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 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.
Victory press conference. pic.twitter.com/VTu8L9UBMh— SMCC Monroe (@SMCCMonroe) November 29, 2014
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)
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)