Moment: 'The Catch' Saves Rockets' Day

October 22, 2020

By John Johnson
MHSAA Director of Broadcast Properties

In every playbook there’s a gadget, a trick play that’s only meant to be used to save the day, to be used at the perfect moment. When they work the way they’re drawn up.

But in this case, it didn’t work the way it was drawn up, and it still won the game.

In the 1992 MHSAA Class A Football Playoff Final at the Pontiac Silverdome, Muskegon Reeths-Puffer was in that moment and coach Pete Kutches called the play in the final minute.

With 32 seconds left, Geoff Zietlow pitched to Demarkeo Hill, who handed the ball to Luke Bates on the reverse. Bates pitched back to Zietlow, who lofted a pass downfield. Tipped at the 10-yard line by a defender, the ball landed in the hands of an alert Stacey Starr, who dashed into the end zone with the game-winning touchdown and Reeths-Puffer’s first MHSAA football championship by a 21-18 score over Walled Lake Western.

Just like they drew it up. Right. 

Starr had missed practice that week when “the play” was practiced, and with no one to block, he headed downfield. And as fate would have it, he headed straight into Finals lore.

“I saw two guys going up for the ball. It was Scott (Goudie) and a guy from Walled Lake Western, and they knocked it up the air. I was like ‘I can get to it.’ I got to it, and honestly have no recollection of anything else but being in the end zone,” Starr told the MHSAA Second Half when the 1992 team had a reunion at the MHSAA Football Finals in 2017.  

“It’s a special part of our life,” Starr said. “Not that we would ever want to get away from it, but it’s something that will never escape us. Even when it’s time for us to pass on, at our funerals, someone will probably talk about this.”

It wasn’t a particularly pretty game. The Rockets had to overcome losing four fumbles, and Walled Lake Western struggled offensively and turned the ball over twice. The scoring started with a safety for the Warriors when the snap on an intended Reeths-Puffer punt flew out of the end zone. Still, it was a one-point game at halftime, 15-14, in favor of Western. 

Early in the final period, the Warriors got a 32-yard field goal from Travis Ilacqua to pad their lead to four. After Western turned the ball over on downs with 1:40 left near midfield, Zietlow hit on a couple of passes to get the Rockets to the 37-yard line and set the stage for what has become known in Michigan high school football history as “The Catch.”

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PHOTO by Gary Shook.

MHSAA, MHSFCA to Provide Spring Evaluation Camps for College Football Hopefuls

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

March 27, 2023

The Michigan High School Athletic Association, in partnership with the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association (MHSFCA), will be hosting first-ever Spring Evaluation Camps to provide athletes with aspirations of playing college football opportunities to show their skills and abilities to college coaches at one of five locations.

The one-day camps will take place between May 16-19 at Jenison High School, DeWitt High School, Jackson High School, Brighton High School and Detroit Country Day High School. The MHSAA’s involvement will allow for the opportunity for Division I college coaches to attend, and representatives from college football programs at all levels are expected.

Athletes who will be juniors or seniors in Fall 2023 may register to participate via a link on the Football page.

“This is an attempt by the MHSAA to help our athletes get exposure during the spring evaluation period in a way that does not intrude on spring sports,” said Brad Bush, an MHSAA assistant director and past high school and college football coach. “We are working with the MHSFCA to help put together a first-class experience for the athletes and college coaches.”

Cost is $20 per player, and each registrant will receive a shirt to wear based on the athlete’s graduation year and registration number so college coaches in attendance can monitor their camp performance. College coaches also will receive registration information for each athlete in attendance.

All athletes must have a coach from the athlete’s school staff present at the camp, and that coach must be a member of the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association.

MHSFCA executive director Andrew Pratley called the Spring Evaluation Camps a tremendous opportunity for high school athletes in Michigan.

“We are very excited with the partnership with the MHSAA that allows our kids the opportunity to wear a helmet and do drills in front of college coaches in the spring at a minimal cost,” Pratley said. “College coaches are thrilled, and it's a unique opportunity to have the rules waived by the MHSAA at these events only in order to showcase the tremendous talent all over the great state of Michigan.”

The Michigan High School Football Coaches Association (MHSFCA) has been devoted to the promotion of high school football since its inception in March 1972. The MHSFCA has more than 2,500 members and provides several educational and development opportunities for members and their athletes, including an annual coaching clinic, an annual leadership conference for coaches and potential team captains, and the annual summer East-West All-Star Game for graduated seniors. Additionally, the MHSFCA’s Leadership Development Alliance is in its third year of training coaches and offering veteran members of the association as mentors.

The MHSAA is a private, not-for-profit corporation of voluntary membership by more than 1,500 public and private senior high schools and junior high/middle schools which exists to develop common rules for athletic eligibility and competition. No government funds or tax dollars support the MHSAA, which was the first such association nationally to not accept membership dues or tournament entry fees from schools. Member schools which enforce these rules are permitted to participate in MHSAA tournaments, which attract more than 1.3 million spectators each year.