Steve Czerwon knew Benton Harbor would be better than its record, and the Tigers were.
Muskegon Catholic Central’s football coach also thought that his Crusaders might be able to wear down their hosts at the line of scrimmage, and they did.
It wasn’t easy, but MCC pulled away late for a 29-12 nonleague victory over Benton Harbor in a rare Thursday game. The contest was originally scheduled for Friday night, but it was moved to 5 p.m. Thursday because of an officiating shortage.
Next, the Crusaders face another group of Tigers – those from Muskegon Heights, which will try to stay unbeaten Friday at Ludington.
“They’re a good team. Their record isn’t indicative of how good they are,” Czerwon said about Benton Harbor, after his Division 7 Crusaders (4-1) picked up the win over the Division 4 Tigers (0-5).
Benton Harbor’s previous three losses all came by eight or fewer points.
“We wore them down in the second half,” Czerwon said. “As I’ve said before, we have pretty good conditioning, pretty good people up front. The second half, we were able to get a little bit better push.”
Benton Harbor struck first on Davionte Tasker’s 6-yard run just 1:11 into the game. MCC trailed 6-0 until it scored two touchdowns in the final nine minutes of the first half.
Joe Waller scored on a 3-yard run with 8:41 left in the second quarter. The Crusaders added the PAT and never trailed again. Elliot Riegler hit Sam Convertini on a 38-yard TD pass, plus Waller ran in the two-point conversion, to give MCC a 15-6 lead with 1:52 remaining in the half.
The Tigers pulled within 15-12 in the first minute of the fourth quarter, as Michael Kirby scored on a 5-yard run.
But the Crusaders answered with another Riegler-to-Convertini scoring pass to make it 22-12 with 8:21 left, then Waller added a 1-yard TD run with 1:21 to put it away.
Waller led all rushers with 120 yards on 27 carries. MCC outrushed Benton Harbor, 181-57. Convertini made three receptions for 77 yards.
Defensively, the Crusaders held the Tigers to 114 yards of total offense. Jaden Johnson led the way with five tackles, including a sack, followed by Chase Willer and Nick Powell with four stops apiece. Willer also snagged an interception.
“We knew we were going to have a tough game tonight. Thursday put a little bit more (pressure) on us because it sort of got us out of our routine, but I thought the kids adapted well,” Czerwon said.
“On to the Heights next week.”
Should Muskegon Heights win at Ludington Friday, the Tigers would have their first 5-0 start since 2009.
Next Friday, they host the Crusaders in a 7 p.m. showdown at Phillips Field. The 2009 season also marked the last time Muskegon Heights defeated MCC.
It’s been a while since the MCC-Heights game meant something. This one will determine the Lakes 8 Activities Conference title.
“I think if you look at us, Shores, Muskegon and Heights, we’re all about maybe three miles away from each other. We’ve all got pretty nice records,” said Czerwon, referring to the combined 14-3 record of the four schools located in the heart of Muskegon County. “We’re all playing pretty good ball, so that’s kind of exciting for our little, close proximity there.
“Good for (Heights). I know he’s got a lot of seniors on that team. Looks like they’ve kind of turned the corner.”
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