Top 10 Stories of 2022: Stories four through two

Published 11:57 pm Thursday, December 29, 2022

NILES — With 2022 coming to a close, Leader Publications takes a look at the top 10 stories of the year.

So far, the top six stories have been revealed online at leaderpub.com. Here are stories four through two. The top story of the year will be revealed on Saturday, the same day the entire list of stories appear in our print editions.

No. 4: New SMC sports teams find success

After more than 25 years, Southwestern Michigan College decided to throw its hat back into the sports ring as it brought back men’s and women’s cross country in 2021.

The Roadrunners found instant success.

Southwestern Michigan College decided that it would add four more athletic teams in 2022-23 — volleyball, men’s and women’s basketball, as well as wrestling, which was returning to the made more than three decades after it was dropped.

Just like its predecessors, all four teams found instant success in their inaugural seasons.

The Roadrunner volleyball team may have finished with a losing overall record, but SMC finished fourth in the Western Conference and earned a spot in the Great Lakes District A Volleyball Tournament, which was a play-in tournament for the National Junior College Athletic Association Division II national tournament.

The men’s basketball team took a 6-4 overall record into the holiday break, which included a four-game winning streak. The women’s team completed the 2022 portion of its schedule with a 7-3 record, which also included a four-game winning streak.

The Roadrunner wrestling team captured the Michigan Community College Athletic Association team duals championship, as well as finishing second at the Hawks Invitational hosted by Henry Ford College.

No. 3: Dowagiac girls snap 14-year drought with district title

There was only one group of people who believed the Dowagiac girls basketball team could win a district championship back in February.

The Chieftains were 2-13 following a 61-20 Wolverine Conference South Division loss to undefeated Edwardsburg.

That group of people was the players and coaches that made up the 2021-22 Dowagiac team. Seven consecutive wins later, the Chieftains are the Division 2 District champions, having defeated South Haven 42-31 at Berrien Springs High School, snapping a 14-year drought between titles.

Like the season, the championship game was a roller-coast ride for Dowagiac, which has overcome numerous deficits of varying sizes during its winning streak. Friday night, the Chieftains got out of the gate fast and appeared to be in total control of the contest.

After being held scoreless in the second quarter, Maggie Weller scored eight points in the third quarter as the Chieftains kept its two-point advantage, 27-25. Weller added five more points in the fourth quarter to finish the night with a game-high 22. She finished with all six of Dowagiac’s 3-pointers.

Weller got plenty of help from Alanah Smith, who finished the night with 11 points.

“It is all about heart and effort by those girls,” said Dowagiac Coach Jason Turner. “We got off to a really quick start, which is not usual for use. I told the girls, who had their heads down a little bit, ‘heck, we still have the lead, who cares.’ We played an even third quarter with them, and finally, the girls started to relax and we won the fourth quarter by nine points.”

Ferris State defensive lineman Caleb Murphy 12 sacks Lenoir-Rhyne quarterback Sean White 10 during Saturday’s game.

No. 2: Murphy leads Ferris State to second national title

A stifling defense led Ferris State University football team to its second straight Division II National Championship Saturday afternoon.

The Bulldogs put the game away in the opening half as it shutout the Colorado School of Mines 27-0 on its way to a 41-14 victory.

Top-seeded Ferris State completely dominated the Oredrillers in the contest, especially on the defensive side of the football where it held Harlon Hills Trophy winner John Matocha and School of Mines to 261 yards of total offense. The Oredrillers came into the game with the nation’s No. 2 offense, averaging more than 46 points per game.

How dominant were the Bulldogs?

Ferris State held School of Mines to 21 yards of total offense in the opening 30 minutes of the championship game. Motocha had just two completions, one of which was intercepted by Sidney McCloud and returned for a touchdown to end the first half.

The Bulldogs (14-1) finished with 485 yards of total offense, split evenly between running and passing. Ferris State ran for 214 yards and passed for 218 yards.

Marcus Taylor ran for 103 of those yards on 14 carries. Mylik Mitchell was 14-of-18 for 170 yards, while receiver Brady Rose was 1-for-1 for 48 yards. Rose was the leading receiver with five receptions for 83 yards.

Backup quarterback Carson Gulker continued his record-setting season as he scored three times on nine carries. Gulker finished his freshman campaign with 31 touchdowns.

Former Dowagiac standout Caleb Murphy, who was the runner-up to Motocha in the Harlon Hill voting, did not have a sack, but finished with three tackles, including 1.5 for loss. Murphy, who set an all-time NCAA record for sacks in a single season with 25.5, also led the country in tackles for loss.

Among the individual awards Murphy received was the Ted Hendricks Award for being the top defensive regardless of division. He was also named the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Association Player of the Year.