By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
DETROIT – If Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central could draw up the perfect game for its preferred style of play, it might look a lot like Friday’s Division 6 Final.
Yes, the Falcons defeated Maple City Glen Lake to win their first championship since 2014, so that makes it memorable no matter what. And sure, SMCC would’ve loved to score more – the offense averaged 34 points per game heading into the night.
But look past all of that and consider: The Falcons had 63 plays to Glen Lake’s 32, and ran the ball 58 times. They had 22 first downs to Glen Lake’s six. They had the ball nearly twice as long – 31:17 to 16:43 – and didn’t have one penalty called against them. And the defense posted its first shutout of the season.
Offensive efficiency and defensive prowess have been hallmarks of a program that was playing in its eighth MHSAA Final – and the victory was proof again that the workmanlike approach remains a viable a championship approach during an era dominated by wide-open and fast-paced attacks.
“It’s not really the score that we anticipated, but it’s OK – we’re a grinding team, we have faith in our defense and our offense to eat up time on the clock,” SMCC senior quarterback Wyatt Bergmoser said. “We just rep our plays, and if it does come down to the defense we let them do their thing and it’s not a big deal – we have trust in the other players on the field.
“We were on different teams (before high school) but we knew we’d come together and play together in the future, and that’s something we dreamed of and hoped for forever. As a kid, I went to the 2014 state championship game. I just remember sitting in the stands and thinking to myself, I want to be here one day. I want to be here with my friends, with my other players and grind it out and get a state championship for myself. And that’s what we did, and I love all my players and teammates for that.”
The Falcons finished 12-1, their only defeat this season 28-21 to Division 4 Milan in Week 3.
That close loss, which eventually decided the Huron League title, provided a lesson that would serve St. Mary as it worked to finish off its mission for the ultimate playoff prize.
SMCC led in the fourth quarter by a point, and punted on 4th-and-4 with just under seven minutes to play. Milan went ahead on the next possession, and the Falcons ran out of time.
On Friday, SMCC punted only twice and converted on four of five fourth-down tries, including two during a 14-play, 55-yard fourth-quarter possession that didn’t result in a score but did drain 7:48 off the clock. That possession also left Glen Lake to try to tie beginning at its own 7-yard line with 2:27 to play.
“Earlier in the year we were hitting some big runs, but three, four, five yards are great plays for our offense,” SMCC coach Adam Kipf said. “We don’t need to hit a home run. We don’t need to get 10 yards every time we touch it. But if we’re getting three yards a pop … 2½ yards, we’re in great position. We like to do that, and we’ll chew up 35, 36, 37 seconds on the play clock too, and that’s by design. We want to keep it out of their hands.”
The game’s lone score came on a Bergmoser six-yard touchdown run just under five minutes into the second quarter, which capped a 10-play, 94-yard drive lasting 5:22.
The Falcons ran for 249 yards total, led by senior Alex Morgan’s 123 on 22 carries. They held Glen Lake (12-2) to 127 yards total, 75 of it coming through the air on passes by senior quarterback Reece Hazelton. The Lakers got no deeper into SMCC territory than the 36-yard line.
“They were probably the biggest team we faced all year, since we’re pretty big ourselves,” Glen Lake junior receiver/defensive back Finn Hogan said. “It was a little different change of pace for us. It took a drive or two for us to get used to, and they capitalized.”
The seven points tied the fewest Glen Lake gave up in a game this season – seven times the Lakers gave up seven, and they allowed a solid 16.2 on average over the entire fall. Hogan and senior linebacker Jonathan Wright led Friday’s effort with 12 tackles apiece, and as a team Glen Lake had six tackles for loss.
Bergmoser also was his team’s high tackler with seven.
Glen Lake had last appeared in a Final in 2016, also finishing Division 6 runner-up that year. The Falcons, meanwhile, finished a rare 4-5 that fall, but came back with seven wins in 2017 and nine last season to set up this year’s run.
“Going into high school my freshman year, I knew we had a special group in our class. I think everyone knew we were special,” Morgan said. “My sophomore year we had 11 starters on the team that made the playoff run. Our junior year we had a ton of juniors starting on that team. So we had one goal in mind this senior year, and it was to be right where we are right now.”
PHOTOS: (Top) St. Mary’s Alex Morgan (26) is slowed by Glen Lake’s C.J. Helfrich (2) and Finn Hogan. (Middle) A Glen Lake defender works to bring down the Falcons’ Samuel Cousino.