The opening week of the state football playoffs was a crazy one, starting with two-time defending Division 2 state champion Warren De La Salle canceling its predistrict game with Birmingham Groves due to a reported hazing incident.
The De La Salle-Groves game would have been a rematch of last year’s state semifinal game.
Groves coach Brendan Flaherty tossed aside his game plan to scout his next opponent, Birmingham Seaholm, which defeated Sterling Heights, 55-34.
The upsets followed with defending Division 1 state champion Chippewa Valley — ranked No. 3 in The Detroit News Super 20 — having its 23-game winning streak come to an end on its home turf against MAC Red rival Macomb Dakota, 34-13 Friday night.
Dakota played keep-away from Chippewa Valley, scoring on its first three possessions to take a 20-6 lead while having a 32-4 advantage in plays and 190-57 edge in total yards.
“I felt they got an unlucky draw, it’s such a big rivalry game,” said Dakota coach Greg Baur of Chippewa Valley, which defeated Dakota 27-21 in Week 5 for its fifth straight win in the rivalry. “There’s not a whole lot of secrets, which is kind of tough in the first round of the playoffs, but for them it’s even tougher because they’re 9-and-0 and heavy favorites. It’s hard to keep that going, I don’t care how good you are.
“This is huge because this is the game we point to, and there’s no secret, it’s our rival. It’s not for any trophy today, but it may as well been for one. Now, we have to go on the road again and play somebody else, but this was a really big first game for us.”
Chippewa Valley coach Scott Merchant said his team was beat up due to injuries, having 16 players injured this season.
“We’re beat up and they beat us up more, that’s what ended up happening,” Merchant said. “Last year we were really fortunate, had only one major injury all season, and this year we lost a starter every single game.”
Baur was aggressive from the start, extending the game’s opening drive with a fourth- down conversion, which led to an 8-minute, 33-second, 70-yard, 17-play drive for a touchdown.
Dakota went on to convert several fourth-down plays and successfully used the wildcat with sophomore Caiden Sloan scoring multiple times out of the formation.
“We were going to be aggressive and go for it on fourth down if it was even close,” Baur said. “I really love our offensive line. We have three very good running backs and that (wildcat) formation puts them all on the field at the same time, which is our strength,” Baur said. “I thought Zach (Droski) played well at quarterback too, so going forward and being able to do both of those things is going to help us well.”
Droski completed 9-of-12 for 130 yards and a TD.
Dakota (6-4) will play a district championship game at MAC Red-rival Sterling Heights Stevenson (6-4), a 34-27 winner over Warren Mott. Dakota defeated Stevenson 40-14 in Week 4.
Dakota’s upset of Chippewa Valley wasn’t the lone upset as four of The News Super 20 teams took surprise exits, including OAA White division champion and No. 5 Oak Park whose biggest nemesis in the past two years was De La Salle in the state tournament.
Oak Park failed to get out of the first-round, losing a Division 2 predistrict game to OAA Blue Farmington, 12-6, at Oak Park.
Oak Park’s loss had to be considered the biggest upset of the weekend since Greg Carter’s team was loaded with talent, including the state’s top player in four-star tackle Justin Rogers (Kentucky), receiver Maliq Carr (Purdue), cornerback Enzo Jennings (Penn State) and four-star junior tackle Rayshaun Benny.
Farmington (8-1) put on a show defensively, shutting out Oak Park (8-2) in the second half while scoring on a safety.Junior Julian Ama blocked a punt, which led to the winning score. Jireh Alexander picked off a pass to end an Oak Park drive in the red zone.
“It was exciting, no one gave us a chance," Farmington coach Kory Cioroch said. "Kids from Oak Park were putting stuff on social media, ‘RIP Farmington,’ kids from other schools in the area were poking fun. We didn’t pay attention to it, we just went to work.”
“We basically said on Monday that we knew it was going to be a war and if you’re not going to war don’t come to practice and everybody showed up.
“I think we’re good. Nobody has moved the ball on us all year. I knew it was going to be a defensive battle. They have a ton of athletes over there at Oak Park and we proved we can play with those guys. Julian Ama is unbelievable. I think that kid is a major football player.
“We just had major, major plays. I felt (Wisconsin-bound linebacker) Jordan Turner was probably the best player on the field, made a ton of tackles, had a couple of sacks. Special teams were big. They snapped the ball over their punter’s head for a safety and we made a 40-yard field goal (by Eli Bridge) and blocked a punt.”
But, there will be no Farmington-North Farmington rematch. U-D Jesuit defeated previously unbeaten North Farmington — which defeated Farmington 13-9 in Week 8 — 34-21 Saturday. Instead, Farmington will be hosting U-D Jesuit (7-3) on Friday night.
No. 13 Romeo was a 35-21 upset victim at the hands of Davison while No. 17 Rockford suffered a 38-12 loss to East Kentwood, both Division 1 predistrict games.
