By RJ Walters / For the Jackson Citizen Patriot
The Lumen Christi High School football team missed routine tackles, its secondary was torched several times and it was forced to rely on a sophomore quarterback due to injuries.
But the Titans are still champions.
Carried by a 274-yard, school-record five-touchdown performance by Michael Cremeans, the Titans outlasted Kalamazoo Central 35-33 on Friday to earn a share of their fourth straight Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference East Division title.
Lumen Christi finishes the regular season 7-2 overall and 6-1 in league play, but coach Herb Brogan was less than tickled about his team giving up 366 yards of offense to a 4-5 squad.
“The league championship is there, but that’s over and we’ve got to be focused on next week and we have a lot of improving to do,” Brogan said. “I thought our offense played fairly well, but the defense, we just couldn’t stop anybody. If you play defense like that in the playoffs, you’re not going to last.”
The Titans held a 35-20 lead after a 25-yard Cremeans touchdown run with 9:25 remaining, but their defense could not close out the Giants.
Kalamazoo Central quarterback Von Washington connected with Nick Linde on a 1-yard touchdown pass with 6:11 to play, but missed a crucial two-point conversion. Central was forced to go for two because of a botched snap on a point-after-touchdown when they went ahead 13-7 in the second quarter.
The Giants recovered an onside kick and Washington threw a 23-yard touchdown strike to Jawun Gamble on fourth-and-9 on the ensuing possession. Gamble caught the ball a yard short of the first-down marker, but a missed tackle led to the score.
“We’ve got to improve our physical play — we’re getting out-muscled and we’re just not playing aggressive enough or tackling,” Brogan said.
Thankfully for Brogan, he had Cremeans in his backfield to kill the final 4:53. The Titans handed him the ball six times and he pounded out a pair of critical first downs on two fourth-and-1 plays.
The senior carried the ball 43 times and scored on runs of 25, 25, 9, 3 and 1 yards. He finished the regular season with 1,439 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Cremeans said a league title is “nice, but it’s not the ultimate goal” and he’s prepared to carry the ball as often as his team needs in the playoffs.
“It’s really just reading your offensive line because the play is designed for one hole, but a guy might open up a seam and you’ve just got to go for it,” Cremeans said.
Sophomore quarterback Justin O’Dowd took over when Amani Bass was injured on a run toward the sidelines. Brogan said O’Dowd had thrown three varsity passes prior to Friday, when he finished 5-for-12 for 73 yards, including a 33-yard pass to Colton Brannick.