Muskegon Catholic Central’s Andrew Schulte brought a sledgehammer into the media room and gently set it down next to his shimmering but scarred-up gold helmet on the floor before postgame interviews took place.
It represented being not so gentle when facing opponents on the field.
MCC proved its might once again by winning a fourth-consecutive Division 8 football state title, this time in a 35-6 romp over first-time finals contestant Ottawa Lake Whiteford Friday at Ford Field.
The Crusaders — who have now won 12 championships in program history — finished the season 14-0 and became the third program in Michigan to win four consecutive football titles. The first two were now-defunct Detroit dePorres, from 1981-84, and Ithaca, from 2010-13. Grand Rapids West Catholic will go for its fourth straight today against Menominee in Div. 5.
“This has been through a lot this season, 14 games,” Schulte said as he held the sledgehammer, which became a symbol three years ago after a challenge from Spring Lake. As a senior, he will sign it and pass it down to another player for next season.
■Statistics war: Both Division 8 teams entered Ford Field a perfect 13-0, so it shouldn’t be too surprising they had some very similar statistics.
The Crusaders scored 542 points in getting through the Div. 8 regionals, while the Bobcats accumulated 545 points. MCC earned 3,537 yards rushing and Whiteford ran for 3,729, while passing yards were even closer, at 1,099 to 1,025, respectively.
A huge difference was MCC’s scoring defense, which had been nearly perfect in the postseason, having given up just one touchdown in four playoff games as the team outscored opponents, 180-7. That glaring dominance showed up again as the Crusaders gave up just their second touchdown in five playoff games in the 35-6 win.
“Teams have driven on us and driven on us but we’ve always come up big and made stops, inside the 20, inside the 10. That’s a credit to the kids, to the coaches, to the kids not quitting,” said MCC coach Steve Czerwon.
Whiteford did earn 260 yards rushing (113 by quarterback Thomas Eitniear) and 96 yards through the air. MCC ran for 331 yards — led by its quarterback, Cameron Martinez, who gained 154.
■Double duty: It’s not uncommon for students at smaller schools like Whiteford to jump in to help in multiple areas, including the marching band. Four members of the football program and two cheerleaders were part of the 42-piece band which played the national anthem and performed at halftime.
■Western’s band: In Division 2, Walled Lake Western had about triple the number of musicians who were just as proud to be able to play in such a big facility as Ford Field.
“Coming into the season we thought getting here might be possible because last year’s team was so strong,” said senior trombone player Mark Foster. “As things went along and we saw how the team was doing, that became more real to everyone throughout the playoffs. We’re all very excited to be here.
“From what I hear, many of the football players feel they have a better shot at winning if we’re here. They love to have us out here and they support us 100 percent. We love being here and supporting them. It’s a great relationship between us. We play to pump them up, and they pump us up.”
■A good sign: Walled Lake Western fans were holding up signs during the Div. 2 game saying “Semper Fi, Devil Dogs.”
“The Marines, in World War II, were so tenacious the Germans called them the Devil Dogs,” said school booster president Jay Weiss. “So for our team motto, and in honor of the Marines and their tenacity, we’re calling ourselves the Devil Dogs.”
The connection also honors head coach Mike Zdebski’s father, Frank, a Marine who passed away in April.