| Detroit Free Press
Two teams that know how to keep the pace of the game moving staged an entertaining Division 6 state title game Friday afternoon at Ford Field.
But with Division 6 player of the year Drew Collins, Montague’s offense came up with more big plays in a 40-14 victory over Clinton.
Collins, committed to Michigan Tech, threw for 244 yards and three touchdowns while completing 15 of 19 attempts, and ran for two more scores.
All three of Collins’ touchdown throws went to Sam Smith, covering 9, 44 and 27 yards.
“It’s chemistry,” Collins said. “We worked on our timing a lot in the summer and this spring. I’ll tell you the amount of hours we put in can equate really well to 48 minutes of the game. He’s a great receiver, he’s really savvy and he just knows how to make plays. He’s big and he’s strong, I couldn’t ask for anything more out of him.”
Montague’s up-tempo aerial attack was in contrast to Clinton’s run-oriented Wing-T approach, which piled up 358 yards on 65 rushes and kept pace early.
But when Clinton tried to stray from what it does best, it ended up paying the price. Clinton’s only pass attempt backfired. While trailing by two touchdowns, Derek Tomalak was hurried by Tugg Nichols, and Montague’s Trey Mikkelsen picked the ball off.
Four plays later, Collins scored on a 9-yard keeper to break the game open, 33-14.
That came one series after Montague’s defense forced Clinton to turn the ball over on downs for the first time all afternoon, when Rodney Brassfield and Hayden McDonald bottled up Brayden Randolph on a fourth-and-2 near midfield.
Montague (12-0) quickly capitalized on that opportunity as well, needing only three snaps to get the ball into the end zone. Collins spotted Smith sprinting up the left sideline and threaded the needle; Smith caught the ball at the 6 and crossed the goal line with a defender hanging on.
“The game went about like we expected,” Montague coach Pat Collins said. “We wanted to open up our offense a little bit and our defense played well in the second half, and that led to some things for us.”
It was a clean game, with each team committing one penalty apiece (Montague’s was declined) and Mikklesen’s interception the only turnover of the contest.
Montague set the pace early, mounting a 13-play, 59-yard scoring drive on its first possession which took 7:08 off the clock. Collins hit Smith on a 9-yard slant toward center to grab the lead first.
Clinton (10-2) answered by traveling 80 yards in only 5 plays, with George Ames scoring on an 8-yard run. The play was set up by Randolph’s 58-yard scamper on the prior snap.
Montague came right back, with Collins hitting Smith on a 25-yard pass play up the middle and Smith didn’t need to break stride to get to the end zone. The point-after kick was low, handing the Wildcats a 13-7 lead.
But Clinton kept grinding, keeping the ball on the ground for 19 plays, converting three fourth downs to keep an 11-minute scoring drive alive. Bradyn Lehman ran the ball from 2-yards in, and Jonathan Baughley’s extra-point gave Clinton a 14-13 lead.
It only took the quick-strike Wildcats scored three plays to respond. Montague gained 49 on the first play of the drive, with Collins hitting Dylan Everett on a long bomb which took the ball to the 11. Collins reached the Clinton 2 on a keeper, and Everett ran it in on the next play.
“Montague is an outstanding football team, great athletes, they were prepped, they were ready, they’ve been here before, but I can’t say enough about our guys and their toughness,” Clinton coach Jeremy Fielder said.
Montague was unsuccessful on a trick play on the conversion, with Nichols overthrowing an open to Smith in the end zone, leaving the score 19-14.
It was Montague’s third state championship and the third for Collins, the others coming in 2008 and 2009. The Wildcats also reached the finals in 2018 and 1992.