JACKSON – Few high school football programs in Michigan have enjoyed as many trips to the state championship game as Jackson Lumen Christi.
Whether it was at the Pontiac Silverdome or Ford Field in Detroit, the Titans running out of the tunnel on Thanksgiving weekend seemed to be as big of a staple to the annual proceedings as mashed potatoes and gravy on a dinner plate.
The state championship games weren’t played this past weekend for the first time since 1975 due to the ever-changing landscape brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, but players, coaches and fans remain hopeful we’ll see state champions crowned by the end of the calendar year.
While we wait for the scheduled return to action on Tuesday, Dec. 15, we wanted to reminisce about some of the most memorable moments from past championship games. Last week, we released our statewide list of the top 30 individual performances, as well as our top 30 games from the past 30 years of high school football.
Today, we’ll take a look at some of the top state-championship game moments from Jackson-area football programs. As expected, there were plenty of impressive accomplishments involving the Lumen Christi Titans, but there were also memorable runs by programs such as Grass Lake, Leslie and Manchester dating back to 1990.
Below is our list of some of the most memorable championship game moments involving Jackson-area football teams in the past 30 years, presented in chronological order.
1993: MANCHESTER FINISHES RUNNER-UP IN CLASS C TITLE GAME
Manchester reeled off 12 straight victories during the 1993 season, which landed the Flying Dutchmen in the Class C state title game against Iron Mountain. The Mountaineers recorded a 28-8 win over Manchester in the championship game thanks to a 14-0 run in the first half and a 28-0 lead in the fourth quarter before a late score by the Flying Dutchmen brought the game to its final tally.
Quarterback Tom Fielder was 13-of-24 passing for 184 yards and one touchdown to lead the Manchester offense, while Shane Goodell hauled in four receptions for 49 yards and one touchdown and rushed for 36 yards on seven carries. Kevin Phelps caught two passes for 54 yards and Brandon Woods caught two passes for 46 yards.
Manchester finished the season with a school record for wins in a single season with 12 and outscored its opponents 450-50 in 13 games. They defeated Brown City (26-0) in the state semifinals, Schoolcraft (10-0) in the regionals and Gobles (55-6) in the pre-regionals.
1996: LUMEN CHRISTI HOLDS OFF BELDING FOR CLASS B STATE TITLE
The majority of Jackson Lumen Christi’s state championship games have been fairly anticlimactic but one, in particular, came down to the last play of regulation. In 1996, the Titans had to hold their collective breath on the final play of the game against Belding in the Class C state title game to secure a 17-11 victory and their first state title since 1979.
The Black Knights came back from down 17-0 to score 11 points in the fourth quarter and had a pass from the 34-yard line fall incomplete as time expired to end a furious late-game rally.
Lumen Christi opened the game with a safety and added a 2-yard touchdown run by Brendon Kewin to jump out to a 9-0 lead in the first half. Jeff Ziegler scored on a 4-yard run in the third quarter to help the Titans extend their lead to 17-0 heading into the fourth quarter.
In the final stanza, Belding’s Brendan Albert scored on a 4-yard run to get the Black Knights on the board and added a 37-yard field goal from Jeremiah Morse with 2:14 left to play to come within one possession of the Titans.
After the Belding defense forced a three-and-out, the Black Knights had one last chance down six points with only 47 seconds remaining. The Lumen Christi defense appeared to have the game sealed up after recording an interception on the final drive, but a fumble on the interception return was recovered by Belding at the Lumen Christi 34-yard line.
With not much time remaining, all the Black Knights could do was heave four straight pass attempts toward the endzone and hope from a lucky bounce or two. The final attempt on fourth down from quarterback Jerry Cotter to wideout Brent Cummings fell incomplete and the Titans exhaled and began celebrating their first state championship in nearly two decades.
Dan Power led the Lumen Christi rushing attack with 48 yards on five carries, while Peter Sykes added 35 yards on 13 carries. Jeff Ziegler was 10-of-16 passing for 132 yards and added 13 yards rushing on four carries, while Eric Linna added 11 yards on three carries and Kewin had four yards and one touchdown on two carries.
Skyes caught four passes for 40 yards, Neale Maske added 61 yards on two receptions, Sean Brogan hauled in two receptions for 21 yards and Steve Bush recorded a 10-yard reception.
The Titans’ defensive prowess was no surprise to most fans in attendance, as Lumen Christi outscored its opponents 439-105 during its 13-0 campaign that season.
“We’ve played great defense all year long,” Lumen Christi coach Herb Brogan told the Grand Rapids Press after the game. “This was a credit to a great defensive scheme and great execution by our players. We knew they were capable of coming back. Belding has a great tradition.”
