Bobcats clinch West Michigan D League championship

Brethren’s Logan Tighe (72) steps into the end zone for a touchdown in the Bobcats’ 36-20 win over Mesick Friday night. The win earned Brethren the championship of the West Michigan D League. (Kyle Kotecki/News Advocate)

Brethren’s Logan Tighe (72) steps into the end zone for a touchdown in the Bobcats’ 36-20 win over Mesick Friday night. The win earned Brethren the championship of the West Michigan D League. (Kyle Kotecki/News Advocate)

BRETHREN — Brethren football hosted West Michigan D League rival Mesick in front of its homecoming crowd and the Bobcats were able to come away with a 36-20 victory.

With the win, the Bobcats were able to recapture the Best Dam Brick trophy and — thanks to a Manistee Catholic Central loss to Marion — clinched sole possession of the WMDL championship.

Brethren last held the Dam Brick rivalry trophy in 2014.

Brethren head coach J.J. Randall believes the key to the win was his team’s physicality.

“We were very physical,” Randall said. “We had plenty of tackles for losses and we didn’t allow as many big plays in the first half as we have seen (Mesick) make in previous games. Our defensive line did an amazing job, and our offensive line — Anthony Beccaria, Hunter Wojciechowski, Jake Riggs and Adrian Dean did a tremendous job opening holes for Logan (Tighe) and Gavin (Asiala). I think we had over 400 yards rushing, so they did an amazing job.”

The Bobcats (5-2 overall, 5-0 West Michigan D League) forced a three and out after the opening kickoff when Tighe came up with a big sack on third-and-1 to force a Mesick (3-4, 3-2) punt.

Brethren went on a 14-play, 72-yard drive capped off by a 7-yard touchdown run by Tighe. Quarterback Troy Macurio crossed the goal line on the 2-point conversion to give the Bobcats an 8-0 lead with 5:36 remaining in the first quarter.

The Bulldogs had another three and out on the ensuing possession and Brethren again took full advantage, this time via a 12-play, 87-yard drive that ended with a 1-yard rushing touchdown by Asiala. After Macurio found the end zone on the 2-point conversion, the Bobcats enjoyed a 16-0 advantage early in the second quarter.

Mesick was able to answer back with a 27-yard touchdown pass with 8:53 remaining in the first half. Brethren stopped the 2-point conversion to maintain a 16-6 lead.

“We made a lot of mistakes with penalties (Friday),” Randall said. “We had over 200 yards in penalties. … It was a rough game but we battled through and we got the win. We fought through a lot of adversity and got the W.”

The Bobcats went on a nine-play, 50-yard drive that ended with Tighe shedding a pair of would-be tacklers for a 6-yard touchdown run.

Brethren recovered the onside kick, gave the ball back to the Bulldogs five plays later with an interception. Mesick marched down the field and looked to be on the cusp of scoring until Tighe forced a fumble and Wojciechowski recovered it on Brethren’s own 4-yard line with 22 seconds remaining in the half. Macurio took a knee and the Bobcats went into the locker room up 22-6.

“In the past we might have gone with our heads down going in at halftime, and in this game — that big play — Logan Tighe made a huge play forcing the fumble,” Randall said. “We got it back and we were able to end the half up 22-6 and we just carried momentum throughout the second half.”

Brethren was able to maintain control in the second half and a late Mesick touchdown against the Bobcats’ second unit proved to be a case of too little, too late.

Tighe led the Bobcats with 231 yards on 21 carries and had 12 tackles and three sacks on defense. Asiala carried the ball 18 times for 151 yards and recorded eight tackles. Macurio rushed 12 times for 68 yards. Riggs had 12 tackles to go with his four sacks and C.J. Wayward and Wojciechowski both recovered two fumbles.

The Bobcats host winless Baldwin Friday at 7 p.m. for a chance to clinch a playoff berth.

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