Friday’s football finals: Scouting reports, predictions, more
David Goricki of The Detroit News breaks down Friday's football state championship games in Divisions 2, 4, 6 and 8.
No. 7 Muskegon Mona Shores (12-1) vs. No. 15 Warren De La Salle (11-2), Friday, 1 p.m.
Road to the finals
Mona Shores suffered a big blow before the season even started when standout receiver and Western Michigan commit Damari Roberson had an ACL injury. Still, Mona Shores had multiple impact players, including running back/linebacker Sincere Dent (1,300 yards, 25 TDs), running back Ke’Sean Sandifer, receiver James Gilbert and quarterback Caden Broersma (73 percent completion, 1,910 yards, 19 TDs, 1 INT).
Mona Shores has displayed its explosive offense during the postseason, averaging 48 points during the four games, including a 58-28 win over Portage Northern in the regional final, followed by a 49-28 victory over Midland in the semifinals.
De La Salle has won with outstanding defense, limiting its four postseason opponents to a total of 20 points, dominating Ohio State-bound quarterback Dwan Mathis and Oak Park (35-7) in a district final before a 21-3 regional final win over Port Huron Northern and a 28-0 blanking of Birmingham Groves in the semifinals, allowing less than 100 yards of total offense.
De La Salle’s defense is led by senior defensive back Josh DeBerry and senior linebacker Jacob Dobbs. DeBerry and Dobbs each had an interception against Groves with Dobbs returning his 35 yards for a TD.
Coach Mike Giannone had to be pleased to have Nolan Schultz back at quarterback in the semifinals after he missed the second half of the regional final game due to a shoulder injury.
Players to watch
James Gilbert, WR, Mona Shores: Gilbert has been a big-play man for Mona Shores all season. He is Broersma’s primary receiver with more than 60 receptions and 1,500 yards with 15 TDs, grabbing TD tosses of 60, 50 and 26 yards in a 49-28 state semifinal win over Midland.
Josh DeBerry, WR, Warren De La Salle: DeBerry has gotten things done on both sides of the ball at a high level, coming up with more than 700 receiving yards and nine TDs, and has five interceptions. When Schultz went down because of a shoulder injury in the first half of the regional final, DeBerry came in and operated De La Salle’s offense out of the wildcat formation.
Why Mona Shores can win: Mona Shores has a balanced offense. Junior Caden Broersma is big and strong (6-3, 205) and has been accurate in the passing game. He has a pair of backs in Sincere Dent and Ke’Sean Sandifer and one of the top receivers in the state in James Gilbert.
Why De La Salle can win: De La Salle’s defense has been outstanding, limiting opponents to an average of 8.7 points and 164 total yards this season, forcing 24 turnovers, including 13 interceptions, led by DeBerry. Coach Mike Giannone knows how to finish the job, winning consecutive Division 1 state titles in 2006 and 2007 while at Macomb Dakota and a third at De La Salle last season.
Prediction: This is a rematch of the 2014 Division 2 state championship game won by De La Salle, 44-8, when Mona Shores standout quarterback Tyree Jackson — now quarterback at Buffalo in the Mid-American Conference — couldn’t play due to an injury. Mona Shores coach Matt Koziak does have his quarterback, Broersma, healthy this time around, but still Gilbert will have to go up against DeBerry. De La Salle, 17-14
Edwardsburg (13-0) vs. Chelsea (10-3), Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Road to the finals
dwardsburg advanced to the title game by dethroning two-time state champion Grand Rapids Catholic Central, 46-44, in overtime in the semifinals to avenge last year’s 42-34 loss in the championship game.
Edwardsburg had won with defense … well, at least heading into the semifinal game, allowing 87 points in its first 12 games. There was no doubt Edwardsburg could get the ball in the end zone, averaging 52 points and 375 yards on the ground, earning district wins over Plainwell (45-0) and Paw Paw (49-10) and a 56-21 regional final victory over Holland Christian.