2000: LUMEN CHRISTI ROUTS SPRING LAKE FOR D5 STATE TITLE
The 2000 Jackson Lumen Christi football team might be one of the more dominant squads Herb Brogan has ever brought to a state championship game. The Titans recorded six shutouts that season and won every game by at least 14 points to finish 14-0 and outscore their opponents 543-85 for the season.
They faced an upset-minded Spring Lake squad in the 2000 Division 5 state championship game and eventually wore down the challengers for a 42-15 victory to cap off an undefeated season.
Spring Lake opened the game with a surprise onside kick recovery but couldn’t muster any points out of the situation. Lumen Christi eventually took a 7-0 lead on a 55-yard touchdown run by Josh Moskal but Spring Lake answered with a 24-yard pass from Carey Pohlman to KC Conroy. It would be all Lumen Christi from that point forward, however, as Lumen Christi scored 28 unanswered points to take a commanding 35-7 lead midway through the fourth quarter.
Pohlman added a 5-yard touchdown run for Spring Lake with 6:30 left in the game, but Lumen Christi put some icing on top of the cake with an 11-yard touchdown run by Keegan Farrell with 40 seconds left to play.
The Titans rushed for 356 yards on 48 carries, while Spring Lake gained 188 yards on 45 attempts. Moskal rushed for 140 yards and one touchdown on 14 carries, while quarterback Shane Brogan was 4-of-8 passing for 69 yards and two touchdowns and added 97 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries.
Jon Zainea added 48 yards on three carries, Peni Sete gained 45 yards on 14 attempts, Keegan Farrell added an 11-yard rushing touchdown. Steve Karasek caught two passes for 39 yards and two touchdowns, Matt Hohne hauled in a 16-yard reception and Peni Sete added a 14-yard reception.
Jesse Frederick recorded eight tackles to lead Lumen Christi, while Jim Devine added six, Kevin Daly had 5.5, Ted Piepkow added 4.5, Jason Martinez and Michael Ellis each added four.
2001: LUMEN CHRISTI ROLLS PAST LIVONIA CLARENCEVILLE IN D5 TITLE GAME
Lumen Christi’s state championship history is littered with lopsided blowouts that the Titans have often enjoyed the winning side of. One of those state title runs came in 2001, when Lumen Christi blitzed past Livonia Clarenceville for a 49-0 victory that was impressive for a variety of reasons.
The Titans set an MHSAA state finals record for points scored in a single quarter by putting up 35 points in the second frame to establish a 42-0 lead at halftime. The 42-point first half is second all-time in MHSAA history behind a 56-point performance by Saginaw Nouvel in the 2011 Division 7 state finals.
Lumen Christi also tied an MHSAA state finals record with seven rushing touchdowns in their win over the Trojans and also set an MHSAA record for fewest passing attempts in a state title game with only one pass attempt.
For the game, Lumen Christi outgained Clarenceville 332-98 in total offense and didn’t punt the entire game.
Matt Bigelow rushed for 68 yards and one touchdown on eight carries to lead the Titan rushing attack, while Peni Sete added 68 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries and Ted Piepkow rushed for 64 yards and two touchdowns on four carries. Matt Hohne added 41 yards and one touchdown on six carries, Adam Hudechek rushed for 25 yards and one touchdown on five carries and Scott Ball gained 14 cards on four attempts.
Johnny Fry recorded 4.5 tackles, including one sack and three tackles for loss, and also added a forced fumble to anchor the Lumen Christi defense, while Jim Devine added four tackles and one fumble recovery and Joe Smigielski recorded three tackles. Derek Tracy added one forced fumble, Rob Cole had a fumble recovery and Paul Gross had one interception.
2003: LUMEN CHRISTI SHUTS OUT MUSKEGON OAKRIDGE FOR STATE TITLE
The Lumen Christi program went 61-8 with four state championships and one state semifinal appearance from 2000-04. A critical part of that historic run of success came in 2003, when the Titans bounced back from a loss in the state semifinals the year prior to capture the program’s third state title in four years with a 23-0 win over Muskegon Oakridge in the Division 5 state title game.
The Titans didn’t waste any time establishing the tone for the game, as Thomas Devine intercepted Oakridge quarterback Bud Giddings on the first play from the line of scrimmage at the Oakridge 34-yard line.
On the ensuing offensive possession, Lumen Christi used a double-reverse pass from sophomore Tyler Aldridge to Matt Russell, who hauled in the pass for a 32-yard touchdown reception. The trick-play was the fastest passing scoring play in MHSAA state finals history at just 15 seconds into the contest.
