Detroit — Darius Perisee made the big plays early in the Division 4 state championship game Friday night at Ford Field to help Zeeland West win its third state championship in the last five years with a 40-14 victory over Flint Powers Catholic.
Perisee, a 5-foot-9, 155-pound senior who has rushed for more than 2,000 yards this season, stepped in for quarterback Casey Brinks in the final minute of the opening quarter and scored on an 8-yard run, followed by his own conversion run to give Zeeland West (14-0) a good start.
Then, Perisee took a shuffle pass from Brinks on the next drive on fourth-and-eight at the Zeeland West 49 and broke loose for 31 yards to the 20. That set up a 4-yard TD run by Tyler Thompson, who also followed his score with a 2-point run to open up a 16-0 cushion with 4:03 left in the half.
"It's a big deal, especially getting knocked out last year in the semifinals (by Muskegon in Division 3)," Perisee said of winning the state title. "It's the best feeling in the world, like going to Disney World."
It wasn't the first time Perisee took the keys to the offense. This time, he had to do it after Brinks was flipped and landed on his head on a low tackle by LaZerick Hill.
"I was worried because he's my friend, but I have to step up and do what's needed," Perisee said. "Last year at Muskegon, I had to come in because he had a concussion, so I was ready for it. It was a great feeling to score because I knew I had to step up and be a leader for us."
West also came up with big play after big play defensively to keep Powers (11-3) off the scoreboard in the first half.
First, junior defensive end Jayk Slager stopped quarterback Noah Sargent (12-for-19 passing, 158 yards, TD, 3 INTs) on fourth-and-one from the West 14.
"I think it was a really good play because it's all about momentum, especially when you're feeling out your opponent and you don't know how good they really are since they're from the other side of the state," said defensive end Zach VanValkenburg, who had six tackles, including three for loss. "When you make that stop, you know you can continue to make those stops and then our defense can pull through when we need to."
West took advantage of the big stop, driving 86 yards in nine plays for its first touchdown.
Brinks returned in the second quarter to lead a nine-play, 80-yard drive, getting a 31-yard gain on the toss to Perisee, then a 14-yard toss to tight end Caleb Kender before Thompson’s TD run.
West’s defense ended another threat in the final seconds of the half when Sargent’s pass went off the hands of tight end Nick Thompson and was intercepted by Brinks in the end zone, stopping a 16-play, 60-yard drive.
"It was big. It kept us up two scores so it helped a lot," Brinks said of his first of two interceptions.
Talking about his early injury, he said: "It was my neck and chin. I was a little dizzy, but it didn't affect me at all. This is a dream to be a senior and to come into Ford Field (and win). It's amazing."
West — which is 39-2 the last three years with Brinks operating the controls of the wing-T offense —piled up 421 total yards, 318 on the ground. Thompson rushing for 117 yards (16 carries) and two touchdowns, Perisee chalked up 76 yards (16 carries) and a touchdown and Dakota Geurink got 71 yards and a touchdown.
Brinks scored on a 39-yard run to conclude the scoring with 5:13 left. He completed all four of his passes for 103 yards.
"All the credit goes to our offensive line and our backs, too, who block," Brinks said. "Most teams play us in the box, and if they're all inside and we have a chance to pass, we will. I just have to do my best."
Sargent got Powers back in the game in the third quarter when he found receiver Matt Wiskur wide open for a 46-yard gain to the West 15. Sargent followed with a 15-yard TD run on the next play to cut the deficit to 10 (16-6) with 9:57 left in the third.
But West quickly answered. First, Geurink broke loose up the middle for 19 yards to the 20 on a fourth-and-two, then scored from 5 yards out with 3:14 left in the third to push the lead to 24-6.
Brinks grabbed his second interception at the Powers 45 late in the quarter on a Sargent pass for Wiskur into double coverage.
Thompson finished the possession by scoring his second TD, this time on a 2-yard run for a 32-6 lead with 10:36 remaining.
Sargent, who rushed for 89 yards, then threw a 35-yard TD pass to Luke Brcic with 7:28 left. But West answered again, Brinks scoring on a 39-yard keeper with 5:13 remaining for a 40-14 advantage.
Brinks' twin brother, linebacker Riley Brinks, had a team-high nine tackles, including several big hits.