Chelsea pulled off a dramatic 21-14 upset win at Farmington Hills Harrison, scoring a pair of TDs during the final three minutes of the regional championship game. Chelsea used that momentum to dominate Williamston, 38-13, in the state semifinals. It earned district wins over Grosse Ile (28-21) and Milan (35-14).
While Edwardsburg moves the ball on the ground, Chelsea gets things rolling through the air, led by Quinn Starkey, who has thrown for nearly 2,300 yards and 25 TDs. Receiver Hunter Neff is Starkey’s primary receiver with 1,100 receiving yards and 16 TDs.
Players to watch
Caden Goggins, RB, Edwardsburg: Goggins, a 5-8, 155-pound senior, has the ability to hit the home run, rushing for 1,300 yards and 24 TDs, averaging more than 12 yards a carry. He was the hero in the state semifinal win, scoring on long runs of 37, 48 and 55 yards.
Hunter Neff, WR, Chelsea: Neff uses his tremendous size (6-4, 210) to go up and get the ball in Chelsea’s passing offense. He has nearly 70 receptions for more than 1,100 yards and 16 TDs. Neff has also played defensive back since the playoffs, getting two interceptions in the state semifinal win.
Why Edwardsburg can win: Edwardsburg has valuable experience of playing at Ford Field before, and playing competitively in last year’s loss to Grand Rapids Catholic Central. Edwardsburg has the ability to control the ball with its running attack, led by Goggins. Edwardsburg also has displayed the ability to force turnovers (27), owning a plus-21 margin in the all-important turnover battle.
Why Chelsea can win: Chelsea has enjoyed the role of underdog, playing with a chip on their shoulder all the way to Ford Field. Josh Lucas has done an excellent job in his first year as head coach, and playing against larger schools in the SEC White Division has helped to prepare his team for the postseason. Lucas replaced Brad Bush, who guided Chelsea to the Division 3 state championship game in 2015, a loss to Orchard Lake St. Mary’s. While Starkey and Neff have enjoyed strong senior seasons, sophomore defensive back Joe Taylor (seven interceptions) and 6-5, 210-pound senior tight end Nick Christian have also had very good seasons, with Christian grabbing two TD passes in the semifinal.
Prediction: Edwardsburg has to be considered the big favorite since it enters unbeaten with big-game experience, knowing what it’s like to play on the big stage of Ford Field. Still, Chelsea is having a magical run, ending Harrison’s program with the dramatic upset win by taking advantage of a late turnover, then forcing six turnovers in the state semifinal win. Chelsea 31, Edwardsburg 28
Jackson Lumen Christi (12-0) vs. Montague (11-2), Friday, 4:30 p.m.
Road to the finals
Lumen Christi, the two-time defending state champs, knew it was primed for another outstanding season when it opened the season with a 34-12 win over defending five-time Division 5 state champion Grand Rapids West Catholic.
Lumen Christi didn’t slip the rest of the regular season, giving up a total of 30 points while posting three shutouts. Lumen Christi opened up the postseason with district victories over Napoleon (52-30) and Michigan Center (41-14), followed by a 33-0 regional final shutout over Blissfield and a 42-20 state semifinal win over Montrose.
Montague has averaged 42 points a game, using a balanced attack that has piled up 3,000 rushing yards and more than 2,000 through the air, led by sophomore quarterback Drew Collins, who has been aided by assistant coach Cody Kater, former quarterback at Cincinnati and Central Michigan.
Montague opened up postseason play with district wins over Fennville (47-20) and Newaygo (48-14), followed by a 30-14 regional final win over Schoolcraft and a 14-7 semifinal win over previously unbeaten Traverse City St. Francis.
