Breaking down all eight state football finals

David Goricki
The Detroit News
Cass Tech quarterback Rodney Hall

All games at Ford Field


Detroit Cass Tech (13-0) vs. Detroit Catholic Central (13-0)

Kickoff: 1 p.m. Saturday

How did they make it here?

Cass Tech

It carried momentum from its 41-20 victory over Detroit King in the PSL championship game into the playoffs. Cass Tech, which advanced to last year’s state title game (lost to Romeo) has had to fight through a tough field — Dearborn Fordson, Dearborn, Saline, and Utica Eisenhower.

Cass Tech has more than a dozen Division 1 players on its roster, led by Northern Illinois-bound senior QB Rodney Hall. He converted a fourth down with a run, leading to his 3-yard option score followed by a 2-point conversion pass to Donovan Peoples-Jones for the difference against Saline. Hall has 2,416 yards passing and 23 TDs to go with 984 rushing yards and 15 scores.

Cass Tech also showcases Michigan-bound DB Jaylen Kelly-Powell and Michigan State-bound T Jordan Reid.

Senior Donovan Johnson, a three-star cornerback, has more than 1,000 yards rushing.

Tyler St. Clair of Detroit Catholic Central

Catholic Central

The class of the Catholic League, it beat two-time defending Division 3 state champion Orchard Lake St. Mary’s in the Prep Bowl before victories over Howell, Novi, Grandville and defending Division 1 champion Romeo.

C.C. has multiple Division 1 players, led by Blake Bueter (6-foot-4, 275 pounds), as well as impact players such as DEs Jackson Ross (6-3, 235) and Jack Morris (6-4, 220), and junior LB/FB Isaac Darkangelo (6-0, 225).

It also has size up front with Bueter leading the way to open holes for 1,000-yard rusher Nicholas Capatina.

Players to watch

Donovan Peoples-Jones, Cass Tech: A five-star recruit, he is the premier receiver in the nation with size (6-3, 200), speed (4.4 40), jumping ability (42-inch vertical) and talent. He has 54 receptions for 946 yards and 15 TDs. He is also a force in the secondary, coming through with four interceptions, returning one for a TD.

Austin Brown, C.C.: His status is uncertain (leg), but if he does play, Brown is tough and competitive. The quarterback is 91-for-157 for 1,200 yards. If he can’t go, backup Marco Genrich would take over.

Cass Tech wins if ...

Hall is healthy and motivated after missing last year’s state title game with a broken ankle. He is the catalyst, leading fourth-quarter comebacks and having the weapons to work with in Peoples-Jones, Johnson and Kelly-Powell.

C.C. wins if ...

Brown is healthy and capable of running to elude the Cass Tech pass rush. If Brown can’t play, C.C. is in trouble. It would need to force turnovers early with a pass rush led by Morris and not give up too many big plays.

Prediction: Cass Tech 35-24


Walled Lake Western (12-1) vs. Detroit King (11-2)

Kickoff: 1 p.m. Friday

How did they make it here?


Western was tested by South Lyon, whose 2-point conversion pass was knocked away by LB Matt Alati. It then rolled over Pinckney and Fenton before holding off Lowell to reach its first final in 17 years — also its last state title.

Western is loaded at skill positions, led by Michigan State-bound QB Johnny Tracy (2,125 yards, 23 TDs), WRs Kameron Ford (49 receptions, 1,097 yards, 13 TDs) and Justin Thomas (33 receptions, 592 yards, five TDs), and CB Jack Dodge (7 interceptions).


King dominated Ferndale and Oak Park before being tested by Temperance Bedford and Birmingham Groves.

King four-star receiver/cornerback Ambry Thomas and his teammates dedicated the season to their late coach Dale Harvel — who suffered a fatal heart attack this past summer — who guided the Crusaders to the state championship last year.

Ambry Thomas of Detroit King

King lost more than a half dozen Division 1 players from last year’s title team, but sophomore Dequan Finn (2,140 yards, 34 TDs) stepped in to run the offense.

