Oak Park — The rain was swirling, the wind was getting cold. Joshua DeBerry and his Warren De La Salle teammates feel like its their time of year.
De La Salle pounded the ball on the ground and its defense shut down a potent Oak Park offense on Friday, as the defending Division 2 state champions earned a 35-7 district final victory.
“When it’s bad weather, we like our chances better,” said DeBerry, a cornerback and wide receiver. “We had the best week of practice we had all year. We were focused and we knew that this was the big game. We came out and executed well and it showed up on the scoreboard.”
De La Salle (9-2) rushed for 212 yards on 48 attempts behind the offensive line of Grant Toutant, Adam Zepp, Scott Roskopp, Dino Bucci III and Christopher Cominos.
De La Salle lost starting quarterback Anthony Stepnitz and also is without feature back Gino Pelione for the playoff run, but weathered the losses and elements for a dominating win.
“Mental toughness, endurance, it’s what it’s all about,” De La Salle coach Mike Giannone said. “That’s the way it’s always been in the playoffs and throughout the year. Kids just have next man up mentality. I know it’s cliche, but they want their opportunity as much as anybody else.
“I think when they get it, they did some really nice things with it.”
The defense forced four turnovers by Oak Park (9-2), as Ohio State-bound quarterback Dwan Mathis threw two interceptions and fumbled twice.
“Coming in, we wanted to contain the quarterback and we did a good job on the D-line and linebackers, and they were forced to throw the ball down the field and our DBs did a good job of making plays down the field and making a couple picks,” said DeBerry, who had an interception.
Derek Roskopp also had an interception and Michael McGinnity recovered a fumble. Dylan Wilson added a fumble recovery in the end zone late to close the scoring for De La Salle.
De La Salle had two rushing touchdowns in the first half, as Evan Vaillancourt scored from 5 yards and Jordan Rogers ran in from 4 yards.
Brett Stanley had two touchdowns after halftime to secure the win. Stanley, a sophomore, had 58 yards on eight carries to lead De La Salle’s balanced ground game, managed safely by quarterback Nolan Schultz.
Mathis finally got Oak Park on the scoreboard with a 70-yard pass to junior Maliq Carr to close the scoring. Carr reportedly also received an offer from Ohio State this week.
Before the touchdown, its final offensive play, Oak Park had gained just 43 yards of total offense.
It’s the second straight Oak Park season that ended with a playoff loss to De La Salle, as the De La Salle topped Oak Park 14-7 last year.
More Division 2
Allen Park 28, Trenton 22: Running back Nico Tiberia had 34 carries for 125 yards and two TDs and Mateo Balderas was 13-of-17 passing for 151 yards and two TDs for Allen Park (9-3). Trenton finishes the season 7-4.
Clinton Township Chippewa Valley 51, Macomb Dakota 10: Andre Chenault had 19 carries for 227 yards and five touchdowns, David Ellis had two rushing touchdowns, and Courtney McGarity had seven tackles and one tackle for loss for Chippewa Valley (11-0). Dakota (8-3) was held to 212 yards of offense.
Farmington 34, South Lyon East 3: Kendall Williams broke the school record for rushing yards with 238 on 21 carries and had three touchdowns, and Anthony Reaves went 6-for-7 passing for 112 yards and one score for Farmington (8-3). East finishes 6-5.
Detroit Denby 28, Ida 22: T’Shawn Wilkes had 212 yards rushing on 23 carries and two touchdowns; Taivyon Buck had 73 rushing yards, one rushing touchdown, 70 yards passing and one passing touchdown; and Malik Gaines had 51 yards receiving, one touchdown and an interception returned for 60 yards for Denby (9-2). Ida is 8-3.
Matt Schoch is a freelance writer