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FOOTBALL: OLSM set to meet offensive equal in Grand Rapids Christian
Orchard Lake St. Mary running back Parker Mcinnis celebrates his 19-yard touchdown run against Novi Detroit Catholic Central during their game at Orchard Lake St. Mary's on Friday October 12, 2012. (Oakland Press Photo/Vaughn Gurganian)
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Featuring a running back tandem that's proven mostly unstoppable this season, St. Mary's (11-2) may be encountering its equal this weekend when it comes to pure high-scoring ability. But in terms of offensive style, Grand Rapids Christian (12-1) may also be the Eaglets' diametric opposite.
Led by senior quarterback Alex VanDeVusse, Grand Rapids Christian's prolific passing attack stands out from the overwhelming majority of run-oriented offenses throughout Michigan. VanDeVusse enters Saturday with over 3,500 yards and 40 touchdowns through the air this season.
"They're very explosive on offense," long-time St. Mary's coach George Porritt said. "They have a lot of playmakers, but their quarterback is the key. He's a very smart quarterback and he performs all facets of the game. He does a great job throwing the ball, but he can also run to get out of jams."
VanDeVusse's favorite target is junior Drake Harris, a top recruit who has made a verbal commitment to Michigan State. This season, Harris has racked up 1,772 yards and 24 touchdowns as a wide receiver, putting single-season state records for both categories within his grasp if he has another typically productive outing on Saturday.
Grand Rapids Christian has averaged over 42 points per game this season and, much like St. Mary's, has not played a down-to-the-wire postseason game yet.
"They're as good of an offense as I've seen all year," Porritt said. "I have great confidence in our defense, but to eliminate them from scoring, that would be a monster assignment. I think you've got try to hold them down and not let them make big-down conversions."
One clear advantage the Eaglets should have to help combat Grand Rapids Christian's high-tempo offense is their own running game, which allows St. Mary's to dominate the time of possession in most games.
"Having great running backs like Grant Niemiec and Parker McInnis is such a positive," senior quarterback Matt Linehan said. "It's going to help us out to control the clock and eat up some time to keep the ball away from their explosive offense.
"We're ready for any situation that's thrown to us. Either way, whether it's a shootout or not, it's going to be really exciting."
This will be the Eaglets' fourth-consecutive trip to the Division 3 finals, as the program seeks its first back-to-back championships since 1999-2000.
For linebacker Sean Bauer and the rest of the senior class, Saturday will be emotional as the final game of their high school careers, win or lose.
"It's just crazy how the time flies by. I can remember being a freshman here and now it's my last game," Bauer said. "It's just crazy how fast the whole experience went by.
"You never know how many chances you're going to get and at St. Mary's we kind of get spoiled getting to go (to Ford Field), but I know to cherish the moments because they're the memories that are going to last forever."
Clearly impressed by what he's seen on game film this week in preparation, Linehan said Grand Rapids Christian may end up being the toughest team St. Mary's has faced this season. That's high praise given a rigorous regular season schedule that remarkably included games against each of the four finalists in Divisions 1 and 2.
"Hopefully, (our tough schedule) helps us prepare, but the other concern is that our kids are feeling (the effects) of it," Porritt said. "That's a lot of football. But they've seen a lot of great football teams."
The Division 3 championship will be the last of the eight games played at Ford Field this weekend, with St. Mary's and Grand Rapids Christian set for kickoff at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
"I think it's good that we have the last game because it's kind of the finale and the last showdown," Bauer said.
Last Updated: 11/22/2012 11:09:26 PM EST