Lumen Christi added a 3-yard touchdown run from Gaelen Callahan and a 24-yard field goal from Jason Norris to take a 17-0 lead into halftime. In the second half, Eric Adamczyk added a 1-yard touchdown run in the third quarter to create an insurmountable lead and help the Titans ice the game.
Callahan rushed for 131 yards and one touchdown on 32 carries to power the Lumen Christi offense, while Tommy Lefere added 25 yards on five attempts, and Padriac Brogan added 10 yards on four carries.
Adamczyk was 6-for-12 passing for 119 yards and added and added one rushing touchdown, while Aldridge was 1-for-1 passing for 34 yards and one touchdown. Bryan Chase hauled in three receptions for 87 yards, Russell recorded a 34-yard touchdown reception, Mike Luedecking added two catches for 14 yards and Josh Hunt added an 18-yard reception.
Hunt recorded 8.5 tackles, including two sacks, to lead the Lumen Christi defense, while David Dailey added seven tackles, Thomas Devine added 5.5 tackles and one interception, Michael Devine had three tackles and Brad Chase had three tackles and one interception.
The Titans evolved into a championship contender thanks to a challenging early season schedule, which resulted in losses to Detroit de Porres, who won the Division 8 state championship that year, and a talented Youngstown (Ohio) Ursuline team. Lumen Christi bounced back from the 1-2 start to the year but winning 11 consecutive games on their way to a trip to the Pontiac Silverdome and a memorable state championship run for long-time head coach Herb Brogan.
“That speaks to the character of our kids,” Brogan told the Jackson Citizen Patriot after the game. “We knew we lost to two quality opponents. The kids listened to us, they believed in us, and they did the things they had to do to get better and get this far.”
2004: LUMEN CHRISTI GOES BACK-TO-BACK IN D5
Only three Jackson Lumen Christi teams have enjoyed the heights of back-to-back state championship runs. The latest was the 2016-18 crew that recorded a three-peat in Division 6. Before that, however, was the 2003-04 squad that scored back-to-back shutout victories in the Division 5 state championship game, which followed in the footsteps of the 2000-01 teams.
Much like the 2003 state title squad, the 2004 Lumen Christi team faced its fair share of adversity during the regular season, as a three-game losing skid in September put the team’s playoffs hopes in jeopardy. The Titans managed to win four straight games to close out the regular season and enjoyed playoff wins over Portland (41-12), Pennfield (34-17), Grand Rapids West Catholic (28-14) and Crockett Tech (9-0) before taking on Midland Bullock Creek in the Division 5 state championship game.
In a game that didn’t have a ton of theatrics, The Titans used a powerful rushing attack and a dominating defensive effort to grind out a 13-0 win over the challengers from Midland. Lumen Christi finished with 231 yards of total offense (133 rushing, 98 passing), while only allowing 107 yards of total offense to the Lancers.
Josh Badall finished with 106 yards, including a 30-yard touchdown run, on 22 carries to fuel the Lumen Christi offense, while Patrick Brogan added 47 yards on 13 carries and B.J. Carter added three yards and one touchdown on two carries.
Quarterback Jeff Wojtusik was 6-for-14-passing for 98 yards, while Tyler Aldridge caught four passes for 77 yards and Ryan Powers caught two passes for 21 yards.
Luke Jarzynka led the Titan defense with 6.5 tackles, while Tyler Moran added 5.5, Terrell Willis, Eric Ewing and Trevor Markovich each added four, Mike Blair had 3.5 and Chris Weeks recorded one interception.
2006: GRASS LAKE CAPS OFF ‘DREAM SEASON’ AT D7 STATE FINALS
Grass Lake put together a historic season in 2006, collecting a school-record of 11 wins and the program’s first-ever appearance in a state championship game. The Warriors faced off with Muskegon Catholic Central in the Division 7 state title game that November and despite falling 35-7 to the Crusaders, the trip to Ford Field alone was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
“I’m really proud of the run that our kids made,” Grass Lake coach Randy Cole told the Muskegon Chronicle after the game. “It was a dream season for them. This isn’t someplace that we come to every year. It was a fantastic experience for us. We’ll never forget it, and we’ll never quit trying to get back here.”
The Warriors took an early 7-0 lead in the game thanks to a 53-yard pass from quarterback Austin Cole to All-State receiver Doug Rogan on the Warriors’ first possession of the game. The Crusaders went on to score 35 unanswered points, however, including 14 points in the final three minutes of the first half to take a commanding 28-7 lead into halftime.
