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.

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.