Ann Arbor – Belleville needed a remarkable comeback to avoid being one of half dozen teams from the top 10 in the state to stumble in upset losses in the opening weekend of the high school football season.
No. 1 Cass Tech, No. 4 West Bloomfield, No. 7 Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, No. 8 River Rouge, No. 9 Southfield A&T and No. 10 Oak Park all lost. No. 3 Belleville pulled out a 34-31 overtime victory over Brighton at Michigan Stadium on Thursday night.
The Tigers have plenty of cleaning up to do before their second game, home against Redford Union on Thursday. They had 32 penalties in the opener and were in third-and-20 plays 16 times.
Brighton led 21-16 with 3:20 left in the fourth quarter. After an off-sides call on Belleville on a fourth-and-2 play that gave Brighton a first down, Rudy Ramirez broke loose for a 32-yard TD and a 28-16 Bulldogs lead.
How did Belleville come back?
First, Patrick Lupro scored on a 98-yard return on the ensuing kickoff to pull within 28-22.
Still, Belleville needed a miracle with Brighton running the clock out … and the Tigers got one when a Brighton runner fumbled on third down with 27 seconds left. Kmare Carey scooped up the ball and ran it back 57 yards for a TD to pull even.
“I certainly wasn’t expecting a fumble, then I saw my brothers (teammates) make the tackle and I saw a chance to scoop and score, so I scooped and scored, just ran for my life,” Carey said.
“This feels great. We know throughout the entire game we had some difficulties, but we responded as a brotherhood like we were taught. Moving forward we know we have to take better care of the ball and play with more poise.”
Belleville missed its final two PAT attempts, with the second one getting blocked to force overtime.
In OT, Brighton limited Brighton to a field goal before Deon Selma took advantage of a block by four-star junior tackle Devontae Dobbs to score on a 10-yard TD run for the winner.
“It was all about staying in the game, listening to coaches and playing together with passion and purpose,” said Dobbs, who has 36 scholarship offers, including Alabama, Ohio State, Michigan and Florida State. “You have to have a short memory (about the mistakes) and continue to play. All you can do is play hard for the next play.”
Fourteen-year-old freshman Damon Payne, a 6-foot-4, 255-pound offensive lineman, made his debut for Belleville after getting an offer from Georgia earlier this year.
“It was crazy,” said Payne of the wild win at the Big House. “People can’t imagine the feeling of getting the chance to do this with your brothers. It was amazing. I loved it.”
There was another wild finish at Wayne State, with Southfield A&T failing to protect a 26-12 fourth-quarter lead, and Davison eventually prevailed 56-54 in triple overtime.
Davison senior Tariq Reid, who rushed for more than 2,000 yards last season, ran for 132 yards and four TDs, scoring on the winning two-point conversion.
Central Michigan-bound running back Eric McArn showed he has recovered from his 2016 knee injury, rushing for 176 yards and four TDs for A&T.
Mark Tocco had a memorable debut as Macomb Dakota’s junior quarterback at Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, connecting on 9-of-12 passes for 117 yards and three TDs while rushing for 112 yards and a TD in a 31-24 upset win over the three-time defending Division 3 state champion Eaglets.
“I was a little nervous at the beginning, but right after that first play when we got 30 yards out of that trick play I felt pretty confident with everything we were doing,” said Tocco, the son of Dakota defensive backs coach Paul Tocco, who is also the head basketball coach at Dakota. “We had Nick Audia line up at tackle, so he was eligible, so we threw a screen pass to him on the first play of the game and it worked out really well.”
Tocco has taken over for Brett Droski, who graduated.
“Before the season everybody wasn’t ranking us high or giving us a chance and that motivated us,” Mark Tocco said.
Dakota, which enters The Detroit News’ Super 20 poll at No. 15, will play at defending MAC Red champion and No. 7 Utica Eisenhower Friday.
Paul Tocco was obviously proud of watching his son play and be successful while also concentrating on his own job with Dakota’s defense.
“It was an exciting night,” Tocco said. “I’ve been a coach in the program for a long time (since 1998) and he’s grown up around it. There’s no doubt he was prepared for his first varsity start and he did a great job and made some big plays. It definitely was a proud moment for me. It was difficult to separate Dad from Coach, harder than I thought, but we got through it so now I know what it’s like.
“He started as the water boy, then moved up to the ball boy, then just been around, watched the older guys do it the last 10 years and I think that’s why he’s got such a good demeanor. He doesn’t get too high or too low, just does what the coaches ask.”
Former longtime defensive coordinator Dan Anderson made his head coaching debut at Detroit Catholic Central, watching the Shamrocks dominate Sterling Heights Stevenson, 36-0.
Anderson, an assistant at CC for 18 years, including the last 10 as defensive coordinator, replaced the legendary Tom Mach, who guided the Shamrocks to a record 17 state final appearances, earning 10 titles.
Anderson helped CC to a 13-0 record last year before a loss to Cass Tech in the Division 1 title game.
While Anderson got the job done at CC, Adam Korzeniewski had an impressive 26-7 victory over U-D Jesuit and its standout running back Elijah Collins in his head coaching debut at Birmingham Brother Rice.
Korzeniewski was a longtime defensive coordinator at Brother Rice under the state’s all-time winningest coach Al Fracassa (430), last working on the staff in 2013 when the Warriors won their third straight Division 2 state championship.
Korzeniewski, who replaced Dave Sofran as head coach, will have a big Week 2 challenge when Rice plays host Friday night to Indiana state power Mishawaka Penn.
Sofran bounces back
Sofran, who was fired as Brother Rice head coach last year after a 7-4 record, has resurfaced at rival Catholic Central as the quarterbacks coach.
“The kids are awesome there and the coaches have been very welcoming, along with the community, so I feel right at home,” said Sofran, who is the school’s enrollment manager in the admissions office.
Sofran has worked with quarterbacks Marco Genrich and Jake Hinshaw.
“Marco, a junior, started for the first time and threw a couple of touchdown passes, protected the ball pretty well and didn’t take too many sacks,” said Sofran of CC’s opening win. “Coach Anderson has put together a really good system with the no-huddle. A couple times I think we caught Stevenson with personnel exchanges because we were pretty quick with getting the signals in.
“It’s still your typical smash-mouth football with the run game, but I think it’s balanced a little with some efficient passing. I really like the system and I think it’s going to work really well.”
Dequan Finn, QB, Detroit King: Finn ran for 170 yards and three TDs and completed 10-of-19 passes for 150 yards and two TDs in a thrilling 38-35 victory over Indianapolis Cathedral at Wayne State on Saturday night.
By the numbers
113 – Saline was blanked by Rockford 14-0 at Michigan Stadium, marking the first time in 113 games the Hornets had been shut out.
110 – Total points scored in Davison’s 56-54 triple-overtime victory over Southfield A&T at Wayne State.
32 – Penalties called on Belleville in its 34-31 overtime win over Brighton.
5 – Second-half turnovers forced by Detroit Central in its 32-8 rout of Detroit Loyola.