Lumen Christi Answers Early Deficit, Scores Game-Winner Late to Earn Record-Tying Title

By Tom Kendra
Special for

November 26, 2023

DETROIT - Jackson Lumen Christi piled up 92 percent of its total yards Sunday morning on the ground.

So, trailing by three points with time running down in the fourth quarter and facing a 4th-and-4 situation on the Menominee 11-yard line, the Titans, of course, went to the air.

“It was a play we put in this week, and we (practiced) it over and over,” explained Lumen Christi junior quarterback Timmy Crowley. “Actually, it goes back to the summer and the connection that I developed with Gabe (King).”

Crowley delivered a strike to King on the sideline near the goal line, and King then spun into the end zone for the game-winning score with 4:04 remaining in an eventual 34-30 victory over upset-minded Menominee in a Division 7 title game shootout at Ford Field.

Menominee (11-3) had one final chance, driving into Lumen Christi territory, before senior quarterback Trevor Theuerkauf was hauled down from behind by freshman Lundon Hampton on fourth down to seal the win.

“It was an entertaining game, for sure,” said 44th-year Lumen Christi coach Herb Brogan, who was frustrated by some of his team’s blown coverages. “I like the way that we answered, time and time again.”

The Titans’ Gabe King leans into his fourth-quarter score. Lumen Christi (13-1) won its second consecutive Division 7 title, its fifth championship over the past eight years and 13th overall – 11th under Brogan – moving the program into a tie with Farmington Hills Harrison for the most football titles in MHSAA history.

It didn’t look good early for the Titans, as the Maroons used a 2-yard run by Landan Barkowski and a 34-yard pass from Theuerkauf to tight end Eli Beal to take a stunning 14-0 lead by the end of the first quarter.

The Titans settled down in the second quarter and fought back behind the speed, power and tackle-breaking ability of junior running back Kadale Williams (6-foot-1, 180 pounds), who finished with 27 carries for 276 yards and three touchdowns.

“It starts with the guys up front,” explained Williams, who rarely went down without multiple Maroons clutching onto him. “Once they do their jobs and create a gap, I owe it to them to make a play every time.”

Williams broke loose on TD runs of 1 and 45 yards during the second quarter, making the score 14-14 at halftime.

That set the stage for a classic back-and-forth second half, with both teams refusing to lose.

Menominee, a perennial power for years behind its tightly-packed, single-wing offense, showed off its offensive evolution under second-year coach Chad Brandt, who has incorporated elements of the spread. The Maroons kept the Titans guessing with a balanced attack, passing for 199 yards and rushing for 143.

“We were able to run and throw to keep them off balance, which is what we have been doing all year,” said Brandt, who was head coach at Stephenson in the Upper Peninsula for 20 years before coming to Menominee as an assistant coach in 2018. “We saw the predictions, but our kids are resilient. We were able to display our skills and just came up one play short.”

Lumen Christi stuck almost exclusively to the ground, with 351 rushing yards and 29 passing yards, scoring in the third quarter on a 1-yard run by Crowley and then early in the fourth quarter on a 3-yard run by Williams.

Each time the Titans took the lead in the second half and appeared poised to take control, the Maroons struck back, first on a 21-yard scoring scramble by Theuerkauf and then a 76-yard pass from Theuerkauf to Isaiah Odom, which gave them a 30-27 lead in the fourth quarter.

Then came the game-winning drive, as the Titans went 61 yards in 10 plays, culminating with the game-winning, 11-yard pass from Crowley to King.

Menominee was surely keying on Williams by that point in the game, which set up the winning play-action pass.

“I think we wear people down up front,” said Brogan, who took over the Lumen Christi program in 1980 after the death of Jim Crowley, who guided the Titans to their first two titles in 1977 and 1979. “When you do that and create seams, Kadale is going to make plays.”

Lumen Christi raises its latest championship trophy at Ford Field. The Titans started four juniors up front in guards Andrew Salazar and Maverick Stergakos, center Drew Sweeney and tight end Charlie Saunders. The only senior starters on the offensive line were tackles Aiden Pastoriza and Luke Smith.

Both teams performed admirably on the big Ford Field stage, with just six total penalties and no turnovers.

Theuerkauf (5-11, 175) was all over the field during his final prep game, starting at his safety spot with a game-high 17 tackles (10 solos). He completed 9-of-22 passes for 199 yards and rushed 15 times for 84 yards.

Eli Beal made four catches for 63 yards and Tanner Theuerkauf, Trevor’s sophomore brother, had two catches for 42 yards. Blake Paasch made six tackles, and Beal and Tanner Theuerkauf each had five stops.

Both Crowley and Williams return next season for Lumen Christi, and their goal is to break the record for Finals wins.

“It’s so much fun handing the ball off to (Williams) and watching him run,” said Crowley, who finished 2-of-6 passing for 29 yards. “It means a lot with our tradition to win it, but I want to get back here next year and do it again.”

Isaac Rehberg carried seven times for 49 yards for Lumen Christi, while Josh Dumont and Ryan Walicki led the defense with eight tackles apiece.

