Detroit — Elijah Grainger put on a show in the Detroit Public School League Division 2 championship game Friday, leading Detroit Central to a dominating 36-0 victory over Detroit Henry Ford at Renaissance High.
Grainger, a junior quarterback, threw for three first-half touchdowns to help Central (8-1) take a commanding 24-0 lead.
After a 20-yard punt return by Orlando Clarkston, Grainger had a short field to work with and on the first play found Kenyatta McKeever for a 35-yard touchdown pass with 5:41 left in the opening quarter.
Clarkston went to work again, returning a punt 15 yards to the Henry Ford 38 and a personal foul penalty put the ball at the 23.
Central — which defeated Henry Ford, 27-26, in Week 5 — then operated out of the Wildcat and Clarkston scored on an 11-yard touchdown run to open up an 12-0 cushion with 7:01 left in the second quarter.
So, what was the difference between the first meeting between the teams and the one-sided rematch?
“I had to keep my head in the game this time, had to give 150 percent,” Grainger said. “We have a lot of weapons to work with.”
Grainger and Clarkston combined to make a big play on Central’s next drive when Clarkston hauled in Grainger’s screen pass on a third-and-17 from the 35 and turned it into a 25-yard gain to the Henry Ford 40. That set up Grainger’s 26-yard TD pass to Jalen Strickland with 52 seconds left in the half.
“Coach (Jimmie Macon) came to me and said I was getting a screen, so I had to make use of it, I had to use what I had in front of me," Clarkston said. "It was third-and-long and I knew we needed to get that first down."
Of working out of the Wildcat, Clarkston said: “I love it. I love touching the ball every play.”
Central recovered the ensuing kickoff with Sincere Strimpel grabbing the ball at the Henry Ford 43. Grainger didn’t take up too much time before finding Jus'tyz Tuggle for a 23-yard scoring strike with 14 seconds remaining in the half for a 24-0 lead.
Central had another short field to work with to start the second half after a short punt. It took over at the Henry Ford 36 and Clarkston’s 23-yard run set up Alexander Jones’ 5-yard TD run for a 30-0 advantage.
Judah Daniels and Strimpel, Central’s defensive ends, caused problems for Henry Ford quarterbacks Marlon Jones and Steven Grimes throughout the game, getting multiple sacks.
Henry Ford (6-3) finally got the ball inside the Central 20 midway through the third quarter, but Grimes’ third-down pass in the end zone was dropped and his fourth-down pass was intercepted by Grainger.