Menominee falls to its old Nemesis
By Tom Kaeser
DETROIT – Menominee fans rose up and gave a final cheer for their team but there were tears in the eyes of the Maroons as they walked off Ford Field Saturday night.
A Maroon team accustomed to a running clock ticking off another victory had to watch the clock slowly tick off the end of a perfect season in a 27-14 loss to Grand Rapids West Catholic in the Division 5 state title game.
“We have no excuse.,” coach Joe Noha said. “Last week in the (Superior) Dome against Oakridge we were almost flawless for a half, but we knew we were in for a battle today. The bottom line was they executed well. We knew what they were going to run, and they ran exactly what we prepared our kids to (stop). But they just made plays when they had to.”
It marked the fourth straight year the Falcons have beaten the Maroons in the playoffs.
“It’s become a power struggle,” West Catholic coach Dan Rohn said. “We look forward to playing them. We don’t like playing them, but we circle it when we get the opportunity. This was an opportunity to play them on the big stage.”
Menominee was able to outscore turnovers in its four playoff wins, but two interceptions and a fumble played into the hands of a West Catholic team that gouged the Maroons for 257 rushing yards and burned the secondary for three touchdown passes.
The Falcons became the first team this season to hold a lead over a Maroon team that was rolling up an average of 57 points in the playoffs.
The game was knotted at 7-7 late in the third quarter when West Catholic sprang a “Lou Lou” of a play.
Facing a fourth and 10 at the Menominee 30, the Falcons shuttled in four players before the snap as Travis Hoving dropped back for a 46-yard field goal attempt.
Tight end Bryce Witham looked like he was heading off the field but stopped near the sideline during the shuttling of players and the Maroons never picked him up. Hoving lobbed a pass as Witham raced uncovered down the field and snared the pass and made a solitary dash to the end zone.
Hoving’s PAT gave West Catholic a 14-7 lead with 3:30 left in the third quarter.
“The idea is to just blend in with the rest of the team standing on the sidelines. Luckily, no one noticed me,” Witham said.
Rohn noted after the game that the bit of “trickaration” was named “Lou Lou” after his late mother.
The fake field goal charged up an already feisty band of West Catholic defenders, who forced a three and out on Menominee’s next possession.
Two plays later, the Falcons pounced again through the air when Travis Russell fired a perfect 48-yard spiral over two defenders into the hands of Drake Wooten.
Russell, who was a thorn in the side of the Maroons all day, blasted through a gaping hole on a trap play, broke clear at the 10 and sprinted for a 25-yard scoring jaunt. Hoving’s kick pushed the lead to 21-7 and put the Maroons into a two-score hole with 11:54 left in the game.
Menominee drove down to the Falcons’ 34 on its next possession before the wheels came off. After a procedure penalty shoved the Maroons into a fourth and 10, the snap sailed over the hed of Devon Harris, who was tackled for a 16-yard loss.
West Catholic wasted no time following up the big defensive stand. On first down, Wooten got behind two defenders and stretched out and pulled in a 45-yard scoring strike from Russell.
Thirteen points in 2 1/2 minutes and the Falcons began smelling their second state title with a 27-7 lead and 9:35 remaining.
Russell chewed up the clock with runs of 13 and 22 yards as Menominee tried desperately to strip the ball away.
“We all played our hardest today, but we couldn’t get what we wanted,” said Brilinski. “I’m going to spend all summer in the weight room and remembering today, thinking about it all the time.