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Big Rapids, Mich. - Traverse City St. Francis scored on its first two offensive drives and scored on a state-record tying interception return en route to a convincing 34-7 triumph over Ravenna in the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) Division 7 State Semifinal game hosted on Saturday (Nov. 21) by Ferris State University at Top Taggart Field in Big Rapids, Mich.
A crowd of 2,275 fans watched the Gladiators and Bulldogs battle on FSU's Mondo Ecofill artificial surface in the state semifinals for the second consecutive year. TC Saint Francis also won last year's 28-7 (11/22/08) at Top Taggart on its way to a state championship.
With the win, the Gladiators will advance to Ford Field to square off against fellow unbeaten Hudson in the Division 7 state final on Saturday, Feb. 28, with kickoff set for 10 a.m. (ET) in Detroit.
Traverse City St. Francis drove 78 yards in 11 plays to open the game with an early 7-0 lead on Joe Kerridge's 23-yard TD run. Then, after holding Ravenna on downs, the Gladiators used the short field to increase their lead to 13-0 on John Zakrzewski's one-yard burst to cap a 42-yard drive on eight plays.
The breaking point came with 8:32 to go in the second quarter on a critical fourth and goal situation for Ravenna at the Gladiators' three-yard line. The Bulldogs' Jamohn Martin attempted a pass out of the backfield, but it was intercepted two yards into the endzone by Matt Zakrzewski and returned 100 yards for a touchdown to make it 21-0. The interception unofficially matched the state record set 18 other times.
St. Francis tacked on two more scores in the third quarter as Max Bullough caught a seven-yard TD pass from Riley Bullough at the 5:52 mark and then Ben Swan found paydirt from a yard out with only 42 seconds left in the quarter to make it 34-0 after three periods. The two third-period drives covered 59 and 58 yards, respectively.
Ravenna netted its only points of the afternoon on Matt VanderWal's 25-yard touchdown catch from Ryan Hogan with only 9:06 left in the contest. The Bulldogs' lone scoring march took eight plays and went for 71 yards.
The Gladiators racked up 278 rushing yards on 39 carries with Kerridge running for a game-high 98 yards on 14 attempts. Swan added 89 yards on 11 tries.
Meanwhile, Martin paced the Bulldogs with 80 yards on 30 carries as Ravenna totaled 291 yards of total offense compared to only 285 for St. Francis. The Bulldogs compiled 169 yards on the ground and Hogan was seven-of-nine in the air for 122 yards, including a 54-yard pass to Devin Aue. Bullough was only one-of-three passing for the Gladiators as they threw for only seven yards in the game.
Ravenna's VanderWal totaled four catches for 66 yards in leading all receivers.
The 100-yard interception return was the lone turnover of the contest for either team and the game saw both squads compiled 17 first downs. RHS was 8-of-13 on third down and 0-of-3 on fourth down while the Gladiators converted 2-of-6 third down tries and both of their chances on fourth down.
Defensively, Max Bullough paced St. Francis with a game-high 15 tackles, including 13 solo stops. Matt Zakrzewski chipped in with 11 tackles in addition to his interception. Isiah Dunning led Ravenna with eight total hits.
Traverse City St. Francis improved to 13-0 this campaign with the semifinal win. Meanwhile, Ravenna concluded the campaign with a 10-3 overall record. The Bulldogs' other two losses came to Muskegon Oakridge and Montague.
Last season, St. Francis followed up its semifinal win over
Ravenna with a 41-13 victory over Ubly in the state championship
game at Ford Field.
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