Cole finished 13-for-23 passing for 177 yards and one touchdown to fuel the Grass Lake offense, while Rogan caught three passes for 67 yards and one touchdown, Brent Jones caught three passes for 36 yards and All-State tailback Skyler Stoker caught two passes for 49 yards and rushed for 21 yards on 10 carries.
Jones made 13 tackles to lead the Warrior defense, while John Lesinski had 12 stops and one interception and Rogan and Jordan Bliss each had eight tackles.
“It was one of the most fun times of my life,” Jones told the Muskegon Chronicle after the game. “If I’m going to lose a game, I’d rather have it be here. The runner-up trophy is not all bad. We played hard. We did everything we could.”
2009: LESLIE REACHES DIVISION 7 STATE TITLE GAME
A year after falling a game short of a trip to Ford Field, the Leslie Blackhawks broke through with its first state championship appearance in school history.
The Blackhawks entered the 2009 Division 7 state championship game 12-1 behind the stellar play of senior tailback Trent Page, who powered a Leslie offensive attack that went on to set a school record with 501 points scored that season.
The championship game ultimately resulted in a 41-20 loss to Montague, as the no-huddle offensive attack led by All-State quarterback Cody Kater proved to be a difficult assignment for the Blackhawk defense that day.
Leslie fell behind 21-0 in the first quarter before mounting a comeback the rest of the game. Page sparked the comeback attempt with a 50-yard touchdown reception from Travis Crowe with 3:30 left in the first quarter and added a 10-yard rushing touchdown in the third quarter and a 53-yard touchdown reception in the fourth to account for all of the Blackhawks’ scoring plays for the day.
The All-State tailback for Leslie finished with 51 yards rushing and one touchdown on 10 carries and hauled two passes for 103 yards and two touchdowns, while Devyn Twombley rushed for 120 yards on 12 carries and Travis Crowe was 10-for-23 passing for 155 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions and rushed for 65 yards on 11 carries.
Page also led the Blackhawk defense with 12 tackles, while Justin Swab and Devin Craft each added seven tackles.
“I’m going to remember this whole experience, the experience of being at Ford Field,” Page told the Jackson Citizen Patriot after the game. “This is just a magnificent field. It was just amazing. I was thinking as we were walking through the tunnel that a lot of great players have made that same walk. It’s pretty amazing.”
Leslie head coach Scott Farley was proud of his team’s effort on the sport’s biggest stage and was happy his players and his local community could experience the opportunity.
“I said last Sunday there’s not a thing that could happen today that I’m going to walk out of (Ford Field) angry or disappointed,” Farley told the Jackson Citizen Patriot after the game. “Whether we lose 60-0 or lose on the last play in triple overtime, I’m not going to be unhappy.
“The kids and the community have just been outstanding. There’s no way in the world I’m disappointed in the kids or the staff or anything.”
2009: LUMEN CHRISTI ROLLS PAST CLARE IN D5 TITLE GAME
After a narrow 33-26 loss to Portage Northern to open the season, the Titans went on a rampage through the remainder of the 2009 season, outscoring their opponents 520-117 in the next 13 games. Other than a 26-21 decision over Battle Creek Harper Creek, Lumen Christi won every game by double digits that year.
Their journey culminated with another lopsided victory in the Division 5 state championship game over Clare, in which the Titans won 42-7 after jumping out to a 35-7 lead in the first half. The game was highlighted by Rafe Bellers returning the opening kickoff 90 yards for a Lumen Christi touchdown to get the ball rolling early for the Titans.
The Titans ended up outgaining the Pioneers 366-183 in total offense, including 239-94 through the air.
Conor Sullivan was 3-for-4 passing for 164 yards and two touchdowns and added 28 yards rushing and two touchdowns and also caught two passes for 24 yards and one touchdown to spearhead the Titan attack.
Michael Lather was 3-for-4 passing for 75 yards and one touchdown. Maurice Jones hauled an 83-yard reception, Sam Ward added two receptions for 81 yards and two touchdowns, Jacob Hersha caught a 51-yard reception. Bellers rushed for 40 yards on eight carries, Nick Russler added 18 yards on five attempts, Michael Cremeans added an 18-yard run and Ryan McWilliams gained 10 yards on two carries.
Tanner Kennedy recorded 10 tackles and two interceptions to anchor the Titan defense, while Cody Wesolowski added six tackles and Chris Hawkins added five.
