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Fordson rallies to dramatic win over Canton

Al Willman
The Detroit News

Detroit — To say the last two minutes of Dearborn Fordson’s 40-35 win over Canton Friday in the Prep Kickoff Classic at Wayne State was frantic would be an understatement.

Fordson led 34-28 after a 40-yard pass from Hamze Elzayat to Khaled Elhaj and a two-point conversion from Elzayat with 2:34 left, appearing to cement a comeback that to that point had held Canton — which led 28-7 at halftime — scoreless in the second half.

Canton came right back. Julian Thornton scored on a 27-yard run. The extra point put Canton back ahead, 35-34.

But Elzayat wasn’t done yet.

He orchestrated a drive that started at his own 20-yard line, after the ensuing kickoff went into the end zone for a touchback, and culminated with a 57-yard touchdown pass to Slay Shajrah — who had a pair of crucial interceptions on defense.

“No matter what it takes to win my team the game, I’m going to do it,” Shajrah said.

Canton had 1:07 with which to retake the lead, but could not convert a fourth down, giving the ball back to Fordson. It looked like Fordson would be able to run out the clock. Fordson had a fourth down, but Canton coach Tim Baechler called a timeout — which forced Fordson to punt.

With 4.8 seconds left, O’Donnell threw an incomplete pass, ending the game.

“They wanted to fight,” Fordson coach Fouad Zaban said, referring to Canton — but giving an accurate description of both teams. “They didn’t want to quit. They fought.”

Elzayat was named a Most Outstanding Player. Canton running back Markus Sanders — who ran for 216 yards, including an 80-yard touchdown in the first quarter — was the other.

“I’m not here to rank guys or to say where he is,” Zaban said of Elzayat, who threw for almost 300 yards and ran for another 150. “(But) he’s the key to this offense. He’s the key to our team.”

After Fordson’s 10-play first drive stalled inside Canton territory, Sanders took Canton’s first play 80 yards to the end zone. With 7:57 left in the first quarter, Canton was ahead, 7-0.

On its next drive, Canton got a 21-yard touchdown from Steven Walker, who broke two tackles on the way to the end zone. With 34 seconds left in the quarter, Canton led 14-0.

Fordson had a first-and-goal from the Canton 7-yard line, but a Canton goal-line stand forced a 27-yard field goal attempt from Salem Hanoun — which was no good. With 8:57 left in the half, Canton maintained a 14-0 lead.

Canton added to its lead with a 70-yard touchdown from O’Donnell to Brennon Pelland on a play-action pass as O’Donnell was hit as he threw. With 6:40 left in the half, Canton was up 21-0.

After a stretch in which Elzayat missed five consecutive passes, Fordson got on the board late in the first half, on a 3-yard run from Ahmed Sabbagh. It was set up two plays earlier by a 32-yard pass from Elzayat to Saleh Homayed. With 1:56 left, Canton led 21-7.

Canton got another touchdown, late in the half. O’Donnell, after a 30-yard run from Sanders, connected with Colin Troup on a 5-yard play-action pass. With 28 seconds left, Canton pushed its lead to 28-7, which it carried into the half.

“We came out and said (that) it was 0-0,” Baechler said. “We had to re-establish momentum in the third quarter. We didn’t.”

On his first pass of the third quarter, O’Donnell heaved it deep, but was intercepted by Shajrah — who picked up a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for spiking the ball afterwards.

Five plays later, Elzayat took the keeper 39 yards for the touchdown. With 10:38 left in the third quarter, Canton held a 28-14 lead.

After a bad snap gave Fordson a fourth-and-16, Elzayat found Elhaj for a 32-yard touchdown. The extra point was no good, and with 4:20 left in the third quarter, Canton had a 28-20 lead.

On the following drive, O’Donnell was picked off again, ending a drive that took Canton to midfield.

Elzayat took advantage of the sudden change presented by Shajrah’s second interception of O’Connell. Elzayat found Jamiel Abdellatif for a gain of 49 yards, before scoring on a 20-yard keeper. The two-point conversion failed, and with 11 seconds left in the third quarter, Canton led by only two, 28-26.

Fordson took the lead on a 40-yard pass from Elzayat to Elhaj. Elzayat converted the two-point conversion, and with 7:21 left, Fordson was up 34-28.

“A quarterback’s the product of the guys around him,” Elzayat said. “My guys stepped up.”

Fordson will head to Dearborn Edsel Ford (1-0) on Thursday, while Canton hosts Walled Lake Western (1-0)

Al Willman is a freelance writer.