Keeping it simple Saturday in a Division 8 pre-district game at Mendon, the Hornets powered past St. Joseph Lake Michigan Catholic 28-12 to advance in the Michigan High School Athletic Association playoffs.
Now with a 10-0 record, Mendon will host fellow unbeaten Muskegon Catholic Central next Saturday at 1 p.m. in a district championship contest. Mendon ended the regular season ranked No. 3 and MCC was No. 1 in the Associated Press rankings.
Against the Lakers, Mendon scored on its first possession after starting around midfield. The Hornets had big gain on the ground by Austin Rensi, some tough yardage by Corbin Weinberg and a four-yard touchdown run on a quarterback keeper by Cole Decker. Leo Barbosa’s PAT kick made it 7-0.
Mendon’s defense forced a second consecutive three-and-out and was in position to take a two-score lead on its next trip down the field. Once against getting the ball at midfield, the Hornets started eating up chunks of yardage with runs by Rensi. On fourth down at the 3-yard line, Wyatt Cool was stopped short of the goal line for a turnover on downs.
Lake Michigan Catholic took advantage of the stop, going 99 yards on nine plays, ending the drive with a 37-yard touchdown pass from Zach Rogers to Christian Monoconduit on the first play of the second quarter. The kick failed and the Lakers trailed 7-6 at that point.
Neither team could get a first down on its next possession, but it was LMC that had trouble on special teams with a high snap on a punt that resulted in A.J. Voorde’s tackle for a loss that set up Mendon at the LMC 23-yard line. A Rensi seven-yard run and a Cool five-yard carry gave the Hornets a first down at the 11-yard line, from where Decker would complete a TD pass to Hunter Lovell (Barbosa PAT) to put the Hornets out front 14-6 with around 7 and a half minutes to go in the half.
With the Lakers moving the ball, Mendon pressured QB Rogers and linebacker Mikki Feister was able to intercept the pass. The Hornets started moving again on offense with a pair of nine-yard Cool runs, but the drive stopped at the goal line on a fumbled handoff. LMC was unable to turn the takeaway into points and Mendon would keep a 14-6 advantage going into intermission.
The Hornets opened the second half with the ball and started to break LMC’s will with a drive that lasted over 10 minutes and included a big passing hookup between Lovell and Rensi on third-and-long that went for a 16-yard touchdown but was called back for a block in the back — one of Mendon’s eight penalties for a total of 70 yards on the day.
Moved back to the 13-yard line, the Hornets handed off to Cool, who picked up a first down at the seven-yard line. He would later finally punch it in from the one-yard line to make it 21-6.
Mendon made it a 28-6 lead midway through the fourth quarter with a 34-yard TD run by Lovell and Barbosa’s fourth PAT kick. The Lakers got in the end zone one more time with 3:21 to play on a 17-yard pass from Rogers to Christenson.
The Hornets finished with 442 yards of total offense (415 rushing) and held LMC to 255. The Lakers lived and died through the air, collecting 233 passing yards but getting picked off twice.
Rensi was strong Saturday, racking up a game-high 171 rushing yards. Cool rushed for 111, Lovell added 70 on the ground, Weinberg had 32, Decker posted 24 and A.J. Voorde ran twice for seven yards.
Defensively, Feister led the way with 6.5 tackles, Lovell and Rensi each had six stops, Weinberg had five, and Cool finished with 4.5 tackles. Vorster and Slaughter each made four stops, and Sam Cleveland, Logan Hunter and Emmett Bingaman recorded three apiece.
Photos by Nicci Plummer