Falcons end Ithaca's 69-game win streak, win state title

Cameron Mellor (@CamMellor)
February 16, 2015



The Falcons of St. Mary Catholic Central High School ran their way to the Michigan Class 6 State Championship in 2014. Behind the legs of Justin Carrabino, John Lako and Mitchell Lamour, the Falcons finished the year 13-1 and defeated Ithaca, 22-12 to claim the title.


The Falcons defeat of the Yellow Jackets crowned SMCC as the top team in Michigan’s Class 6 and earned the school its second State Championship in its history. The victory over Ithaca also saw the Yellow Jackets four-year reign as Class 6 Champions ended. Ithaca had won the last four State Championship in Michigan’s Class 6.


To get to the championship, St. Mary Catholic Central seemed nearly unbeatable in the opening stages of 2014.


To kick the season off, the Falcons dismantled Tecumseh, 35-13 by rushing for 438 yards and three rushing scores. Quarterback Bryce Windham threw for two touchdowns on just three completions in the game, setting the tone early as SMCC jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead before cruising to the victory.

St. Mary Catholic Central hosted two more games to start the season, blowing out Flat Rock, 42-0 before defeating Huron, 40-7. The Falcons ran for a combined 567 yards in those two victories as Lako, Lamour and Carrabino ran for a combined nine touchdowns in the two games.


Hitting the road for the first time, SMCC scored a touchdown in each quarter against Grosse Ile, defeating Red Devils, 28-0. The Falcons then traveled to take on Airport, defeating the Jets, 28-7 behind 348 rushing yards.


Their defense would shut out their next two opponents, a 43-0 defeat of Milan, followed by a 33-0 victory over Riverview Community. Continuing the impressive start to the season, the Falcons easily improved their record to 8-0 with a 47-7 undoing of Jefferson in which Lako ran for 127 yards and three touchdowns. Windham also completed 3-of-3 pass attempts for 114 yards and three touchdowns.


However, all momentum was stopped the next week as SMCC traveled to Lansing to take on Lansing Catholic. Despite taking an 8-7 lead into the second quarter, Lansing scored on the first play from scrimmage in the 2nd before scoring again before halftime to push their lead to 21-8 at the break.


On the last play of the third quarter, St. Mary Catholic Central’s Windham would hit David Howey for 46 yards and a touchdown to cut the lead to 21-15.


The Cougars conversely took the ensuing kickoff back for a touchdown to swing momentum back in their favor. They would hold on to defeat the Falcons, 27-22 to knock SMCC from the ranks of the unbeaten heading in to the playoffs.


The loss to Lansing Catholic spelled doom for Grass Lake, who happened to be St. Mary Catholic Central’s opening round opponent.


The Falcons torched the Warriors for 42 points in the first quarter alone before ultimately defeating Grass Lake, 62-8. SMCC forced three turnovers and gained 351 total yards to Grass Lake’s 95.


In the second round, the Falcons took care of business against Clinton, knocking off the Redskins, 50-15. Carrabino and Lamour each ran for over 100 yards and three touchdowns to spark the route.


In the regional final against Lumen Christi, the Falcons would ultimately advance after a failed extra point attempt by Titans kicker Will Davis. In a back and forth affair, SMCC and Lumen Christi alternated scores, almost identically. After the Falcons scored in the first and missed their point after, the Titans answered with a touchdown of their own, only to have their extra point blocked.


They would alternate similar scores through the first three quarters as they headed in to the final quarter, tied at 20. The Titans’ Hunter Page would run in his fourth touchdown of the game in the early stages of the fourth quarter to give Lumen Christi a 26-20 lead after Davis’ PAT was no good.


The Falcons would calmly drive down the field and answer with a touchdown themselves. On this score, the game-deciding extra point kick was punched through the uprights by Phillip Lehmann to give SMCC a 27-26 victory. The Titans would turn the ball over on their two ensuing possessions as the final interception would end the game for Lumen Christi.


Following their close victory against the Titans, St. Mary Catholic Central would then take on North Pointe Christian. The Mustangs would be no match in the state semifinals for the Falcons as SMCC scored a touchdown in each quarter again, defeating NPC, 28-0 to advance to the state championship.


The Falcons advanced to the school’s ninth ever appearance in the state title. Ithaca would await SMCC as the Yellow Jackets were four-time defending Class 6 State Champions. Ithaca were winners of 69 consecutive games dating back to September 27, 2010.  


