Several CHSL teams affected by 3-week suspension of high school sports

Quarterback Giovanni Mastromatteo (4) ran for 62 yards and passed for 167 yards and three touchdowns against Shrine to keep Everest in pursuit of a Division 8 state championship — if and when high school sports are resumed. A Mastromatteo has been calling signals for Everest for five years: Sal for two years and brother Giovanni the last three. (Photo courtesy of Marc Lasceski) 

CLARKSTON — The Knights of Royal Oak Shrine invaded the domain of the Everest Mountaineers on Saturday afternoon with one mission in mind: To win a district title for the second year in a row.

Everest wanted to win, too, but their stakes were higher: to keep alive the drive toward a Division 8 state championship.

The Mountaineers (9-0) rallied from behind in the second half to prevail, 23-13, for its first district trophy since 2017 and to move on to an Elite 8 regional contest against Petersburg Summerfield (4-5) at 1 p.m. this coming Saturday.

Except, that’s not going to happen.

Late Sunday evening, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced wide-ranging three-week restrictions through Dec. 8 limiting gatherings at high schools, colleges and restaurants to combat what she described as the “worst moment” yet in the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Michigan High School Athletic Association issued a statement shortly thereafter that fall tournaments involving girls swimming and diving, volleyball and football, along with all winter practices and competitions, have been suspended “effective immediately.”

Football has three rounds remaining in its season with the finals Dec. 4-5 at Ford Field. Girls volleyball was scheduled to hold its quarterfinal and semifinal matches this week to determine finalists for the championship games on Nov. 21. Girls swim and dive teams were also set for a Nov. 21 finals date.

In a news conference Monday afternoon, MHSAA executive director Mark Uyl said, “We’re going to wait until Dec. 8, and hopefully our numbers get to the point where we can resume practice and competition. We’ll try to get those three fall tournaments completed by Jan. 1.” 

Catholic League teams in suspension

In football, in addition to Everest Collegiate, Novi Detroit Catholic Central is slated to tackle Davison in a Division 1 battle. Both are 9-0, and Davison is the defending champion.

In Division 2, it’s Warren De La Salle (5-4) vs. Warren Mott (7-1). In Division 7, Detroit Loyola (8-1) vs. New Lothrop (8-0).

In volleyball, these are all quarterfinal contests: In Division 1, Bloomfield Hills Marian vs. Macomb Dakota. Marian eliminated defending champ, Farmington Hills Mercy, in a regional final. 

In Division 2, Warren Regina vs. Pontiac Notre Dame Prep, and Ann Arbor Fr. Gabriel Richard vs. Lake Odessa Lakewood.

In Division 3, Royal Oak Shrine vs. Saginaw Valley Lutheran.

In swimming, Mercy has won the Division 1 championship the last three years in a row. The Marlins recently won the Oakland County Championship for the 24th time in its history. The CHSL swim finals, which Mercy has won 52 times, were cancelled this year.

Everest rallies to beat Shrine

Shrine showed it meant business from the get-go.

Methodically, the Knights returned the opening kickoff 83 yards in 15 plays. Junior quarterback Conor Benson scored on a four-yard end run for a 6-0 lead. Collin Buchanan muffed the extra point.

Everest responded in likewise fashion, almost, taking the ensuing kickoff 63 yards to the Knights’ 2-yard line. On fourth-and-one, Shrine’s defense stopped Everest’s Jack Lasceski two inches short of a first down.

The Mountaineers found some consolation two plays later when defensive end Mike McGrath tackled Shrine running back Charles Niehaus in the end zone for a two-point safety.

What might well have been the turning point in the game occurred moments before halftime. Shrine had the ball first-and-goal on Everest’s 2-yard line. Benson’s quarterback sneak attempt was botched by a fumbled snap.

McGrath played a hero’s role again. “I saw the ball drop on the ground. I pounced on it.” 

Realizing they escaped a potential 13-2 deficit, in less than two minutes, the motivated Mountaineers used just five plays to cover 67 yards and go ahead 9-6. Quarterback Giovanni Mastromatteo hit Lasceski cutting across for a 15-yard touchdown. 

Shrine took the lead back, 13-9, on an 8-yard pass from Benson to Andrew Bala. Buchanan’s point after was good.

Everest quickly regained the lead, 16-13, just before the end of the third quarter. Mastromatteo found Jimmy Neme open for an 11-yard touchdown. 

The Knights punted on their next possession, pinning Everest back to its own 19. A five-yard loss on an end run moved the line of scrimmage back to the 14.

Overthrowing five of his first six passes in the beginning, Mastromatteo admitted he was too quick on the draw. “I settled down. The line was protecting me well. I felt comfortable back there (in the pocket),” he said.

As things turned out, Mastromatteo threw just one more pass in the game. It was a beauty. He hit senior wideout Dominic Cross in stride streaking down the right sideline. Cross had gotten a couple of strides behind the Shrine defender and sprinted some 50 yards to the end zone. The play covered 86 yards.

Mastromatteo kicked his third extra point for a 23-13 final score.

Both quarterbacks were outstanding. Benson completed 15 of 24 passes for 189 yards and one touchdown. He was intercepted once and sacked twice. 

Niehaus bulled his way for 102 yards on 17 carries.

Mastromatteo connected on 11 of 16 passes for 167 yards and three touchdowns. Lasceski, playing the first time in three weeks recovering from an injured ankle, ran for 76 yards on 14 carries. He had the interception.

Contact Don Horkey at [email protected].