The Catholic League will be well represented at Ford Field this weekend with three teams playing for state championships.
Warren De La Salle, which started the season 3-3, put on a dominating performance to defeat Southfield, 31-7, in a semifinal Saturday after sending Catholic League champion — and three-time defending Division 2 state champion — Birmingham Brother Rice to the sidelines the previous week, 26-21.
De La Salle (10-3) will play Muskegon Mona Shores (12-1) — ranked No. 7 in The News' Super 20 poll — for the championship at 1 p.m. Friday. Mona Shores was led by third-string quarterback Elijah Robar-Wilson, who rallied his team back from a fourth-quarter deficit to defeat Farmington Hills Harrison, 25-24, after starter Tyree Jackson (dislocated kneecap) and second-stringer Tyler Trovinger (concussion) suffered injuries.
Orchard Lake St. Mary's — whose lone losses came against Brother Rice — has been dominant during the postseason, outscoring opponents by a 190-28 margin, including a 51-3 rout of New Boston Huron Saturday.
St. Mary's (11-2, ranked No. 8) will face No. 13 Muskegon (12-1) in a Division 3 title game at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
No. 5 Detroit Loyola (13-0, No. 5) earned a third straight trip to Ford Field following its impressive 41-21 win over Pewamo-Westphalia, its closest game in postseason play this year.
Loyola will face Ishpeming (12-0) in the Division 7 championship game at 10 a.m. Saturday. It will be a rematch of the previous two Division 7 championship games won by Ishpeming, 22-12 last year and 20-14 in 2012.
"We've said for years this is a pretty darn good league and we usually have two or three teams at Ford Ford playing for state titles every year and it would be more if we didn't knock each other out," said DeLaSalle coach Paul Verska, who will be leading his team to its third final since 2006. "It's a tough, physical league with great coaches and if you can be healthy at the end, you have a chance to win a championship."
Detroit Catholic Central (Division 1), Brother Rice (Division 2) and Loyola (Division 7) competed for championships last year with Brother Rice holding the ultimate trophy.
In 2012, Catholic Central (Division 1), Brother Rice (Division 2), OLSM (Division 3) and Loyola (Division 7) all played in title games, with Brother Rice again the lone one claiming the big trophy. In '11, it was Brother Rice and OLSM with state championships.
De La Salle defense strong
If defense wins championships, De La Salle has an excellent chance to be leaving Ford Field with one.
Its defense was never better than in its win over Southfield, giving up just 180 total yards and five first downs.
Verska praised linebackers Ryan Smith, Eric Rogers and Mike Ostrowski and was proud of his secondary for not giving up big plays against Southfield's quality receivers.
"We're pretty excited to be playing for a title," said Verska, whose team lost title games to Muskegon in 2006 and 2008. "We'll hopefully put on a good show."
De La Salle's special teams matched its strong defensive play, blocking two punts against Southfield to give quarterback Joe Garbino short fields to work with.
Verska, in search of his 100th victory at De La Salle, will be preparing for Jackson, Mona Shores' star dual-threat quarterback and Buffalo recruit, despite his injury.
"We've had Austin Ballard, our defensive tackle, play the last six weeks with a torn meniscus," Verska pointed out. "The doctors said he couldn't hurt it anymore and he'll probably have surgery after the season. We've also had one of our players a few years ago have a dislocated kneecap. He had it popped back in place, had treatment and a couple days of icing and he played for us. I won't be surprised if he's (Jackson) out there."
Shaw puts on performance
Legendary Farmington Hills Harrison coach John Herrington was heartbroken for Jevon Shaw after the senior dual-threat quarterback tore his ACL in the playoff opener.
But Shaw was on the field in passing situations Saturday in the loss to Mona Shores. Harrison held the lead for much of the game, but couldn't hold off Mona Shores' dramatic comeback led by Robar-Wilson, who found Kobe Burse for a 76-yard TD with 4:11 left, then DeOntay Moffett for a two-point conversion for the difference in a 25-24 win.
"He's a warrior, a gutsy kid," Mona Shores coach Matt Koziak said of Shaw. "He played quite a bit too, was out there on third-and-long plays, then was out there again on the final drive."
Koziak had a gusty player of his own in Jackson, who suffered the dislocated kneecap.
"He didn't tear anything," Koziak said. "We had it popped back in and he tried to run on it, but it was too painful. He thinks he'll have a chance to play (in title game).
"We'll see what happens this week. He'll try to rehab it."
If not, Robar-Wilson could be playing in the title game after watching from the sideline all year.
"It was a crazy game," said Koziak. "(Robar-Wilson) was a hero, for sure. "You're talking about a guy who didn't get a lot of reps in practice, then comes in and throws a touchdown pass and then a two-point conversion to win it. That just doesn't happen."
Loyola ready for rematch
Loyola coach John Callahan was feeling ill during his team's semifinal win over Pewamo-Westphalia.
"I'm not feeling well, just slept on the bus and went home to bed," Callahan said. "I think I'm just exhausted."
That happens this time of season when more is on the line with each game. Callahan knows this is the year for Loyola to finally get past Ishpeming to become state champion.
Callahan is pleased with his offensive line, which helped Marvin Campbell run for 180 yards in the semifinal win and more than 1,700 for the season. He also praised the defensive line comprising Anthony Fitzpatrick, Ron Secrest and Andre Hampton.
Obviously, Loyola and Ishpeming are familiar with each other.
"We're not going to fool each other," Callahan said. "We're two tough, physical teams that like to run the ball. Our kids are excited with the opportunity."
All games at Ford Field, Detroit
■10 a.m. Division 8: Munising (12-1) vs. Muskegon Catholic Central (13-0)
■1 p.m. Division 2: Muskegon Mona Shores (12-1) vs. Warren De La Salle (10-3)
■4:30 p.m. Division 6: Ithaca (13-0) vs. Monroe St. Mary C.C. (12-1)
■7:30 p.m. Division 4: Grand Rapids South Christian (11-2) vs. Lansing Sexton (13-0)
■10 a.m. Division 7: Ishpeming (12-0) vs. Detroit Loyola (13-0)
■1 p.m. Division 1: Clarkston (13-0) vs. Saline (12-1)
■4:30 p.m. Division 5: Grand Rapids W. Catholic (13-0) vs. Lansing Catholic (13-0)
■7:30 p.m. Division 3: Muskegon (12-1) vs. Orchard Lake St. Mary's (11-2)