BRIDGMAN — South County’s football team used the legs of Matt Mulligan to carry it to its first-ever win as a program on Friday night.
Mulligan tallied 200 rush yards and three scores on 29 carries and added an interception on defense in the Cougars’ 30-6 win over Lake Michigan Catholic in a Berrien-Cass-St. Joseph White Division football contest at Bridgman.
South County co-coach Matt Johnson said after seven weeks of losing, it was good to see the team get into the win column.
“It’s been a long season we’ve had. There’s just been a lot of obstacles,” he said. “We teach lots of other life lessons, but obviously you play games because you want to win them. For them to be able to feel what it’s like to win, the look on their faces is what makes it worth it for us.”
Catholic (0-3 BCS White, 1-6) got on the board first after South County (1-2, 1-7) fumbled on its opening possession and Christian Monconduit returned it 47 yards to give the Lakers a 6-0 advantage.
The Cougars cleaned it up after the opening-drive gaff, settling in and feeding Mulligan throughout the first half.
Mulligan helped the Cougars respond to the fumble with a long drive that Mulligan capped off with a 4-yard touchdown run to tie the score at 6-6.
The freshman tailback would go on to score twice more in the half on runs of 2 and 27 yards to give South County a 22-6 halftime advantage.
Mulligan finished the half with 167 yards on 22 carries.
“Obviously the weather affected a lot of what we could do, and we just wanted to make sure we protected the ball,” said Johnson on Mulligan. “The run game with him was working, and we just wanted to protect the ball.
“In a game like this, if you’re trying too many things and you’re giving up the ball, it can get ugly really quick. Our focus was just to maintain ball control, and we were happy with a 4- or 5-yard gain. If it broke for 20 then that was an added bonus.”
Mulligan received limited carries in the third quarter as the Cougars began working in other backs.
Michael Bombin and Nate Necas saw increased action in the half, with Necas scoring South County’s fourth and final touchdown on a two-yard run with 5:46 remaining in the third.
Necas finished with 12 yards on three carries to go with the score, and Bombin contributed 26 on five carries before the Cougars went back to Mulligan as their main option in the fourth.
For the Lakers, the loss ended a season filled with various hurdles.
Catholic dressed just 13 players Friday night, with coach Toby Riley citing “numerous” reasons and injuries as the main issue.
“We dressed 13 kids, and offensively six of them were new,” Riley said. “We did what we could do. Conditions certainly didn’t help, and we had two injuries in the game, so that took us down to 11. We had no subs for the entire fourth quarter, so you do what you do.
“They played hard. We really wanted a win for these seniors, and I’m proud of how hard they played.”
Riley said the team will switch to eight-man football starting next season due to decreasing numbers.
“It’s bona fide, we’re going eight-man. We have no choice,” Riley said. “That’s for next year, so that will give us the entire offseason to put that together and take it from there.”
On Friday, Catholic’s offensive struggles continued.
The Lakers had trouble stringing together enough positive plays to reach the endzone, but did have a few explosive plays that got them close.
Monconduit rushed for 61 yards for the Lakers, including a 21-yard rush that got the Lakers into Cougars territory in the third. He finished 2-for-11 in the air, with both completions coming to senior receiver John Mansfield, one of which went for 33 yards after Monconduit escaped three South County tackles.
Running back Connor Casey added 30 yards on eight carries.
“I feel bad for my seniors that we weren’t able to get it done, but I am proud of how hard they played,” said Riley.
South County finishes its season next week against Decatur, a game that will act as New Buffalo’s homecoming matchup.
“It’s going to be a pretty festive night,” Johnson said. “That’s the biggest thing. You win one game, and you don’t want to have a letdown with all the homecoming festivities.
“Hopefully they’ve got a taste of victory tonight and they come back with a little bit of energy next week and they want to win two games.”
South County 30, Lake Michigan Catholic 6
C — Christian Monconduit 47 fumble return (pass failed), 8:37.
SC — Matt Mulligan 4 run (run failed), 3:36.
SC — Mulligan 2 run (Henry Branch run), 9:19.
SC — Mulligan 27 run (Mulligan run), :38.
SC — Nate Necas 2 run (Michael Bombin run), 5:46.
Total net yards`295`124
Rushing — South County: Matt Mulligan 28-200, 3 TD; Nate Necas 3-12, TD. Catholic: Christian Monconduit 19-61; Connor Casey 8-30.
Passing — South County: Henry Branch 3-9-46. Catholic: Christian Monconduit 2-11-33, INT.
Receiving — Stephen Margaritis 2-14, Kristian Dalton 2-28. Catholic: John Mansfield 2-33.
Records — South County 1-2 BCS White, 1-8; Catholic 0-3, 1-6.
Contact: bspencer@TheHP.com, 429-1294, @HPBenSpencer