No. 20 and unbeaten Chelsea (10-0), which lost to Edwardsburg in the Division 4 state title game last year, had to have a fourth-quarter comeback to advance in Division 3 with a 28-21 win over Jackson Parma Western,
Parma Western held a 21-6 third-quarter lead before Chelsea second-year coach Josh Lucas sent in Griffen Murphy at quarterback. Murphy then led his team on three scoring drives during the final quarter, finding Joe Taylor for a 32-yard TD pass, then Kyle Knight for a 13-yard scoring strike and finally scored himself on a 1-yard run with 55 seconds remaining.
Belleville coach Jermain Crowell has been fearful of facing Saline ever since he was a defensive coordinator at Detroit Cass Tech five years ago when Saline earned a 30-15 state semifinal win despite Cass Tech having seven All-Americans on its roster, including Mike Weber, Lavert Hill, Donovan Peoples-Jones, Michael Onwenu, Josh Alabi, Demetric Vance and Jaylen Kelly-Powell.
And, that is why Crowell felt proud and also relieved after guiding No. 2 Belleville to a 49-10 win over No. 11 Saline Saturday afternoon in a Division 1 predistrict game.
“We just played a really good team, a great team which I think has one of the best coaching staffs in the state and I’m proud of the way the kids responded,” Crowell said. “I kind of pressured them this week because Saline is one of those teams where they capitalize on a lot of misalignments and mistakes, so it was one of our more disciplined games, so I’m proud of the kids. They paid attention to keys and we stayed on top of things.”
While junior three-year starter Christian Dhue-Reid picked apart Saline’s defense, throwing for 320 yards and three scores, it was Iowa-bound defensive back Brenden Deasfernandes and four-star junior defensive end Jamari Buddin who were among the players who got the job done defensively.
Deasfernandes stripped the ball away from a Saline receiver for a third-down incompletion, forcing a field goal to pull Saline within 7-3 in the opening quarter. He also had a third-quarter interception that led to a TD and a 35-3 lead.
Buddin showed his athleticism in the opening quarter by running down sophomore quarterback Larry Robinson, who has 4.5 speed, for a sack. He also batted down a third-down pass and put constant pressure on Robinson.
“We were working hard and we all did a good job, just prepared hard all week,” Buddin said. “We came out ready to fight and we fought. I feel we have the best defense in the state. I feel like I keep my outside contain, that’s my job, and anything that comes outside I’m locking it down. It’s as simple as that.”
Crowell is impressed with Buddin’s play, saying: “He can run, he’s physical, normally does a great job for us.”
Next up for Belleville is a road trip to No. 15 Woodhaven (10-0), the Downriver League champs. Woodhaven team scored 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to defeat Birmingham Groves 49-28 in Week 9 and knocked off Ann Arbor Pioneer Friday, 50-21. The Downriver school is looking for its first 11-win season in program history.
“We’re about to play against a team that just put up 50 points in the first round of the playoffs, so it’s about how the kids respond, if they take it one game at a time we’ll be fine,” Crowell said.
Boone returns to form
King coach Tyrone Spencer had been waiting most of the season for Maryland-bound running back Peny Boone to regain the form that made him a dominant back during last year’s run to the Division 3 state championship.
Well, Boone has found that form, starting with a 108-yard (11-carry) performance in a PSL semifinal 42-9 rout of Detroit Renaissance, followed by a 106-yard (13-carry) effort in a 27-6 PSL title game win over Detroit Denby and then Friday’s 45-7 Division 2 predistrict win over Temperance Bedford where he piled up 165 yards on 11 carries, scoring twice.
Freshman Dante Moore had a successful postseason debut, completing 8-of-10 passes for 153 yards and two TDs, finding receiver Marshawn Lee six times for 116 yards and a score.
No. 12 King (8-2) will play host to No. 16 Livonia Franklin Friday at 6.
Cass Tech has rematch
Detroit Cass Tech needed a three-game winning streak to punch its state playoff ticket at 5-4.
Cass Tech has assured itself of its 14th straight winning season with a 24-17 predistrict win at Grosse Pointe South Friday.
Now, Cass Tech (6-4) will hit the road again when it plays at No. 6 Dearborn Fordson (9-1), a 34-16 winner over Detroit Western.
Fordson defeated Cass Tech 41-14 in a Division 1 district final last season, ending Cass Tech’s seven-game winning streak in the series.
Fordson’s upset win last season ended Cass Tech’s run of eight consecutive years of advancing at least to the state semifinals, winning state championships in 2011, ’12 and ’16.
So, what has been the key to Cass Tech’s turnaround?
“Our quarterback Sebastian Brown is playing better,” said Cass Tech coach Thomas Wilcher. “He has the arm strength to make all the throws. He’s a smart young man and he’s doing a better job of guiding the offense and our offensive line is now blocking real good.”
And, on facing Fordson, Wilcher said: “We just have to be disciplined. We have to play a good ball game because they’re going to bring a lot of different type of plays, different formations so we have to be ready for it.”