West Bloomfield entered the season as The News No. 1 ranked team in the state.
Sure, West Bloomfield stumbled in a Week 2 loss to Birmingham Groves, but has bounced back nicely to win six straight to clinch the Oakland Activities Association Red division title while showing it has the talent to make a run for the Division 1 state championship next month.
No doubt, No. 4 West Bloomfield (7-1) has an explosive offense, led by Ohio-bound quarterback C.J. Harris and four-star junior running back Donovan Edwards, but it has been winning with defense, allowing a total of six points the last three games, starting with a 30-6 win over Rochester Adams Oct. 4, followed by consecutive shutouts against Bloomfield Hills (44-0) Oct. 11 and Oxford (48-0) on Friday.
“I think we’re starting to hit our stride, offense, defense and special teams,” West Bloomfield coach Ron Bellamy said. “Our goal is to develop our team and peak toward the end of the season and get into a playoff run. We’re playing our best football right now. We haven’t allowed a point in the last 11 quarters. We’re playing great defense and we have to keep it going.”
High school metro area fans know all about Michigan-bound linebacker Cornell Wheeler and Michigan-bound safety Makari Paige, but Bellamy has high praise for the great play up front by Beau Davis, Jaden Green, Sterling Miles and Chris Johnson.
“Cornell is the heart and soul of our defense, I know I’m bias when I say this but I think he’s the best defensive player in the state of Michigan, and then obviously in our back half Makari Paige has been outstanding,” Bellamy said. “He’s averaging eight or nine tackles a game, blanket coverage, always is in the right spot and is a physical tackler.
“I think our defensive line has done a phenomenal job. Our D-line coach does a great job getting those guys ready week in and week out. They make life easy for our linebackers.”
Bellamy said Friday’s regular season finale will have a postseason feel to it when West Bloomfield plays two-time defending Division 2 state champion Warren De La Salle at Wayne State’s Adams Field.
De La Salle was 2-3 before putting together a three-game winning streak while playing great defense in wins over Detroit Catholic Central (14-3), previously unbeaten Davison (22-0) and U-D Jesuit Saturday, 17-7.
“To us, it’s the opening round of the playoffs when we play those guys,” said Bellamy of De La Salle, which could get in the state playoffs at 5-4, but you can bet Mike Giannone wants to beat West Bloomfield to get to 6-3 and relax when watching the playoff matchups on Sunday night. “It will be a great game, should be a great atmosphere and a big challenge for us.”
Bellamy is thrilled to have Edwards healthy. He suffered a season-ending injury at this time last year and missed the postseason run, including a 13-10 regional final loss to Belleville. Edwards topped the 1,000-yard rushing mark in Friday’s win.
West Bloomfield advanced to the Division 1 state championship game in 2017, losing to OAA-rival Clarkston, 3-2.
“Last year he was out at this time and it’s great to have him healthy, he is a heck of a football player, super competitive kid,” said Bellamy said.“He wants to win, and he prepares that way. He’s a kid that you can use in the run game and the pass game. He’s a dynamic playmaker, that’s for certain.”
Much at stake
Detroit Catholic Central pulled off a 20-14 upset win over No. 9 Orchard Lake St. Mary’s in Week 7.
Now, Catholic Central (4-4) will need a repeat performance in the Catholic League Bishop — formerly known as A-B — championship game against St. Mary’s (7-1) Saturday at 5 at Eastern Michigan University’s Rynearson Stadium to reach the state playoffs.
Catholic Central is in need of a win since it suffered a 14-3 Week 6 loss to De La Salle and a 16-3 loss to No. 16 River Rouge Friday.
Catholic Central should be one of the 5-4 teams to make the state playoffs. The school has advanced to postseason play the last four years, going to the 2016 Division 1 state title game, a 49-20 loss to Detroit Cass Tech.
St. Mary’s has clinched a state playoff spot after missing postseason play the previous two years.
St. Mary’s last won the Catholic League title in 2015. Catholic Central won the Catholic League championship in 2016, defeating St. Mary’s. Catholic Central lost to De La Salle in the title game the last two years.
PSL title on line
No. 14 Detroit King will play Detroit Denby for the PSL championship Friday at 7:30 at Detroit Renaissance.
King (6-2) — which opened the season with consecutive losses to Detroit Catholic Central and Muskegon — defeated Detroit Renaissance 42-9 while Denby (7-1) advanced to the title game with a 34-14 semifinal win over Detroit Mumford.
King freshman quarterback Dante Moore threw for 223 yards and a TD, but also had three interceptions. He has thrown for 1,408 yards and 18 TDs with six interceptions this season.
“(Dante) threw for 223 yards and we ran for more than 200 yards and we have to build off of that,” King coach Tyrone Spencer said. “Winning the PSL title is always a goal of ours. To beat Denby I think we have to come out fast on offense and defense and play hard. They are a team that strives off of big plays. We have to try to take away what they do well and not allow them to make the big play.”
The teams met in Week No. 6 with King earning a 32-14 win, handing Denby its lone loss. King has won the last 11 games in the series with Denby’s last win coming in 2006.
King lost to Cass Tech in last year’s PSL title game before going on to win the Division 3 state championship. Denby defeated Cody in the PSL Division 2 championship game.
Unbeatens to meet
No. 2 Belleville (8-0) plays at No. 17 Plymouth (8-0) in a battle of unbeatens for the KLAA championship Friday night.
Belleville is the defending KLAA champion and had to battle back to earn fourth-quarter comebacks the last few weeks at Dearborn Fordson (20-19, Oct. 4) and at Livonia Franklin Friday, 39-29 to earn the title spot.
“We really needed games like this to get us ready for the state playoffs,” Belleville coach Jermain Crowell said.
Plymouth has won its last four games by 21 or more points, including a 49-0 shutout over Salem Friday.
“Plymouth runs my defense better than I do,” Crowell joked. “They’re disciplined. The winner of this game will have homefield advantage for the first three rounds of the playoffs so it’s a big game.”
Defending Division 1 state champion Clarkston was eliminated from the state playoffs with its 55-21 loss to No. 7 Lake Orion Friday, falling to 3-5.
Now, Clarkston will play host to Cass Tech (4-4) Friday. Cass Tech could still have trouble making the postseason at 5-4.
Clarkston had advanced to the state playoffs the previous 16 years, winning state titles in 2013, ’14 and ’17, losing to Chippewa Valley in last year’s state championship game.
Cass Tech has advanced to the state playoffs the last 11 years, winning state titles in 2011, ’12 and ’16.
Macomb Dakota (4-4) needs a win against Macomb L’Anse Creuse North (3-5) to have a chance of pushing its run of consecutive state playoff appearances to 19. Dakota has lost its last two games, 36-7 to Romeo and 21-7 to Utica Eisenhower Friday.
Canton’s run of 11 straight state playoff appearances is also on the line. Canton is 4-4 and will play a yet to be determined opponent Friday.