Oak Park — West Bloomfield ended Oak Park’s unbeaten season while punching its own state playoff ticket with a 27-21 victory on a cold, rainy Friday night.
And, it didn’t come easy.
West Bloomfield (6-2) led 27-0 at halftime and then had to hold on with senior running back Phillip Stewart leading an Oak Park second-half comeback, running for 205 of his 275 yards during the final two quarters.
It looked like Oak Park — the Oakland Activities Association White Division champions and No. 2 team in The News Super 20 poll — would get the ball back with three minutes left for a chance to win.
But, it didn’t happen as Oak Park roughed up punter Sam Lafata after he scooped the ball on a bounce and got the punt away, giving West Bloomfield a first down at the Oak Park 46. West Bloomfield got a pair of first downs to run the clock out.
West Bloomfield was dealt a big blow last week when standout sophomore Donovan Edwards, who has offers from Michigan, Ohio State and Michigan State, suffered a broken leg in last week’s loss to Southfield A&T.
Penn State-bound linebacker Lance Dixon stepped in for Edwards and used his sub-4.5 speed to cause some damage, scoring on a 25-yard run for a 7-0 lead and then a 2-yard touchdown jaunt to open a 21-0 lead early in the second quarter.
Dixon played a big role in all three phases of the game, hauling Ohio State-bound quarterback Dwan Mathis for a third-down sack with seven minutes left in the second before blocking a punt on the next play, which gave West Bloomfield the ball at the Oak Park 29.
Dixon’s biggest play could have been his 18-yard run on a third-and-6 jet sweep in the final minutes.
“It was my first time playing running back. Our running back got hurt, so I got to make up the production from it,” said Dixon, who finished with 105 yards on 12 carries.
On the TD run, Dixon said: “They just called a jet and I did my best to break tackles and get in. It’s so important to punch our playoff ticket, to get that solidified.”
Last year, West Bloomfield advanced to the Division 1 state championship game at Ford Field, losing to OAA Red rival Clarkston, 3-2.
Oak Park could get nothing going in its first several drives, getting stopped on a fourth-and-1 from its own 40 when junior safety Makari Paige showed why he has offers from Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State, tackling Mathis for a 5-yard loss in the final minute of the first quarter.
“They called me for a blitz so I could get the job done and I did the best I could,” said Paige of his big stop on Mathis.
Then, on West Bloomfield’s first play, C.J. Harris went up top and found Tyrone Broden for the 35-yard TD pass and a 14-0 cushion with 53.5 seconds left.
On the ensuing kickoff, Oak Park fumbled and West Bloomfield recovered at the 32, capitalizing on the short field when Dixon bulled his way to the 4 before scoring two plays later.
West Bloomfield didn’t take advantage after Dixon’s blocked punt, but it did extend its lead to 27-0 when Michigan State-bound receiver Tre Mosley intercepted a Mathis pass and returned it 75 yards, breaking numerous tackles for the score. Mosley's TD came with 4:12 left in the half.
“We came into this game down five starters,” West Bloomfield coach Ron Bellamy said. “Our kicker got hurt in the soccer game last night. Our left tackle is out with a concussion. Our one technique is out. Our running back is out. I love these kids. They are resilient. A lot of people told us what we couldn’t do tonight. We jumped out early and held on for the win.
“Lance is special. We were fools to not use him on offense, but we score a lot of points so we didn’t really need him. With Donovan Edwards going down we needed him tonight and Lance stepped up in a big way and I’m proud of him. Big-time players make big-time plays and Lance and Mosley did tonight. We had a lot of players step up.”
Junior Anthony May had 71 yards on 17 carries for West Bloomfield.
Oak Park held a 144-138 advantage in total yards in the first half and a 32-16 edge in total plays at the half, but two turnovers and West Bloomfield’s fourth-down stop resulted in 20 points.
Oak Park also failed to score when it advanced to the West Bloomfield 17 in the final seconds of the half, failing to convert a pair of Mathis passes.
West Bloomfield put tremendous pressure on Mathis throughout the half with linebackers Dixon and 6-foot-1, 220-pound junior Cornell Wheeler, a Michigan commit, leading the charge.
Oak Park got back in the game by scoring on its first two drives of the second half with senior running back Phillip Stewart leading the way.
First, Stewart broke loose for a 59-yard TD run to cut the deficit to 27-7.
After Oak Park forced a fumble on a West Bloomfield fourth-and-inches play at the Oak Park 27, Stewart’s 43-yard run to the West Bloomfield 12 set up Torriano Richardson’s 9-yard TD run to pull within 27-14 with 25.2 seconds left in the third.
Stewart scored his second TD on an 8-yard run to cap off a 94-yard drive with 4:24 left, but Oak Park never got the ball back.
Mathis completed 6 of 17 passes for 106 yards and the interception.
Auburn Hills Avondale 45, Hazel Park 6: Kobe Anthony returned an interception 95 yards for a touchdown, Derrick Hinton had a 40-yard run and Jamason Jodway had a 55-yard run for Avondale (6-2, 4-2 OAA Blue). Hazel Park is 3-5, 1-5.
Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood 42, Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard 7: Jack Fairman was 8-for-16 for 119 yards and two touchdowns and had 13 tackles and a sack, and Torrell Williams had four receptions for 50 yards and a touchdown, returned a fumble 25 yards for a touchdown and had a interception for Cranbrook-Kingswood (5-3).
