John Herrington was getting tired of all the talk being all about him earlier in the season when he became the state’s all-time winningest coach.
Herrington wanted the talk to be about his Farmington Hills Harrison football team, how talented his players were and the possibility of making a deep playoff run if they played up to their potential.
Well, now all the talk is about Harrison — which will close its doors following the end of the 2019 school year — which is just one win away from making its first trip to Ford Field to compete in a state championship game since 2010 when the Hawks defeated Lowell in the Division 2 title game.
Harrison (9-3) defeated Linden 34-21 Friday night and will play Riverview (11-1) and its Wing-T offense in a Division 3 semifinal Saturday at Rochester with the winner moving on to Ford Field Nov. 24 to face the winner between No. 2 Muskegon (12-0) and Battle Creek Harper Creek (12-0) at East Kentwood.
Harrison will be making its first trip to the semifinals since suffering a 25-24 loss to Muskegon Mona Shores three years ago.
“It was awesome, Linden was a really good team passing the ball and it was tight for a while before Rod Heard kind of took over and ran through them and scored some touchdowns,” said Herrington, who has a 434-107-1 record in his 48 seasons at Harrison with a record 13 state titles in 17 championship game appearances. “We played very well on offense most of the game. (Quarterback Noah Hendricks) made two really good plays, big plays. He tweaked his ankle a little bit so he wasn’t as effective in the second half, but he came back and played, and Rod Heard kind of took over the running game, Divine Filemu too, and we controlled the ball at the end.”
Harrison has an outstanding running back in Roderick Heard who has 1,331 yards (191 carries) and 22 TDs, including 233 yards on 27 carries and three TDs in the win over Linden.
“You know he wasn’t even our running back the first game against East Grand Rapids (33-8 loss),” said Herrington of Heard. “He took over in the second game and he’s just gotten better and better every week. He just explodes through the hole and now he’s running with power too. Everybody’s recruiting him as a defensive back, but he’s playing great on offense.”
Heard has offers from Purdue, Temple and Bowling Green.
And, senior quarterback Noah Hendricks can make enough throws to keep opponents honest so they won’t load the box to stop Heard.
Hendricks threw a 24-yard TD pass to Notre Dame-bound linebacker Ovie Oghoufo to give Harrison a 14-7 lead late in the first quarter.
“Ovie made a great play, jumped up over the guy and high-pointed the ball in the end zone and he’s doing a good job at linebacker,” said Herrington.
Hendricks would suffer an ankle injury later in the first half, but returned in the second half and is expected to play against Riverview, a 36-31 winner over Michigan State-bound quarterback Theo Day and Dearborn Divine Child.
West Bloomfield gets Cass
West Bloomfield is filling up its trophy case this fall, putting in district and regional championship trophies for the first time in program history.
And, the regional title was far from easy with Bryce Veasley scoring on a 3-yard TD run with 55 seconds left to help West Bloomfield pull out a 28-25 victory at No. 3 Utica Eisenhower.
Veasley connected on 6-of-7 passes on the winning 80-yard drive which started with 2:10 left after Eisenhower missed a field goal. He completed 23-of-37 for 322 yards and a TD, along with two rushing TDs.
Yes, West Bloomfield is living up to its preseason billing when it was ranked No. 4 in The News’ Super 20 poll before suffering losses to Walled Lake Western and Bloomfield Hills.
Now, West Bloomfield (10-2) has a Division 1 state semifinal showdown with defending state champion Detroit Cass Tech (9-2) Saturday afternoon at Troy Athens.
The winner advances to Ford Field to face the Clarkston (10-2)-Detroit Catholic Central (8-4) winner on Nov. 25.
“It’s been a crazy season, going from 0-and-2 to win 10 straight and now we’re getting ready for this biggest challenge of the year, going up against Cass Tech,” West Bloomfield coach Ron Bellamy said. “We’ve told the kids to be the best you’ve got to beat the best.
“The kids have taken this (journey) one game at a time and they’ve kind of embraced this experience because we’ve never been here before. They’re enjoying the ride. There’s no pressure on us.
“You know how sometimes when you make a run you have to have a game where you need to have a couple of plays go your way, well we got them (against Eisenhower). They had second and goal at the 3 and they were up by 3 and had they scored a touchdown they’d have a double digit lead with two minutes left. They ran a reverse, I think they were going to try and pass the ball, and the kid lost seven yards and he ran out of bounds to allow us to keep a timeout. We held them, they attempted a field goal and missed it, giving us the ball at the 20.”
Bellamy had high praise for Veasley.
“He just picked their defense apart, it was surgical,” pointed out Bellamy of Veasley. “He did a great job of taking what they gave him and engineered the drive and on that last play he said, ‘I want the ball in my hands.’
“He’s playing like a veteran quarterback. He’s not making many mistakes. He knows where to go with the football.”
Veasley has completed 62 percent of his passes for 3,270 yards and 26 TDs with Wisconsin-bound receivers A.J. Abbott and Taj Mustapha his top weapons.
Oh, and don’t forget Tre Mosley, who had six receptions for 145 yards and two TDs.
Clarkston pulled off one of the top comebacks of the regionals, entering the fourth quarter with a 22-6 deficit to Holland West Ottawa before scoring three TDs the rest of the way to pull out a 29-22 victory.
Joshua Cantu was the workhorse for Clarkston, rushing for 193 yards on 33 carries and scoring four TDs, including two within 81 seconds to knot the game at 22 before his 29-yard TD run with three minutes left for a 29-22 lead.
Clarkston won consecutive Division 1 state championships in 2013 and ’14 and won its first regional title since that ’14 season.
Livonia Franklin moves on
Detroit King is the king of Division 2, winning the state championship the last two years and the frontrunner to bring home the ultimate trophy again following its 55-14 win over Ypsilanti Lincoln.
But, what about Livonia Franklin?
Franklin (10-2) is now a perennial power, advancing to its second semifinal in the past three years following its 31-29 comeback win over Flushing.
And, Franklin is winning close games too, upsetting defending state finalist Walled Lake Western (35-28) in a pre-district game before defeating crosstown rival Livonia Churchill (21-19) in the district title game.
Down 1 with under two minutes left, sophomore quarterback Jacob Kelbert — son of head coach Chris Kelbert — broke loose for a 55-yard run to the Flushing 15 to set up Brad Gibson’s winning 27-yard field goal with 14 seconds left to set up a semifinal meeting with unbeaten Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central at Grand Ledge. Gibson also had an interception in the game.
No. 4 King, the PSL champions, will play No. 7 Warren De La Salle, the Catholic League champs, in the other semifinal at Hazel Park.