Monday, November 26, 2012

State Finals Reaction -- Offensive and Defensive MVP's

Offensive MVP: Shon Powell, Brother Rice Running Back
Powell capped off an impressive and relatively unexpected postseason run with a strong performance on Friday afternoon as the junior running back rushed for just under 100 yards on just seven carries for the game, while finding the end zone in the second half as well. In five playoff games, Powell rushed for over 550 yards and seven touchdowns after rushing for less than 400 yards in nine regular season games to help lead the playoff push for the Warriors as they captured their second straight state title for the first time in history.
Defensive/Special Teams MVP: Jason Alessi, Brother Rice DB/KR
This MVP for Alessi goes with an assist from Delano Madison, who received the kickoff after Muskegon tied the game up at 28-28, took a few steps and threw a near perfect pass back across the field to Alessi and the rest was history as Alessi returned the ball 91 yards for the game-winning score. But Alessi also had a big game on defense as he finished with a game-high 12 tackles, including two tackles which might have prevented a long touchdown run by Muskegon quarterback Jalen Smith
Final Word: The true MVP of this game is without a doubt the Brother Rice play-callers. To dial up not one, but two gutsy trick plays late in the fourth quarter was the difference maker for the Warriors as Muskegon just could not stop the Brother Rice trickery. Don't forget about the defense's performance either as the Warriors held Muskegon's star back John King to just 23 yards rushing for the game, something that very few teams have been able to do this year.
A 3-peat is not out of the question for the Warriors next year as Brother Rice will return quite a few players on offense and defense in 2013. Offensively, Brother Rice will return Powell and Brian Walker, who was the lead back all season long, along with sophomore gunslinger Alex Malzone and receivers Josh Flye, Corey Lacanaria and Grant Perry, which should make for one of the most balanced offenses that the state will have to offer. Defensively, the Warriors will be strong once again, especially in the secondary with defensive back Chris Carter joining Alessi in the defensive backfield once again. Defensive lineman Alberto Sandoval and linebacker Shaun Jones, who came up with a key pass breakup and a fumble recovery deep in Muskegon's end to set up the go-ahead touchdown by Powell, will also be key contributors for the Warrior's defense in 2013 as well.
It's also hard to believe that this is the first time in Brother Rice history where the Warriors have won back-to-back state titles, considering all of the success they've had in the past few decades. But if this was in fact the final game for legendary head coach Al Fracassa, there couldn't be a better way to go out after yet another state title.

Offensive MVP: Derek Woltjer, South Christian Quarterback
It's hard to believe that Woltjer was only a backup quarterback. The South Christian signal caller made it look easy on Friday night as he picked apart the Country Day defense in more ways than one. Woltjer finished the D-4 state final game with a game-high 153 yards rushing on just 15 carries, while finding the end zone twice on the ground. Through the air, Woltjer was just as good as he finished with a perfect 8-for-8 passing for 88 yards and two more touchdowns. I don't think it gets much better than that for a quarterback.
Defensive MVP: Derrick Coleman, Country Day Defensive Lineman
Coleman was one of the few Country Day players that were able to disrupt the South Christian offensive rhythm on Friday night as he finished with two sacks, three tackles for loss as well as a forced fumble. There weren't many bright spots to see for the Yellowjackets on Friday night, but Coleman was definitely one of them.
Final Word: It just wasn't meant to be for Country Day. The Yellowjackets had no answer for the South Christian read option on Friday night and whenever it seemed like they found a way to slow down the run, South Christian burned Country Day with a pass. This ugly loss came at the hands of an inexperienced, but very athletic back-up quarterback, who was filling in for Jon Wassink, South Christian's starting quarterback who was hurt near the end of the semifinal win for the Sailors. But Country Day should have been well aware of what Woltjer was capable of, considering he was one of Wassinks top receivers during the season.
This isn't going to be a case for Country Day where they will have to rebuild and shoot for a return to the state finals down the road, because the Yellowjackets will have a number of starters returning for the 2013 season. With quarterback Tyler Wiegers and running back Richie Wilson, who are both considered big time Division 1 college recruits, returning next year, along with receivers Maurice Ways (another D-1 recruit) and Tristin Wiegers coming back next season, the Yellowjackets will have one of the most explosive offenses in the state once again next season.

Offensive MVP: Mike Weber, Cass Tech Running Back
Weber averaged nearly eight yards per carry for the Technicians against a very stout Catholic Central defense and the Shamrocks really didn't have an answer for him from the start. What was the biggest play of the game for Weber was his 57 yard run on 3rd and long deep in Cass Tech's own end, which set up a 30 yard touchdown run by Deon Drake on the very next play to put the Technicians ahead 22-7. And from there, Cass Tech never looked back as the held at least two score lead for the rest of the game.
Defensive MVP: David Widzinski, Catholic Central Linebacker
One of the bright spots for Catholic Central on Saturday was the sophomore linebacker, who was a tackling machine from start to finish for the Shamrocks on Saturday afternoon. Widzinski finished with a game-high 15 tackles on the day, which was nine more than anyone else on the Catholic Central defense and  four more than any player on the Cass Tech defense. Widzinski will be a key returning player for the Shamrock defense in 2013.
Final Word: This game belonged to Cass Tech from the start. The first play from scrimmage for the Technicians was an 89 yard strike from Jayru Campbell to Jourdan Lewis and the game had an immediate feel that was similar to last year's contest. To make matters worse for the Shamrocks, they fumbled just inside the 50 yard line and Kenton Gibbs scooped the ball up and headed 58 yards to give Cass Tech a 12-0 edge early on. Give credit to Catholic Central for battling back and making it a game late in the first half with a score on an 18 yard pass by Garrett Moores to Zach Bock, but the Shamrocks just couldn't match the speed or athleticism of Cass Tech.
There will be plenty to look forward to next season as Catholic Central will try to make it three straight appearances in the state title game, but if that's the case and the Shamrocks do make it back to Ford Field, they should expect Cass Tech to be there as well once again. Look for Widzinski as well as one of the state's top defensive ends in Dylan Roney along with a couple of other players to help lead the Catholic Central defense in 2013. Offensively, Bock will be one of a few players returning for the Shamrocks next season as they will look to fill the void of a number of seniors who helped set the table for Catholic Central over the course of the past two years.

**Considering this game saw a state finals records of 1,033 total yards between the two teams, 579 total yards by St. Mary's for another state record as well as one or two more state records, I felt it would be neccessary to add in another offensive MVP category, rather than have a defensive MVP.**
Offensive MVP: Drake Harris, Grand Rapids Christian Wide Receiver
What is there to say about the performance from Harris? This was a performance for the ages by the Michigan State-bound junior who hauled in eight catches for 243 yards which is a state finals record. Harris did haul in a touchdown pass, but his biggest influence in the game came on the final drive of regulation for Grand Rapids Christian as he came up with a huge catch on fourth down and hung onto a 15 yard catch after getting drilled and upended by St. Mary's defensive back Tyson Smith. There were too many spectacular catches to sum up Harris' performance on Saturday, but anything thrown in his direction, he caught, which proved to be the difference.
Offensive MVP(s) (Part Two): Grant Niemiec and Parker McInnis, St. Mary's Running backs
If it weren't for Harris, the two headed monster out of the OLSM backfield would have been the ones who stole the show as the dynamic duo combined for over 400 yards rushing on Saturday night. McInnis rushed for over 10 yards per carry on his way to a 269 yard effort on the night, while Niemiec averaged six yards per attempt as he finished with 168 yards to go along with three touchdowns. Give the big assist to the Eaglet's offensive line for their dominant performance for the second straight state finals as they helped pave the way for the OLSM rushing attack finished with 459 total yards rushing and four touchdowns and four touchdowns.
Final Word: There were a countless amount of contributions to this outcome on Saturday, from the performance by Harris, to the St. Mary's rushing attack, to the clutch field goals from Joel Schipper, who kicked the game tying field goal with less four seconds left in regulation and then the game-winner in overtime. But game came down to the decision to go for it on fourth down on the Grand Rapids Christian three yard line, rather than to kick the field goal and hope for a defensive stand.
However, OLSM head coach George Porritt noted after the game that he wasn't sure if three points would have been enough considering just how effective the GRC aerial attack had been behind quarterback Alex VanDeVusse. But we will never know if three points would have been enough to at least send the game to a second overtime, and you can't blame Porritt and the coaching staff for making the decision to go for the touchdown over the field goal.
While this is a big senior class that has accomplished a ton for the St. Mary's program, the Eaglets have been dominant for the past 13 years and there's no sign of them slowing down even with all of the seniors they will lose to graduation. With receivers Jalen Watts-Jackson, Van Jefferson and Tyson Smith all returning next year it should make the transition for the next quarterback fairly easy and it could leave the door open for a pretty explosive offense in 2013. All three also play defensive back, and will be joining junior defensive lineman Julian Jones on what could make for another dominant St. Mary's defense next fall.

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