Clinton Township Chippewa Valley 41, Romeo 34: David Ellis had a kickoff return touchdown as Chippewa Valley (8-0, 7-0) clinched the MAC Red title. Romeo is 7-1, 6-1.
Dearborn Edsel Ford 41, Taylor 22: Steve Gilbert rushed for 98 yards and two touchdowns, Keegan Rowe had six carries for 62 yards and a score, Joe Marano had 41 rushing yards and a touchdown and Max Marion had a passing and rushing touchdown for Edsel Ford (3-5, 3-5 Downriver). Taylor is 2-6, 2-6.
Detroit Cody 20, Detroit Mumford 14: Alexander White rushed for 111 yards on 14 carries and scored the game-winning touchdown for Cody (6-2, 3-2 PSL Green) in the final seconds. White also threw for a touchdown. Also for Cody, Joshua Wiley caught a screen pass and took it 80 yards for a touchdown and Joseph Thomas had two sacks and 10 tackles. Mumford is 5-3, 3-1 PSL Green. Cody advances to the PSL B Divison Championship.
Detroit Public Safety 50, Mount Clemens 0: Shunndean Bridges went 15-for-17 passing for 275 yards and two touchdowns, Devontae Webb had seven receptions for 120 yards and a touchdown and two interceptions for Detroit Public Safety (7-1). Mount Clemens is 1-7.
Ecorse 34, Detroit Community 0: Keyshawn Smith had 170 yards rushing and two touchdowns, Maurice Davis rushed for 75 yards and two scores, Cortez Dingle had 10 tackles and a touchdown reception, and Mike Morgan had a 20-yard interception return for a score for Ecorse (7-1, 5-0), which won the MMAC Black Division title for the third straight year.
Grosse Ile 21, Riverview 14: Zak Thompson threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to Max Athens and Luke Harwood had 22 rushes for 138 yards and two touchdowns for Grosse Ile (8-0, 7-0 Huron). Kyle Nais had 15 rushes for 69 yards and two touchdowns for Riverview (6-2, 5-2).
Grosse Pointe South 54, Grosse Pointe North 0: This is the third straight MAC White Division title for South (8-0, 5-0 MAC White) and the first time the team has started 8-0 since 1983. North is 1-7, 1-4.
Macomb Lutheran North 23, North Farmington 17: Angelo Basilisco had 111 rushing yards, 178 yards passing and two total touchdowns, and Jake Mlymarek carried the ball 11 times for 49 yards and a score and caught two passes for 65 yards for North (7-1). North Farmington is 3-5.
Plymouth 35, Salem 13: Logan Walkley rushed 16 times for 72 yards and a touchdown and Van Riley scored twice, one receiving and one rushing, for Plymouth (6-2, 5-2 KLAA West). Nathan Hunt rushed 16 times for 85 yards and a touchdown for Salem (1-7, 0-7).
Royal Oak Shrine 31, Clarkston Everest Collegiate 26: Connor Benson was 7-for-14 passing for 108 yards with a touchdown and interception, Dan Romano had 34 carries for 157 yards and two touchdowns and AJ Massucci had six receptions for 107 yards and a touchdown for Shrine (4-4, 2-2 Catholic Intersectional II). Clarkston Everest is 7-1, 3-1.
South Lyon 29, Walled Lake Western 19: Sam Johnson was 11-of-22 for 223 yards and a passing touchdown, CJ Brown rushed 11 times for 116 yards and two touchdowns and Kevin Jackson had a 42-yard touchdown reception for Western (5-3, 5-2 Lakes Valley). South Lyon (8-0, 7-0) wins the Lakes Valley title.
Sterling Heights Parkway Christian 43, Southfield Christian 13: Julian Davis had 10 carries for 145 yards and a TD, Maurice Hutchison rushed for 67 yards and three touchdowns and had a receiving score and Denarie Sharp had three sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery for Parkway Christian (8-0, 6-0 MIAC). Southfield Christian is 2-6, 2-4.
Utica 34, Macomb L’Anse Creuse North 20: Christian Gegovic had 34 carries for 233 yards and three touchdowns, Gabe Olschevsky recorded eight tackles, two sacks and a 90-yard interception return for a touchdown, Turner Tomatti had four tackles and a pick-six and Maguire Palicke finished with seven tackles, three for loss, a sack and a forced fumble for Utica (1-7, 1-4 MAC White). North is 4-4, 2-3.
Warren Cousino 35, Fraser 20: Demario Young had 24 carries for 208 yards and two touchdowns, Nagi Bishop had five carries for 67 yards and a touchdown, Brandon Wolgast had 10 tackles and Josh Jones had 12 tackles and a forced fumble for Cousino (1-7, 1-4 MAC Blue). Fraser is 0-8, 0-5.
Warren Michigan Collegiate 34, Chandler Park 32 (OT): Reggie Nobles had two rushing touchdowns, one passing TD and scored the winning two-point conversion in overtime for Michigan Collegiate (8-0, 4-0 Charter). Trayvon Daniels made 12 tackles and two for loss. Chandler Park is 3-4, 3-1.
Warren Mott 35, Utica Ford 7: Jake Duby had a 20-yard TD run and threw a 25-yard TD to James Murray, Curtis Hamilton scored two rushing TDs, James Chaney had a rushing TD, and Tyson Waton made seven tackles and two fumble recoveries for Mott (6-2, 4-1 MAC White). Alex Wells rushed 27 times for 134 yards and a touchdown for Ford (3-5, 2-3).
firstname.lastname@example.org; News staff contributed