Pewamo-Westphalia head coach Jeremy Miller and defensive coordinator Nathan Thelen are hunting buddies and spent a good part of Sunday, Nov. 15, in different deer blinds along with former head coach Bruce Weber, who is assisting them this season.
But hunting deer was not their sole purpose. Figuring a way to beat Detroit Loyola in a Division 7 semifinal game was paramount in their thoughts … and on their cell phones.
The three had already watched Loyola on film and noticed how the Bull Dogs used direct snaps to their main running back.
“We were driving out to our deer blinds,” Miller said, “and all of a sudden Nathan said: ‘Why don’t we just, snap it to Jared?’ “
The snap went directly to junior Jared Smith, and he carried the ball every time in the first half to give P-W a 16-0 lead the Pirates turned into a 30-0 thumping of the defending state champs on Saturday.
A year ago, Loyola beat P-W in the semis, 41-21. Quite a one-year turnaround.
“The ball didn’t bounce our way last year, and we did some stupid things,” Miller said. “I don’t know if I’d say we were that much better this year, but we definitely executed better this time.”
Smith, 6-feet, 205 pounds, gained 193 yards on 30 carries and scored two touchdowns, giving him single-season state records for rushing yards (3,094) and rushing touchdowns (52).
“He’s big and strong,” said Miller. “He’s always trying to get better. So he’s driven and works hard. And our wide receivers and offensive linemen, they block for him. His record is their record. They’re totally unselfish, and they do a great job.”
Not only was P-W’s victory a surprise, even more so was the way it shutout Loyola, which was averaging 42.5 points a game.
“All week leading up to this, we preached to the defense that you had to play fast,” Miller said. “You’ve got to play faster than you’ve played. You’ve got to trust your reads, get to where you need to go and just be physical.”
The result means that on Saturday at 10 a.m., unbeaten P-W will play unbeaten Ishpeming, which is making its fourth straight appearance in the finals and won titles in 2012 and ’13.
But Miller is still looking for his first deer.
“The deer hunting was slow, but probably because we were constantly on our cell phones texting each other back and forth,” he said. “There could have been a huge 12-point buck walk by my blind, but I wouldn’t have seen it because we were all getting into that. We had the game plan. We were working it.”
A good bet to lose
Lowell coach Noel Dean is out $100.
After losing to Walled Lake Western, 42-40, in the season opener, Dean bet his players $100 that Western would be playing for the Division 2 state title. That won’t happen because Lowell rallied from a 10-0 deficit to post a 49-34 victory in the semifinal Saturday.
The difference in this game was that Lowell’s Max Dean ran for 84 yards on 15 carries and Derek Massey picked up 77 yards on 18 carries. Add to that the 73 yards quarterback Ryan Stevens had on 15 carries in addition to the 188 yards he had passing.
“We couldn’t run on them in Week 1,” coach Dean said. “Being able to run like on them this week . . . when you can run the ball you’re going to be able to control some aspects of the game. Our offensive line has played really, really well.”
Lowell (12-1) plays No. 1 Detroit King (13-0) at 1 p.m. Friday, and this will be Lowell’s sixth trip to the finals, The Red Arrows will be shooting for their fourth title, and Dean said a good amount of the credit goes to defensive coordinator Juston Miller and offensive coordinator Mike Curtis.
“Those two guys are younger guys, and they’ve done remarkable things to maybe reinvent us a little bit and give us an advantage,” Dean said. “Mike played for me my first year and has coached the last 19 for me, so we understand each other very well.
“We can communicate without communicating stuff. Not very often can you have somebody like that in the coaching world.”
Breaking the jinx
Orchard Lake St. Mary’s was 0-5 in games against East Grand Rapids, losing three state championship games in the process. Defending Division 3 state champ and No. 1 St. Mary’s entered the semifinal game against East without star running back Justin Myrick (hamstring) and lost the other starting running back, Brandon Adams, with an apparent broken foot on the first play.
The game was tied at 7-7 late in the first half when Ryan Johnson gained 30 yards on an off-tackle play. On the first play of the third quarter, the Eaglets ran that same play, and Johnson followed good blocks from tackle Cameron Kolwich and tight end Nathan Fagnani and scooted 70 yards for a touchdown and a 14-7 victory.
“It was a big victory for us to beat them,” OLSM coach George Porritt said. “We’d been beaten in some big, crucial games by them in the past, and that was in the back of our kids’ minds.”
Porritt said there is a good chance Myrick will play in Saturday’s championship game.
Contact Mick McCabe: 313-223-4744 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @mickmccabe1 .
Division title matchups
Division 8, 10 a.m.: Waterford Our Lady (13-0) vs. Muskegon Catholic Central (10-2)
Division 2, 1 p.m.: Detroit King (13-0) vs. Lowell (12-1)
Division 6, 4:30: Ithaca (13-0) vs. Clinton (13-0)
Division 4, 7:30: Zeeland West (13-0) vs. Flint Powers (11-2)
Division 7, 10 a.m.: Pewamo-Westphalia (13-0) vs. Ishpeming (12-0)
Division 1, 1 p.m.: Romeo (12-1) vs. Detroit Cass Tech (11-2)
Division 5, 4:30: River Rouge (12-1) vs. Grand Rapids West Catholic (11-2)
Division 3, 7:30: Orchard Lake St. Mary’s (11-1) vs. Chelsea (12-1)