Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central heads to state football finals after beating Onsted, 17-14

Onsted defenders swarm over Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central running back Alex Morgan in last Saturday’s Division 6 semi-final playoff. SMCC’s linemen include Luke Bilan, Brendan Sloan, James Hawkins, Jackson Strube and Zach Patterson. SMCC beat Onsted, 17-14, to advance to the Division 6 state championship. (Photos courtesy of Paul Snyder | Special to Detroit Catholic)

YPSILANTI — It’s apparent that Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central’s football players didn’t let their emotions get the best of them last weekend.

In a nail-biter, SMCC needed to drive the length of the field in the final three and a half minutes and make a 20-yard field goal attempt as time expired to nip Onsted, 17-14, in a state semi-final contest played at Ypsilanti Lincoln. Wyatt Bergmoser’s game-winning kick barely cleared the crossbar to break the 14-14 tie.

The payoff is a berth in the Division 6 state title game against Maple City Glen Lake at 4:30 p.m. Friday at Detroit’s Ford Field. The chance to play for a state championship has eluded the Falcons the last couple of seasons, since they last won in 2014.

“We have 20 seniors, and seven or eight have been up since they were sophomores. They’ve been through two disappointing last-minute regional defeats, so this has been very satisfying for them to make it this far,” coach Adam Kipf said.

Still, if the Falcons were excited to win in the closing seconds Saturday, they didn’t show it much.

“Honestly, I don’t really know what to say to that. They stunned us,” Kipf said. “I’m proud of our kids; Onsted’s a great team and played us tough. Our kids are resilient and kept fighting all the way. I think that game drained us emotionally. They were very happy but very quiet — even on the bus ride home.”

Onsted struck first, scoring its first touchdown 2:27 into the game. Tucker Bean caught a 2-yard pass from Dylan Terryberry, before SMCC blocked the extra point attempt.

It took SMCC’s offense some time to respond, as the Falcons couldn’t move the ball until the waning moments of the first half. Bergmoser’s 30-yard strike to Sam Cousino beat the clock, as SMCC took a 7-6 lead — and momentum — just 12 seconds before halftime.

After the break, the Falcons went on a time-consuming drive capped by Jace Worrell’s 1-yard run on the first play of the fourth quarter, to take a 14-6 lead. Onsted came back to tie just two minutes later, as Terryberry threw a 15-yard pass to Travis Hill, and ran a successful 2-point conversion play.

That set the stage for the last SMCC possession and Bergmoser’s heroics.

The Falcons’ Ford Field opponent, the Lakers, also pulled out a squeaker in their semifinal contest, getting by Montague 31-30.

“We know Maple City Glen Lake is a really good football team. We’ve been breaking down film. They’ve got some great athletes, especially their QB, and some great linemen,” Kipf said. “We’ve got to get a great week of practice in.”

Kipf has noticed that Glen Lake tends to throw the ball more frequently than SMCC, so the Falcons have to be prepared.

“We’ve got to get pressure on their QB,” Kipf said. “Their receivers are very good; they don’t drop the ball. We’ve got to create turnovers; we’ve got to stop their drives.”

SMCC has a strong linebacking corps, led by Cousino, Nieko Castiglione and Alex Morgan (who’s also the team’s leading rusher). Mason Gullen and Gus Flint lead the defensive line. All five, as well as Bergmoser, were named first-team Huron League honorees this fall (although an Archdiocese of Detroit school, SMCC does not play in the Detroit Catholic High School League).

Beyond preparing for the Lakers, the Falcons will acclimate themselves to the conditions they’ll face Friday be holding indoor practices on a small turf field in Monroe this week.

“The conditions (at Ford Field) are near-perfect indoors,” Kipf said. “The best team is going to win that day. I don’t know that we enjoy being out in the cold and mud more than anyone else. It’s going to be warm, it’s going to be dry; it’s going to wear teams down, but we have to be ready. The best team is going to win that day.”

When St. Mary Catholic Central won its latest state title with a 22-12 win over Ithaca in 2014, the game was especially notable since the Falcons ended the Yellowjackets’ 69-game winning streak — a stretch that included four state championships.

The Falcons also won the Class B crown in 1991 with a 16-7 victory over Coopersville, and were finalists in 2010, 2009, 2005 and 1984.

Glen Lake’s lone championship came in the 1994 Class DD game, a 20-10 victory over Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes. Glen Lake was also the runner-up in 2016 and 1996.

Although there are no state finalists from the Catholic League, several out-state Catholic schools are also playing for championships. Grand Rapids Catholic Central faces Birmingham Detroit Country Day in the Division 4 finals (7:30 Friday), Jackson Lumen Christi plays Pewamo-Westphalia in Division 7 (10 a.m. Saturday) and Lansing Catholic challenges Almont in Division 5 (4:30 Saturday).