Hazel Park — The defense shined for Warren De La Salle in Saturday afternoon’s Division 2 state semifinal, as it shut out Birmingham Groves, 28-0, to advance to next week's state final.
Groves (10-3) was held under 100 yards of total offense as De La Salle (11-2) swallowed up Groves’ run game and picked off two passes to lead the defending Division 2 state champions back to Ford Field.
“It’s unbelievable,” De La Salle coach Mike Giannone said. “I can’t describe it. It’s a feeling that you only know, you only feel, when you’re out there every day working from January to this time.”
De La Salle will face Muskegon Mona Shores (12-1) at 1 p.m. Friday for a chance at a second consecutive state title, a run that quarterback Nolan Schultz was prepared for.
“We’re ready as ever, and we’re ready to win,” Schultz said. “We’re gonna be prepared just like we were this week, and we’re gonna show it to them.”
Schultz kicked the tires of the De La Salle offense after a slow start through most of the first half. He capped off a 37-yard touchdown drive with a one-yard dive into the endzone to take a 7-0 lead into halftime.
On the first play from scrimmage of the second half, Schultz bolted around the outside for 64 yards on a keeper that he claims was a busted play.
“I was supposed to give it to the running back, but I kind of just forgot,” he said. “Then I took it outside and it was open. When I got up everyone was like, ‘What was that?’”
The run set up a 3-yard rushing score for running back Evan Vaillancourt.
Groves coach Brendan Flaherty said Schultz’s play stunted any momentum his team looked to build in the second half.
“I thought that we gotta get some momentum,” Flaherty said. “But that big play at the start of the second half, that really kind of put us up against it. We were starting in a hole. It was just tough to get going.”
De La Salle’s secondary kept Groves from opening up the field with play-action passes, picking off quarterback Markis Alexander twice.
Joshua DeBerry set the offense up with an interception deep in the Groves territory. Vaillancourt muscled his way into the end zone for his second touchdown of the game.
Senior captain Jacob Dobbs picked off Alexander’s very next pass and returned it 35 yards for the final score of the game.
Madison Heights Madison 37, Cassopolis 34: Austin Brown rushed for 135 yards and four touchdowns, and completed a 44-yard pass to Isiah Pollard for another score. Brown threw for 267 yards for Madison (13-0), which will face New Lothrop in the final.
Jack VanAssche is a freelance writer. Detroit News staff contributed.