DETROIT — In order to win its record-tying 13th state football title, Jackson Lumen Christi had to overcome several deficit situations before getting past Menominee, 34-30.
That was nothing new for the Catholic High School League’s newest member school, which also had a come-from-behind victory in the 2022 championship against Traverse City St. Francis.
“Not to necessarily say it’s a good thing, but we usually come out and show out in the second half. There’s a lot of confidence — we have that going for us,” said Kadale Williams, who ran for three touchdowns and 276 yards during the Nov. 26 contest at Ford Field.
“There’s a lot of effort from our guys. We were tired, but we all pushed through to do our jobs and make all the plays that we could,” said Aidan Pastoriza, whose blocks Williams usually followed.
Lumen Christi (13-1) had the final touchdown of the game: an 11-yard pass from Timmy Crowley to Gabe King on a fourth-down play with 4:04 remaining in the fourth quarter. King was clear along the right sideline, and ran the ball in after receiving the pass outside the 5-yard line.
“We got down early, came back, kind of gained control for a while, then they went ahead and we battled back every time that they went ahead,” said veteran head coach Herb Brogan, who has been at the helm for 11 of the program’s 13 titles, and one of just three coaches in Michigan to have at least 400 career victories.
Throughout the first quarter, it looked like Brogan and his crew would have difficulty scratching out one more victory. Menominee had a 14-0 lead just eight minutes into the game, but Williams’ first two touchdowns, covering 1 and 45 yards, tied the game three minutes before halftime.
“I just think our line got off the ball. The offensive line’s been a strength of our team all year long, and I think we wear people down and they get tired — I think we did a little bit of that today,” Brogan said. “When you create seams, Kadale’s going to make plays.”
Lumen Christi went up 21-14 midway through the third quarter on Crowley’s 1-yard quarterback sneak, but the lead was passed back and forth from that point on.
A 21-yard quarterback bootleg with a successful two-point conversion put Menominee up 22-21 before the Titans answered on the second play of the fourth quarter on Williams’ 3-yard dive to take a 27-22 lead (the extra point was unsuccessful).
It only took Menominee one minute to go up by three points, 30-27, on a 76-yard pass completion and another two-point conversion, but that set the stage for another Lumen Christi comeback. The Titans drove 61 yards in 10 snaps, but had to convert a pair of fourth-down plays, one of which was King’s game-winning reception.
“I just thought that our kids played really, really hard, and I tip my hat to Menominee because I felt that they did, too,” Brogan said. “It was a really entertaining high school football game.”
Muskegon turns tide against De La Salle
The Warren De La Salle Pilots were driving toward their third consecutive state football championship, until suddenly … they weren’t.
Up by two touchdowns at halftime, De La Salle was outscored by Muskegon 26-0 in the second half and watched the Division 2 title slip away, 33-21, Nov. 25 at Ford Field.
The Big Reds flipped the script with big plays. Quarterback M’Khi Guy scored on runs of 80 and 52 yards, and threw touchdown passes covering 94 and 23 yards. Guy rushed for 215 yards on 25 carries, while completing four of six pass attempts for another 159 yards.
“I think we did some good things in the first half, but we left a little bit out there early,” De La Salle coach Dan Rohn said. “In the second half we didn’t play well offensively; we put our defense on the field way too much, and then our guys started gassing a little bit. When you give up 90-yard touchdowns in a game like this, it’s going to be a struggle, and it definitely was a struggle for us in the second half.”
“In the second half, they had two back-to-back scores, and it was just the big plays they had, like the 90-yard touchdown pass,” junior quarterback Sante Gasperoni said. “We wanted them to throw the ball because we knew they weren’t much of a passing team, and that’s what they did. We just didn’t see it.”
De La Salle (11-3) still had some highlight plays, though. The Pilots took an early 7-0 lead with Gasperoni’s 4-yard quarterback keeper, and got another score three minutes into the second quarter when he spotted Damion King on an inside slant pattern that went for 50 yards.
That lead was extended to 21-7 five minutes later on its next possession, capped by Gasperoni’s 2-yard touchdown rush. Receiving a punt at the Muskegon 45, two passes from Gasperoni to Phoenix Glassnor quickly got the ball into the red zone, up to the Muskegon 17, and Gasperoni’s quarterback draw set it at the 2.
The game featured two championship-game regulars. Muskegon — the state’s all-time winningest program — was making its ninth appearance at Ford Field since 2012 and won its seventh state title. De La Salle, which played in its seventh final over the past decade, has claimed the trophy five times. The two teams had played last Labor Day weekend, with the Pilots defeating the Big Reds, 40-28.
“We went there in week two; obviously that was a long time ago. I’d been telling anybody all week long that’s a much better football team than it was in week two, and they are,” Rohn said. “They’re deserving to be state champions.”
Rohn said he was especially impressed with Muskegon’s defensive line and its ability to stop the Pilots’ running game.
“I’m from Muskegon — the last team I want to lose to is a Muskegon team, but if I’m going to lose to somebody, I want to lose to a team that’s really good, and that team is really good,” he said.
“From the beginning of the season until the end of the season, our guys really stepped up and really made a good bond, and we’ve got a lot of returning guys for next year, as well,” Gasperoni said. “I can feel the pain after a state championship loss, but I’m willing to work hard in the off-season with my team in order to get back here.”
There is one more Catholic High School League football team vying for a title: Central Division champion and No. 1-ranked Toledo Central Catholic (15-0) advanced to Ohio’s Division 3 final. The Fighting Irish will face Columbus Bishop Watterson at 3 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 1, at Tom Benson Stadium, at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton.