Never underestimate "The Heart of a Champion". SMCC came into Friday afternoon's Division VI Championship game against defending champ Montague at Ford Field as a heavy underdog. The Wildcats quite simply had more size, more talent and more stars. None of that seemed to matter to the Falcons from Monroe as they traded blows with the heavyweights from the football tradition rich area of Muskegon.
The Huron League Champions showed that what may seem impossible could quite possibly be if you play with heart and as a team and while the Falcons fell 24-21 in Detroit to a more talented team I find it hard to believe that Montague was more of a team than SMCC.
If anyone thought this game would be anything but close the Falcons erased that quickly by marching 80 yards in a mere 2:56 on their opening drive to take a 7-0 lead. Monatgue would respond by going on an 11 play 75 yard drive but would fall short by turning the ball over on downs at the Falcon 1 yard line. That goal line stand along with a 7-0 lead showed everyone at Ford Field that this game wouldn't be a blowout.
While SMCC held a 7 point lead at the quarter, Monatgue was able to score two touchdowns in the 2nd quarter led by Central Michigan bound quarterback Cody Kater. The athletic quarterback engineered two drives behind both his arm and feet as he showed why Montague were the defending state champs and why Kater is the heir apparent to Dan LaFleur at CMU.
The 3rd quarter picked up where Monatgue left off as the Wildcats took the opening kick and drove 74 yards before Kater showed some chink in his armor by fumbling into the endzone as SMCC recovered. The Falcons would be forced to punt after a three and out but a muffed return by Montague's Anthony Root turned the ball back over to the Falcons at the Wildcat 42 yard line. It took the Falcons just 6 plays to push the ball into the endzone tying the game at 14-14.
Kater would once again lead the Wildcats down the field going 76 yards in 14 plays but had to settle for a 24 yard field goal by Matt "Thunder Foot" Dejong giving Monatague a 17-14 lead with 11:55 to play in the 4th. SMCC would once again respond with a 8 play drive that covered 80 yards. Michael Howey would score from 42 yards out giving the Falcons a surprising 21-17 lead with 8:08 to go.
Now the pressure was on Montague to respond with a drive of their own or risk their perfect season. Enter Kater aka. Peyton Manning. The cool senior with ice in his veins led the Wildcats on a 6 play 80 yard drive that lasted 2:10. Kater completed 4 passes and scored the games final touchdown on a run from 10 yards out.
SMCC was unable to mount a drive in the last 6:00 minutes and Monatgue was able to run out the clock on their championship season and end the Falcons dreams of an upset on the biggest stage of their lives.
SMCC was led in rushing by Chris LaBeau with 102 yards on 18 carries and Michael Howey who had 99 yards on 13 carries. Jack Cousamano chipped in 58 yards on 15 carries.
Monatgue was led by who else but Cody Kater. The Division VI Player of the Year threw for 251 yards and rushed for 120 yards on 17 carries. All State receiver Matt DeJong led the Wildcats with 8 receptions for 120 yards.
While SMCC finished runner-up for a State Championship, the Falcons were still League Champions, District Champions and Regional Champions. They quite simply showed the Heart of a Champion led by a great coach in Jack Giarmo and five captains named Nate Johnston, Dylan Miracle, Michael Howey, Chris LaBeau and T.J Lovell.
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