Detroit — Allen Stritzinger made big plays on both sides of the ball to lead Warren DeLaSalle to its first state football championship Friday afternoon at Ford Field with a dominating, 44-8 win over Muskegon Mona Shores in the Division 2 title game.
Stritzinger, a 6-foot, 180-pound sophomore, rushed for 175 yards and a TD and made several great plays from his secondary position, the majority coming in the first half when DeLaSalle built a 23-0 lead.
And don't forget senior quarterback Joey Garbarino's great performance, completing all seven of his pass attempts for 89 yards and a TD, and rushing for 85 yards and two TDs.
DeLaSalle's special teams were outstanding, as well. Jake Townsley kicked a state finals record three field goals, a 41-yarder in the opening quarter, ,then 23- and 29-yarders in the second. Austin Ballard, playing with a torn meniscus for the last seven games, scored off a blocked punt.
DeLaSalle (11-3), which was 3-3 midway through the season, won its final eight games with its defense leading the way. The Pilots limited Mona Shores (12-2) to 87 first-half yards, holding a 387-201 advantage for the game, piling up 298 yards rushing.
"I knew deep down in my heart that we could be more physical than them and that was our attitude," said 13th-year DeLaSalle head coach Paul Verska, who picked up his 100th win at the school. "We knew that they had great athletes, but we thought if we pounded on them, pounded on them, pounded on them they wouldn't go four quarters with us toe-to-toe. Luckily we hit some big plays and got ahead of them early. It was a great win for our kids and our program."
It almost didn't happen for Stritzinger, who said he injured his hip on his first carry of the game. Verska, who coached Stritzinger's father, told him to get back on the field … which he did.
First, Stritzinger busted loose for a 25-yard gain to set up Garbarino's 1-yard TD on DeLaSalle's opening series.
Then, Stritzinger got caught from behind at Mona Shores' 3 after a 55-yard run on DeLaSalle's second series late in the quarter to set up Townsley's 41-yard field goal.
Stritzinger broke loose for a 56-yard TD midway through the second quarter, making sure he wasn't caught this time, to open a 20-0 cushion.
"I got hurt the first time I got the ball, the first running play we had," pointed out Stritzinger, who has 4.5 speed. "He (the defender) got me from behind and took out my hip. He (Verska) didn't let me stop, but that's what makes me, them making me play the game, so that's good."
Of getting caught from behind by Mona Shores defensive back Darece Roberson, Stritzinger said: "He was pretty fast, I heard him coming. I was thinking, 'Don't get caught. Don't get caught. Don't get caught,' the second time (long run). I saw him coming to the right of me a little bit so I tried to create a little space between us.
"My line did a great job. They've been creating holes for me the whole season, the best holes I could ask for. I just try to do my job, make cuts, read the hole and whatever I get from that I try to score."
Stritzinger also made some great plays on defense, tackling Roberson for a loss on a bubble screen pass on third down to force a punt, then breaking loose for the 55-yard run.
Stritzinger then had great coverage on Kobe Burse on another third down pass to force a punt. Mona Shores faked the punt with Tyler Trovinger finding Noah Dykstra for a pass, but Dykstra was hauled down by linebacker Eric Rogers a yard short of the first down at DeLaSalle's 44.
On the first play, Stritzinger broke loose for the 56-yard TD.
"The fake punt caught me off guard a little bit, but I got there with good anticipation at the last minute to get the stop," said Rogers (nine tackles), who is being recruited by Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State. "It gave us some great field position and then we scored."
DeLaSalle's defense made things tough on Mona Shores senior quarterback Tyree Jackson, who was already hampered with a dislocated kneecap suffered in last week's semifinal. Jackson had the knee drained Sunday and wore a custom made brace on the left knee, but wasn't close to 100 percent. He finished 17-of-27 for 102 yards and a TD.
With Jackson hampered by the injury and playmaker Hunter Broersma out of the lineup (mono), Mona Shores had trouble moving the ball.
"Our best player (Jackson) wasn't 100 percent and we lost another huge player (Broersma) in our offense to mono, but don't take anything away from DeLaSalle," Mona Shores coach Matt Koziak said. "They were great. What caught me on film was how physical they are and we caught that firsthand today. And, their quarterback showed he can play big in a big game. On that out and up, he was right on the money while throwing on the run."
Garbarino took advantage of short fields, leading DeLaSalle on scoring drives from its own 42, (field goal), 44 (touchdown) and 43 (field goal) in the first half. He also fired a 36-yard pass to Myles Charley while rolling right late in the third quarter to set up his 8-yard TD run for a 37-8 lead.
"A lot of people were saying, 'Can Joe get it done?' so I really wanted to prove to my team that I could get it done and look where we are," said Garbarino, a first-year starter at quarterback for a program that had Michigan sophomore quarterback Shane Morris leading its team a few years ago.
Ballard joined in on the fun on defense, scoring on a blocked punt by Austin Potter. Ballard also recovered a fumble in the second half to end a Mona Shores drive in DeLaSalle territory at the 28.
"My injury (torn meniscus) was the last thing on my mind," Ballard said. "I wasn't about to let anything get in the way of a state championship. It's all about the team and we finished. We got really hot heading into the playoffs, then just got better and better.
"Our guys just played great defense, made sure-handed tackles today. And, it was a great feeling to have a game like I did, too. That touchdown was a gift from God. I was just in the right place at the right time."
Yes, just like his teammates were all game long, resulting in a state championship party.