Players to watch

Cody White, Western: An outstanding receiver, he also showed he could play quarterback the first few weeks when Tracy nursed a shoulder injury. He made several big plays for TDs during the postseason. A Michigan State commit, White has 42 receptions for 694 yards and nine TDs, has rushed for 547 yards on 50 carries, and thrown for 492 yards and nine scores.

Ambry Thomas, King: He has the ability to grab a short pass and turn it into a long TD. Thomas has 35 receptions for 896 yards and 15 TDs and has scored off an interception return, kickoff return and punt return.

Western wins if ...

The weapons — White, Ford and Thomas — make something happen after the catch. Western also has a strong secondary with Jack Dodge, Thomas and White having the ability to close in quickly to make plays.

King wins if ...

Thomas, Jaeveyon Morton and Finn come up big. King also has tremendous size up front, an advantage over Western, which has a big lineman in Robert Hudson but not as much size around him.

Prediction: Western 26-22


Muskegon (12-1) vs. Orchard Lake St. Mary’s (9-4)

Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. Saturday

How did they make it here?


Muskegon showed its firepower in a rout of Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern before a close victory over perennial power East Grand Rapids. It followed the same formula against Byron Center (rout) and Edwardsburg (close).

Coach Shane Fairfield used a two-quarterback system with 6-2, 210-pound junior La’darius Jefferson, who returned from Mississippi, and Virginia Tech-bound Kalil Pimpleton, who moves to the slot when Jefferson is under center.

Muskegon also has an outstanding receiver in Jacory Sullivan (25 receptions, 500 yards, seven TDs) and four-star junior T Antwan Reed, who returned to Muskegon midseason from Florida.

Shermond Dabney of Orchard Lake St. Mary's

St. Mary's

St. Mary’s is averaging 45.5 points during the postseason, defeating Bay City John Glenn, Linden, DeWitt and Dearborn Divine Child.

St. Mary’s has a handful of Division 1 players on defense, led by Ralph Holley (Western Michigan), LBs Josh Ross (Michigan) and Dwayne Chapman (Western Michigan), DBs Shermond Dabney (Bowling Green) and Richard Bowens (Iowa State).

Making its third consecutive trip to the final, St. Mary’s is the two-time defending champion, including a 7-0 victory over Muskegon two years ago. It will look for RB Ra­Shawn Allen (239 for 1,967 yards, 22 TDs) and OL Holley, Chapman, Trey LeVasseur, Donnie Whalen and Wyatt Morris to lead the way.

Players to watch

Kalil Pimpleton, Muskegon: One of the most exciting players in the state, he used his speed (4.4 40) and strength (benches 300, squats 450) to rush for 1,400 yards and 21 TDs and throw for more than 700 yards.

RaShawn Allen, St. Mary’s: A 5-9, 205-pound three-star junior running back, he is closing in on 2,000 yards rushing. He gets a lot of yards after first contact, showing his power.

Muskegon wins if ...

The Division 1 players, including multiple Power Five Conference commits led by Pimpleton, can make things happen. Muskegon has big-play ability with 6-2 receiver Jacory Sullivan.

St. Mary’s wins if ...

The offense continues its blitz of 45.5 points in four games. Coach George Porritt loves controlling the ball and he has an offense which can do that with a smash-mouth, physical running back in Allen and a talented line he can run behind.

Prediction: Muskegon 21-17


Detroit Country Day (13-0) vs. Grand Rapids C.C. (12-1)

Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. Friday

How did they make it here?

Country Day

Country Day showed its high-powered offense to start the postseason against Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook and Marysville before challenges from Corunna and River Rouge.

Country Day is in search of its first state title since it won the Division 5 championship in 1999. It lost Division 4 title games in 2007, ’08 and ’12. The defense has dominated, limiting opponents to nine points behind junior LB Kolin Demens (15 tackles for loss) and senior DBs Chris Bergin and Steve Mann.

Jalen Graham has played well at quarterback and Mann has made things happen in the wildcat formation.