All of that aside, the Falcons, much like all season, calmly headed in to Ford Field on November 28 with level heads and a mission to complete.


Looking much like a team destined to overthrow the long-tenured champs, the Falcons took the opening possession of the game 17-play drive that spanned 8:15 minutes. Lako capped the impressive drive with a touchdown rush from two yards out and an early 8-0 lead after a successful two-point conversion.


The teams would then sputter offensively as Ithaca was forced to punt and the Falcons would squander away possession on a Lako fumble.


The Yellow Jackets would score early in the second quarter but unsuccessfully attempt a two-point conversion, pushing the score to 8-6 early in the second.


After their ensuing drive stalled, the Falcons were forced to punt. Jake Smith received the punt for Ithaca, but would fumble during his return. That fumble was picked up by SMCC’s Travis Vuich and returned for a touchdown and a momentum-shifting 15-6 lead.


However, Ithaca would answer as Smith atoned for his earlier turnover, rushing the ball in from two yards out. A missed extra point gave the Falcons a 15-12 lead at halftime.


The third quarter would pass by scoreless and the final quarter of Class 6 football would decide the championship. After a 14-play drive ended with a sack and a punt for the Falcons, Ithaca took over possession from their own 20 and 2:46 left on the clock, down 15-12.


After being sacked on second down and tossing an incompletion on third, Smith’s 4th and 22 pass was intercepted by Darius Marks and returned to the Yellow Jackets five yard line.


Lako would put the game-sealing score on the board for the Falcons just one play later, punching the ball in from the three-yard line. After forcing a turnover on downs on the Yellow Jackets next possession, the final score of 22-12 would be enough to dethrone Ithaca and give the Falcons their first State Championship since 1991.


Lako finished with two scores on the ground while also leading the team with his 5.5 tackles and one sack.


The Falcons finished the season on the highest of notes, and became the first team to defeat the Yellow Jackets in over four years. 



Head Coach Jack Giarmo announced after the season that he would not be returning to SMCC in 2015 as head coach, as he would retire from coaching as a champion. He retires with a 145-54 all-time record as coach of the Falcons. Giarmo had served as head coach since 1998. 


Of the backfield trio, only Carrabino will return in 2015 for the Falcons as St. Mary Catholic Central will also lose Windham to graduation. For now however, SMCC can relish in the fact that they were the team that toppled Ithaca for the first time since 2010.


That’s something to be proud of.


Oh, and that State Championship that comes with that.


Offensive stat leaders

Rushing: Justin Carrabino (1404 yards)

Passing: Bryce Windham (936 yards)

Receiving: Travis Vuich (543 yards)

All-Purpose: Justin Carrabino (1964 yards)

Touchdowns: Justin Carrabino (21)

Rush attempts: Justin Carrabino (210 carries)

Receptions: Travis Vuich (28 catches)


Defensive stat leaders

Total tackles: Troy Hilkens (56)

Sacks: John Lako (5.5)

Tackles for loss: John Lako (11)

Pass break ups: Bryce Windham (16)

Interceptions: Bryce Windham (8)


Team statistics

Total scoring: 507 points

Opponent scoring: 122

Total offense: 4838 yards

Total rushing yards: 3902 yards

Total passing yards: 936 yards

Opponent offense: 2657 yards

Opponent rushing yards: 1684 yards

Opponent passing yards: 973 yards

Third down conversions: 52.8% (75/142)

Opponent third down conversions: 27.0% (41/152)

Turnover differential: +14 (18 interceptions, 9 fumbles)

Booneville High School wins third State Championship in school history


By: Cameron Mellor
April 21, 2014



Booneville High School opened their last season in Arkansas' 4A Conference with arguable their most anticipated game of the season - a game against arch rival Ozark Hillbillies. The Bearcats (15-0) not only dismantled their rivals, but their victory over Ozark spurned what would turn in to the school's first undefeated regular and postseason, en route to the school's third State Championship.
Winless against their rivals in the past two season (0-3), Booneville would seek to exact revenge on Ozark for knocking them out of the playoffs a season prior. The Bearcats not only did that, but successfully kicked off their 2013 with a bang, making this season one that will not soon be forgotten. 
We will start our Booneville season in review with that game and move all the way through to their state championship appearance against Warren High School. 
September 6, 2013                      Booneville: 49
Ozark, Ark.                                   Ozark: 14

The Ozark Hillbillies and Booneville Bearcats share quite a history. A history and a tradition that is surely not to be forgotten once Booneville moves down to Arkansas 3A Conference in 2014. The two have played annually for years, something that has continued since Booneville moved out of Ozark’s region four years ago.


