Colin Czajkowski showed he can do a lot more than pitch and hit Woodhaven to the Division 1 baseball championship game.
Czajkowski, a Michigan commit for baseball, took over at quarterback Thursday night and rallied Woodhaven to a 14-10 win over Downriver League rival Wyandotte, leading his team to a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns.
On the final drive, Czajkowski connected on a 30-yard pass to Brian Wilkinson and then had an 18-yard completion to the 2 to set up 260-pound running back Clarence Corbett’s 2-yard touchdown run with 40 seconds remaining to cap a 90-yard drive for the difference.
Czajkowski, who usually plays receiver and free safety, was pressed into quarterback duties after Josh Waters suffered a shoulder injury in the season opener. He threw for 120 yards, and Woodhaven’s defense stepped up, limiting Wyandotte to fewer than 200 yards of total offense.
“The last two years has been tough because everyone picks Carlson No. 1, Wyandotte 1 or 2, and we’re 2 or 3 or whatever, so to get through those two and be 2-0, that’s a good way to sit going the rest of the way,” Woodhaven coach Keith Christnagel said. “Last year we started 0-2 and went 7-2, so who knows?”
Christnagel has persuaded his players to look at the big picture, sacrificing individual glory for team success.
“The big thing is that we have a team,” he said. “We made some big changes heading into this week and it was good for us. We went to a three-front and put some pressure, and the big thing is kids have to sit when you change your front and there was no backlash. Kids bought in, which was good. When you go from a T-team (Gibraltar Carlson) and then go to the spread (against Wyandotte), to be able to defend it you have to have more DBs on the field.
“We gave them a different look and then brought pressure from different spots and it’s hard for high school kids to buy into that, you know, ‘I started this week but I don’t play at all next week,’ but our kids have done a good job about being team first.”
Corbett rushed for 177 yards on seven carries, scoring four touchdowns in a season-opening 49-35 victory over Downriver League favorite Gibraltar Carlson.
In June, Czajkowski was 3-for-3, including a two-run homer, in a 7-3 state semifinal win over Birmingham Brother Rice at Michigan State. He hit another homer in the title game loss to Grosse Pointe South, but took the loss.
“Colin’s usually our receiver and free safety, and he just stepped in and made some big plays during that fourth quarter,” Christnagel said.
Experiment a success
Justin Rogers entered the season as a five-star offensive lineman, the top-rated guard in the nation for the class of 2020 by the 247Sports Composite.
Oak Park eighth-year head coach Greg Carter said after last season that Rogers “is a dominating blocker and can pass block equally well as run block, and defensively he’s just scratched the surface. He’s determined to be the best player.”
When asked his goals prior to this season, Rogers replied: “I’ve got the urge to bust my butt every day in practice, just help the team out by being a leader.”
The 6-foot-3, 300-pound Rogers is doing everything that’s asked of him by Carter, resulting in an 11-tackle performance in the season opener when he played defensive end and linebacker, in addition to his offensive line spot.
“I had to step up and play another position, just do it for the team,” Rogers said of Oak Park’s 31-13 win over Utica Eisenhower in Week 1. “I just love playing football and defense is natural time. They just threw me in at linebacker at practice and I just ran with it.”
Carter said: “He’s a football player first and foremost, and wherever we play him he has a challenge to make it work. We played him at linebacker and defensive end. It’s tremendous. I mean, you have a 300-pounder that’s able to play linebacker, so we have to still work on some things with him, but we only started this experiment maybe two or three weeks ago so he’s still learning.”
Rogers was outstanding again in a 13-7 win over Birmingham Groves Thursday.
“He has a rare combination of size and quickness,” Carter said. “Marcus Ayers, my other linebacker at 6-foot and 240 pounds, is almost as good. They just make an awesome combination.”
Rogers and host Oak Park continue their intense rivalry with Farmington Hills Harrison at 6 p.m. Friday. Harrison will be closing its doors following the 2018-19 school year.
Harrison has earned shutouts over North Farmington and Troy Athens to open the season and Northwestern-bound running back/cornerback Rod Heard has rushed for more than 100 yards in each game.
Harrison owns a 5-3 advantage in the series since 2010, including a 17-14 win last season. Oak Park’s last win in the series came two years ago, 14-9.
Schuster set for showdown
Utica Eisenhower has been the class of the Macomb Area Conference Red Division the last two seasons and No. 5 Chippewa Valley will try to end Eisenhower’s run while also attempting to stop its five-game losing streak in the series. The teams meet at 7 p.m. Friday at Eisenhower.
After suffering a 17-3 loss to Eisenhower in 2015 and a 42-0 loss in 2016, Chippewa Valley put up 42 points last season only to come up short once again, 49-42.
This is the third and final shot for Tommy Schuster to get the job done against Eisenhower in his third year as Chippewa Valley’s starting quarterback.
Schuster helped Chippewa Valley finally score a TD in the first half of last year’s game after getting held out of the end zone in his first two games in the series as a starter, but still watched his team trail 28-7 at the intermission before battling back.
Now, Schuster is ready to finish the job.
“It’s going to be a very important game, huge implications on the MAC Red title,” Schuster said. “Obviously, they’ve beaten us numerous games in a row. Last year we made too many mistakes, gave them too many big plays. We can’t make mistakes this time around, have to play a clean game.”
Schuster will be looking for a big performance against the perennial power to increase his chances of getting a college scholarship offer.
Schuster threw for 1,925 yards and 26 TDs — with three interceptions — last season while helping Chippewa Valley reach the Division 1 regional final. He then opened the season with a 15-of-24 effort for 168 yards and two TDs in a 31-26 comeback win at Saline, followed by another solid effort Thursday in a 42-0 rout of Roseville.
Blake Rastigue is the first-year starter at quarterback for Eisenhower and could be dangerous if he can connect on the deep throw, something he failed to take advantage of on several occasions in the opener against Oak Park. He had much more success in a 67-0 rout of Warren Cousino in Week 2.
Cass Tech wins thriller
Detroit Cass Tech pulled out a 21-20 win over Lakewood (Ohio) St. Edward on a 40-yard TD pass from Jalen Graham to Noah Stamps on a fourth-and-27 play with no time left on the clock Friday night.
Lakewood had taken a 20-15 lead with 1:30 left on an 82-yard TD kickoff return.
“The kids enjoyed the trip there and back,” Cass Tech coach Thomas Wilcher said. “I was thrilled to see Noah come across, leap in the air and grab the ball and do what he did to show off his great athletic ability.”
Wilcher said the team didn’t get back to Detroit until nearly 2 a.m. Saturday. He then got some sleep and headed to South Bend to watch Michigan play Notre Dame.
Wilcher said he talked briefly to former Detroit Mercy assistant basketball coach Jermaine Jackson, who is now running the athletic department at Spire Academy in suburban Cleveland and trying to bring Wilcher with him to start the school’s football program.
“We talked briefly last night (Friday) and he sounds serious about it so we’ll get together soon and talk more,” Wilcher said. “I will consider anything that allows us to have upward mobility in any way to help improve the lifestyle of young men and try and encourage men to have a better lifestyle so they can go off and be contributors to society and go off and be better young men, then better husbands and fathers.”
Wilcher has a 225-72 record in 27 years, including Division 1 championships in 2011, 2012 and 2016. He was inducted into the Michigan High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame this past winter.