Falcons Soar From Brink to D5 Peak

November 30, 2013

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor 

DETROIT – There were more moments than he and his teammates might’ve expected this fall when Drake Wooten sensed his high school career could soon come to an end. 

That wasn’t supposed to be the scenario after Grand Rapids West Catholic advanced to the Division 5 title game in 2012 and returned a number of its top contributors this fall.

But after opening 1-4, there was no room for error. The Falcons' seniors met to prepare for three months living on the edge. 

Teams need to win five playoff games to earn an MHSAA title. But the Falcons needed nine straight victories to claim their first championship since 2010. After scraping by with a one-point win in Week 9 just to earn a chance at an at-large bid, West Catholic stormed through the postseason and finished the run with a 27-14 win over top-ranked Menominee on Saturday at Ford Field.

“We knew ever since (1-4) that it’s a playoff game. Every game could be our last,” Wooten said. “We’ve always trusted in our team. We’ve always trusted in our coaches. We just came out and made plays and stuck to the schemes.” 

Menominee (13-1) and reigning champion Portland – which beat West Catholic 12-9 in the 2012 Final – were the only teams to get within 15 points of the Falcons during this postseason. West Catholic finished 10-4, giving it at least 10 wins in five straight seasons and six of the last seven. All four losses were to eventual playoff teams, including three Semifinalists.

And the Falcons finished the job against a team that beat its first 13 opponents by an average of 36 points and was more than raring to go after being eliminated by West Catholic each of the last three seasons – including twice in Semifinals by four or fewer points. 

“It’s become a power struggle,” West Catholic coach Dan Rohn said. “We look forward to playing them. We don’t like playing them, but we circle it when we get the opportunity. This was an opportunity to play them on the big stage.”

And like familiar opponents must do, West Catholic changed some things up – catching the Maroons off guard with arguably the play of the game. 

With the score tied 7-7 late in the third quarter and the teams matching each other stop for stop, Rohn called a play no one but the officials expected – and only because he told them about it before the game so they were prepared when he sprung it.

“Lou Lou,” named after Rohn’s mother – who died 25 years ago when Rohn was a high school player at Muskegon Orchard View – involves tight end Bryce Witham making like he’s leaving the field with the rest of the offense while his teammates line up for a field goal attempt. But Witham stopped just short of the sideline, and at the snap took off uncovered for the end zone as junior kicker Travis Hoving lofted a 30-yard pass his way. 

Hoving had been the back-up quarterback on the freshman team two years ago, and Witham had no problem reeling in the toss to put West Catholic up 14-7 with 3:26 to go in the third quarter.

“The idea is to just blend in with the rest of the team standing on the sidelines. Luckily, no one noticed me,” Witham said. 

“We are going to be prepared for each other, so you need something like that,” Rohn added. “We’ve dropped (the ball) a few times in practice. We’ve overthrown it a few times. So everyone on the sidelines was holding their breaths.”

That go-ahead score didn’t decide the game, but it certainly set a direction for the final 15 minutes. 

West Catholic scored twice over the next six, and its defense continued to lock down one of the state’s most productive offenses of this season. 

A key to Menominee’s single wing attack is being able to get around the edge of the line and then upfield. Falcons senior linebacker Max Boorsma played on his past experience against Menominee to make sure that didn’t happen much Saturday, tying for the team lead with nine tackles as the Maroons ran for only 189 yards. 

Junior defensive back Jason McDonough also had eight tackles as the Falcons caused or capitalized on two interceptions, a fumble and three turnovers on downs.

On offense, junior quarterback Travis Russell ran for 133 yards and a touchdown and threw for 176 yards and two scores. Senior Andy Corey added another 84 yards rushing. The Falcons gained 463 yards total and had only one turnover. 

“Their offensive line was really big and strong, … and Corey is a tough kid with a great heart. He proved that last year in the Semifinal game we lost to them,” Menominee senior defensive tackle Mason Kewley said. “We played good enough to points, but other points we didn’t and they took advantage of those points.”

Senior James Brown did gain 102 yards and scored a touchdown on the ground for the Maroons, and junior Justin Brilinski was a standout on both sides of the ball with 71 yards and a touchdown rushing and 158 yards passing as the team’s quarterback/tailback hybrid, plus 10 tackles from his defensive end spot. 

Junior defensive tackle Brandon Chouinard also had 10 tackles.

“We have no excuse. Last week in the (Superior) Dome against Oakridge we were almost flawless and a half, but we knew we were in for a battle today,” Menominee coach Joe Noha said. “The bottom line was they executed well. We knew what they were going to run, and they ran exactly what we prepared our kids to (stop). But they just made plays when they had to.”

Click for a full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Grand Rapids West Catholic players celebrate their first MHSAA championship since 2010. (Middle) Three Falcons wrap up a Menominee ball carrier Saturday. (Click to see more from Terry McNamara Photography.) 

