Lawton’s Jake Rueff, blurred vision and all, makes case for state’s top RB in win over Muskegon Catholic –

Lawton and Muskegon Catholic Central football regional championship 2021
MUSKEGON, MI – Jake Rueff opened Lawton’s regional championship game against Muskegon Catholic Central with three touchdowns on his first six touches to spark a 41-22 win Friday at Hackley Stadium.
After capping Lawton’s first drive with a 33-yard touchdown catch, the senior running back finished with 224 yards on 13 carries, which brought his season yardage total up to 2,253 through 12 games.
The only thing that could slow him was blurry vision that resulted from losing a contact lens early in the second half.
“While I was going for a tackle, I kind of got poked in the eye,” Rueff said. “One (contact lens) came out, and then it was kind of all weird, so I just took the other one out. It was super blurry, but I mean, can’t really let that get in the way.”
Rueff didn’t let that get in the way, proving you don’t always need 20/20 vision when you have a rare combination of power and speed, which allowed the 6-foot, 180-pound athlete to rip off runs of 14, 41 and 16 yards in the second half to chew up the clock and give Lawton its first regional title in program history.
With his contact lenses in place, Rueff went off in the first half, showing the patience to find the hole, the strength to power through it and the breakaway speed to rip off touchdown runs of 66 and 54 yards, which gave Lawton a 20-6 lead heading into the locker room and brought his season total up to 48.
Lawton’s @jakerueff appears to be shot out of a cannon on this 66-yard TD run right up the middle. That’s his 2nd score of the game, & it gives @BlueDevilFtball a 14-0 lead w/ 6:21 left in 1st quarter. @MuskegonCath @JaredPurcellDET @JoshVanDykeJAX
That number leads the state for the 2021 campaign and is tied for fourth in MHSAA single-season history.
“Jake’s got a lot of yards, and people don’t necessarily give him the credit because they talk about our schedule,” said Lawton head coach Wade Waldrup, whose team rolled through a regular season schedule that included three teams with winning records. “Jake doesn’t talk a lot about that, but I know that bothers him a little bit that they don’t give him the credit. So for him to come out and do that against MCC on this stage, it’s not a surprise to us, but Jake played with just a little more extra edge. He’s a pretty loose kid, but you could tell he was intent on getting his today and asserting himself.”
Lawton's Jake Rueff (22) runs against Muskegon Catholic Central at Hackley Stadium in Muskegon on Friday, Nov. 12, 2021. (Cory Morse |
It also helps to run behind an offensive line that averages 248 pounds per person, and Rueff was quick to credit their effort for making his special season possible.
“We have three seniors, and I’ve been playing with them forever, so I really know what they do, and then we have two sophomores that really stepped up this year, and it’s been really fun,” he said.
Anchored by senior guards and twin brothers Drew Stephayn (6-foot, 187 pounds) and Evan Stephayn (6-2, 250) and senior center Carter Mayne (6-2, 272), Lawton piled up 395 rushing yards against Muskegon Catholic, with quarterback Landon Motter added 68 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries and Carter Cosby contributing 68 yards on 12 totes.
When asked how a team prepares to stop a player like Rueff, Muskegon Catholic coach Steve Czerwon said it’s hard to focus on just one player in Lawton’s attack.
“You’re just preparing for scheme, and you can’t do much more than that,” he said. “You’re preparing for scheme because they have other weapons, so you can just key on one kid because they have other people that can do some stuff. So, he’s an excellent runner, and obviously had some nice speed and broke some tackles.”
Flanking the three seniors on Lawton’s line are sophomores Nolan Collins (6-1, 275) and Jace Riggs (5-10, 254), and all-stater Evan Stephayn said he couldn’t be more proud of the youngster’s growth over the course of the season.
“I’m just so proud of Nolan and Jace. They’re going to be great linemen. I wouldn’t be surprised if they surpass me in their senior year,” Stephayn said. “They’re just amazing. They learn, and they work hard every day. They take what we say, they learn from us and our coaches and just progress every week.
“They’re nervous Nellies before the game, so me, Carter and Drew have to be that that rock for them, but once that first snap comes, they’re off to the races, and we just open up holes. I mean, we’re just such a tight unit this year.”
With its first regional championship trophy in hand, Lawton (12-0) advances to next week’s Division 7 state semifinal, where they’ll face the winner of Saturday’s contest between Detroit Loyola (6-4) and Jackson Lumen Christi (10-1), who have a combined four state titles and eight Ford Field appearances in the last decade.
While Lawton lacks the state championship pedigree of both the Bulldogs and the Titans, Rueff said he doesn’t mind playing the role of underdog, as the Blue Devils did in their trip to Muskegon on Friday.
“We felt like we were kind of the underdogs in this game, but that’s OK,” he said. “We kind of like being the underdogs and showing people up, so it really doesn’t matter to us.”
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