Cassopolis beats Bees for first district crown

Published 1:17 pm Saturday, November 7, 2015

Cassopolis’ Marquise Curtis scored three times as the Rangers defeated Bridgman 48-14 Friday night. (Leader photo/KELLY SWEENEY)

Cassopolis’ Marquise Curtis scored three times as the Rangers defeated Bridgman 48-14 Friday night. (Leader photo/KELLY SWEENEY)

BRIDGMAN — For the first time in school history, the Cassopolis football team brought home a MHSAA district championship with a 48-14 win over host Bridgman Friday night.

“We have never won the district championship and that’s a main focus for us,” Cassopolis senior running back Nick Baker said earlier this year.

Cassopolis had that opportunity Friday night as it squared off with the Bees for the second year in a row for the championship game.

Last year the Bees came out on top 17-14.

This year the Rangers, behind some stout defense and effective rushing, throttled Bridgman for its first district title.

“The last two times we came here we had a lead late and gave it up,” Cassopolis coach Dan Purlee said. “The kids were ready, came out loose and strong. They played hard for all four quarters and they finished this one off tonight.”

Receiving the first half kickoff, Cassopolis looked to punish the Bridgman defensive line with running plays on the left and right sides of the ball.

On the fourth offensive play from scrimmage, Baker found a hole on the right side, juked out a Bridgman defender and galloped 42 yards for the first score of the game.

Bridgman responded with its own style of running. Utilizing the effective read option play, Bridgman quarterback Ryan Chang tied the game up from 10 yards out.

The Rangers second offensive series started with some small running plays. One of those running plays exploded into a 40-yard scamper by junior running back Marquise Curtis, but was called back.

It didn’t deter the Rangers though as senior Bryce Saxton made a one-handed catch from Baker on the right side the very next play. That set up Cassopolis in position to tire out the Bridgman defense.

Five plays later senior A.J. Green put the Rangers back on top with an 11 yard run.

A Bridgman three-and-out at the start of the second quarter gave Cass the opportunity to increase the lead.

And Baker did just that, going 72 yards for his second score of the half.

The ensuing kickoff return for Bridgman did not go as planned.

While trying to beat Cassopolis defenders Bridgman fumbled the ball in its own territory, giving the Rangers another scoring chance.

That costly turnover put the Bees in deeper trouble as Curtis ran a sweep to the right for a 5-yards touchdown to make it 27-7 Rangers.

Looking to swing some momentum its way, Bridgman’s first play after the Curtis touchdown went 49 yards as running back Julian Sheriff got into Ranger territory.

After the run, the Rangers defense stiffened and forced a couple of runs that lost yardage to go along with a pair of Bees penalties for offsides.

Ultimately Bridgman was left with a fourth-and-20, went for it and the pass was nearly intercepted.

After the Ranger defense did their job, Curtis flashed his “tip drill” skills and hauled in a 43-yard pass from quarterback Shane Los for a touchdown.

Following another three-and-out inside its own 20-yard line, Bridgman’s punt attempt went awry as Baker blocked it.

Cassopolis recovered on the Bees 4-yard line with 30 seconds left in the half.

After a couple of backward plays, Matt Locke’s 32-yard field goal as time expired was short and Cassopolis led 34-7 at halftime.

Searching for a better second half, Bridgman started the third quarter at its own 30-yard line. Three plays later the Bees faced a fourth-and-5 and went for it. A 53-yards Sherriff had Bridgman in business at the Ranger 12-yard line.

Three plays later, Chang scored his second touchdown of the game from seven yards out to cut the lead to 34-14.

“That Chang kid is fast,” Purlee said. “Sheriff is too. They both work really hard.”

With the Bridgman offense starting to come alive, it was now the defense’s turn.

Cassopolis ran the ball on every single play, using up nearly seven minutes of clock. The last play coming on a Los quarterback keeper for a touchdown from a yard out.

Building off its previous drive, Bridgman was moving the ball successfully towards midfield until Cassopolis recovered a Sheriff fumble at the Bridgman 47-yard line.

Moving the ball into the red zone, Cassopolis looked to add some insurance.

However, a fumbled snap and missed opportunity on a fourth down conversion left the Bees with a lot of field to work with.

Effective quarterback play from Chang and a Cassopolis personal foul got the Bees to the Rangers’ 5-yard line. Unfortunately, Bridgman could not move forward as the Rangers stuffed three straight running plays and forced a missed Chang pass in the end zone.

Trying to salvage anything defensively, Bridgman had Cassopolis back on a third-and-12. It didn’t matter to Curtis as he turned on the burners and went 65 yards for his third touchdown of the game.

An interception by Saxton solidified the district championship for Cassopolis.

Cassopolis will now play at fourth-ranked Pewamo-Westphalia, located Northwest of Lansing for the regional championship either Friday night or Saturday afternoon.

Pewamo-Westphalia (11-0) beat Saugatuck 38-28 to advance to the regional.

“I haven’t even thought ahead,” Purlee said. “What I can tell you though is that we will have an excellent week of practice to get ready for them.”



At Bridgman

Cassopolis      14       20       7          7 – 48

Bridgman       7          0          7          0 – 14

C: Nick Baker 42 run (Matt Locke kick)

B: Ryan Chang 10 run (Logan Peters kick)

C: A.J. Green 11 run (Locke kick)

C: Baker 72 run (kick blocked)

C: Marquise Curtis 5 run (Locke kick)

C: Curtis 43 pass from Shane Los (Locke kick)

B: Chang 7 run (Peters kick)

C: Los 1 run (Locke kick)

C: Curtis 65 run (Locke kick)

Varsity records: Cassopolis 9-2, Bridgman 9-2