Ubly Offense, Kicker Pile Up Record Book Listings During Championship Run

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

April 12, 2024

Ubly finished a combined 27-1 over the last two seasons, following up a Division 8 runner-up run in 2022 with its first MHSAA Finals championship this past November. And the Bearcats stacked plenty of record book performances along the way.

Individually, senior Brett Mueller made the single-season extra point list again this past season with 76 in 81 tries, and he set the MHSAA career record with 220 extra points over 232 attempts, 40 games and three seasons. He has signed with Saginaw Valley State.

As a team, Ubly was added to the record book 13 times for achievements over the last two years, most notably in the rushing game. The Bearcats topped 5,200 total yards both seasons, and also made the rush yardage list twice including with a sixth-best 5,148 in 2022. Their 90 touchdowns in 2022 rank seventh all-time, and their 85 this past fall tied for 13th, and they tied the record with 10 rushing touchdowns in a 2022 win over Reese and set another record with 84 rushing touchdowns total that season.

See below for more recent record book additions in 11-player football, and click the heading to see the record book in full:

11-Player Football

Dundee’s Ben Miller has a pair of basketball record book entries, and he’s also been added in football for scoring seven touchdowns in his team’s 72-36 win over Erie Mason on Oct. 20, 2017. A senior that season, he ran for five scores and caught two touchdowns passes.

Nearly four decades later, Howard City Tri County’s Mike Wagoner has reached the record book for his work on defense in 1985. A junior that season, Wagoner returned three interceptions for touchdowns – 65, 55 and 35 yards – which would have been second on the list at the time and remains tied for third-most for one season.

Jaxon Lippert tops the list of 21 who have returned kickoffs 99 yards. Lippert, now a senior at Walled Lake Western, joined the list against Davison during his junior season.

A handful of records from Warren De La Salle Collegiate’s recent run of Ford Field teams and also one from decades ago were added. Jake Badalamenti was added three times for kickoff returns between 96-99 yards, one as a junior in 2016 and two as a senior the following fall, and Marty Wyzlic was added for his 95-yarder in 1976. Mason Muragin is the new leader for tackles for loss in a career with 71 over three seasons, and he also was added to the single-season list with 31 as a junior in 2021, as was Will Beasley for 38 as a junior in 2020. Wayne Wright was added for his 16 sacks over nine games as a senior in 1984, and Josh Cox was added for his 100-yard interception return as a senior in 2012. Muragin plays at Illinois, Beesley plays at Princeton, Cox played at Central Michigan, and Badalamenti played baseball at Wayne State.

Pinckney junior Nolan Carruthers caught 16 passes during a 13-7 loss to Jackson on Sept. 15, good to tie for ninth-most in one game and breaking the Livingston County record of 14 by Hartland’s Greg Matthyssen in 2007 – a listing that also was added.

Ethan Wissner did some major lifting, or rather carrying, during Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker’s 28-14 District Final win over Montrose in 2022. The then-senior ran 42 times to make the record book, for 289 yards and three touchdowns. He’s continuing at Siena Heights.

Senior quarterback Andrew Schuster and junior receiver DeShaun Lanier formed a game-changing pass-catch combo this past season for Clinton Township Chippewa Valley, with Schuster finishing his career with nine record book listings and Lanier totaling six with a season to play. Schuster most notably was added for 212 completions on 301 attempts for 2,766 yards and 28 touchdowns this season, and 321 completions and 4,199 career yards over two years and 22 games. Lanier was added in part for 73 receptions for 1,132 yards and 15 TDs this fall. Junior kicker Juliano Haddad also earned impressive mentions with 10 field goals and 50 extra points – and he’ll carry a streak of 35 straight extra points into next fall. Schuster has committed to Grand Valley State.

Fulton’s Evan Barton has been added to the single-game touchdowns list after catching four scoring passes Sept. 8, 2017, against Potterville. He was a senior that season.

Saginaw Heritage’s Braylon Isom completed his career this past fall as arguably the most accomplished receiver in MHSAA history. His name is listed in the record book eight times, with career records of 3,837 receiving yards and 52 touchdowns over 34 games and four seasons, and with a single-season record 26 touchdowns this past fall over 12 games. His 91 career receptions rank fifth, and he’s also listed for 82 catches and 1,617 yards (seventh-most) as a senior and 1,428 yards and 18 touchdowns as a junior. He will continue at Miami (Ohio).

Evart’s 24-8 run over the last three seasons has been its most successful of the MHSAA playoff era, and senior quarterback Preston Wallace has played an enormous part. He finished his 33-game career in the fall – he came up for one game as a freshman – on record book lists twice for single-season passing yards and touchdowns and on career lists for 662 attempts, 421 completions, 6,955 yards and 88 passing touchdowns over those 32 games and three seasons. The yardage ranks 15th all-time, and the touchdowns are tied for sixth-most for one career.  

The 2005 Midland Bullock Creek team was added for scoring 547 points over 12 games. The Lancers finished 11-1, their only loss in a Division 5 Regional Final.

PHOTO Ubly's Seth Maurer (30) carries the ball during the Division 8 championship win over Ottawa Lake Whiteford in November.