Chris Westfall’s coaching career at Ypsilanti Lincoln started out tough, taking over a program which had dropped 21 consecutive games — and watching the streak reach 30 before beating Tecumseh in the 2008 opener.
There would be more losing, including the final eight games of 2008, then an 0-9 year in 2010 before Westfall guided Lincoln to its first state playoff appearance in 2011, then again in 2013 and ’14.
Still, Lincoln was without a home playoff game and a postseason victory — until Friday, when it defeated Woodhaven, 14-7, on Lincoln’s rain-soaked field.
Westfall enjoyed every minute of being out in the rain with his players, including senior quarterback Cam Thompson, who made the play of the game with a 70-yard touchdown run with seven minutes remaining to help Lincoln earn its eighth straight victory, the program’s longest winning streak since 1956.
“It felt like surviving since that field was a mud pit by the time we got to the second half,” Westfall said. “What ended up being the winning touchdown was the ball being snapped from our 30 over our quarterback’s head and Cam Thompson picked it up at the 10 and ran it all the way for a TD. You know, you get defensive linemen that start chasing the ball when it’s on the ground and they all kind of got grouped together and Cam picked it up, ran around a couple of them and all of a sudden he’s in the open field and gone.
“He’s a special kid, rushed for 1,350 yards and thrown for 900. This is his third year as a starter, but really the difference is just the maturity. He’s not turning the ball over and man, when he gets in the open field he can score from almost anywhere. He runs a high 4.5, but he’s almost quicker than he’s fast.”
Westfall said the 5-foot-9, 170-pound Thompson — who hit .400 while playing center field this past spring — could walk-on for Eastern Michigan football. Derek Thomason, a 6-0, 205-pound running back/defensive back, has rushed for 850 behind an offensive line anchored by sophomore Tate Mackenzie (6-7, 305).
Thompson has another weapon in senior receiver/defensive back Matt Moorer, who was the state champ in the 400 meters last spring and second in the 200.
Now Lincoln will play at Wyandotte — 10-0 and ranked No. 11 in The Detroit News Super 20 poll — for a Division 2 district championship Friday.
Lincoln and Wyandotte are no strangers. The teams have played three times in the playoffs, with Wyandotte winning 28-21 in 2011, 45-40 in ’13 and 27-14 in ’14.
“We’ve played them really well,” Westfall said of Lincoln’s postseason rivalry with Wyandotte. “(Wyandotte coach Ron Adams) does a great job and we’re going to have to try and find a way to beat them. We’ve got to get them eventually, right?”
A major upset
Livonia Franklin pulled off one of the biggest upsets in the opening week of the postseason, defeating No. 10 Walled Lake Western — last year’s Division 2 state runner-up — 35-28 in OT.
Franklin (8-2) advanced to the state semifinals two years ago.
When asked to compare this year’s team to the one in 2015, Franklin 17th-year coach Chris Kelbert replied: “It doesn’t compare, our dynamics are a little different. This year’s team is a very hard-working, scrappy group of kids who kind of go out and play their hearts out every night.
“Our defense has played well all season. We’ve been able to play solid defense and our offense has come along here in the second half of the season.
“We’re very young offensively so the defense has kept us in games and our offense continues to improve. We’ve had our three best offensive games the last three games."
Isaac Moore has been the catalyst during the three-game uprising on offense, helping Franklin average 35 points, including wins over Grand Blanc (35-0), Livonia Stevenson (35-21), then Walled Lake Western.
Moore scored three TDs in the win over Western, rushing for 225 yards (28 carries) and two TDs, also contributing a TD reception.
“Isaac come on the last few weeks as our offense has come on,” Kelbert said of the 5-11, 205-pound Moore, who has rushed for more than 200 yards in each of the last three games, adding that every player on the offensive line has started at their positions for the first time. “We graduated all five linemen from last year so none of our (four) seniors had played offensive line before, and we also have a sophomore, Jake Swirpel, which is really rare.”
The offensive line consists of Swirpel and seniors Jack Yardely, Marcus Martin, Riley Baty and Jacob Mass.
Kelbert is enjoying coaching his son, sophomore quarterback Jake Kelbert.
“He comes up with the big throws when we need them,” Kelbert said.
Mass, a 6-2, 220-pound senior linebacker, leads the defense. He has 95 tackles.
“Jacob Mass is probably one of the best kids I’ve ever coached here at Franklin, not just skill-wise but is also an unbelievable person, player, leader, everything,” Kelbert said of Mass, who has an offer from Lawrence Tech. “He’s a throwback, a tough physical kid who goes and plays his heart out every night.”
Franklin will play at crosstown rival Livonia Churchill (8-2) for the district championship Friday. Churchill, which defeated Franklin, 24-10, in Week 4, earned a 24-23 pre-district win over Pinckney last Friday.
“It’s a huge opponent for us and they are the last team to beat us this year, lost to them in Week No. 4,” Kelbert said.
“It will be a really exciting week for us. We got to play (Livonia) Stevenson last week to avenge our Week 1 loss and now we get to play Churchill in the playoffs to kind of correct those mistakes we made in Week 4.
“The first time we played Churchill, Isaac didn’t play and we weren’t clicking offensively. We have to take away their big plays because they came out and got a couple of big plays real quick in the first quarter, got us behind and we didn’t react well.”
No. 1 Belleville defeated Salem, 17-7, in a Division 1 pre-district game to earn its first postseason victory since 2002.
Belleville (10-0) has never won a district tile. Belleville will host No. 14 Canton, a 42-14 winner over Saline, on Friday night.
“We scrimmaged against Canton and we scored five times and they scored five times, but we didn’t stop them very good,” Belleville coach Jermain Crowell said. “We have to find a way to stop them. Hopefully the weather will be good.”
Canton has won nine straight, averaging 44 points and 393 yards on the ground. Canton already has one 1,000-yard rusher in junior Steven Walker (131-1,379 yards, 17 TDs) with Colin Troup (141-959, 12 TDs) closing in. Senior quarterback Connor Engel has completed 45 of 63 passes for 964 yards and 11 TDs.
Belleville showcases a defense that is loaded with Division I talent in the secondary, including Michigan State-bound Davion Williams, four-star junior Julian Barnett (offers from Alabama, Notre Dame, Michigan State), and Western Michigan-bound Kmare Carey and Patrick Lupro, along with 6-2, 240-pound junior linebacker Jalen Hunt.
Crowell said freshman quarterback Christian Dhue-Reid was knocked from the game in the opening half against Salem, but returned and should be ready to play. Captain and middle linebacker Patrick Burrage could miss the game after being thrown out for fighting.
This and that
In another big upset, Cedar Springs (7-3) defeated previously unbeaten and No. 5-ranked East Grand Rapids, 41-40, in Division 3. John Todd rushed for 113 yards and a TD to help Cedar Springs score 27 first-quarter points against an East Grand Rapids defense which had allowed an average of just 7.7 points during the regular-season.
East Grand Rapids pulled within 41-40 with 7:18 left on Mike Malewitz’s 25-yard TD pass to Ben Forstner, but failed to convert the conversion.
… Lowell, which advanced to the Division 2 state-championship game in 2015 and made last year’s semifinals, lost to Flushing, 20-14, for its earliest postseason exit since 1999.