While the two will continue to play annually for the foreseeable future, 2013’s game will remain in the memory of all Booneville players, fans and friends alike as BHS topped OHS, 49-14.


For the full recap, click here: Game 1 vs. Ozark


September 13, 2013                       Booneville: 41
Booneville, Ark.                             Gravette: 24

In the second game of the season, Booneville faced Gravette High School in a nonconference matchup. The Bearcats scored on the Lions early and often, en route to a 41-24 victory. all 41 points scored in the first half.


Bryson May would get the scoring onslaught started early, rushing his first touchdown of the game in from five yards out. Matt Berry and Josh Smith would join him on consecutive drives, knocking the lead up to 20-0 on the first play of the second quarter.


For the full recap, click here: Game 2 vs. Gravette


September 20, 2013                      Booneville: 21
Booneville, Ark.                            Star City: 7

Week three would be a much different story than the previous two weeks for Booneville as the Bearcats hosted the visiting Bulldogs from Star City, whom they had lost to a season ago.


Avenging two losses from last season already after defeating Ozark in week one, the Bearcats successfully exacted revenge against another opponent, downing Star City 21-7 behind an impressive defensive and offensive first half.


For the full recap, click here: Game 3 vs. Star City


September 27, 2013                     Booneville: 35
Booneville, Ark.                           Waldron: 7

The Booneville Bearcats played their first conference game against the season on their home field, hosting the Waldron Bulldogs. Much like their previous two games, the Bearcats proved to be too much, handling Waldron 35-7 to open conference play.


Waldron would win the coin toss to start the game, but their luck would stop there. The Bulldogs elected to kickoff to Booneville, a decision that Matt Berry would make them pay for.


For the full recap, click here: Game 4 vs. Waldron


October 4, 2013                         Booneville: 48
Subiaco, Ark.                             Subiaco Academy: 20

When the Booneville Bearcats took the field against Subiaco Academy in 2013, they might have thought they could score easily and come away victorious. Little did they know however, was just how they would score those points and the history they would make in their 48-20 victory.


Subiaco Academy (Subi), much like the Bearcats previous opponent – Waldron, would win the toss to start the game. And much like Waldron, the coin flip would be where there luck would end.


For the full recap, click here: Game 5 vs. Subiaco Academy


October 11, 2013                       Booneville: 42
Booneville, Ark.                        Dardanelle: 0

In what would turn out to be another lopsided affair, Booneville’s game against Dardanelle in week six did not lack in drama in the days leading up to the game. After learning that starting quarterback Cody Harrel would be suspended for the game due to a violation of rules, the Bearcats were forced to put tailback/linebacker James Ray under center for the entirety of the game.


Booneville would lean heavily upon their running backs, but Ray’s debut at quarterback would be a good one as the Bearcats left the game victorious 42-0 over the Sandlizards. All of Booneville’s points were scored in the first half, as they continued their fast start to the season.


For the full recap, click here: Game 6 vs. Dardanelle


October 18, 2013                        Booneville: 49
Mena, Ark.                                  Mena: 28

After their most recent triumph, Booneville improved their streak to six straight victories over conference opponents. The Bearcats faced their lone conference blemish from 2012 in their week seven matchup against Mena High School.


In their 2012 matchup, Booneville had a similar streak (eight straight conference victories) snapped at the hands of Mena. 2013 was a different story for the Bearcats, who for a third time this season, exacted revenge on an opponent who had broken their hearts a year before.


Mena was never in the game against Booneville as they found themselves down 42-12 at halftime before eventually dropping the game, 49-28.


For the full recap, click here: Game 7 vs. Mena


October 25, 2013                        Booneville: 35
Booneville, Ark.                         Dover: 0

Week eight would pit Booneville with an overmatched Dover team who had never beaten the Bearcats before. That streak would continue as Booneville laid it on early and often against the Pirates en route to a 35-0 victory.


The Bearcats were paced by running back Matt Berry who notched three scores in the game, all of which took place in Booneville’s 28-point second quarter.


