Belleville — Christian Dhue-Reid made sure No. 2 Belleville wasn’t one of the upset victims in the opening weekend of the state playoffs, throwing for 320 yards and three touchdowns in a 49-10 rout of No. 11 Saline Saturday afternoon.
While defending Division 1 state champion and No. 3 Chippewa Valley had its season come to an end with a 34-13 predistrict loss to MAC Red rival Macomb Dakota — which needed a Week 9 win to get in at 5-4 — and Division 2 front-runner and No. 5 Oak Park losing to Farmington 12-6 Friday, Dhue-Reid set the tempo in the opening half.
Yes, it was total dominance for Belleville (10-0), which led 42-3 after three quarters, owning a 440-127 advantage in total yards, including 115-32 on the ground while putting the running clock in effect.
And, Dhue-Reid, a junior and three-year starter, took a seat on the bench for the fourth quarter after completing 21-of-30 without an interception.
Belleville’s defense — led by four-star juniors Jamari Buddin and Damon Payne — put tremendous pressure on Saline sophomore quarterback Larry Robinson, intercepting him twice while giving its running backs little room to operate.
Dhue-Reid found Deion Burks for scoring passes of 6 and 23 yards, then connected with Connor Bush over the middle for 43 yards to set up TyTrayon Lewis’ 23-yard TD run in the final minute of the half for a 21-3 cushion.
“That first half was great,” said Burks. “We were preparing the whole week for this team to make sure we’d capitalize on this win because they (Saline) are a great program. I feel Christian is the best quarterback in the state. He’s beautiful, made some great passes.”
Said Dhue-Reid: “They didn’t think I’d throw the fade, but I got trust in him (Burks). He can jump. The second touchdown pass was the same thing, a fade. Deion Burks is a good kid, fast and he has heart. It all started with the offensive line though. We ran good, we threw the ball good and the receivers made a lot of plays, but it all starts with the O-line.”
Dhue-Reid opened the game with a pair of passes, one in the left flat for Christian Rapley, then one in the right flat to Michael Jenkins Jr. to get Belleville’s offense rolling.
Belleville took a 7-0 lead with 2:50 left in the first quarter when Dhue-Reid connected on 5-of-6 passes for 54 yards on the 10-play, 72-yard drive, including a third down pass to Rapley to the 6, followed by a perfectly thrown ball in the left corner of the end zone to Burks.
Saline cut the deficit to 7-3 on Brendan Cropsey’s 42-yard field goal which came after Belleville three-star defensive back Brenden Deasfernandes got his hand on the ball to strip it away from a Saline receiver for a third-down incompletion.
“Deasfernandes made a great play, caught it, action away with the tailback, caught it at the last second and made a play which was a big one,” said Belleville coach Jermain Crowell of Deasfernandes, who committed to Iowa this summer. “We played a great team in Saline. I am proud of the way the kids responded. It was one of our more disciplined games. They paid attention to keys and we stayed on top of things.”
Belleville answered Saline’s field goal with a 77-yard, 13-play drive with Dhue-Reid again finding Burks, who went over the defender to haul in the fade pass in the right corner of the end zone for a 14-3 lead with 1:45 left in the half.
Then, Belleville pinned Saline deep and on third down from the 5, Robinson’s pass was intercepted by sophomore cornerback Jeremiah Caldwell to give Dhue-Reid a short field to work with at the Saline 41.
Dhue-Reid found Michigan-bound cornerback/receiver Andre Seldon for an apparent 46-yard TD, but it was wiped out due to a holding call.
Dhue-Reid came right back to find Bush over the middle for 43 yards to the Saline 23, and Lewis ran up the middle on the next play for a TD run, which gave Belleville a 21-3 lead with 43 seconds left.
Dhue-Reid hit on 12-of-19 passes in the first half for 165 yards to help Belleville hold a 248-80 edge on total yards.
Saline (8-2) received the second-half kickoff and advanced to the Belleville 48, but Buddin batted down a third down pass, then Saline went for the fake punt on fourth-and-4 and defensive back Ronald Jackson hauled down Kyle Greenwood short of the first down.
Dhue-Reid continued to pick apart Saline’s defense, first finding Burks for 21 yards on a third-and-11 to the Saline 34, followed by a 28-yard toss to Rapley to the 6, and ending with an 8-yard TD toss to Jalen Williams on third-and-goal for a 28-3 advantage with 8:38 left in the third.
Belleville opened up the 35-3 lead on Kobe Langford’s 1-yard TD run with 2:43 left in the third following an interception by Deasfernandes.
“We really had a hard time breaking tackles or making people miss or getting much separation and that’s a credit to their speed, and then you see their big-play capabilities on offense,” Saline coach Joe Palka said. “Their athleticism I thought really showed up today.”
More predistrict games
Detroit Denby 26, Detroit CMA 0: Brandon Grimes threw for 208 yards and a touchdown and ran for 103 yards and two touchdowns, Latrell Thompkins had eight tackles, four sacks and a forced fumble and Javier Johnson had seven tackles, two sacks, two forced fumbles and an interception for Denby (8-2). CMA finishes 6-4.
Royal Oak Shrine 21, Ottawa Lake Whiteford 16: Charlie Neihaus caught four passes for 129 yards and a touchdown, Jacob Sanders rushed for 88 yards and a touchdown on 18 attempts and Conor Benson threw for 219 yards and a touchdown for Shrine (8-2). Whiteford finishes 5-5.
U-D Jesuit 34, North Farmington 21: Nick Johnson had 19 carries for 159 yards and three touchdowns, Carson Hinton had three receptions for 69 yards and a touchdown and U-D (7-3) forced seven turnovers as a team. North Farmington finishes 9-1.
firstname.lastname@example.org; Detroit News staff contributed