Garza Shows Range, New Lothrop Reigns

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

January 23, 2021

DETROIT – It had been a while Saturday since the New Lothrop offense had made a big play. 

The Hornets had seen a 28-point lead shrink to seven and were staring down another big third down. In need of a spark, they turned to the player who had given them so many earlier in the game, and once again, Julius Garza delivered. 

Garza converted the third down, and eventually scored his fourth touchdown to help seal New Lothrop’s 42-35 victory over Traverse City St. Francis in the Division 7 Football Final at Ford Field.  

“Their backers were keying on (Will) Muron all night, so I knew when they flew up, Julius would come open,” New Lothrop senior quarterback Cam Orr said. “I knew if I threw him the ball, he’d catch it no matter where it was.” 

Garza scored four touchdowns in the game – two rushing, one receiving and one on a kick return – to tie him for fourth in MHSAA Finals history for touchdowns in a game. He had 139 yards receiving on four catches and 26 yards rushing on four carries. 

It was his 3rd-and-6 conversion with his team in its own territory and clinging to a seven-point lead, however, that was likely his biggest play of the game. His 26-yard reception on the next play was also in the running, as was the nine-yard touchdown run that put New Lothrop up 42-28 with 2 minutes, 26 seconds to play. 

“It means everything,” Garza said. “It’s kind of taken a little bit to settle in. I feel like I’m on top of the world right now. It’s really exciting. All the work we put in, and everything we do, for it to pay off, it means the world.” 

The title was the Hornets’ third, and first since 2018. If not for a one-point Regional Final loss a year ago against eventual champion Pewamo-Westphalia, the program could be celebrating a three-peat. 

“We’ve always had tremendous community backing. We’ve always had tremendous kids that have put in the same amount of work these guys have,” New Lothrop coach Clint Galvas said. “We were just unfortunately not able to get over that hump. Obviously in (2018) we were able to get over that hump and win a state title. Maybe that gave us the confidence we need moving forward as a program, like, ‘Hey, we can do this now.’ Winning a couple is special, but I’m not taking anything away from the previous teams we had, because we had some pretty darn good teams walk through these halls and wear the New Lothrop helmet, and they put in the work, too.” 

At halftime, it looked as though New Lothrop (11-0) would be cruising to title No. 3, as it built a 35-7 lead, using explosive plays. Muron scored on the Hornets’ second offensive play with a 27-yard run, and after St. Francis answered with a three-yard Gabe Olivier touchdown run, Garza returned the ensuing kickoff 83 yards for a score. 

Garza added a 65-yard touchdown reception from Orr and a three-yard touchdown run, before Orr closed out the half with an 11-yard rushing score.  

“Is Julius Garza having a heck of a day surprising? Not at all,” Galvas said. “Those of you who have been around and watched this kid, he was a two-way starter two years ago on the 2018 title team. The kid’s always been a player. … I think they came into the game like a lot of teams, they want to stop Cam and they want to stop Will on the edge. And I think if you do that, sometimes you forget about Julius Garza. We were able to get him a lot of one-on-one matchups with some backers and things, and he’s going to win those pretty much 10 out of 10 times. He’s a heck of an athlete.” 

St. Francis (9-3) clawed back into the game in the second half, however, shutting the New Lothrop offense down and getting its own offense going – albeit in a different manner than the Hornets. The Gladiators power run game started to lean on New Lothrop and scored on its next three possessions prior to Garza’s late-game heroics, to nearly erase the deficit. 

Aidan Schmuckal closed out a nine-play drive with a two-yard touchdown run midway through the third quarter, and Charlie Peterson scored on a one-yard sneak early in the fourth to close out a 14-play drive. Schmuckal’s second score, also a two-yard run, came with 6:46 to play and immediately followed a blocked punt by St. Francis’ Jimmy Muzljakovich. 

“I felt like we played a doubleheader today,” St. Francis coach Josh Sellers said. “The score of the first game was 35-7, and the score of the second game was 28-7. Unfortunately, the math didn’t work out in our favor. We let too many big plays go in the first half, obviously. At 35-7 in the locker room, I told them, ‘You’ve got two choices: you can just pack up the tent stakes and go home now, or go out and try to win the second half,’ and they did. They won the second half with great effort, great belief in one another, and we just fell a little bit short today.” 

St. Francis didn’t go away after Garza’s final touchdown, either, scoring with a seven-yard pass from Peterson to Josh Grove with 1:07 to play. New Lothrop recovered the onside kick, however, and after running three plays, Orr ran off the final seven seconds of the game by rolling to his left and throwing the ball high into the air down the field. 

“We like to pride ourselves in our never-giving-up mentality,” Schmuckal said. “We’ve been a team that has been known to battle back and never give up. Going into that second half, I knew that we were never going to give up and we were going to fight to the bitter end, and that’s what we did.” 

Schmuckal led St. Francis with 101 yards rushing, while Owen Mueller had 71 and Olivier had 69. Joey Donahue led the St. Francis defense with eight tackles, while Schmuckal had seven, including three for loss. 

Orr led the Hornets in passing and rushing, throwing for 222 yards on 11-of-15 passing, and running for 122 yards on 17 carries. Alec Mangino led the New Lothrop defense with 12 tackles, while Garza had nine. Muron and Bryce Cheney each had an interception.

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) New Lothrop’s Julius Garza looks to make one of his many big plays Saturday at Ford Field. (Middle) Hornets quarterback Cam Orr reaches the end zone as Traverse City St. Francis’ Gavin Nickodemus (15) and Gabe Olivier (20) bring him to the turf. (Click for more from Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)

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

By Geoff Kimmerly 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.