Defending Division 6 football state champion Jackson Lumen Christi will return to the semifinal thanks to a 44-22 road win over the Watervliet Panthers in Saturday’s Regional final. The Titans were dominant from the start, scoring the game’s first 36 points and earning the running clock by the third quarter. They held the Panthers, who averaged more than 50 points per game in the season, to only six against their starting defense.
Watervliet got two first downs on their initial drive, but were stopped for a turnover on downs 33 yards from the end zone. Lumen Christi had a three-and-out for their opening drive, but would score on the ensuing six drives. The second Panther drive ended after one play as safety Kamal Harris recovered a fumble from quarterback Zack Pickens at the Panther 29. Three plays later, running back Sebastian Toland scored on a five-yard rush, giving the Titans a 6-0 lead after a missed extra point with 6:32 in the first quarter.
The Titans would get the ball twice more before Watervliet, recovering two onside kicks that bounced off of waiting Panthers. Lumen Christi quarterback Troy Kutcha added 10 and one yard touchdown runs, along with a Nick Thomas two-point run and two-point pass to Dayton Keller, to give Lumen Christi a 22-0 lead after one quarter.
Watervliet finally got the ball back, but moved backward, leading to a rare Panther punt. The Titans put together a 55-yard scoring drive and scored on a 13-yard Thomas run, putting the score at 28-0 following a failed two-point try with 8:01 in the second.
Watervliet’s fourth drive ended in a turnover on downs and the Titans responded with a nine-play, 53-yard scoring drive capped off with a 22-yard pass from Kutcha to Kyle Minder. The two-point run by Thomas gave Lumen Christi a 36-0 lead with 1:20 before halftime.
Facing the prospect of the running clock to start the third quarter, Watervliet finally found the end zone on the final play of the second with a nine-yard pass from Pickens to Bryant Kieft. The two-point try failed, putting the score at 36-6 into halftime. Unfortunately for Watervliet, Lumen Christi started with the ball in the third quarter and passed the running clock threshold with a 51-yard scoring drive. The QB sneak by Kutcha and two-point run by Thomas put the score to 44-6.
The following two Panther drives ended with a turnover on downs, with a lot of time ticking in between. The Titans brought in reserves in the fourth quarter and saw a punt get blocked, putting Watervliet seven yards from the end zone.
The Panthers scored on their first pass, a seven-yard fade toss to Kieft, finally stopping the running clock. They got the two on the exact same play to put the score at 44-14, but the running clock damage was already done with the touchdown coming with 4:55 left in the game. Watervliet forced another punt and scored once more against the backups with a one-yard Dylan Lynch run and two-point pass for Garrett Matthews.
Unofficially, Kutcha was 7-8 passing for 114 yards and one touchdown, along with three rushing scores on 20 yards. Minder was the leading Titan rusher with 74 on 18 carries, followed by 57 on 9 from Toland. For Watervliet, Pickens was 15-25 for 167 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for 75 yards, although more than half of that came in the fourth quarter. Kieft led the Panther receivers with six catches, 81 yards, and two scores.
Watervliet finishes at 11-1 on the season, only their second season ever getting to 11 wins. Lumen Christi improves to 10-1 and will face Warren Michigan Collegiate (12-0) next Saturday at 1 p.m. from Chelsea High School.
Listen back to the Regional final below:
Listen live online Saturday at 1 p.m. ET on the Slocum Sports Network to a MHSAA Division 6 Regional football final between the Watervliet Panthers and Lumen Christi Titans. These schools met for the first time in last year’s Pre-District round, a game Lumen Christi won 55-28 en route to their ninth state championship.
Watervliet enters the game at 11-0, one of four unbeaten teams in the Division 6 elite eight. It’s only the second time reaching 11 wins in program history, joining the 1979 Class C state runner-up campaign, their only ever trip beyond the Regional round. This is their third Regional appearance in their current seven season playoff streak. Watervliet is averaging 52 points per game while allowing 23.2 per game.
The Panthers have scored 36 or more in each of their games and have reached 50+ in eight of their games. After shutting out Schoolcraft (36-0) to start the playoffs, Watervliet had their tightest game of the season in their 58-50 victory over Delton Kellogg. Apart from their two games against Delton Kellogg, Watervliet has won every game by three or more possessions.
Lumen Christi enters at 9-1 and are the defending Division 6 state champion. Last year’s title was their first trip to the final four since 2009’s championship. The program has been one of the most decorated in the state, winning nine championships and making the final twice more. The Titans have an all-time winning percentage just under 80 percent. This season, they’re scoring 37.1 points per game and allowing 11.9 per contest.
Lumen Christi started the season with tough tests, edging Division 5 champion Grand Rapids West Catholic 27-24 in their opener. The lone Titan loss came to unbeaten Interstate 8 champion Harper Creek 22-21 in week three. Since that game, they’ve won seven consecutive contests by three possessions or more and have allowed no more than 15 points. Lumen Christi downed Quincy 48-15 and Michigan Center 51-14 in their playoff games.
Listen live to Saturday’s Regional final online on the Slocum Sports Network with kickoff scheduled for 1 p.m. ET from Watervliet. The winner faces either Warren Michigan Collegiate (11-0) or Blissfield (7-4) in the semifinal next weekend.