For the full recap, click here: Game 8 vs. Dover


November 1, 2013                      Booneville: 35
Pottsville, Ark.                            Pottsville: 7

Booneville’s first of two straight away games saw the Bearcats travel to Pottsville for a matchup against Central Arkansas commit, quarterback Michael Perry and the Apaches.


During the teams’ 2011 matchup, Perry ran for 303 yards en route to a 49-21 defeat of the Bearcats. 2013 would be much different however as Booneville would limit the highly regarded athlete to negative yards on the ground on the way to a 35-7 victory.


For the full recap, click here: Game 9 vs. Pottsville


November 8, 2013                     Booneville: 47
Maumelle, Ark.                          Maumelle: 17

The regular season finale for Booneville would pit two teams undefeated in conference play against one another as the Bearcats would be on the road for the second consecutive week, this time traveling to Maumelle High School.


While some of Booneville’s final scores may not be indicative of just how close or how out-of-hand the games might have been, that is no truer than in the game against the Hornets. The Bearcats would win the game by a comfortable 47-17 margin only after an impressive 19-point fourth quarter.


For the full recap, click here: Game 10 vs. Maumelle


November 15, 2013                    Booneville: 42
Booneville, Ark.                         Clinton: 13

The opening round of the playoffs would end as quickly as it began for Clinton High School as for the sixth time this season, Booneville would score 28 points in one quarter, this time in the first against the Yellowjackets en route to a 42-13 victory in the opening round of the 4A Arkansas Boys State Playoffs.


Booneville sent shockwaves through the playoffs in their dismantling of Clinton, outdoing their previous season-high in rushing yards, totaling 434 yards when the final whistle blew. Led by quarterback Cody Harrel, the Bearcats would score quickly against the Yellowjackets as three of their rushing touchdowns came from 58 yards or more.


For the full recap, click here: Game 11 vs. Clinton



December 20, 2013                     Booneville: 38
Booneville, Ark.                          Hamburg: 14

In the second round of the 4A Arkansas Boys State Playoffs, Booneville High School entered the game winners of 11 consecutive contests. The Bearcats hosted the Hamburg Lions who had defeated Mena in their first round playoff game.


The Lions would share the same feeling as the previous 11 opponents facing Booneville as their season was cut short after a 35-14 defeat.


For the full recap, click here: Game 12 vs. Hamburg


November 29, 2013                   Booneville: 35
Booneville, Ark.                        Lincoln: 0

The Booneville-Lincoln quarterfinal matchup in the 4A Arkansas Boys State Playoffs is arguably one that no one would have predicted. While many might have had no trouble putting the Bearcats in the quarterfinals, there is no doubting that not everyone would feel the same way about Lincoln High School.


While Booneville is a team with rich tradition, both in the regular and post seasons, the Lincoln Wolves were new to postseason victories. 2013 marked the first time in school history that Lincoln had won a playoff game when they defeated Nashville in the opening round.


They continued their new found playoff success the next week against Malvern, topping the Leopards 41-21. However, Lincoln’s success would come to an abrupt end when they faced off against 12-0 Booneville in the quarterfinals.


The Bearcats knocked off Lincoln 35-0 to advance to the semifinals.


For the full recap, click here: Game 13 vs. Lincoln



December 13, 2013                                    Booneville: 43
Pine Bluff Stadium, Pine Bluff, Ark.          Dollarway: 14

In one of the 4A Arkansas State Boy Playoffs, fans were treated to a matchup of undefeated teams as both Booneville and Dollarway entered the game at 13-0 on the season.


In a heavily anticipated game, Booneville would ultimately prove to be too much for the Cardinals, trouncing their opponents 43-14.


For the full recap, click here: Game 14 vs. Dollarway


December 13, 2013                                               Booneville: 14
War Memorial Stadium, Little Rock, Ark.            Warren: 12

Instant Classic.


A Game for the Ages.


Whatever adage you can come up with for an intense, hard fought state championship game against two powerhouse schools, it is sure to apply to the 4A Arkansas State Boys Playoffs Championship game between Booneville High School and Warren High School.


Booneville would emerge victorious over Warren, 14-12 in arguably the most intense and most exciting games of the season for Bearcat and Lumberjack players, fans and friends alike.


For the full recap, click here: Game 15 vs. Warren




All photos courtesy of Glenn Parrish
Graphics done by Cameron Mellor