Novi Detroit Catholic Central football coach Tom Mach isn’t easily impressed.
Nor is it often that he genuinely questions his team’s ability to beat opponents.
But as the Cleveland St. Ignatius players warmed up on the CC field Friday night, Mach counted what seemed like 85 and couldn’t help but notice their size.
“I would say, out of those guys, 30 of them were linemen that were over 260 or 270 pounds,” Mach said. “They come out, and you look at them, and you go: ‘Holy crap! What did we do here?’ ”
It appeared that CC might have bitten off more than it could chew when it scheduled 11-time state champ St. Ignatius.
And when St. Ignatius took a 21-14 lead into the fourth quarter, Mach would have understood had the Shamrocks accepted their fate as victims of the No. 7 team in football-rich Ohio.
But Catholic Central has won 10 state championships under Mach.
“I think that was a defining moment for us,” Mach said Saturday. “Down to a team like St. Ignatius, and you’re in the fourth quarter and what are you going to do? They had a lot of opportunities to say: ‘Oh, well, these guys are pretty damn good.’
“Instead, they said: ‘We’re going to beat these guys.’ And they did.”
Catholic Central registered what Mach called one of the best victories in CC history, beating St. Ignatius, 28-21, in overtime.
And Mach, in his 41st season at CC, might know a thing or two about CC history.
Trailing by seven, quarterback Austin Brown capped a long drive with a 16-yard TD pass to Jack Morris to force overtime.
St. Ignatius won the coin flip and elected to go on defense first. It wasn’t on defense long: Cameron Ryan scored on a 10-yard run on first down.
“It was just a pitch,” Mach said. “It was a pitch-type that we used before, but not the same. If they’d seen it before, they wouldn’t have recognized it.”
Then it was CC’s turn on defense, and Mach wasn’t sure how the Shamrocks could stop powerful St. Ignatius for four straight plays.
The CC defense forced a fourth-and-goal from the 5-yard line. Junior linebacker Matt Young made a leaping interception in the end zone to give CC its fourth straight victory.
St. Ignatius also was unbeaten, but struggled to consistently move the ball against the Shamrocks.
“Our defensive coordinator, Dan Anderson, had a good package that he put together with the other coaches this week,” Mach said. “We did some different things than we’d done before and probably some different things that other people have done to them in the past.”
The victory was No. 361 for Mach, tying him with former Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes coach Mike Boyd for third on the list of the state’s winningest coaches.
To allow Mach (361-96) to take sole possession of No. 3, all CC has to do this week is beat … Birmingham Brother Rice on Saturday at Berkley.
This is the third season as head coach for Dave Sofran, a longtime Rice assistant, who has the Warriors at 3-1 following Rice’s crucial 13-3 victory Friday over Warren De La Salle.
It is a vast improvement over a year ago, when Rice finished 2-7.
There could be a natural letdown for the CC players following the emotional victory over St. Ignatius, but Mach said that would be impossible with the Orange and Black Warriors as the next opponent.
“Like I always tell people: You can wear purple, you can wear red, you can wear maroon around our school, but you cannot wear orange. Never!” Mach said. “You don’t wear orange to our school. And if you do, you’re going to hear about it from everybody.”
Contact Mick McCabe: 313-223-4744 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @mickmccabe1.