D7 final: Pewamo-Westphalia, Lehman have encore title outing
Detroit —When Jimmy Lehman was in seventh grade, he wanted to play football. His parents said no, you're too small, you'll get hurt, yada,yada,yada.
And so, by the time grade rolled around, Lehman had a plan. He refused to sign up for basketball until mom and dad relented.
"Yeah, because basketball is huge in our family. We all love some hoops, and I did say that," Lehman said. "I think they were going to let me play any way, but I wanted to make sure. Being the little knucklehead that I was, I thought I had some sway if I said that."
Good move, kid.
Five years later, Lehman, the shaggy-haired quarterback for Pewamo-Westphalia, is a two-time state champion, having capped off his high-school career with a 21-0 victory over Saugatuck in the Division 7 championship game Saturday at Ford Field.
Lehman rushed for 91 yards on 17 carries and while he didn't throw much, he made some big completions as Pewamo-Westphalia (13-1) took control with a dominating opening drive on offense, took advantage of some turnovers and never really let Saugatuck (10-4) into the game.
Interestingly, ironically, whatever you want to call it, Lehman played only one snap in the second half after fracturing his left hand in the first.
"Karma," Lehman said, with a laugh, thinking back to that middle-school protest. "They didn't want me to play football. They didn't want me to get hurt. They knew I wasn't done growing. I have a brother who's 6-7, another who's 6-5.
"It was probably a good thing, but I was really mad at the time. I was obviously not mature enough."
Pewamo-Westphalia repeated as Division 7 state champion, winning its last 13 games of the season (one by forfeit) after a season-opening, 28-21 loss to Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central.
That was the first game Pewamo-Westphalia, just outside Lansing, had lost since 2015.
Pewamo-Westphalia might've gone into this season all fat and sassy —"We thought we were all that," Lehman said —and got punched in the mouth right out of the gates in 2017.
Coach Jeremy Miller said the team showed up the next Monday for practice motivated, worked harder, and went on one heck of a run to close the season, on Saturday recording its sixth shutout of the season, not including the one forfeit.
"It was like it never happened," Miller said of that opening loss.
For the third time in four years, Pewamo-Westphalia ended Saugatuck's season; Saugatuck lost to Pewamo-Westphalia in district play in 2013, '15 and '16.
The tone was seat early, on a 12-play, 65-yard drive that ended up with a 5-yard touchdown run by senior Bryce Thelen. Lehman carried eight times on the drive and Thelen four times.
Then, on Saugatuck's opening possession, a botched handoff led to a lost fumble, recovered by senior Damon Schneider, setting Pewamo-Westphalia up just outside the red zone.
Five plays later, Pewamo-Westphalia was up 14-0 on a 12-yard run right up the middle by Lehman, who carried several Saugatuck defenders with him.
It never was much of a game after that, just nine-and-a-half minutes into the first quarter, even if Saugatuck's defense played admirably in a second-half shutout.
"We gave them a fight in the second half, as best we could," Saugatuck coach Bill Dunn said. "We had a great season."
Said Saugatuck senior offensive lineman/linebacker Reece Schreckengust: "It sucks to lose, but to go out at Ford Field is probably the second-best."
At one point late in the first half, Saugatuck had just 3 total yards of offense. It ended the opening half with 29 yards, and gave up 145 — a victim of bruising line play by Pewamo-Westphalia. Many of the linemen play both ways.
Thelen finished the game with 97 yards on 14 carries, and sophomore Hunter Wirth had 72 yards on six carries for Pewamo-Westphalia.
Juniors Jacob Stewart (43 yards, nine carries) and Connor Carper (35 yards, seven carries) led Saugatuck.
Lehman injured his left wrist late in the opening half, feeling a pop and telling Miller they would have to ditch the shotgun. He then quickly followed that with a 40-yard completion to senior Brayden Platte down the left sideline. Three plays after that, Lehman threw a strike to senior Peyton Heckman for a touchdown and the 21-0 lead with 31 seconds left.
Lehman didn't return to start the second half, and that gave Saugatuck a little opening — especially when it was on offense. Without Lehman's defensive-end services, finally got moving down the field impressively early in the third quarter.
But in the red zone, senior quarterback Jackson Shriver was picked off by sophomore Jacob Pung at the 11-yard line.
"That was huge," Miller said.
Lehman eventually returned for one play on offense, with his left wrist heavily taped, as Saugatuck's defense held serve.
Then, back on offense, Saugatuck, making its first-ever appearance in the Division 7 finale, drove 76 yards in the fourth quarter, but came up empty on points. Having to go for it on fourth down, Shriver was sacked for a loss of 16, by Schneider and junior Noah Spitzley. And that was that.
Spitzley, by the way, was Lehman's replacement on defense.
Lehman said afterward the left, non-throwing hand "felt great," though it only felt great because he got to lift the championship trophy with it. He was likely headed to the hospital afterward to get some tests. And then what?
"I've got basketball on Monday," Lehman said.