Commerce Township — Anthony Anton made up for a fourth-quarter turnover by scoring on a 6-yard touchdown run with 1:26 remaining for the difference in No. 4 Orchard Lake St. Mary’s 38-35 win over No. 16 Walled Lake Western Friday night.
Western (3-1) took a 35-31 lead with 5:45 left when it used a short field to work with after C.J. Brown recovered Anton’s fumble at midfield.
But, Anton showed why he has rushed for more than 450 yards in the opening three games when he carried four times for 26 yards, including the touchdown run.
“The world is made of chances, so you just have to take a chance and take the opportunity and take over,” Anton said of bouncing back from the fumble during that final drive. “I just kept my head up, my offensive line pushed us, and I couldn’t have done it without my offensive line and all my running backs blocking for me, Garnett (Davis) and Tommy (Bauss).
“I felt Grant (Henson) is a great quarterback, he’s a great leader, all of us seniors try to lead. He came out there and led well. We kept our heads up, stayed positive and came out on that last drive and scored. It shows we’re back.”
Senior quarterback Grant Henson was also impressive during the drive, finding Anthony Enechukwu for 19 yards to the Western 28 and then running for 12 yards to the 14 on a third-and-8 play.
Henson completed 6 of 9 passes for 122 yards, including a 56-yard touchdown toss to Raid Zerki for a 17-14 lead early in the third quarter.
Henson also directed an 80-yard, 15-play drive, ending with Garnett Davis’ 14-yard touchdown run for a 31-21 cushion with 1:30 left in the third.
“He (Anton) was kind of down on the sideline, so me and a few O-linemen came down to him and said we’re going to need you on this game-winning touchdown drive," Henson said. "He said, ‘I know, I’ve got you,’ and he was a horse on that drive. He was getting four or five yards a carry and we were doing our thing.”
St. Mary’s (4-0) — which failed to make the state playoffs the last two years after winning three straight Division 3 state titles — showed its big-play ability and took advantage of a turnover to rally from a 14-3 first-half deficit.
St. Mary’s running game was shut down, being limited to 31 yards on 15 carries before Bauss broke loose for a 44-yard touchdown run to cut the deficit to 14-10 midway through the second quarter.
St. Mary’s took a 17-14 lead early in the third when Zerki took a short pass in the left flat from Henson near midfield, spun away from a defender and went down the sideline for a 56-yard touchdown.
Less than three minutes later, St. Mary's scored on Davis’ 2-yard run for a 24-14 lead.
That scoring drive came after Western punter’s C.J. Brown was tackled at his own 3 after scooping up a bad snap and deciding to run with it.
Luke Selakowski sacked Western backup quarterback Jonathan Abele on a third-and-1, which forced Western to punt.
Western had to play without junior quarterback Zach Trainor, who suffered a left shoulder injury late in the first half. Trainor was 11-of-20 for 123 yards.
Trainor led a nine-play, 69-yard drive to get Western a 7-0 lead with 5:24 left in the opening quarter when he connected on 4 of 6 passes for 60 yards, setting up Brown’s 4-yard touchdown run.
Western converted three third-down plays on the drive with Trainor finding Abdur-Rahmaan Yaseen for 37 yards to St. Mary's 34 on one, then finding Brown for 12 yards to the 18 on another before Trainor scrambled to the 4 on a third-and-3 from the 11.
Trainor was equally impressive on a 80-yard, 18-play drive during the second quarter when he connected on 6-of-11 passes for 61 yards, leading to his 4-yard touchdown run to open up a 14-3 lead midway through the second.
Western second-year coach Alex Grignon gambled on a fourth-and-2 from his own 39 and Trainor ran for five yards and the first down.
Trainor also found Yaseen for 11 yards on a fourth-and-8 from the St. Mary's 40, then found junior Cam Kinaia over the middle for 13 yards on a third-and-10, finally converting a third-and-inches play at the 7 with a 2-yard run to set up his touchdown two plays later.
Yaseen showed why he is considered one of the premier receivers in the state when he took a short pass from Abele and turned it into a 75-yard touchdown, zigzagging his way into the end zone with 8:33 left in the third to cut the deficit to 24-21.
Henson answered by leading an impressive 80-yard, 15-play drive when St. Mary’s converted three third- or fourth-down plays, leading to Davis’ 14-yard touchdown run for a 31-21 lead.
Yaseen had six receptions for 144 yards.
“Obviously, Zach going out changed the game plan quite a bit," Grignon said. "We could have controlled the ball a little more with him possibly, but it was next man up and Abele stepped in and played like a grown man. He kept plays moving, kept his eyes downfield. I should be more upset than I am, but given the circumstance I found out what I needed to know about our team and our we built for the long haul and I think a lot of those questions were answered.
“Not one person in the entire state picked us to win this game, counted us out, and I don’t think anybody here is going to not know who we are going forward. We were down two scores at one point with a backup quarterback and ended up taking the lead again and I think that spoke volumes of our kids.”
Abele played well, completing 5-of-10 passes for 136 yards and a touchdown and rushing eight times for 38 yards and two scores.