DETROIT -- Subtract an injured star linebacker, and what did Zeeland West get?
An inspired performance from his teammates -- and this fall’s MHSAA Division 4 football championship.
Senior Josh Blanton remained on the sideline Friday at Ford Field, unable to contribute because of an injury suffered in last week’s Semifinal.
But his No. 2 Dux teammates rallied, and despite falling behind early came back to run over and past top-ranked Marine City 45-7 in perhaps the most highly-anticipated of the day’s four Finals.
“We knew we were going to have a tough time, and as a team we kinda thought about things,” Zeeland West quarterback Clay Coatney said. “We just said to ourselves, we’re going to come out and play as hard as we could, play as physical as we could.”
Zeeland West finished with its second MHSAA championship, but first 14-0 record in seven seasons as a program. Marine City ended 13-1.
The Dux’ physicality was the difference-maker on both sides of the ball. Marine City’s offense came into the Final averaging nearly 37 points per game. But led by senior linebacker Jake McKellar’s eight tackles and lots of contributors all around him, the Dux held the Mariners to just 216 yards of total offense -- while also dominating the line on offense and gaining 410.
Senior Kyle Kujawa ran for 99 of the team’s 288 rushing yards, and scored once. Coatney was 6 for 9 passing for 122 yards and two scores. Senior Brad Mesbergen responded to the Mariners’ early touchdown by returning the ensuing kickoff an MHSAA Finals-record 97 yards to even the score.
Marine City scored the game’s first touchdown just less than two minutes into the game. But the Mariners, despite multiple drives into Dux territory, gave the ball away one each by fumble and interception and three more times on turnovers on downs.
“We’ve got an all-state linebacker not playing. To say we’re playing that type of explosive offense, (and) for those kids to show up and do what they did, you’ve just gotta go, ‘Holy smokes, who are those guys?’” Zeeland West coach John Shillito said.
Marine City senior Adam Kroll threw 36 yards to senior Gunnar Glodich for that lone Mariners touchdown, and finished 8 of 16 passing for 85 yards total. Senior running back Anthony Scarcelli gained just 42 yards on eight carries in his final high school game before signing with Central Michigan, but did lead the team with eight tackles in what also was the final game for his father and coach, Tony Scarcelli.
"When I look at this season, I don't look at one game," Tony Scarcelli said. "I look at this as we're state runners-up. Twenty years from now, we'll all look back on this and say what a great season it was."