MUSKEGON — Montague carried the size advantage into Friday’s district championship game at Muskegon Catholic, and the Wildcats flexed that advantage early and often, pounding the Crusaders 36-7 to earn their fourth straight district trophy.

Montague (9-0) was effective no matter what it did on offense, riding quarterback Drew Collins to five touchdown drives. Collins was responsible for all five scores, running for three touchdowns and passing for two, and had 310 total yards of offense. The Wildcats utilized their strong front line to great effect all game long.

“It’s huge, no pun intended,” Montague coach Pat Collins said of his team’s strong line. “We do have some big guys. I thought their guys battled well and played low and really gave us a challenge there. It’s just if you make a small mistake and you’re a little bit of a smaller team than the other team, it could lead to a big gain. We had a couple of chunks there that hurt them a little bit, and that was the difference.”

The Crusaders were without star quarterback Max Price, who was injured in last week’s district semifinal win over Harrison. Without Price’s threat to throw, Catholic went heavy with the wing-T offense behind junior Elliott Riegler.

Moving the ball against this Montague defense is tough enough, though, for a team that can run and throw. With the Crusaders largely limited to the run, that made Montague’s defense even tougher, and the Wildcats held Catholic without a point until after earning a running clock in the fourth quarter.

Hayden McDonald led the Wildcat defense with nine solo tackles (13 total). Izac Jarka had nine takedowns, and Rodney Brassfield and Trey Mikkelsen each had eight.

“I think we just stuck to what we’re taught and trusted our coaches and the game plan all week,” Wildcats’ lineman Walker Martin, a Grand Valley State commit, said. “I think our coaches really prepared us for this one, and we stuck to the game plan. We drove our feet, got into them, and we got some push. Whenever you do that, you’re going to get a W.”

Coach Collins echoed those thoughts, adding that the Wildcats have a deep respect for the Crusaders’ program, which is why they performed so well Friday.

“Our guys prepared hard, because we know how good they are,” Collins said. “I thought we were consistent tonight in our game plan and our execution...I thought it was a battle, but we were consistent in our attack, and that’s why we had such a big difference in the score. Overall, I thought it was a close matchup.”

The ‘Cats led 14-0 at halftime thanks to two short touchdown runs by Drew Collins, but it was the second half where they really began to pull away. After stopping Catholic in its tracks following a Crusaders’ fumble recovery, Montague went down the field easily and scored a third time on a 19-yard receiver screen to Dylan Everett, who rang up 86 yards of offense.

Collins then picked off a Riegler pass on the next possession and scored again a few plays later on a 27-yard run. Even a dropped PAT snap went the Wildcats’ way, as Collins extended the play long enough to find Tugg Nichols in the end zone for a two-point conversion.

Sam Smith’s 21-yard touchdown reception closed out the Montague scoring for the evening and gave Collins his fifth touchdown.

“I was proud of him,” coach Collins said of his son. “I thought he was spreading the ball around well. He was seeing the field and taking what the defense was giving him. We try to use all 53 yards wide, as deep as we can go, and overall I thought we did a pretty good job with that. Of course, we talked a lot about the inside, and those heavies did a great job of run blocking for us.”

The district title was Montague’s fourth straight, and considering the COVID-19 pandemic we’re all living through, this one might have been the sweetest. It sent the Wildcats on to next week’s regional finals game, in which they’ll host Montrose, 40-35 winners over Millington.

“It’s great to be here together playing,” coach Collins said. “We’re all out here living life. Things are rough right now, and it’s hard, but at least we’re kind of moving along and letting kids experience special moments like this and memories that will last a lifetime.”

“It means a lot,” Martin said of the fourth straight title. “It just goes to show, year after year, how much work we put in. The tradition, the community, we do it for our brothers and we do it for each other. It just goes to show how much camaraderie we have, how much of a brotherhood we have, and how much work we put in.”

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