Belleville — The stars came out on Friday night to lead Belleville to a 29-26 win over Dearborn Fordson in a showdown between unbeaten teams for first place in the Kensington Lakes Activities Association East Division.
Michigan State-bound receiver Julian Barnett had touchdown receptions of 48 and five yards and junior cornerback Andre Seldon, a Michigan commit, had a pair of long kickoff returns to set up scores in the second half.
But it was sophomore quarterback Christian Dhue-Reid who was the star of stars for Belleville (6-0, 5-0).
Dhue-Reid threw for 153 yards and three touchdowns, and scored on a 7-yard touchdown run on a third-and-6 play with 7:38 remaining for a 27-26 lead before finding Deon Selma for a 2-point conversion.
“The kid is just growing. His confidence is growing," Belleville coach Jermain Crowell said of Dhue-Reid. "I love the call on the quarterback counter (for winning TD). People don’t expect that he can run when he actually can since he’s a decent athlete.”
Belleville held on when Fordson (5-1, 4-1) advanced to the Belleville 5 in the final minutes, but failed to make a 22-yard field goal from the right hash mark in wet conditions. Ali Saad had made field goals from 25 and 31 yards before the rain came.
Belleville — ranked No. 8 in The News' Super 20 poll — was forced to battle back from 10-point deficits — 10-0 and 17-7 — in the second quarter, and Dhue-Reid would make sure he led the way.
First, Dhue-Reid found Barnett, who eluded his defender down the right sideline for a 48-yard touchdown to pull Belleville within 10-7 with 8:11 left in the half.
“Julian is a playmaker on both offense and defense," Crowell said. "We wanted to focus a little bit more on getting him the ball since Jalen Williams was down, was hurt so Julian had to pick up the slack.”
Fordson's Abraham Jaafar (18 carries, 179 yards, two TDs) broke loose for his second scoring run, this one on a 80-yard run 16 seconds after Barnett’s grab for a 17-7 cushion.
After failing to take advantage of a short field at the Fordson 29 following a short punt, Dhue-Reid made sure Belleville did the next series that started at the Fordson 45. He hit Deion Burks for an 18-yard touchdown toss on a third-and-8 play with 2:06 left in the half.
Belleville could have taken the lead at halftime after Michael Jenkins Jr. recovered a squib kick at the Fordson 38 with 15.7 seconds left, but a holding call wiped out a long run by Dhue-Reid to end the threat.
Belleville owned great field position for much of the first half, opening the game at midfield after a long kickoff return was called back over a penalty. Belleville advanced to the Fordson 28, but Dhue-Reid was sacked by Ali Thani at the 33 on fourth down.
Fordson dominated the line of scrimmage on its first series, advancing to the Belleville 3 before a penalty pushed it back, forcing a 25-yard field goal by Saad to end the 15-play drive that lasted more than nine minutes.
Belleville then fumbled the ensuing kickoff and Fordson’s Fred Kenyon recovered at the Belleville 31.
Fordson capitalized on the turnover when Jaafar rushed for 15 yards on third-and-2, then scored on a 9-yard run on the next play for the 10-0 lead.
“We knew this was going to be big as far as playing for the league championship. Whoever won the game was going to take control of it (East Division)," Crowell said. "We still have some business to take care of the next two weeks, but it was big for the program.”