There weren’t any “Reserved for…” signs along the Grand Rapids West Catholic sideline, but there could have been. The Falcons made their fourth consecutive trip to Ford Field, winning their last three games there. That streak just might continue, since only two of West Catholic’s 40 points were scored by a senior — Connor Nemmers’ fourth-quarter safety.
“Our program is built on great kids,” coach Dan Rohn said. “We had a small senior class, and I think a lot of people doubted this group, because it’s one of our smallest classes in history. But for them to be here four years, it’s pretty remarkable. It doesn’t happen that often. It just feels really good. We had a lot of underclassmen who made a lot of plays, so the expectations are high for the future.”
■ Familiar faces II: If you thought seeing Orchard Lake St. Mary’s in the finals seemed familiar, you’d be right. The Eaglets made their 13th appearance in a championship clash, fourth-most on the list behind Farmington Hills Harrison and Catholic League foe Detroit Catholic Central (16 apiece), and Division 8 title-winner Muskegon Catholic Central (14). However, George Porritt’s squad is the undisputed king of Ford Field, where the games have been played since 2005. Saturday’s contest against Chelsea was the Eaglets’ seventh finals appearance downtown, ahead of East Grand Rapids, Muskegon, Muskegon Catholic and Crystal Falls Forest Park, with five apiece. However, East Grand Rapids has beaten St. Mary’s in three head-to-head finals matchups there, including the epic five-overtime battle from 2007. Not to be overlooked, Chelsea was making its first trip to Ford Field, and no doubt just as glad to be there.
■ A passing glance: River Rouge’s Antoine Burgess shredded the West Catholic secondary in a losing cause, connecting on 13 of 19 pass attempts for 354 yards. That was better than the former mark of 335, set by Olivet’s Jay Cousineau in 2010 (also against West Catholic). The Panthers’ marquee play was a 63-yard touchdown toss to Aaron Vinson, who added catches covering 43 and 42 yards. Ashawnti Howard also had a 51-yard reception, and Giovanni Turner gained 41 on another pass play.
However, Burgess had only the second-best mark of the weekend. Martin Luther King’s Armani Posey threw for a new standard of 383 yards in the Crusaders’ last-second victory against Lowell in Friday’s Division 2 contest.
■ Football by descrimb: If anyone can tell you anything about Orchard Lake St. Mary’s football, it’s Robin Goddard. The school’s longtime statistician published a comprehensive history book about the program this fall. According to the text, St. Mary’s played its first game at the Michigan Military Academy on Oct. 22, 1895, losing 1-0 to the Cadets. That was about it until 1912, when the White Eagles (as they were called then) had a 1-1 season, splitting a pair of games against Pontiac High. The program was interrupted between 1916-29 and again from 1933-43, but has been going strong in the 72 years since. The Eaglets have an all-time record of 471-217-7, have won seven state championships and have sent 16 players to the pro ranks. The team scored its 15,000th point during a 55-14 district victory against Linden three weeks ago.