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS (Top) Kadale Williams (1) pulls aways from a defender during Jackson Lumen Christi’s Division 7 win Sunday morning. (Middle) The Titans’ Gabe King leans into his fourth-quarter score. (Below) Lumen Christi raises its latest championship trophy at Ford Field. (Photos by Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)

Nightingale Embarking on 1st Season as College Football Head Coach

By Scott Hassinger
Special for

July 10, 2024

CJ Nightingale's family values, small-town upbringing and Christian faith steered the Mendon native into a career coaching college football.

Made In Michigan and Michigan Army National Guard logosNightingale, a 2010 Mendon High School graduate, is busily preparing for his first season as Belhaven University's eighth football coach. He was officially named the Blazers' head coach seven months ago, on Jan. 1.

Belhaven, a Division III school located in Jackson, Mississippi, competes in the USA South Athletic Conference.

Nightingale credits his love of coaching to his father Chris Nightingale and grandfather Charles Nightingale.

"It all started with my dad and grandfather. At one time they were both involved in coaching, and their general love for sports wore off on me," CJ Nightingale said.

Once CJ reached high school, his interest in athletics only intensified thanks to several people who made a big impact on him.

"I had the most wonderful experience attending school and participating in Mendon athletics,” Nightingale said. “We didn't always have the better athletes, but we were successful because of all the time and commitment put in by our coaches, teachers, administration along with parental and community support. Success is the result of many people who focus on the same cause."

Nightingale lettered in football, basketball and baseball at Mendon, earning four varsity letters in all three sports. He was named the St. Joseph Valley League's MVP in all three sports his senior year, and Mendon earned league titles in all three during Nightingale's senior year as well.

As a starting quarterback and defensive back his sophomore year, Nightingale led Mendon to the 2007 Division 7 football championship with the Hornets' 20-0 win over Traverse City St. Francis. Nightingale still holds the state record for career interceptions with 27.

Mendon had finished the 2006 season 3-6. A losing season remains rare in Mendon, and Nightingale stated it fueled the Hornets' title run the following season.

"I think losing is more difficult in football than in any other sport because of how much work goes into preparing for a season,” Nightingale recalled. “We were a very young team in 2006 and got punched in the mouth. It wasn't the best feeling, but it was a real learning experience and served as a big driving force that next season.

"All the hard times we endured the previous year served as a byproduct for our success in 2007. That team was unselfish, and not one player on the team cared who got the stats or accolades."

At Mendon, Nightingale played for legendary coach John Schwartz in football, David Swanwick in basketball and Glen Samson in baseball.

Lessons from Schwartz – a member of the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association's Hall of Fame – and Samson have especially stuck with Nightingale into adult life and his own coaching career.

"Coach Schwartz had a way of getting everyone on the same page not just on the field, but he taught you how to be the best version of yourself off the field in every-day life. Coach Samson knew how to get his players in the right positions on the diamond to make us successful," Nightingale said.

"The environment at Mendon solidified my desire to become a coach and teacher. The best leaders are also the best teachers, and when you are surrounded by people like that it makes a big difference."

Nightingale attended Wheaton College in Illinois, where he lettered in football four years as a defensive back and return specialist. During Nightingale's career, the Thunder posted a combined record of 34-8 and qualified for the NCAA Division III playoffs when he was a freshman.

After graduating college, Nightingale taught history and spent two years as the varsity football coach at Richmond High School in Indiana. In 2016 he secured his first collegiate coaching job at Greenville University (Ill.) as a defensive backs coach, where he spent one season. He then served as special teams coordinator and linebackers coach at Indiana Wesleyan University beginning in 2017 before returning to his alma mater Wheaton in 2019 as the Thunder's defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach.

Nightingale makes an open-field tackle against the Gladiators in the 2007 Division 7 Final. Nightingale coached 24 all-conference players, 10 all-region performers and seven All-Americans over his four seasons at Wheaton, and the Thunder made the Division III playoffs all four years.

The head football coaching position at Belhaven became available in December 2023 when previous coach Blaine McCorkle moved on to Division 1 Northwestern State (La.). Nightingale applied and went through a three-week interview process before being selected as the program’s next head coach.

"I truly feel like God has called my wife Shanel and I and our family here for a reason. We are going to pour into Belhaven as deeply as we can and see what life brings us,” CJ Nightingale said. “As a college football coach, you have the unique chance to pour into your players spiritually, academically, athletically and socially. That's what is really special about this profession."

Belhaven's program has enjoyed a lot of success, especially the past three seasons with a combined 24-7 record, including a 9-2 finish last fall.

"I am very fortunate to be taking over a strong program here at Belhaven. You don't sustain success, but rather you must be able to build on it," Nightingale said. "We are excited about this season after a great spring. This group of coaches and players got a lot done these past six months. We have had a lot of guys here on campus all summer working to get better. There are lot of goals in front of us that haven't been achieved yet. Two of those goals are to go undefeated in conference play and host a playoff game.”

CJ and Shanel have three children, including 5-year old daughter Charlotte, 3-year old son Trey and 14-month old daughter Coco. They are expecting a fourth child in mid-September.

2024 Made In Michigan

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PHOTOS (Top) At left, Mendon’s CJ Nightingale (2) celebrates during his team’s 2007 championship win over Traverse City St. Francis at Ford Field; at right Nightingale is pictured with his wife Shanel and children Charlotte, Trey and Coco. (Middle) Nightingale makes an open-field tackle against the Gladiators in the 2007 Division 7 Final. (Family photo courtesy of CJ Nightingale.)