Players to watch
Nick Thomas, RB, Jackson Lumen Christi: Lumen Christi has showcased some outstanding running backs in past years, including Khari Willis, now at Michigan State; Bo Bell, who rushed for 2,650 yards and 34 TDs in 2016; and Sebastian Toland, who rushed for 244 yards in last year’s 40-34 state title game win over Ithaca. Thomas showed his ability by running for 193 yards on 22 carries while scoring five TDs in the regional final win over Blissfield.
Bryce Stark, RB, Montague: Stark, a 5-10, 190-pound senior, is the big-play man for Montague, rushing for more than 1,500 yards and 25 TDs,
Why Lumen Christi can win: Herb Brogan knows how to lead his teams to wins on the big stage, hoisting the championship trophy eight times, including seven since 2000. He is the fifth-winningest coach in state history with a 39-year record of 355-83. Lumen Christi returned just six starters from last year’s team, but Brogan just reloaded while inserting Joe Barrett in at quarterback and Nick Thomas at running back, and those players are making the most of their opportunities, with Thomas taking a pitch from Barrett and firing a 55-yard TD toss to Bobby Willis to pull Lumen Christi even at 14 in the semifinal. Barrett then threw a 48-yard TD pass to Cy’Aire Johnson with 13 seconds left in the half for a 28-14 cushion.
Why Montague can win: Montague has talent and a balanced offense, which could cause problems for Lumen Christi, especially if Montague can force an early turnover and take the lead to gain momentum.
Prediction: Look for Lumen Christi’s experience of playing at Ford Field to be a difference maker. Montague has last played at Ford Field in 2009 when it repeated as state champs. Jackson Lumen Christi 30, Montague 17
Reading (13-0) vs. Breckenridge (13-0), Friday, 10 a.m.
Road to the finals
Reading reached Ford Field with outstanding defense … well, at least after earning its 65-48 shootout win over Pittsford in the predistrict game. Reading went on to earn the district title with a 28-6 victory over defending state champion Whiteford, then blanked Detroit Southeastern, 54-0, in the regional final before a 38-0 shutout of Holton in the semifinals.
Reading has an explosive offense, averaging 49 points and 400 yards rushing, led by dual-threat quarterback Alex Price, who rushed for three TDs against Detroit Southeastern, including scoring runs of 55 and 45, and 2,000-yard back Ethan LoPresto.
Breckenridge also showcases a strong defense, limiting its four postseason opponents to a combined total of 24 points, defeating Frankfort (58-0) and Johannesburg-Lewiston (37-12) in the districts before slipping past Ishpeming (12-6) in the regional final and past Harbor Beach by the same score in the semifinals.
Quarterback Carter Staley has thrown for nearly 1,000 yards and 10 TDs, and has rushed for close to 900 yards.
Players to watch
Ethan LoPresto, RB, Reading: LoPresto has enjoyed an outstanding season, rushing for 2,168 yards and 26 TDs, including a 214-yard effort in the state semifinal win. He was a big reason Reading upset Whiteford when he broke loose for a 54-yard TD and finished with 112 yards on 10 carries, reaching the end zone on two occasions.
Lukas Ebright, WR/DB, Breckenridge: Ebright has played well in all three phases for Breckenridge — nine interceptions from his secondary spot, 30 receptions as a receiver, and handling the punts and kickoffs. Expect Reading players to know where No. 5 is at all time.
Why Reading can win: Reading is dominant on both sides of the ball, scoring 79 rushing TDs while also forcing more than 30 turnovers while owning a plus-20 margin in turnover ratio, forcing four in the upset of Whiteford and three more in the win over Holton.
Why Breckenridge can win: It knows how to pull out close wins, demonstrated the last two weekends in 12-6 victories over Ishpeming and Harbor Beach. It has a quarterback in Staley who takes care of the ball and a defensive back in Ebright who can make the big interception to turn the momentum around.
Prediction: Reading just has too much firepower and is playing at a high level heading into the championship game. Look for a lot of LoPresto running the ball and for Reading’s defense to force a few more turnovers. Reading 35, Breckenridge 18