The MHSAA football Division 7 state championship game started at 9:30 a.m. Sunday, and boy, did Jackson Lumen Christi get a wake-up call.
By the time the defending champion Titans rubbed the sleep out of their eyes, Menominee held a 14-0 lead and was positioned to add more points. But like in 2022, Lumen Christi stayed calm, chipped away at the deficit, and bounced back with an exciting 34-30 victory at Ford Field.
On a fourth-and-4 from the 11 with 4:04 to play, quarterback Tim Crowley found Gabe King parked along the right sideline. King hauled in the pass – just the Titans’ second aerial attempt in the second half – pivoted, and found an open route across the goal line for the winning score.
“I saw the corner inside and knew Gabe ran a good route, and we had repped it a lot lately, so with the timing and preparation it was there,” Crowley said.
“Honestly, we’ve got a lot of confidence in Timmy and our receivers,” coach Herb Brogan said. “As the season went on and we got into the playoffs we didn’t throw it very much – we threw it more with much success during the season – but up in the press box we noticed that cornerback had been shading inside all game long, and Timmy put it right there.”
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Although it was Lumen Christi’s 13th title in program history – which ties for the all-time lead with the now-closed Farmington Harrison – both of Sunday’s participants had plenty of turns controlling the momentum.
“I’ve always been confident in our ability to just be a steady team and be able to make plays when we had to,” said 6-foot-7, 260-pound tackle Aidan Pastoriza, a Cincinnati commit. “We learned a lot from last year, but we’ve done it time and time again this season too, when we showed we’re just steady with the ball and we wear teams down.”
Lumen Christi (13-1) held Menominee (11-3) to three-and-out on its first touch, but the Titans muffed the punt just shy of midfield, and the gift stimulated Menominee’s offense. The Maroons marched downfield in eight plays, and Landon Bardowski scored on a 2-yard dive before the game was 5 minutes old.
Menominee on the next series faced a fourth-and-3 from the Titan 29, and took a delay of game penalty, possibly hinting the Maroons needed a bit more room to execute a coffin-corner punt. But quarterback Trevor Theuerkauf, who is also Menominee’s punter, launched a pass to tight end Eli Beal, who caught it at the 22 and sprinted up the right sideline to put the Maroons up two touchdowns eight minutes into the opening quarter.
Menominee might have even tacked on another touchdown on its third drive, as Theuerkauf found Beal unguarded at the goal line on a would-be 22-yard scoring pass. But that was scrubbed due to an illegal contact penalty, and the Maroons turned the ball over in the red zone.
Lumen Christi evened the score at 14 behind a pair of second-quarter rushing touchdowns from Kadale Williams. The first one was a 1-yard burst, set up the play before when he gained 16 yards on an option pitch around the left side.
Williams’ tying score came three minutes before halftime, on a 55-yard burst through a hole created on the right side of the line.
Lumen Christi took its first lead 21-14, on Crowley’s 1-yard quarterback sneak 5:25 into the second half. After Gabe King returned the second-half kickoff to the 42, the Titans kept it on the ground for eight plays, with Williams accounting for 47 yards.
But Menominee held a 22-21 edge at the end of the third quarter, with Theuerkauf busting loose on a 21-yard run and diving across the right pylon. He completed the go-ahead 2-point conversion by throwing to an open Bardowski in the left side of the end zone.
Lumen Christi needed just five plays to reclaim the lead, 27-22. Williams returned the kickoff to midfield, then two plays later sprang for a 25-yard gain, and finished the drive with a 3-yard power run. His progress was slowed inside the 1, but he kept churning to cross the goal line. He finished the morning with 276 yards on 27 attempts for a 10.2 per-carry average.
“From the jump, credit to the lines,” he said. “Once they do their job and do great opening gaps, I owe it to them for making the play for me anytime.”
Yet Menominee grabbed the lead back in two plays. As Theuerkauf eluded a heavy rush, he found his brother, Tanner, in the clear deep downfield, and connected for a touchdown heave that covered 76 yards. Kaiden Bell caught the 2-point conversion pass to place the Maroons up, 30-27.
That set the stage for Lumen Christi’s winning 6-minute, 61-yard drive. The Titans still had to stop the Maroons on their last possession, and that was easier said than done. Trevor Theuerkamp scrambled his way out of a fourth-and-5 from his own 15 for a 20-yard gain. Next, he found Bardowski on a screen for 13 yards.
But Menominee then had three incompletes and faced fourth down from the Lumen Christi 46. Theuerkamp couldn’t find an open receiver and scrambled backwards 25 yards, where he was finally dropped by Lundon Hampton with 51 seconds remaining.
“I like the way that we answered time and time again,” Brogan said after another state title win. “We got down early, came back, kind of gained control for a while, then they went ahead and we battled back every time that they went ahead. I just thought that our kids played really, really hard, and I tip my hat to Menominee because I felt that they did too. It was a really entertaining high school football game.”
“It was fun until you had to walk off without the correct trophy,” Menominee coach Chad Brandt said. “There was definitely some entertainment out there. We got off to a great start and were able to run and throw to keep them off-balance, but they just maybe made one more play than us.”
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: MHSAA Division 7: Jackson Lumen Christi survives scare from Menominee