Macomb Dakota clips Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, 35-28
Macomb Twp. — The season opener between No. 3 Orchard Lake St. Mary’s and No. 8 Macomb Dakota featured one of the state’s premier defenses against an offense capable of putting up big numbers.
And, the showdown Thursday night turned into a shootout with Dakota coming away with a surprising 35-28 upset victory over the two-time Division 3 state champion.
St. Mary’s showcased five Division 1 players on defense, including Michigan-bound linebacker Josh Ross, linebacker Dwayne Chapman (Western Michigan), cornerbacks Richard Bowens (Iowa State) and Shermond Dabney (Bowling Green), along with noseguard Ralph Holley (Western Michigan).
But, in the end it was Dakota’s Brett Droski and Jaylen Hall stealing the show, with a little help from their friends, Nick Carl, Evan Sivec and Colin Macklem.
It was an outstanding head coaching debut for Greg Baur, the former longtime defensive coordinator. Baur replaced Mike Giannone, who guided Dakota to consecutive Division 1 state championships (2006-07) with Baur on his staff.
“It couldn’t be much better, but it’s only one game,” Baur said. “I’m real proud of them and we’re going to enjoy it for a couple of days.
“Jaylen Hall’s special. There’s not a lot of people who know about Jaylen Hall and he’s going up against a Division 1 corner and he looked good.”
Droski completed 10 of 15 passes for 245 yards and four TDs, three to Hall of 29, 52 and 74 yards. Hall had 235 all-purpose yards, including the three receptions for 155 yards.
Things didn’t start out well for Hall, who fumbled the first time he touched the ball. Fortunately for him, a teammate got the ball back.
“I think he (defender) got a lick on me, but I just had to shake it off, act like it never happened and do my thing,” said Hall, who then talked about Droski. “He’s a great playmaker, never quits on the play, and I just read the quarterback.
“Brett was making awesome reads and I got open and made the catches.”
One key play came when Carl tackled RaShawn Allen short of the first down on fourth-and-2 from Dakota’s 27 early in the third quarter with Dakota holding a 21-14 lead.
On the next play, Droski connected with Hall for a 74-yard TD to open up a 28-14 lead.
“I just grabbed it, saw green and kept running,” Hall said.
In the first half, Carl recovered a fumble at Dakota’s 42 to set up another TD.
“It was my first game at linebacker,” Carl said. “I messed up on some plays so it was good to make those plays.”
Sivec, a senior at Dakota, was also an impact player, grabbing a 4-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter, then returning a punt 75 yards for a TD with 10:13 left for a 35-21 lead.
“I saw it, didn’t even move and then had some great blocks,” Sivec said of his return. “Our coaches told us special team would change the game and that’s what happened.”
And, don’t forget Macklem’s big hit on Allen, forcing a fumble at Dakota’s 11 with two minutes left and watching teammate Chris Magee come away with the ball.
“I just read my key, filled the hole and hit him as hard as I could,” Macklem said.
Dakota’s Kaiser Carleton suffered a leg injury late in the third quarter and didn’t return. He finished with 47 yards on nine carries.
“The doctor said I’m fine and I’ll be ready to play next week,” said Carleton.
On the previous drive, St. Mary’s had a 17-yard TD run by Allen called back for a hold, followed by a chop block on the next play and another holding call soon after to end the threat.
St. Mary’s piled up 270 yards on the ground, led by Allen’s 158 yards on 24 carries and two TDs. His 35-yard run got it within 35-28 with eight minutes left.
St. Mary’s took advantage of an early turnover, forcing a fumble at the Dakota 33 and scoring two plays later on Allen’s 10-yard run with 7:03 left in the opening quarter.
Then, the teams scored three touchdowns in less than two minutes with Droski slipping away from linebacker John Pearson and finding Hall for a 29-yard TD pass to pull even with 3:32 left.
It took St. Mary’s just one play to regain the lead when Kyren Cunningham broke loose for 80 yards and a TD on a draw play to open up a 14-7 cushion.
Droski again found Hall, this time for a 52-yard TD when Hall got behind Dabney with 1:45 left in the quarter.
In the second quarter, Carl stood up Dabney for a short gain, then recovered a fumble seconds later on a botched exchange on a handoff at Dakota’s 42.
Droski quickly went to work to take advantage of the turnover, finding Sivec for a one-handed catch to St. Mary’s 44, followed by 14- and 13-yard runs by Carleton to the 10. Three plays later, Droski showed his ability to avoid the sack, getting away from MarJhon Metoyer and finding Sivec who crossed in front of the intended receiver for a 4-yard TD and 21-14 lead with 4:29 left in the half.
“I just kind of winged it honestly, just running for my life, then seeing open guys down the field and throwing it,” said Droski.