Canton — Two heavyweight powers took the field to open the state football playoffs Friday night and No. 14 Canton came away with a dominating 42-14 victory over No. 15 Saline in a Division 1 pre-district game.
The teams are used to playing each other in the postseason. with Saline (7-2) winning two of the previous three years, including 37-31 last season.
Canton (9-1) jumped out to a 13-0 lead four minutes into the game, then recovered a pair of fumbles to start the second half, scoring touchdowns off both to open up a 34-7 cushion midway through the third quarter.
Canton put the running clock into play with 9:56 left when senior quarterback Connor Engel scored on a 10-yard TD run, then found Noah Brown for the 2-point conversion for a 35-point lead, 42-7.
After Engel’s TD run, Canton held a 394-139 advantage in total yards, piling up 300 on the ground. Steven Walker finished with 170 yards on 16 carries and Colin Troup 115 yards on 21.
It was Troup who scored the two early TDs in the second half, scoring on a 16-yard run on a third-and-3, then scoring on a 1-yard run on a fourth-down play after Canton had recovered an onside kick at the Saline 35.
“I would have never had those two touchdowns (to start the second half) if it wasn’t for my offensive line,” Troup said. “It was a huge momentum boost, and when we recovered that first fumble I really think we wanted to step on the jugular like Coach B (head coach Tim Baechler) has expressed. And that’s what we did.”
Things couldn’t have started for better Canton, when Walker broke loose for a 76-yard TD run on the second play from scrimmage for a 7-0 lead.
Saline senior Cole Daniels wasn’t about to let the rainy conditions prevent him from throwing the ball. But Canton’s Noah Brown pressured Daniels and linebacker Lou Baechler intercepted his pass and returned it 45 yards for a TD and 13-0 lead less than four minutes in.
“The ball was thrown right to me and my defense did a heck of a job blocking for me,” said Baechler, son of Canton’s longtime head coach.
Daniels brought Saline back, pump faking left, then finding Andrew Diuble over the middle for a 32-yard TD pass to cut the deficit to 13-7 with 1:59 left in the opening quarter.
Canton responded, driving 80 yards with Walker again coming up with a big run of 42 yards to set up Engel’s 21-yard TD pass to Brown for a 20-7 lead early in the second quarter.
The teams each came up with big fourth-down stops to end drives in the second.
Canton had a chance to enter the locker room with a 20-plus point lead, but Walker fumbled at the Saline 3 with six seconds left in the half. Walker’s miscue didn’t prove costly, as Canton dominated the third quarter to put the game away.
First, Canton recovered a fumble on the first play from scrimmage in the second half, with James Deese pouncing on the ball at the Saline 38.
After Troup’s 16-yard run, Canton executed the onside kick when the ball bounced off of multiple Saline players before Canton recovered at the 35 to set up another Troup TD.
“James Deese made a heck of a play, heads-up play. We knew we had to corral them because they’re a very good team on offense,” Lou Baechler said of big plays to start the second half.
Daniels threw his second touchdown pass, a 5-yard toss to Diuble, with 5:48 remaining.
More Friday games
Birmingham Brother Rice 24, Birmingham Groves 21 (3OT): Christian Hajjar hit the winning 20-yard field goal, Mariano Valenti went 22-for-37 passing with 206 yards and a touchdown plus 12 carries for 35 yards and two scores, and Matt Torey recorded eight catches for 78 yards and a touchdown for Brother Rice (7-3, 1-2 Catholic Central). Groves finished 7-3, 6-1 OAA White.
Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood 35, Madison Heights Lamphere 0: Jack Fairman had 18 carries for 131 yards and three touchdowns with two blocked punts and a forced fumble, and Murari Nelluri recorded nine rushes for 73 yards and two scores for Cranbrook (9-1, 4-0 Catholic Intersectional #1). Lamphere finished 5-5, 4-0 MAC Bronze.
Clinton Township Chippewa Valley 41, Warren Mott 7: Ja’von Kimpson seven rushes for 79 yards and had two rushing touchdowns, Tommy Schuster had a TD pass to Jacob Ribicki, and Cardell Snorton had an interception for Chippewa Valley (8-1). Warren Mott finishes 5-4.
Dearborn Divine Child 35, Detroit Cody 0: Theo Day collected 109 yards on 14 carries and Marcus Owens ran the ball 17 times for 90 yards for Divine Child (9-1, 3-0 Catholic AA). Detroit Cody finished 6-4, 2-2 in PSL Green.
Detroit King 35, Dearborn Edsel Ford 13: Jaeveyon Morton returned a punt 85 yards for a touchdown and caught a 15-yard TD pass from Dequan Finn for King (9-1). Finn also threw a TD pass to Rashawn Williams, and Jalen Jackson carried six times for 133 yards and a touchdown.
Livonia Franklin 35, Walled Lake Western 28 (OT): Isaac Moore rushed 28 times for 225 yards with two touchdowns and had three receptions for 37 yards and a touchdown, Julius Simmons had eight carries for 35 yards and two touchdowns, and Jacob Talbert was 5-for-12 passing for 93 yards and a touchdown pass for Franklin (8-2). Sam Johnson was 13-for-23 for 238 yards and a touchdown pass, Justin Thomas had six receptions for 121 yards and a touchdown and Kevin Jackson had 13 carries for 88 yards and a touchdown for Western (8-2).
Macomb Dakota 42, New Baltimore Anchor Bay 14: Ronye Walker had 160 yards receiving with two TDs, Mark Tocco recorded 164 passing yards with two scores, Dustin Solomon had two rushing touchdowns, Dawson Sloan recorded a rushing score, and DJ Stepney had a 33-yard interception return for a TD for Dakota (7-3, 2-3 MAC Red). Anchor Bay finished 6-4, and 4-1 MAC White.
Riverview 34, Trenton 7: Zach Warlick rushed for three touchdowns and 140 yards on 11 carries, Cameron Rogers had 24 touches for 183 yards and a touchdown, and Zach Guthrie had 12 carries and 125 yards for Riverview (9-1, 6-1 Huron). Trenton is 5-5, 4-5 Downriver.
Warren Michigan Collegiate 46, Detroit Henry Ford 0: Jamar Green had 116 yards rushing and two TDs, Tracy Hubbard had two rushing touchdowns, Sean Goss had eight tackles on defense and Antonio Simley had seven tackles for Warren Michigan Collegiate (10-0). Henry Ford finishes the season 6-4.
Warren Woods Tower 31, Hazel Park 0: Matt Byrd scored threeTDs, picking up 155 yards on the ground on 14 carries; Jordan Harrison carried 19 times for 136 yards and a touchdown; and Edvan Walton led Tower (8-2, 3-2 MAC Gold) with nine tackles, a fumble recovery, and a sack. Hazel Park is 6-4, 5-1 OAA Blue.
Detroit News staff contributed