Catholic Central

C.C. cruised back to Ford Field for the first time since 2010 (it won the Division 4 title), allowing 10 points — shutouts of Wyoming Godwin Heights and Escanaba and victories over Allendale and Hudsonville Unity Christian.

Three-star, 6-5, 250-pound senior DL Jalen Mayfield and senior S Michael Brown (seven INTs) lead the defense, and C.C. has multiple weapons on offense in 6-1, 210-pound junior RB Nolan Fugate, senior WR/CB Antonio Strong and QB Jack Bowen.

Players to watch

Kolin Demens, Country Day: A 6-1, 210-pound junior, he can make things happen on both sides — he has been in on 63 tackles from his linebacker spot, including 15 for loss, and is a physical running back.

Antonio Strong, C.C.: At 6-1 and 175 pounds, he has great speed and is a factor in all three phases. Strong has six INTs from his defensive back spot, 1,600 all-purpose yards, nearly 800 receiving yards, and has an impact on kick returns.

Country Day wins if ...

The playmakers like Demens, Bergin and Mann make big plays. Mann, a starter at quarterback as a sophomore and junior, has played receiver and makes things happen out of the wildcat.

C.C. wins if ...

The defense makes it tough for Country Day and it gets scores from playmakers in Strong and Fugate. C.C. also has a weapon in K Josh Steffes.

Prediction: C.C. 27-20


Menominee (12-1) vs. Grand Rapids West Catholic (11-2)

Kickoff: 4:30 p.m. Saturday

How did they make it here?


Menominee put big numbers on Kalkaska, Grayling and Reed City before a challenge from Frankenmuth.

RB Keifer Rasner (1,350 yards) was named Great Northern Conference offensive player of the year, running behind a line anchored by Blake Borski and Brayden Wickstrom.

Tanner Mathias anchors the defensive line.

West Catholic

West Catholic makes its fifth straight trip to the the finals, looking for title No. 4, although it’s had a tough road with challenges from Lansing Catholic and Portland before a rout of Berrien Springs and a shutout of Algonac for its 19th consecutive postseason win.

West Catholic allows an average of 10 points and forced seven Berrien Springs turnovers.

The offense is run by QB Gaetano Vallone, who has big threat WR Sam Neville to work with.

Players to watch

Keifer Rasner, Menominee: A 5-10, 190-pound running back, he showcased his talent with a 365-yard rushing effort against Marquette during the regular season. Rasner, however, also can make a difference at quarterback (12-for-18 for 154 yards and two TDs against Kalkaska).

David Fox, West Catholic: He had 152 yards and three TDS in last year’s final against River Rouge. Fox has accounted for more than 2,000 all-purpose yards, throwing for 1,250 yards and 17 TDs before Vallone took over. Fox also has rushed for nearly 700 yards.

Menominee wins if ...

Its defense and Rasner step up. It also will have to play mistake-free ball and force multiple turnovers.

West Catholic wins if ...

It plays as it has against Menominee — it has won the last six in the series during the postseason.

Prediction: West Catholic 26-14


Maple City Glen Lake (11-2) vs. Jackson Lumen Christi (11-2)

Kickoff: 4:30 p.m. Friday

How did they make it here?

Glen Lake

One shutout and some routs, including Roscommon, Ravenna and Leroy Pine River.

Junior QB Cade Peterson has 2,000-plus yards and 20 TDs, and RBs Nick Apsey and Peter Macke each average 9.5 yards per carry.

Glen Lake’s defense, led by 6-1, 230-pound LB Duke Angers (125 tackles, 24 tackles for loss), limited Pine River to 137 yards offense.

Lumen Christi

Lumen Christi cruised past Watervliet, Napoleon and Millington, but needed overtime to win the district title over Schoolcraft.

Lumen Christi showcases an outstanding running back in senior Bo Bell (2,428 yards, school-record 33 TDs) and QB Troy Kutcha (1,400 yards). WR Jacob Lathers (31 receptions, 593 yards) is Kutcha’s main threat.

