Farmington — For the first time since 2013, U-D Jesuit is headed to a Division 2 regional final after defeating Farmington, 11-10, in a defensive tangle on a chilly Friday night.
Freezing temperatures and strong defenses stifled the offenses, with the teams combining for 224 yards and three lost fumbles.
“We knew it was going to be a defensive slugfest, and we were just lucky enough to have one more point than they did,” Jesuit coach Matt Lewis said.
Senior running back Nick Johnson didn’t find the end zone but contributed key yards on Jesuit’s final drive that killed the clock and sealed the win. Johnson had 22 carries for 73 yards.
“I was just out there playing with my brothers,” Johnson said. “We bring the type of energy where we just want to make plays. We inspire each other, so when we all play together it makes a good night out there for us.”
Many of Johnson’s carries were right up the gut, and his physicality seemed to wear down a Farmington defense that came into the game allowing roughly 10 points per game. Johnson averaged 3.9 yards per carry in the second half compared to 2.6 in the first.
“He’s (Johnson) a workhorse,” Lewis said. “He’s one of the most underrated players in the state. Some college is going to get a great player. He’s tough as nails and has gotten it done all year.”
Jesuit receiver Jeffrey Knight was able to make the most of limited opportunities. The senior had two catches for 72 yards and recorded Jesuit’s only score.
Jesuit sophomore quarterback Nathan Brown was under fire all night from Farmington's defensive line. Brown was sacked four times but showed poise in staying in the pocket on his completions.
Farmington (8-2) pulled off a major upset last week when it beat Oak Park in predistricts, but it didn’t have enough offensive firepower to cut through Jesuit’s defense. Farmington only mustered 82 yards on offense and took five penalties to Jesuit’s two. In a game so close with yards at such a premium, every yard given away was crucial.
“We lost this one close, but we fought to the very end,” said Farmington coach Kory Cioroch. “As a football coach, I think that’s the most important thing. We’ve got tough kids. I’m proud to be associated with our kids.”
Farmington struck first. After senior defensive back Nolan Mohr recovered a fumble, senior quarterback Max Martin floated a ball to senior running back Jordan Turner for a 13-yard touchdown catch, putting Farmington up, 7-0, at the end of the first quarter.
Jesuit (8-3) answered back in the second quarter. On a fourth-and-2 from Farmington’s 17-yard line, Jesuit decided to go for it and the gamble paid off. Brown hit Knight in the right corner of the end zone to draw Jesuit within one, 7-6. A Farmington penalty on the extra point attempt convinced Jesuit to go for two, which it converted to take an 8-7 lead into halftime.
“The decision to go for it on fourth down was huge,” Lewis said. “They had the penalty, so we go for two, and that ends up being the winning point. Our guys have answered the call all year, and they did again on that play.”
The teams traded field goals in the third quarter, a 34-yarder from Farmington’s Eli Bride and a 24-yarder by Jesuit’s Xavier Chow.
Neither team scored in the fourth quarter. The quarter was played mostly in Jesuit’s half of the field, but Farmington couldn’t break through. With two minutes left, Johnson’s strong running ended the game by killing the clock.
Jesuit moves on to face Detroit King next week in a regional final after King (9-2) downed Livonia Franklin, 49-15.
Allen Park 42, Riverview 26: Nico Tiberia had 19 carries for 253 yards and two touchdowns and Ethan Gajewski had two touchdowns rushing and another passing for Allen Park (9-2). Riverview finishes 8-3.
Dearborn Heights Robichaud 40, Whitmore Lake 30: David Williams was 14-for-22 passing for 384 yards and five touchdowns, Cameron Underwood caught eight passes for 214 yards and four touchdowns, and Anthony Sanders had 10 tackles and one sack for Robichaud (9-2). Whitmore Lake finishes 8-3.
Detroit Denby 38, Clawson 0: LaCraig Shorter had eight carries for 226 yards and two touchdowns and made 12 tackles with a forced fumble for Denby (9-2). Latrell Thompkins added 12 tackles, two sacks and a fumble recovery and Brandon Grimes had 190 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns. Clawson finishes 7-4.
Detroit King 49, Livonia Franklin 15: Dante Moore finished 15-for-18 passing for 275 yards and five touchdowns, Rishad Hence returned a fumble recovery 65 yards for a touchdown and Jaylen Reed made 12 tackles for King (9-2). Franklin finishes 8-3.
Eric Coughlin is a freelance writer; Detroit News staff contributed