Detroit — With the game being at Ford Field, New Lothrop and Madison Heights Madison took a cue from their professional counterparts and scored like they were in the NFL.
The result was a new MHSAA record for points in a championship game with New Lothrop claiming the Division 7 title in a 50-44 shootout over Madison Heights Madison.
"They (Madison) are a high-powered offense. We're pretty damn good, too," New Lothrop coach Clint Galvas said. "I felt that whenever we got the ball, we had to score. I knew if we came up with a couple big stops, that could be the difference."
The engine for New Lothrop (13-1) was junior quarterback Avery Moore, who had 132 yards on 27 carries (4.9 average) and four rushing touchdowns to go along with 7 for 13 passing for 99 yards and no interceptions.
“He (Moore) did as he’s done all year long and that’s to run our offense and do a pretty darn good job at it,” Galvas said. “He makes a lot of reads, a lot of RPOs (run-pass options). He’s one of the best kids in the state as far as the mental side of the game.”
“I can’t get it done without the guys up front,” Moore said. “They control the game, and the athletes around me are a big boost. I just listen to Galvas and do what he says.”
Totaling 379 yards of offense and scoring touchdowns on all five red zone trips, New Lothrop set a scoring pace that Madison (13-1) just couldn't match.
A big part of that was New Lothrop's Aidan Harrison. The senior rushed for 93 yards on 11 carries (8.5 average) with one score, but his biggest play came on a second quarter 96-yard kickoff return touchdown. Harrison made one cut and sprinted down the left sideline, just outrunning Madison's last defender.
"A hole opened up," Harrison said. "It was beautiful, one guy left to beat."
Harrison transferred to New Lothrop from Flushing.
"I've always wanted to be part of this community. My grandpa ran the clock for them (New Lothrop) for 30 years. To finally be able to bring something like this home after 12 years, it feels great," Harrison said, alluding to the last time New Lothrop football won a state title, despite several long playoff runs since.
New Lothrop coach Clint Galvas, senior Aidan Harrison, junior Avery Moore and sophomore Will Muron discuss their record-setting victory. The Detroit News
New Lothrop has had a little extra motivation this season after one of its most ardent supporters,9-year-old Braden "Buddy" Miller, died last month due to cancer.
The team has been wearing lime green socks in honor of Miller.
"Throughout the game I found myself saying, 'Buddy, we could use you here,'" Galvas said. "It was an emotional time for us when all that went down towards the end of the regular season. He was pretty close with the community. He was at every game. Our football team tried the best we could to represent him. This goes a long way that for two and half hours the Miller family got to come watch the team. He's been a driving inspiration for us the entire playoffs."
"He was in the back of our heads the entire time," Moore said.
The loss for Madison ends the prolific high school football career of Austin Brown. The senior quarterback was nearly unstoppable on Saturday, amassing 105 rushing yards on 24 carries (4.4-yard average) and four touchdowns combined with 17-for-30 throwing for 298 yards and two scores.
"It was great, but obviously it wasn't enough," Brown said. "I could have played better. I couldn't care less about myself. It wasn't enough."
"It was a hard-fought game," Madison coach James Rogers said. "Two of the best quarterbacks I've seen in the state met today."
Brown threw for 3,100 yards and 40 touchdowns last season but became more of a dual-threat this year, totaling 61 scores, throwing for more than 2,000 yards and rushing for almost 2,000.
"It was fun," Brown said. "In seventh or eighth grade when they tell you it goes by quick, it really does. I feel like I was just in an eighth grade classroom yesterday. It was a great journey, too bad I couldn't end it on a high note, but it was a great road."
Rogers played cornerback and receiver for Michigan from 2007 to 2010 and almost got his team to the top of Division 7 after losing in the semifinals last season.
"We knew it was going to be an offensive battle," Rogers said. "They just made more plays than we did."
Madison coach James Rogers and senior quarterback Austin Brown talk about Saturday's Division 7 state championship game against New Lothrop. The Detroit News
The first three drives of the game featured touchdowns. Harrison capped a 60-yard drive with a 34-yard run to the left, getting around the edge of the Madison defense. A two-point conversion attempt failed, making it 6-0 for New Lothrop.
Madison answered right back with a 36-yard pass from Brown to junior wide receiver Makai Johnson that set Madison up on New Lothrop’s one. Brown scored on a quarterback sneak to even the score and then converted a 2-point attempt to take the lead, 8-6.
New Lothrop rebounded with a nine-play, 76-yard drive finished by a 5-yard run by sophomore Will Muron, who broke several tackles while running parallel to the line of scrimmage and then dove into the end zone. This time, New Lothrop was successful on a 2-point attempt, making the score 14-8 for New Lothrop.
The second quarter started with New Lothrop in the middle of a 44-yard touchdown drive. A 26-yard Moore pass to Jacob Graves set up a 5-yard Moore score on a quarterback keeper. After the ensuing, successful two-point try, New Lothrop was up, 22-8.
Later in the quarter, Brown found Johnson open over the middle for an 11-yard scoring strike, but the jubilation from the Madison fans was short-lived — Harrison took the ensuing kickoff 96 yards for a New Lothrop touchdown, and a 2-point conversion made it 30-16 for New Lothrop, the score at halftime.
On Madison's first possession of the second half, it marched 69 yards, including an impressive, 13-yard scramble by Brown in which he rolled right and then doubled back left to pick up the first down. Brown scored on a 1-yard run and a 2-point conversion, which brought Madison within a score, 30-24.
Madison got the ball back and solidified its momentum by generating a turnover on downs and then drove 65 yards for another 1-yard, Brown touchdown. The 2-point attempt failed, leaving the score knotted at 30 to start the fourth quarter.
Aided by a Madison personal foul on the 2-point attempt that was assessed to the kickoff, New Lothrop got good field position and recaptured momentum with an 11-play, 51-yard scoring drive ending with a 3-yard Moore touchdown run. The 2-point attempt failed, and New Lothrop led 36-30.
Madison punched back with a 76-yard scoring drive capped by a 2-yard Brown run, but Madison missed the extra point attempt, the first time in the game that either team had attempted an extra-point kick instead of a 2-point conversion, leaving the score tied at 36 with 6:38 left. But New Lothrop wasn't done.
Moore scored on a 6-yard quarterback sneak after a 66-yard drive and a successful 2-point attempt put New Lothrup up, 44-36, with 3:27 left. On the ensuing drive, a well-thrown ball by Brown was taken away from its intended receiver by junior defensive back Dylan Shaydick, setting up a 13-yard touchdown run by Moore that put New Lothrop up, 50-36, with 1:20 left.
Madison wasn't quite dead, though. Brown launched a ball 55 yards through the air for a 61-yard completion to Tanner Barndollar. A couple plays later, Brown hit Sylvester Whitley for a touchdown and a 2-point conversion made it 50-44. Madison's onside kick attempt failed, ending the game.
Eric Coughlin is a freelance writer.