Huron reaches lofty heights
New Boston Huron has experienced a record-breaking season so far, one it hopes to continue with an upset of Orchard Lake St. Mary's in a Division 3 semifinal at Dearborn High School on Saturday.
New Boston Huron (11-1) won its first playoff game, then its first district title, followed by its first regional championship Friday night with a 38-29 victory over Redford Thurston.
New Boston Huron had reason to celebrate during a weekend which included Warren DeLaSalle ending Birmingham Brother Rice's 33-game winning streak, Ithaca rallying from a fourth-quarter deficit against Madison Heights Madison to push its winning streak to 68, and Jackson Lumen Christi's season coming to an end against Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central, 27-26, despite Michigan State-bound running back Khari Willis gaining 412 yards on 50 carries.
"It's been exciting," said New Boston Huron coach Dan Kalbfleisch, who took over a program that had a 2-43 record in the five years prior to his arrival in 2004. "Once we had double-digit wins we felt we're just playing on house money … now let's go have some fun."
New Boston Huron had some fun when senior two-way player Devin Collins returned two kickoffs for 90-yard plus TDs in a district victory over Trenton.
Then junior running back Jake Fryer had 280 total yards, including 200 rushing in the win over Thurston.
And don't forget dual-threat quarterback Matt Hartwick's strong season in the spread attack.
Hartwick, a 5-foot-10, 165-pound junior, has 2,200 yards of total offense, rushing for more than 1,200 and throwing for another 1,000. He scored on a 65-yard run against Thurston and his 42-yard hook-and-ladder toss to Collins, who then flipped the ball to Fryer for a TD to open an 11-point lead with four minutes left.
"Matt's had a great season and our offensive line has played well, too," Kalbfleisch said. "Matt threw his first two picks of the year (against Thurston) and I can live with that."
Kalbfleisch didn't know what to expect after senior Ian Robinson, whom he calls "the best tailback I've ever had," suffered an ACL injury in Week 3, a 40-7 loss to Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central.
Fryer replaced Robinson and has rushed for more than 900 yards.
"We knew we'd be good after we beat a 4-0 Riverview team (24-20) at Riverview," Kalbfleisch said. "We knew we had a chance for our season to be something special."
Kalbfleisch is enjoying the run, knowing some people in the community had wondered in past years if he was the right fit for the program.
"I've had a lot of support from my (athletic director), Marty Salazar," Kalbfleisch said. "One thing I know is that our kids will play hard. We're not in the business of backing down. Our legacy needs to be how we're ready to play. I'm a Catholic League guy, a Divine Child grad, so I know what it's all about (at Orchard Lake St. Mary's)."
Kalbfleisch knows George Porritt is a coaching legend at St. Mary's. Porritt won his first state title 20 years ago and added three in 1999, 2000 and 2011.
Kalbfleisch also knows Collins has to be ready to stop St. Mary's sophomore Kahlee Hamler, who has three TD receptions in the last two weeks, and to stay away from MSU-bound cornerback Tyson Smith, a senior at St. Mary's.
Huron will be ready, but does it have the talent to match OLSM? Kalbfleisch can't wait to find out.
DeLaSalle ends Rice streak
DeLaSalle coach Paul Verska said teams wouldn't want to face his three-loss Pilots once the playoffs started.
Verska was thrilled that DeLaSalle's defense got healthy after some key players were injured early in the regular season, including Mike Ostrowski and Mike Danna.
DeLaSalle has responded by winning six straight since a 3-3 start, with the most impressive victory coming in Saturday's 26-21 win over three-time defending Division 2 state championship Birmingham Brother Rice, ending Rice's 33-game winning streak.
"It felt great, beating the No. 1 team in the state like that," said Danna, a 6-3, 230-pound defensive end who had eight tackles, including three sacks. Our defense made some great stops and our offense finished. We stuck together and played as a team.
"We're not done yet. That win means a lot, but we're looking forward to playing Southfield."
DeLaSalle's regional title was its first since 2008, when it advanced to the state title game, losing to Muskegon. Verska, who picked up his 200th win in the pre-district victory over Grosse Pointe North, is 98-49 in 13 years at DeLaSalle, including state runner-up spots in 2006 and '08.
DeLaSalle will play Southfield in a battle of 9-3 teams in the semifinal at Saturday at Novi.
Country Day playing its best
Country Day fans were wondering if the Yellowjackets would qualify for the playoffs after a 30-0 loss to Muskegon Catholic Central on Nov. 17 dropped it to 4-4 on the season.
Country Day responded with a 42-26 victory over Milan the following week to make the playoffs, and has played its best ball ever since.
Country Day blanked Chelsea 21-0 at Chelsea to win the regional title. It has outscored its opponents 77-6 during the postseason.
It limited Chelsea to 116 total yards, 21 on the ground, and stopped it on three second-half fourth down plays, two inside the red zone.
Country Day's defense has been the key to the run, but quarterback David Pohl has also returned from a broken foot in Week 3, a loss to Detroit Loyola.
Pohl found Tristin Wiegers for a 32-yard TD pass to give Country Day a 7-0 lead late in the half. Jacob Hill returned an interception 48 yards for a score to open a 14-0 cushion.
Country Day has a date with unbeaten Lansing Sexton Saturday in a Division 4 semifinal at Fenton. Country Day's losses have come against teams with a combined record of 47-1: Loyola (12-0), Lapeer West (12-0), Catholic Central (12-0) and Brother Rice (11-1).
Jackson, Saline set for Cass
Saline junior Josh Jackson has split time at quarterback with Trent Theisen this season.
Expect Jackson to be at quarterback in the Division 1 semifinal when Saline (11-1) plays unbeaten Detroit Cass Tech Saturday at Troy Athens.
Why? Jackson put on a show against Canton, completing 27-of-32 for 319 yards and four TDs in a 42-35 comeback victory, rallying Saline from a 21-7 first-half deficit to its first regional title.
Jackson, the son of Michigan running backs coach Fred Jackson, is being recruited by Northwestern and showed he could deliver on the run or while standing in the pocket. After taking a big hit from a Canton defender, he got off the turf to find Cameron Cole for a 33-yard TD to give Saline a 35-28 lead early in the third quarter. He also ran for 70 yards and two TDs, including an 18-yard run to give Saline a 42-35 lead with 7:52 left.
Jackson has made good decisions all season, a reason he has thrown for 1,462 yards (16 TDs, one INT) and run for 675.
Next up is a Cass Tech team which gave up 313 yards passing in a 48-35 regional victory over Chippewa Valley.
Ithaca came back from a 27-19 fourth-quarter deficit to defeat Madison Heights Madison 41-27 for its 68th straight win Saturday, but will not get its anticipated Division 6 title showdown with Khari Willis and Jackson Lumen Christi.
Willis rushed for 412 yards and two TDs, but fumbled inside the Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central 25 in the final minutes, letting Catholic Central escape with a 27-26 victory.
Willis finished with 2,800 yards and 30 TDs, becoming the eighth player in state history to run for 2,800 yards in a season.