Detroit — Orchard Lake St. Mary’s senior cornerback Tyson Smith didn’t know what it felt like to win a season opener before Friday’s showdown with Southfield in the Prep Kickoff Classic at Adams Field.
Now, Smith knows the excitement of an opening-game win and he played a big part of it, hauling in a 60-yard touchdown pass from Brandon Tabone to help St. Mary’s to a 21-19 victory.
Smith, who committed to Michigan State, also made several big plays on the defensive side of the ball.
“The last three years in a row, since I’ve been on varsity, I had never won a first game so this is huge,” Smith said.
St. Mary’s, No. 14 in The News preseason rankings, held a 7-0 lead midway through the second quarter when Smith grabbed the TD pass. It came three plays after Tabone’s 56-yard pass was grabbed by Kahlee Hamler over the middle for a TD, but wiped out by a holding penalty.
“It was the exact same play,” Smith pointed out. “K.J. (Hamler) was tired and came out. Coach (George Porritt) saw that their DBs were tired, which they were, so it was kind of ‘We’re going to take a shot at it.’ I saw both of them, their cornerback Ray Buford and safety Dior Johnson, walking back to the huddle so when you see that, you have to have the mindset ‘I’m ready, I can go do it.’ I was against Buford one-on-one.”
Porritt wasn’t surprised the play worked. He called six passing plays on the night with Tabone completing two for 70 yards.
“A lot of people really bunch that box up to stop our running game so there was a little play action and Hamler is a little, quick guy and Tyson is, too, so either of those guys can get by you,” Porritt said.
St. Mary’s had another big play, this one on a 48-yard TD punt return by Hamler to open up a 21-6 cushion early in the third quarter.
“I just caught the ball, I was calm and I just hit the hole and scored,” Hamler said.
St. Mary’s defense limited No. 8 Southfield to 38 yards rushing (25 attempts).
“It’s what we worked on all summer,” said defensive end Devon Defrances, who intercepted a pass and made several big hits on Southfield runners.
“Our job solely on defense is to stop their run and that’s what we did and why we were victorious. Sure, (Kanye Harris) got his passing game going because of how much we were respecting the run. We were going to make him pass on us. That’s what we wanted him to do.”
Harris, a senior, completed 21-of-36 passes for 304 yards and three TDs, with 220 of those yards and two touchdowns coming during the second half.
He was on the run for the majority of the first half, under pressure from the rush of defensive tackle Josh Dabney, Jared Mosley and Defrances.
Harris got his passing game going late in the second quarter. On a fourth-down play, he escaped the blitz and found Buford on a screen pass for a 28-yard TD with 29.4 seconds left to cut the deficit to 14-6 at halftime.
Southfield moved the ball deep into St. Mary’s territory late in the third and had a 24-yard TD run by Adrian Carter wiped out by a holding call.
Harris found Dior Johnson for a 57-yard TD with 8:55 left to pull Southfield within 21-12, but failed to convert the PAT to make it a one possession game.
Harris hooked up with Buford for a 21-yard TD with 1:25 left, but Southfield’s comeback came up short when it failed to recover the onside kick.
St. Mary’s ran for 170 yards.
More Kickoff Classic
Warren Mott 31, Detroit Cody 16: Senior quarterback Connor Madigan ran for two touchdowns to lead Mott past Cody.
His nine-yard run in the opening quarter started the scoring. His one-yarder came on a fourth-down play with three minutes left to open up a 31-8 lead.
Kenyon Kelley scored on a 27-yard interception return early in the fourth quarter.