Detroit Cass Tech comes back to beat Macomb Dakota

Blake Meakin
Special to The Detroit News

Macomb Township — Detroit Cass Tech scored 16 unanswered points which, coupled with a strong defensive showing in the second half, powered Tech past Macomb Dakota 16-10 Friday night in a Division 1 regional final.

Cass Tech plays Canton next weekend in a Division 1 semifinal.

Dakota, which had a 10-point lead, gave up 16 straight points in the second quarter. Cass Tech then held on with no scoring from either team in the second half to advance.

The game opened with both teams stumbling on offense. Dakota converted two fourth down attempts before eventually turning the ball over on downs, then Cass Tech (10-2) missed out on its opening drive with a turnover on downs of their own.

Dakota (9-3) scored first on a 32-yard field goal by Dominic Nardozzi with eight seconds left in the first quarter and increased its lead shortly after a fourth-and-1 conversion, which resulted in a 7-yard run from Sonny Cooper.

Cooper had 117 yards on 22 carries.

The drive was capped off on a 33-yard touchdown run by Benji Marshall with 8:55 left in the first half, making it 10-0.

Rodney Hall fumbled the ball on the Dakota 5 as Cass was driving and Dakota recovered.

It looked like Dakota was going to take control of the game, until Brett Droski was sacked in the end zone for a Cass Tech safety.

“(That) turned it around, gave the kids a little bit of hope,” said Cass coach Thomas Wilcher,” Anything that can make you jump is gonna motivate you to do something good, and that’s what happened.”

Cass then scored twice more in the first half, first on a 17-yard run by Tim Cheatem on 4th-and-12, then Hall redeemed himself with a 5-yard touchdown run with 56 seconds left in the half, to give Cass Tech a 16-10 halftime lead.

Neither team scored in the third quarter, with both teams, again, struggling to find any rhythm.

After a Dakota turnover on downs on the Cass 39 early in the fourth quarter, Cass then fumbled the ball again, this time on its 36, which Dakota recovered.

But Dakota once again turned the ball over on downs for a second straight drive.

Hall, who had been burning the Dakota defense with his rushing all game, went down with an injury with just over eight minutes left in the game, and was replaced by Aaron Jackson.

Hall finished the game with 138 rush yards on 13 carries.

Hall’s absence was immediately noticed as they turned the ball over four plays later on downs.

Dakota just could not take advantage and lost while driving late in the game.

“Words can’t even express how frustrating it was,” Dakota coach Mike Giannone said on his team’s second half struggles.

Blake Meakin is a freelance writer.