Michigan-Michigan State is another conference match-up that deserves your attention. If all goes to seed, they’ll face off for the Michigan Conference Championship this weekend in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
In last year’s Michigan Section final, Michigan State won 15-14. After establishing a big lead, Burning Couch allowed MagnUM to creep back into the game and force universe point. “On that last point,” said Michigan State’s Christo Ferguson, “we turned it over but then forced them to throw it deep on a high stall count. Jesse Elwood got a sick grab over five or six guys toward our endzone. We then worked it up and tossed a 25-yarder to a lonely, streaking Elwood for the win.”
The victory was Michigan State’s first Michigan Sectional Championship since 2006, the same year that Burning Couch last qualified for Nationals. This weekend, they’ll attempt to make it two in a row for the first time in the Score Reporter’s records. Doing so, however will be no easy feat. While Michigan State beat Michigan at January’s Michigan Indoor and has only three losses on the season (Georgia, Connecticut, Virginia Tech), its most competitive tournaments have been Queen City Tune-Up and the Easterns Qualifier. (It’s quite possible that if Michigan State had qualified for Easterns, even a poor showing would have pushed their rating high enough for a Team Strength bid). Michigan, on the other hand, has compiled an impressive 12-5 record that reflects a Queen City Tune-Up victory and a fourth-place finish at College Easterns.
Still, Michigan State understands that a strong Series performance would far outweigh any other results thus far. Strategically, the match-up will pit Michigan’s patient vertical stack against Michigan State’s horizontal stack that depends on an isolated Ferguson and quick handler movement. “I think we’re capable of beating Michigan,” said Burning Couch senior Christo Ferguson. “They are very disciplined, and they’re good at cutting. But when we execute our own system efficiently it is usually a good game.”
Michigan and Michigan State players alike noted their Conference Championships’ importance to seeding, saying that the winner is likely to secure the top seed at Great Lakes Regionals. “Looking at the past few years, there are really only three proven teams in the region,” said one player. “Michigan, Michigan State, and Illinois. So whoever gets the one seed has a much clearer path to the finals.”
Michigan’s Chris Vandervoort shed an interesting light on his team’s match-up with Michigan State. “A rivalry? Maybe. But we have recently teamed up with Burning Couch to try and recruit youth players to stay in Michigan. In that context there is a sense of teamwork with them.”