did a great job. On film there was always some big play (Sexton) were making. They only had one big completion against us.
“To win we had to control the line of scrimmage. We were able to shut down their run game and we had over 300 yards rushing.”
Tait Sapienza rushed for 195 yards and two touchdowns and defensive back-receiver Joe Mazure made two big plays. His interception in the end zone in the first quarter kept the score tied at 0-0 and his 16-yard reception on a third-and-8 kept Marine City’s offense on the field as they were able to kill the last 5:43 off the clock.
Marine City, a finalist two years ago, will play defending champion Grand Rapids South Christian (12-1) for the title at 7:30 Friday.
Grand Rapids West Catholic (9-4) ended Livonia Clarenceville’s season with a 35-0 drubbing at Battle Creek Harper Creek. This sets up what promises to be a high-scoring game between West Catholic, the 2010 champion, and Menominee (13-0), which won titles in ’06 and ’07, at 4:30 Saturday.
Menominee led Muskegon Oakridge 49-0 at halftime and won 59-28 at the Superior Dome.
Running from the single wing, Menominee halfback Justin Brilinski completed 13 of 14 pass attempts for 131 yards and three touchdowns.
Ithaca will play for a fourth consecutive title after slipping past Montrose, 21-20, at Midland on Saturday.
Trailing 21-14 with two minutes to play Montrose (12-1) pulled to within a point on Riley Warren’s 47-yard touchdown pass to Jeff Long. The conversion kick was wide.
Travis Smith’s interception ended Montrose’s last possession inside Ithaca’s 30-yard line.
Ithaca (13-0) has won 55 consecutive games and will face Clinton (13-0) for the title at 4:30 Friday.
Smith was 15-of-27 passing for 247 yards and three touchdowns. He set the state record for career touchdown passes with 99. Jason Fracassa of Sterling Heights Stevenson (2006-09) held the previous record of 97.
Detroit Loyola (13-0) lost to Ishpeming, 20-14, in the state final last season and the two teams will be matched up again at 10 a.m. Saturday at Ford Field after impressive performances last Saturday.
Ishpeming (13-0) led Harbor Beach, 30-0, at halftime and won 44-10.
Loyola blitzed Homer, 52-7. Loyola has outscored its four playoff opponents, 215-14.
“I don’t know that it’s been that easy,” Loyola coach John Callahan said. “A lot went into this. We moved up to the (Catholic League) AA Division from the Intersectional and we were forced to play tough football teams. We’ve had to come from behind in a few games and it’s prepared us for the playoffs.”
Beal City (13-0) will get its second consecutive shot at a state title after defeating Crystal Falls Forest Park, 34-18, at the Superior Dome. Beal City lost to Harbor Beach in last year’s final, 35-10.
Its opponent, at 10 a.m. Friday, will be Muskegon Catholic Central (11-2), a 45-14 winner over New Lothrop.
C.C. won the title in 2008. Beal City won the title the following year.
Beal City quarterback Kurt Gross completed 10 of 17 attempts for 170 yards and three touchdowns against Forest Park.
Beal City’s defense recovered four fumbles in the second half.