Detroit Catholic Central head football coach Tom Mach witnessed one of the wildest finishes to a game after CC's Zach Bock returned a failed field-goal attempt 97 yards as time expired to defeat Warren DeLaSalle Saturday. (Gary Malerba / Special to The Detroit News)
St. Clair Shores — Detroit Catholic Central and Warren DeLaSalle both suffered heartbreaking losses to Birmingham Brother Rice this season and on Saturday the teams played for a spot in the Detroit Catholic League championship game and a rematch with Brother Rice.
There have been a number of strange endings this season, including the one between DeLaSalle and Brother Rice on Sept. 21, and we can add the one that took place at St. Clair Shores Lake Shore to that list.
Zach Bock returned a missed field goal attempt 97 yards for a touchdown on the game’s final play to give C.C. (7-1) a wild 20-14 victory over DeLaSalle.
Sean Birney’s 20-yard touchdown run gave C.C. a 14-7 lead in the third quarter. With 2:43 remaining DeLaSalle tied the game at 14 on a 41-yard touchdown pass from Giovanni Rescigno to Patrick Adams.
After Adams’ touchdown and Jake Townsley’s conversion kick, DeLaSalle held C.C. without a first down and took possession on its 26 with 1:35 remaining. DeLaSalle reached C.C.’s 40-yard line and with six seconds left Townsley attempted a 57-yard field goal into the wind. Bock fielded the miss and weaved through tacklers for the touchdown.
“It’s something you never expect,” C.C. coach Tom Mach said. “I wasn’t surprised they tried it. We’ve done it before, trying a kick in the final 10 seconds. He just made an unbelievable, exciting run. It was all him.”
A month ago DeLaSalle led Brother Rice 24-20 when, with two seconds left, Brother Rice quarterback Alex Malzone threw a 36-yard touchdown pass to Jason Alessi on the last play of the game.
C.C. will play Brother Rice (8-0) for the league title 7 p.m. Saturday at Ford Field. The series between these teams is 28-28-1, and it will be the last time Mach and Brother Rice coach Al Fracassa will coach against each other.
Fracassa, in his 54th season as a head coach, announced last December that this would be his final season.
For DeLaSalle (5-3), not only did it miss out on a chance for the league title, a victory would have clinched a state playoff spot. DeLaSalle has another shot to do that Thursday when it plays Detroit Consortium (4-4) at Hazel Park at 7 p.m.
Last season, Dearborn Edsel Ford made the long drive to northern Oakland County in search of its sixth victory and a state playoff spot. Waterford Kettering and first-year coach Kyle Schultzhad other plans. Kettering, which entered the game at 1-7, ended Edsel Ford’s season with a 14-0 victory and now the roles are reversed.
Now it’s Kettering’s turn to make a long bus ride to the heart of Wayne County and, at 5-3, Kettering is looking to make the playoffs with a victory Friday over Edsel Ford (2-6).
Kettering has made the playoffs just once, in 1994. And it nearly had to wait another year to be in this position as it escaped with a 42-41 overtime victory over Pinckney last Friday.
“We got it done,” Schultz said. “We made some mistakes. We had two punts blocked, we threw a shovel pass to their tackle on our 2-yard line and they received an onside kick.”
No fear of unknown
Redford Thurston moved up from the Western Wayne Athletic Conference Red Division to a more competitive schedule in the Blue, with teams like large Class A schools Belleville, Dearborn High and Dearborn Fordson. Coupled with the move was a far different schedule, playing teams for the first time outside of Wayne County like Berkley, Goodrich and Tecumseh.
Thurston started 1-3 and to many it looked like Thurston was outclassed. Not so. Thurston got up off the deck, won four straight and will clinch a state playoff spot with a win at home Friday against Redford Union.
“We played poorly against Dearborn and Fordson,” Thurston coach Bob Snell said. “When you make mistakes against good teams you don’t give yourself a chance to win. We had two blocked punts against Dearborn. Fordson returned a blocked punt, an interception and a punt return back for touchdowns. At that time we took a more conservative approach on offense. We took the high-risk plays out.
“We have a shot. When you’re 1-3 there are a lot of ways your team can go. Even when things weren’t going well they showed great character.”
Tough schedule could prove costly
Oak Park (5-3) plays in one of the most competitive divisions/leagues in the state, the Oakland Activities Association White Division. Its three losses are to White Division opponents Southfield (7-1), Farmington Hills Harrison (7-1) and Oxford (4-4) by eight, eight and two points.
Should it lose at Lake Orion (6-2) on Friday, Oak Park might not make the playoffs. It would be a shame if it didn’t qualify. There’s little debate with the fact Oak Park is one of the better teams in the area and it reinforces the request by numerous coaches that the playoffs be expended to 512 teams, not the current 256-team format.
An uphill climb
The teams with five wins aren’t the ones in need of a victory to get in. Sterling Heights Stevenson is 4-4 after defeating Utica Eisenhower (4-4), 17-15, on Friday and if it defeats Warren Mott this Friday coach Steve Goralski said his team is in.
There’s one problem. Stevenson faces one of the most difficult challenges of all the teams in need of a victory to continue its season. Mott is 8-0 and is the home team. This challenge is a double-edged sword. Yes, Mott is a good team but its eight victories, should Stevenson win, would provide Stevenson with enough bonus points to get in as an additional qualifier.
“If Romeo (4-4) and we win, I think we’re both in,” Goralski said. “And I think we move past them in points.”
The defense has carried Stevenson all season. Linebacker Sultan Faronbi recorded a sack on Eisenhower’s conversion attempt in the final minute to preserve the victory. Braye Sonnenberg returned an interception to the 5-yard line to set up Stevenson’s first touchdowns. Dustin Carlin returned an interception 30 yards to the 1-yard line then fumbled but D.J. Sutton recovered it in the end zone for a touchdown and a 17-3 lead.
Successful recording-setting season
Westland John Glenn (5-3) will be favored to defeat Ann Arbor Huron (1-7) on Friday at Huron and qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 2009, and just the second time since ’04.
Much of Glenn’s success this season can be traced to its offense, which is averaging 36.1 points a game, and more specifically its fine senior running back Devon Spalding.
Spalding (6-2, 180) set a school record recently for rushing yards in a game (491) and tied the record for touchdowns (six). He had three more rushing touchdowns in Friday’s 39-26 victory over Novi and has 22 on the season, four short of the school record (26) set by Dan Smitherman in 2000. Smitherman also owns the record for yards (2,225) in a season. Spalding has 1,537 and is averaging a gaudy 9.4 yards per rush.
By the numbers
50: Ithaca owns the nation’s longest winning streak and it reached the big five-O by setting a single-game school record for points by defeating St. Louis, 76-0.
84: number of teams one victory away from clinching a playoff spot
179: Number of teams that have qualified for the playoffs
New Baltimore Anchor Bay junior running back Logan Gattari
Gattari had 15 carries for 257 yards including a 61-yard touchdown run as Anchor Bay (4-4) kept its slim playoff hopes alive with a 28-14 victory over Warren Cousino.