Saturday finals preview: St. Mary's expects 'tough man's game'
Tyson Smith knows what it's like to be playing at Ford Field for a state championship.
Now, he wants to experience what it feels to be a state champion.
But to do so, he'll have to lead Orchard Lake St. Mary's past a roadblock in Division 3 — Muskegon.
St. Mary's has lost to Muskegon the only times the teams have faced in the last decade — the 2004 Division 2 state final and the 2012 season opener.
"It's no secret of what they do — they run the ball — and it's no secret what we do — we run the ball — so it's going to be a tough man's game, who's going to stick around longer," said Smith, a cornerback bound for Michigan State.
"It's going to be a little hotter on the field so it's going to be who's tougher.
"Muskegon has a good tradition and nothing's changed from what I've seen on film. We played them two years ago and came up short by seven points."
St. Mary's won the Division 3 state title in 2011, then lost with Smith on the field in 2012. It also lost state title games in 2009 and 2010 (35-27).
Last year, it missed the postseason, finishing 5-4.
"Last year was a big inspiration for this year," said Smith, who has eight interceptions.
"All of our seniors, we want to win. Our whole team, we want to win, so everybody is fighting for each other.
"Going into the state championship, it's like, 'We got here, but we're not happy with just getting here. We want to win.' "
The good news is St. Mary's offense is on a roll, outscoring opponents 190-28 during the postseason.
And that pleases coach George Porritt, who has 233 career victories.
"We're a power football team and we run the ball like Muskegon does, but I think what's helped us in the last few weeks is the fact we've been throwing the ball due to the maturity of our quarterback, Brandon Tabone," Porritt said.
"He's gotten better every game ... and that's opened things up for our running game.
"We've gotten the ball to our outside receivers (KJ Hamler, Tyson) and they're good playmakers for us. They want the ball in their hands."
Muskegon last won the state championship in 2008, coming up short against Birmingham Brother Rice the last two years in the Division 2 final.
Divison 1: Clarkston vs. Saline
Scouting Clarkston: Clarkston enters the final on a 26-game winning streak. Quarterback D.J. Zezula (2,100-plus yards passing, 800-plus rushing) led Clarkston to the title game a year ago, and running back Nolan Eriksen has run for 1,400 yards.
Scouting Saline: Saline is playing for its first state championship. Dual-threat quarterback Josh Jackson, son of Michigan running backs coach Fred Jackson, has thrown for more than 1,600 yards.
Division 5: Grand Rapids West Catholic vs. Lansing Catholic Central
Scouting West Catholic: This is the fourth time the last five years West Catholic has advanced to Ford Field, winning in 2010 and 2013. Travis Russell is in the spotlight for West Catholic, throwing for 2,346 yards and 35 touchdowns and rushing for more than 1,300 yards.
Scouting Catholic Central: LCC has put up huge numbers during the postseason, 70 in one game, 61 in another and then 49 before its 21-14 semifinal victory over a physically tough Almont team. Tony Poljan, who has thrown for more than 2,500 yards and 33 TDs, rallied his team back from a 14-0 halftime deficit to defeat Almont.
Division 7: Detroit Loyola vs. Ishpeming
Scouting Loyola: Loyola has dominated during its postseason run behind Marvin Campbell, who has rushed for more than 1,800 yards and 30 touchdowns.
Scouting Ishpeming: Ishpeming, which has beaten Loyola in the last two years in the finals, likes to pound the ball behind Ozzy Hakkarinen (8.4 yards per carry), Ozzy Corp (7.2 yards), Domonic Suardini (6.2) and Nate Meyer (8.4).
All games at Ford Field
TV: FSD unless noted
■Munising vs. Muskegon CC, 10 a.m.
■Muskegon Mona Shores vs. Warren De La Salle, 1 p.m.
■Monroe St. Mary CC vs. Ithaca, 4:30 p.m. FSD+
■Grand Rapids South Christian vs. Lansing Sexton, 7:30 p.m. (tape delay at 10:30 p.m.)
■Ishpeming vs. Detroit Loyola, 10 a.m.
■Clarkston vs. Saline, 1 p.m.
■Grand Rapids West Catholic vs. Lansing Catholic, 4:30 p.m.
■Orchard Lake St. Mary's vs. Muskegon, 7:30 p.m.