Detroit — For the second straight year in Division 3, and fifth time overall under head coach George Porritt, Orchard Lake St. Mary's is an MHSAA football champion after a 29-12 win over Chelsea Saturday night at Ford Field.
St. Mary's (12-1) got off to a quick start and was able to run out the majority of the final quarter as Chelsea (12-2) failed to make the most of good starting field positions.
Justin Myrick punched the ball in from the 1-yard line midway through the first quarter and the defending champion converted a two-point conversion for an 8-0 lead.
Chelsea's next drive sputtered rather quickly when Josh Ross intercepted a ball thrown over the middle of the field, giving St. Mary's good position in Chelsea territory.
Three plays later, Brendan Tabone hit a wide-open Kahlee Hamler for a 34-yard touchdown pass to increase the lead to 15-0 less than two minutes later.
"That's St. Mary's football," said Porritt, whose team didn't score that many points in last year's title game. "We did it the way we've done it all year. Had a couple defensive stops and the offense, long drives."
Early on, St. Mary's was getting heavy pressure on the Chelsea offense, giving it little time to make decisions.
Chelsea got enough time eventually for a 47-yard halfback pass from Graham Kuras to Noah vanReesema (four catches, 91 yards) with just over eight minutes left in the half.
The PAT was blocked, leaving the score at 15-6.
"By the time we got out feet underneath, it was 15-0, but from that point on, I think it was a hell of a game," Chelsea coach Brad Bush said.
Chelsea appeared to have been robbed of a fumble deep in St. Mary's territory on its next drive.
Tabone dropped back to pass, and after pressure from the Chelsea line, lost the ball to the defense, but it was ruled an incomplete pass.
St. Mary's had a chance to increase its lead right before the half, but Kuras intercepted a Tabone pass in the Chelsea end zone with under a minute left. St. Mary's went into the locker room with a 15-6 lead.
Chelsea again saw little time to make plays on the opening possession of the second half as St. Mary's defense swarmed into the backfield.
After a poor punt St. Mary's started its next drive on the Chelsea 29-yard line, quickly taking advantage with a 16-yard touchdown pass from Tabone to Hamler.
Chelsea's response was a kickoff return into St. Mary's territory.
The drive culminated with Jack Bush finding Cameroon Cooper open for a 14-yard touchdown pass with five minutes left in the third quarter, cutting the Chelsea deficit to 22-12 after a failed two-point attempt.
St. Mary's fumbled the ensuing kickoff and Chelsea recovered again in great field position on the St. Mary's 28.
But it managed only eight yards before turning the ball over on a failed fake field goal.
"The red zone killed us," Bush added," We had our chances."
St. Mary's then burnt more than six minutes off the clock on its next possession, which ended with a 3-yard touchdown run by Myrick, which capped the scoring.
Myrick ended up with 108 rushing yards. Troy Marks added 105.
"It feels fantastic, winning back-to-back with my brothers, there's nothing more I can ask for, honestly," said Myrick.
Needing three scores, Chelsea began to throw deep.
It got as far as the St. Mary's 5-yard line before turning the ball over again on downs, allowing St. Mary's to run out the clock.
Blake Meakin is a freelance writer