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Rochester Hills

Liggett and Northwest football teams will decide MIAC crown Oct. 12

October 10, 2012

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Northwest coach Don Justice talks with his team during a practice earlier this season. The Crusaders face Liggett Oct. 12 for the league championship.

The potential for this clash was there all season.

The schedule has cooperated, and in the final week of league play, the two best teams will settle everything on the field.

“Exactly as it should be,” Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett football coach Lou Ray said with a laugh last week.

On Oct. 12, the past two champions of the Michigan Independent Athletic Conference will lock horns at Rochester Hills Lutheran Northwest and decide which team owns the crown for 2012.

“I expect a real good one,” Crusaders coach Don Justice said of the 7 p.m. game. “They have a tremendous young man at quarterback, some good seniors and a lot of talent. … It’s a huge game, one of the ones we’ve circled on the calendar since the year started. We’re looking forward to it.”

The teams come into the game in top form.

Since falling to Saginaw Nouvel Catholic 28-7 in the season opener, Liggett hasn’t looked back. The Knights are 6-1, have an offense scoring more than 40 points a game, a defense that’s getting stronger every week and a senior quarterback in Nate Gaggin who’s thrown for nearly 1,500 yards, 14 touchdowns and just one interception.

“The offense doesn’t take a break,” Ray said. “Nate has grown up so much as a quarterback and a leader, and with him back there, we feel like we have the chance to score on just about everyone.”

Northwest has been just as dynamic.

The Crusaders are 5-2, average more than 33 points per game and are allowing fewer than 20.

Both teams are 4-0 in MIAC play.

“Our key is going to be trying to slow down (Gaggin) and that offense,” Justice said. “But there’s about seven other teams out there who have said the same thing. I think minimizing the big play will make a huge difference. If we can really make them work for everything they get, we feel like we’ll be in good shape. … I think we’re going to be able to score. So while I hope it doesn’t turn into a shootout, that very well could be what happens.”

Liggett dropped consecutive games in the series in 2009 and 2010, but rolled to a 31-6 victory a year ago on its way to claiming the MIAC title.

Liggett, Northwest and Sterling Heights Parkway Christian were each 4-1 in 2010 and shared the league crown.

“There is definitely some rivalry growing between these two schools, which makes this even more fun,” Ray said. “I think it’s going to be one of those games that is personal to everyone. They will have a chip on their shoulder because of last year and we will too, because of what’s on the line.”

“Truthfully, they embarrassed us last year, and our kids remember it,” Justice said. “Our guys want this one, badly.”

“It’s for a conference title, and we will figure out who’s the best,” Ray added. “This is the best way to do it.”

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