Groves digs in, barrels past Adams for OAA White title
Beverly Hills — Birmingham Groves had its best drive of the season and it came when it mattered most, helping the team to a 15-8 win over Rochester Adams Friday night to clinch the Oakland Activities Association White Division championship.
Groves — 7-0 and ranked No. 12 in The News Super 20 poll — ended a 17-game losing streak in the series and defeated Adams for the first time since 1984. The teams hadn't met since 2009 with Groves moving up to the White this season after winning the Blue title last year.
Groves went on an 80-yard drive, first using Ernest Allen’s short run on fourth-and-one from Groves’ 41 to keep the drive alive, then scoring on a 38-yard run by Nate Higley on a reverse with 3:59 left.
“They gave me the ball and I had to pick it (first down) up and I did,” said Allen, who rushed for 102 yards on 21 carries. “I have confidence in my offensive line and my teammates. We just executed and I’m happy about that.
“It feels great. We won (the Blue) last year and to come up from that, people didn’t expect us to even win more than three games and here we are 7-and-0. I’m just so proud of my teammates.”
And, so is Higley, who praised 6-foot, 240-pound senior lineman Brady Anderson for his touchdown.
“I couldn’t have done it without Brady Anderson because without him out there I wouldn’t have gotten the edge,” said Higley, who got the handoff and beat Groves’ defenders down the left sideline. “That’s the first time I ran that play. I was confident it would work because we had been running zone previously a bunch of times.”
It was only fitting that Groves’ defense played a big hand in the victory. After all, the Falcons had given up just 57 points all season, including seven in the previous three games.
Adams, 5-2, ranked No. 16 and averaging 39 points, had a chance to take the lead prior to Higley’s run and then on the series following the score.
In an 8-8 game, Adams advanced inside Groves’ 30, only to have four penalties end the drive, wiping out a 36-yard TD pass from Kyle Wood to John Brucia on a fourth-down pass.
Then, after Higley’s TD run, Adams advanced to the Groves’ 46, but Wood was stopped short of a first down on fourth-and-one with 1:40 left.
Early in the third quarter, senior defensive back Ryan Flaherty continued to make big plays, giving Groves’ offense a short field to work with an interception in a scoreless game.
Wood, under pressure, floated a pass down the left sideline, giving Flaherty enough time to cut in front of the intended receiver and grab the ball near midfield, returning it to Adams’ 23.
Flaherty, who intercepted a pass last week in overtime to cap off a 14-7 win over Farmington Hills Harrison, gave Groves’ offense a boost and Collin Heard scored on a 13-yard run, followed by Allen’s two-point run for an 8-0 lead.
Adams came right back, scoring on a 59-yard drive with Cole Patritto scoring on an 18-yard run with Wood pulling the team even at 8 on the two-point run.
Patritto also made a great defensive play when he got his hand on the ball and knocked it out of Flaherty’s arms in the end zone on fourth-and-long early in the fourth.
Adams piled up 240 yards on the ground with Wood accounting for 130 on 23 carries.
The teams each moved the ball on their opening series, but both came up empty.
Groves took the opening kickoff, then picked up three first downs on running plays to get into Adams territory before Beau Kewley’s pass fell incomplete on third-and-long.
Groves pinned Adams deep, then Wood directed Adams on a 14-play, 85-yard drive to the 9 before his third-down pass in the right corner of the end zone to Mark Patritto was knocked away by Heard, and Jonathan Kmiec’s 26-yard field goal attempt hit the right goal post.
Heard had a highlight 46-yard TD run called back during the second quarter when he broke a tackle near the line of scrimmage, then cut left and broke three more tackles inside the 10.