2016: LUMEN CHRISTI LOCKS DOWN GLEN LAKE FOR DIVISION 6 TITLE
After a string of success in the 2000s, the Jackson Lumen Christi football program had a difficult time advancing past the regional round of the state tournament from 2010-2015. That changed in 2016, when the Titans broke through to claim the Division 6 state championship over Maple Valley Glen Lake by a score of 26-14.
Lumen Christi took a 20-7 lead into halftime and dominated the second half thanks to a stingy defense that only allowed 59 total yards in the final 24 minutes of play.
Senior tailback Bo Bell rushed for 238 yards and one touchdown, which ranks 15th all-time in MHSAA history for individual rushing yards in a state title game. He also added a 35-yard reception and a 32-yard pass completion to finish with 305 yards of total offense.
Kyle Minder added 66 yards rushing and three touchdowns on 21 carries and added a 10-yard reception, while Troy Kutcha was 4-for-6 passing for 66 yards, Tobyn Stanton hauled in a 32-yard reception, Jacob Lathers added an 11-yard reception and Sam Mizner added a 10-yard reception.
Minder and Luke Stanton each recorded seven tackles to lead the Lumen Christi defense, while Grant Smith added five tackles, including two sacks, and Tobyn Stanton, Brogan Sullivan, Sam Mizner, and Alex Lasky each added four stops.
The 2016 state championship run by the Titans not only stopped the program’s second-longest title drought but also sparked an eventual three-peat for Lumen Christi. The season wasn’t always sunshine and rainbows either, as the Titans opened the season 1-2 with losses to Grand Rapids West Catholic (30-13) and Battle Creek Harper Creek (24-14) before going on a 12-game winning streak that closed with the familiar sight of golden-domed helmets lifting the state championship trophy at Ford Field.
2017: LUMEN CHRISTI EDGES ITHACA IN STORIED D6 CLASH
Jackson Lumen Christi and Ithaca have won a combined 16 state championships, including eight this decade. When the two storied programs met for the 2017 Division 6 state championship game, all eyes were converged on the action at Ford Field, as the defending state champion Titans went head-to-head with Ithaca, who had won four consecutive state titles in Division 5 from 2010-2013.
The Yellowjackets held a narrow 13-8 advantage at halftime, but the Titans exploded for a 32-7 run in the second half to establish a 20-point lead with 6:48 left to play in the game. Ithaca rallied to score twice in the final five minutes of play, but Lumen Christi ultimately held on for a 40-34 win and its third back-to-back state title run in program history.
The Titans rushed for 514 yards on 67 attempts as a team, which ranks third all-time in MHSAA state finals history. Sebastion Toland led the charge with 244 yards and one touchdown on 33 carries, which is 10th all-time for individual rushing yardage in a title game. Kyle Minder added 206 yards and three touchdowns on 23 attempts, while Nick Thomas added 74 yards and one touchdown on two carries.
Minder and Thomas each recorded six tackles to lead the Lumen Christi defense, while Walker Plate, Joe Barrett and Cameron White each added three stops.
2018: LUMEN CHRISTI COMPLETES 3-PEAT IN 2018 TITLE GAME
The Jackson Lumen Christi football program has reached the mountain top 11 times in its storied history, but few were as memorable as the 2018 state championship run. The Titans capped off a three-year reign over the Division 6 field with an impressive 42-28 win over Montague on Nov. 23, 2018 at Ford Field.
It was the first time in school history that Lumen Christi had completed a three-peat and become only the 10th program in MHSAA history to accomplish that feat.
The game was also memorable due to the individual performance of senior tailback Nick Thomas, who rushed for 249 yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries, which ranks eighth all-time in MHSAA history for rushing yards in a state title game.
The first half of the championship game lived up to the hype, as both teams broke off long scoring plays to bring the first half to a close at 14-14. The second half was all Lumen Christi, however, as the Titans scored four straight times to establish a commanding 42-14 lead in the fourth quarter before a pair of late scores of Montague.
The Titans finished with 348 yards rushing as a team on 49 carries, lead by Thomas (249 yards), as well as Cy’Aire Johnson, who added 48 yards rushing and one touchdown on seven carries and two receptions for 53 yards and one touchdown.
Brock Fitzpatrick added 40 yards and one touchdown on three carries, Dayton Keller hauled in two receptions for 20 yards and one touchdown and quarterback Joe Barrett was 5-of-10 passing for 79 yards and two touchdowns and added 20 yards rushing on seven carries.
Thomas led the Lumen Christi defense with 10 tackles, including two sacks, while Brody Dalton, Walker Plate and Keller each added six stops and Bobby Willis recorded two interceptions.
Top 30 Michigan high school football state finals performances over the last 30 years
Top 30 Michigan high school football state finals games of the last 30 years