Lansing Catholic is Turning Bad Things into Good to Stop the Run of Standish-Sterling

CLARE, MI – The snap, the hold, the kick.

A lot can go wrong with the simplest pieces for Lansing Catholic Headquarters – and a lot has gone wrong.

And if the Cougars weren’t able to make the most of a worst-case scenario, they wouldn’t be going to Ford Field.

Repeatedly turned bad things into good, No. 2 ranked Lansing Catholic Central surpassed No. 9 Standish-Sterling 18-7 in the Division 6 semifinals on Saturday at Clare’s Brookwood Park. The win sends LCC to the state finals to meet Warren Michigan Collegiate on Friday at 4:30 p.m.

“That means everything to us,” said LCC Senior Jonah Richards. “Some of us were there when we arrived at Ford Field in 2019, and given the amazing impact it’s had on our community, we wanted to do it with the team.”

The defeat ended a picture-perfect drive for Standish-Sterling (10-3), who found victory away from the final goal just a year after winning a game. The Panthers took their ultra-physical brand of football to a breathtaking turnaround, winning the program’s first regional championship since 2008.

This style had the Lansing Catholics step down for much of the game. But every time it looked like the cougars were going bad, they did something positive.

Above all, LCC has converted two bad distances on kicks into five crucial points.

Standish-Sterling took a 7-0 lead with a 14-yard touchdown pass from Brett Bartlett to Brayden Sullivan at 11:31 of the second quarter. But LCC countered just two minutes later with a 1-yard TD run by Nic Gruber.

In the subsequent PAT, the ball escaped defending champion Joey Baker. But the senior quarterback calmly turned the situation around, bouncing off and firing a pass at Brandon Lewis for a two-point conversion and the 8-7 lead with Standish-Sterling the rest of the way behind let.

The Captains of Lansing Catholic Central and Standish-Sterling clash ahead of the Division 6 semi-finals.

This scenario seemed to repeat itself at the biggest point in the game. Richards lined up 3:47 for a 36 yard field goal attempt, and Standish-Sterling desperately needed a mistake.

When the snapshot went away from Baker, it looked like Standish had granted his wish. But Baker got the ball under control, Richards sat back and somehow shot the kick through the post for the 18-7 lead that all but iced the win.

“It almost went through his legs,” said Richards. “I thought he was screaming ‘fire’ but we were too far out. So I figured I might as well try. There was nothing to lose. “

This was the last of many crunch-time games played by the Cougars in a game that went exactly as the underdog Standish-Sterling had planned. The Panthers got a fiddly recovery from Nick Niernberg and Interceptions from Sullivan and Chase Raymond to hover within 8-7.

“We said we had a chance if we stayed close to half,” said Standish Sterling coach Marty Malcolm. “Well, we were just under half and gave each other this chance.”

The Panthers seemed to wear down the LCC defense – as planned – as Laine Thibault’s strong defense made its way across the field. The senior, who set the school’s record for rushing in a single season that year, walked for 111 hard yards with 32 carries in the competition.

Standish-Sterling was on the verge of a green touchdown towards the end of the third quarter when the LCC defense made three big plays to cope with the situation. Richards came up with a fourth down quarterback sack that stopped the drive and kept LCC one point ahead.

“We play physically every day in training,” said Richards. “We expected that of them, but we also expected that of ourselves.”

A few minutes later, the LCC offensive came out big with its own fourth down when Baker dodged a tackle in the backfield and then stormed 9 yards for a crucial first down. Gruber ended the drive with a 1-yard touchdown, which made it 15-7 at 7:17.

Standish sterling soccer ball

Standish Sterling quarterback Brett Bartlett passes running back Laine Thibault in the state D6 semi-finals. (With permission, Mike Kolleth)

Standish-Sterling had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to hold a game with a score in what looked like a safe interception. But two Panthers defenders ran into each other and the ball fell to the ground. Two games later, Richards started his unorthodox 36-yard field goal.

“We usually move them in,” said Malcolm. “These are the pieces we’ve been doing for the past three weeks, but suddenly we couldn’t do it anymore. If you have the chance to turn it around, you have to do it in a game like this. “

It was a heavy defeat for Standish-Sterling, who was considered a longshot against the 2019 national champions. But the Panthers showed they were right there and in sight of their own journey to Ford Field.

“The seniors gave me everything they had and they reintroduced this program,” Malcolm said.

“I wanted to get deep into the playoffs and these guys did it. We needed this so that our community and program could believe in it again. Going 4-5, 4-5, 1-6 is ugly. I take 10-3 and play in this game. “

Standish-Sterling managed 218 yards overall offensive in the semifinals, led by Thibault’s 111 rushing yards. Bartlett was 10 of 18 for 103 yards.

Baker was 11 of 23 passers-by for 105 yards for LCC while storming 77 yards for 14 carries. Gruber added 57 yards on the ground and Lewis had 45 when the Cougars put together a 343 yard total attack.

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