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FOOTBALL: Shamrocks rock & roll over St. Mary's, CC grabs playoff bid

   | Jeff Dullack

FOOTBALL: Shamrocks rock & roll over St. Mary's, CC grabs playoff bid

NOVI – While a playoff berth was all but guaranteed for Novi Detroit Catholic Central entering Saturday’s game against Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, the state's No. 4-ranked team was intent on locking up a spot in the postseason sooner rather than later.
 
The Shamrocks (6-1) jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first half and then held off the Eaglets in the second half for a 14-6 win to become playoff-eligible once again.
 
The state-power Catholic Central football program has made the playoffs 16 times in the previous two decades, advancing into the Division 1 state finals in three of the past four years and bringing home a crown in 2009. It's been seven seasons since the Shamrocks missed out on a postseason invitation.
 
Catholic Central head coach Tom Mach (10 state titles) said that he was pleased with his team’s defensive performance on Saturday, as the Shamrocks limited St. Mary’s to just two field goals and never allowed the Eaglets' offense to get much going throughout a majority of the night.
 
“I thought we did a real good job defensively today,” Mach said. “We had a couple of players who stepped in today and did a really good job for us and in the Catholic League, it’s a tough go whoever you play. They (St. Mary’s) made our life miserable just like everybody does in the Catholic League, but we’re happy to come away with a victory and we’re happy to be moving on.”
 
Mach's club got on the board early in the second quarter when senior quarterback Sean Birney connected with tight end Nick Cococcetta for a six-yard score to put Catholic Central up 7-0.
 
Then, behind the traditional Catholic Central smash-mouth run game, the Shamrocks went on another scoring drive, capped off by a one-yard rushing touchdown from senior Dylan Roney (Navy) to push his team’s lead to 14-0 with 5:21 to go before halftime.
 
Roney, one of the team captains, was far from satisfied after the game.
 
“We played decent in the first half and in the second half, we stalled out a little and we know we have to pick it up if we’re going to have success against a tough defense like De La Salle,” he said.
 
If Catholic Central defeats Warren De La Salle next week, the Shamrocks will make reservations for a third straight trip to the Prep Bowl at Ford Field in Week 9.
 
St. Mary’s (3-4) managed to end its scoring drought Saturday in the second half on a field goal from Spencer Hurst with 1:22 left in the third quarter, trimming the Shamrock’s lead down to 14-3.
 
Hurst later booted another field goal late in the fourth quarter to cut the deficit to 14-6, but an onside kick attempt was unsuccessful and Catholic Central was able to run out the clock to seal the win
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Since allowing 28 points in the only loss of the season to Brother Rice, the Shamrocks have now allowed just nine points total in their last two games; six to St. Mary’s and a mere three in a blowout-win over Detroit U-D Jesuit last week.
 
Despite Catholic Central only sporting one loss, Mach is well aware that every game in the brutal CHSL Central is a war that isn't won without a struggle and that his team's non-league schedule is no cake walk either.
 
“That’s really big, how hard our league is and how tough our schedule is” he said. “When you look through our season, and the team’s that we’re playing, we didn’t know how good everybody was and we had teams coming from Ohio, Chicago and Pennsylvania and I think our kids have done a really good job handling every situation each week. We made a few too many mistakes tonight, we have to remedy that, but overall I thought they played a pretty good football team and I thought our defense did a good job of keeping us in there. It’s really big being in the state playoffs and we’re really happy to be in.”
 
St. Mary's, the defending CHSL Central champions, is faced with a situation where it has to win its remaining two games to even have a shot at making the playoffs. The Eaglets have appeared in five of the past six Division 3 state finals.
 
This season, St. Mary's is having issues moving the football, having only seen the end zone on offense once in the past three games.