Players to watch

Cade Peterson, Glen Lake: He displayed all the traits of a solid dual-threat quarterback, throwing for 2,000-plus yards and 20 TDs while rushing for more than 600 yards and seven scores.

Bo Bell, Lumen Christi: He made sure Lumen Christi got the chance to make its first trip to Ford Field since its last title run in 2009, rushing for 228 yards (28 carries) and three TDs against Millington.

Glen Lake wins if ...

Its balanced attack with dual-threat QB Peterson can make big plays. Glen Lake will have a better chance of pulling out the win by forcing an early turnover.

Lumen Christi wins if ...

Its balanced offensive attack shines and Kutcha steps up if the Glen Lake defense focuses on Bell. Lumen Christi’s defense has allowed 13 points the last two games.

Prediction: Lumen Christi 22-20


Detroit Loyola (11-2) vs. Pewamo-Westphalia (13-0)

Kickoff: 10 a.m. Saturday

How did they make it here?


Loyola dominated on its road to Ford Field, defeating Madison Heights Madison, Grosse Pointe Liggett, Hudson and Cassopolis.

It, however, will be without RBs D’Anthony Robinson (knee) and Malcolm Mayes (leg).

Senior QB Price Watkins (700 yards passing, 700 yards rushing) has WR Hunter Harris (6-3, 205) to work with.


Pewamo-Westphalia cruised past Hesperia before tests from Saugatuck, Traverse City St. Francis and Ubly.

It relies on 6-1, 205-pound senior RB Jared Smith (8,000-plus career yards) behind a line anchored by Dominic Spitzley.

LBs Devon Pung and Nathan Smith have combined for 50 tackles for loss, and S Mason Schneider has eight INTs.

Players to watch

Hunter Harris, Loyola: He’s averaging nearly 20 yards a reception, and with Robinson and Mayes out, the passing game is critical.

Jared Smith, Pewamo-Westphalia: He has rushed for 2,528 yards and 38 TDs after setting state season records for rushing yards (3,250) and TDs (53) last year. A physical back, Smith needs 292 yards to become the state’s career rushing leader.

Loyola wins if ...

LB Kailen Abrams and the defense force turnovers, especially with the running game in limbo.

Pewamo-Westphalia wins if ...

Smith, a physical, durable back, breaks some big runs and the defense pressures Watkins.

Prediction: Pewamo-Westphalia 21-16


Muskegon C.C. (13-0) vs. Ottawa Lake Whiteford (13-0)

Kickoff: 10 a.m. Friday

How did they make it here?

Muskegon C.C.

C.C. has allowed seven points (Mt. Pleasant Sacred Heart) followed by routs of Beal City, Frankfort and St. Ignace. The defense, behind LB Andrew Schulte, has allowed 18 points all season.

The C.C. offense is averaging 45 points during the postseason, with Walker Christoffersen rushing for 204 yards and three TDs in the semifinals and QBs Trenton Bordeaux and Cameron Martinez combining to go 60-for-75 for 1,099 yards and 16 TDs.


Whiteford has scored 38 or more each game, rolling over Petersburg-Summerfield, Morenci, Climax-Scotts and Saginaw Michigan Lutheran.

Whiteford has 4,000-plus rushing yards, led by senior RB Jesse Kiefer (1,239 yards, 30 TDs) and QB Thomas Eitniear, who has thrown for more than 1,000 yards and rushed for 800-plus.

Players to watch

Walker Christoffersen, C.C.: A 5-9, 180-pound senior, he has averaged more than 8 yards a carry and comes up big in key games (204 yards in the semifinals).

Jesse Kiefer, Whiteford: A 5-8, 165-pound senior, he has 1,000-plus yards this season and a Monroe County career-record 76 TDs. Kiefer also has more than 20 receptions.

C.C. wins if ...

It continues to dominate on both sides. The three-time defending champion has outscored the opposition, 389-20, during the opening half.

Whiteford wins if ...

It jumps on C.C. early. Whiteford has a player (Kiefer) who can break loose for a long run, and that’s what needs to happen.

Prediction: C.C. 31-14