Division 2: 'It was fun': Warren De La Salle repeats as state champion
Detroit — Jacob Dobbs had the game of his life Friday afternoon at Ford Field, helping No. 15 Warren De La Salle repeat as Division 2 state champions with a 29-16 victory over No. 7 Muskegon Mona Shores.
Dobbs, a 6-foot-1, 215-pound senior, had a game-high 16 tackles, making big stops to end drives on a pair of fourth down gambles by Mona Shores (12-2) in the first quarter to set the tempo, opening the way for De La Salle (12-2) to take a 7-0 lead.
Then, Dobbs hauled in a 44-yard touchdown reception from Nolan Schultz in the opening minutes of the second half for a 14-7 cushion.
Dobbs wasn’t done there, hauling down Mona Shores quarterback Caden Broersma at the De La Salle 7 on a third-and-7 play at the 9 to force a field goal to keep De La Salle in the lead, 14-10.
Schultz would then lead an impressive 82-yard drive to open up a 21-10 lead early in the fourth quarter, running for 13 yards and connecting on three straight passes for 55 yards to set up his 1-yard scoring run with 10:44 remaining.
De La Salle earned the right to advance to Ford Field for a shot at once again bringing home the ultimate trophy by playing outstanding defense, limiting its previous four postseason opponents to a combined 20 points.
“It was an unbelievable hard-fought game and I think our defense was lights out, they’ve been that way all year and they were tested today,” said De La Salle coach Mike Giannone of limiting a Mona Shores offense — which averaged 48 points during the postseason — to 16 points and 217 total yards. “I want to compliment our defensive staff, Brandon Bush, Mike Shortt, Mike Szatkowski, Reuben Simpson, Andy Crowley, those guys work extremely hard to prepare and this is a tough team to prepare for, and offensively we did what we had to do to get the win. It was fun.”
Yes, state championship games are fun for Giannone who walked away with back-to-back Division 1 state championships at Macomb Dakota in 2006 and ’07 and now consecutive Division 2 state titles at De La Salle.
It was De La Salle’s third state title in the last five years, also defeating Mona Shores 44-8 in 2014 with Paul Verska then guiding the program.
Oh, and let’s not forget Schultz, a 5-8, 160-pound senior, who took over at quarterback early in the season when junior Anthony Stepnitz went down with an injury. He tossed aside two first-half turnovers and completed 8-of-13 passes for 189 yards and the TD toss to Dobbs, also rushing for 55 yards (10 carries) and three TDs.
“My teammates, my coaches pushed me and they were really the main force of what we did this year,” Schultz said. “I thought my role this year would be DB, kick return maybe, but I didn’t expect this. I didn’t expect to play any offense. I’ve always played quarterback. I know I’m a little small in height, but I compete. I compete.”
And, compete Schultz did, helping De La Salle pile up 305 total yards.
After Mona Shores cut the deficit to 21-16 with 7 1-2 minutes left when Broersma found Da’Varius Carter for a 14-yard TD toss on fourth down, De La Salle picked up multiple first downs while piling up yards on the ground attack with Evan Vaillancourt leading the way.
Then, on third and 11 from the Mona Shores 19, Schultz slithered his way to the 1, scoring his third TD on the next play for a 29-16 advantage with 1:57 left.
“He did a great job, threw some great balls,” said Mona Shores coach Matt Koziak of Schultz. “The first touchdown he threw in the second half (to Dobbs) he dropped it right in there on the run. I thought he was really good outside the pocket with his play action, and that big third-and-five when he threw it to 27 (Dobbs to set up final TD) out of the backfield, that was a great ball.”
Still, De La Salle’s defense wanted one final exclamation point and got it when Broersma was hit while he threw and the pass was intercepted by Derek Roskopp.
“Defensively, they are tough,” said Koziak of De La Salle’s defense. “I thought our defense did one of their best job all year as far as matching their physicality. I told them at halftime it was fun to watch them run around, and then it became a possession game where they did what they want to do as far as eat the clock and chuck you and then hit you with some play action passes.”
No doubt, Koziak was impressed with Dobbs who made big play after big play to either keep Mona Shores off the scoreboard on drives or limit them to a field goal. He even made things tough when Mona Shores did score, actually stripping the ball from Broersma on one TD drive at the 10 — the ball scooted out of bounds at the 2 — then hitting Broersma when he delivered the fourth down pass for a TD to cut the deficit to 21-16.
“He’s tough on both sides of the ball,” Koziak said. “He’s their Mike linebacker and he’s a filler and a plugger. He’ll come and drop his face mask in there.
“I didn’t want to leave anything on the field (on fourth-down calls). I didn’t want to 'wish we would have took this chance,' and if you can’t get fourth-and-one you probably don’t deserve to win a state championship.
“We’re an option team where we read a lot of guys so we need to release the linebacker and their defensive ends and defensive tackles did a good job of getting hands on our guys trying to release so their linebackers could be free over the top and they were really good at it. We could not get to their linebackers in the first half.”
No, Mona Shores couldn't.
First, Dobbs stopped 5-foot-11, 217-pound Sincere Dent for a 2-yard loss at the Mona Shores' 36 on a fourth-and-1 play.
De La Salle didn’t take advantage of its opportunity when James Gilbert intercepted a third-down pass and returned it to the De La Salle' 49.
Then, on fourth-and-1 from the De La Salle 40, Broersma was stopped for no gain by Dobbs and Roskopp.
Schultz went up top on the first play, finding Josh DeBerry down the left sideline near the 40 and DeBerry spinned away from a defender and turned it into a 50-yard play to the 10, setting up Schultz’s 1-yard TD run with 5:37 left in the opening quarter.
Schultz would later find Dobbs for the 44-yard TD pass.
“Everybody did their jobs,” said Dobbs. “Nolan made a great throw on that touchdown and Mike McGinnity and Josh Warminski filled up pretty good so I was unblocked and I was just able to make the play (on fourth down stop).
“It’s amazing. It’s all you can ask for as a high school football player to leave a good legacy behind. We have great defensive coaches and it’s pretty fun when you have coaches that trust you to go make plays and they’ll put you in the right spots and that’s why we were able to make so many plays.”
De La Salle cornerback Josh DeBerry won his battle against Gilbert, Mona Shores standout receiver who entered the game with 60 receptions for 1,500 yards and 15 TDs, including three TD catches in the semifinal win over Midland.
“That's their best receiver and all season he was making big plays,” said DeBerry of Gilbert. “I just knew I had to prepare mentally and physically to be able to come in and lock him up and ultimately hold him to zero catches.”