Zach Bock (16), of Novi Detroit Catholic Central, gets past Detroit Cass Tech defender Ronnie Urquhart during Division 1 State Final football action at Ford Field Saturday, Nov. 26, 2011. These two teams will meet again in the 2012 D1 championship on Saturday. (Special to The Oakland Press/Larry McKee)
FOOTBALL: Catholic Central making the most of playoff opportunity
If Novi Detroit Catholic Central ends up winning one more game, then the number .285 will likely live forever in the school’s lore.
Following a loss to Orchard Lake St. Mary’s in the Catholic League’s Prep Bowl on Oct. 20, Catholic Central thought it could’ve been the end of its season, with the only thing left to plan was equipment turn-in and postseason awards.
The Shamrocks needed an at-large berth at 5-4 and ended up getting it by a margin of .285 points over the last team out, which was Salem.
“After we lost in the Prep Bowl, we were all disappointed,” Catholic Central senior fullback David Houle said. “But we knew if we had a second chance, we would take advantage of it. That’s what we’ve done so far.”
Catholic Central has indeed done that, beating Hartland in the first round (21-15), Walled Lake Northern in the second round (45-17), Plymouth in the third round (28-7) and Rockford last Saturday in a state semifinal to advance to its 15th state championship game in school history.
The Shamrocks will attempt to win crown No. 11 when they take on defending state champion Detroit Cass Tech in the title game at 1 p.m. on Saturday at Ford Field.
Of course, the words “Cass Tech” likely bring some bad memories for the Shamrocks.
The teams met last year in the state championship game, with Cass Tech crushing Catholic Central, 49-13, in what was the most lopsided loss for the Shamrocks in over 30 years.
However, Catholic Central head coach Tom Mach is downplaying any motive of revenge.
“What took place last year, took place last year and we can’t bring it back, so we can’t bring it back,” Mach said. “You’d have to ask the players because as a coach, it doesn’t help me because I prepare as hard as I can for every single game, so it doesn’t affect me.”
We’ll get the thoughts of a player on last year’s game with Cass Tech.
“There’s not one word for it because you can’t explain it in just one word,” Catholic Central senior wide receiver/defensive back Jon Malone said. “It was terrible. The Monday after we lost, we already started working out getting ready for this year. I’ve had the score of the state final on my locker. I look at it every day.”
So there you go. Motivation shouldn’t be a problem at all for the Shamrocks.
But if Catholic Central is going to prevail this time over Cass Tech, it has to do a much better job of containing Cass Tech sophomore quarterback Jayru Campbell and his speedy wide receivers.
As a freshman starter in the final last year, Campbell obviously wasn’t wowed by the atmosphere or moment, as he went 13 of 20 passing for 240 yards and five touchdowns.
Catholic Central’s vaunted running game also couldn’t move the ball against what was a brick wall of a Cass Tech defense, so winning up front this time will be another emphasis for the Shamrocks.
Each team will be sporting multiple Division I college recruits, most notably Cass Tech with senior linemen David Dawson (offers from Alabama, USC, Florida, LSU) and Dennis Finley (Michigan State), senior defensive backs/wide receivers Jourdan Lewis (Michigan) and Delano Hill (Iowa), junior defensive back Damon Webb, junior linebacker Deon Drake (Michigan State) and Campbell.
Catholic Central has future Division I college players in senior defensive lineman Wyatt Shallman (Michigan) and senior offensive lineman Derek Edwards (Central Michigan), but might be a more balanced team with a supreme supporting cast of tough players that’s typically the staple of the Catholc Central program.
Senior linebacker/running back Anthony Darkangelo might be the most underrated player in the state who hasn’t committed anywhere yet, while players such as Houle, Malone, senior quarterback Garrett Moores and senior defensive lineman Dan Bowen also are major reasons for Catholic Central’s success.
“Kids are stepping up and everybody is playing as a team,” Darkangelo said. “Different people are making plays and its helping us win.”
Cass Tech has been more vulnerable during this playoff run on defense, as the Technicians gave up 23 points in a second round win over Dearborn and 27 points to Lake Orion last week in a 34-27 semifinal victory.
If the Shamrocks can control the clock with their running game and do a better job of limiting explosive plays from Cass Tech’s offensive weapons, then they’ll possibly erase the bitter memories from that blowout loss to the Technicians at Ford Field last year.
And also make sure the number .285 is remembered forever.
E-mail Keith Dunlap at firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @kd2578