West Bloomfield was The News' preseason No. 1 team in the state with Belleville at the No. 4 slot, and both were predicted to make long runs in the state tournament.
The teams will meet at 1 p.m. Saturday at Belleville with a Division 1 regional championship on the line for the second straight year.
Belleville (11-0) is playing its best ball with junior quarterback Christian Dhue-Reid playing at a high level, throwing for 586 yards and nine touchdowns in the two district games. He had 320 yards and three TDs in a 49-10 predistrict win over No. 11 Saline two weeks ago and 266 yards and six TDs on Friday in a 67-14 district title game win at No. 15 Woodhaven.
Dhue-Reid threw four TD passes when Belleville scored 42 unanswered points in the second quarter for a 48-14 halftime cushion.
“I’m biased because I’ve seen him for three years, but I feel Christian is the best in the state,” Belleville coach Jermain Crowell said of Dhue-Reid. “He has a lot of poise, great leadership skills and he’s done it for a long time, lost only two games and has 30-some wins. He’s used to playing in big-time moments.”
Belleville forced three turnovers during the pivotal second quarter, and Dhue-Reid helped turn them into three scores.
Belleville moves on to face No. 4 West Bloomfield (10-1) in the regional final rematch. Belleville defeated West Bloomfield, 13-10, last year to earn its first regional championship in program history.
West Bloomfield coach Ron Bellamy was without four-star running back Donovan Edwards in last year’s game but is thrilled Edwards will be on the field this time around.
Edwards was one of the heroes in West Bloomfield’s 35-0 district title win over Plymouth, scoring four TDs while operating out of the wildcat formation, including runs of 32, 1 and 47 in the first half.
“Donovan missed the postseason obviously last year and he’s playing really good football right now, having fun out there running around with his teammates and he’s a joy to be around,” Bellamy said.
Bellamy is looking forward to the rematch with Belleville.
“Coach Crowell has those guys rolling. Christian Dhue-Reid is showing why everyone thinks he’s one of the top players in the state and those receivers and running backs are magnificent,” Bellamy said. “Deion Burks is good and the (Darrell) Johnson kid, they are home run threats. I think their running backs are big-play threats and they have a huge offensive line. For us, we just have to play smart, play disciplined and limit the big play, try to make them earn everything they get.”
West Bloomfield — which lost to Clarkston in the 2017 Division 1 state championship game — has a strong defense that's led by Michigan-bound safety Makari Paige and has allowed a total of 28 points the last six games, including three shutouts.
Sterling Heights Stevenson finished fifth in the Macomb Area Conference Red Division with a 1-4 record and needed a 23-20 win over Warren Mott in Week 9 to punch its ticket to the state playoffs.
How bad were things? Stevenson was 3-4, including a 40-14 Week 4 loss to Macomb Dakota, before coach Justin Newcomb made a quarterback change. Newcomb decided to throw the keys to the offense to sophomore Biagio Madonna, who has led the team to a four-game winning streak with a 34-27 predistrict win over Mott and a 38-35 comeback win over Macomb Dakota for the right to carry the district championship trophy.
“It’s been 10 years since we’ve been able to hoist that district championship and it came at a good time,” Newcomb said of Stevenson’s first district title since 2009 when it advanced to the state championship game. “They beat us the first time around pretty good and all week we were talking to our kids about just believing, believing that you have a chance and belief will carry you a long way in high school football.
“We’re a different team now. We made a couple of changes, the first at the quarterback spot and going with a sophomore in Biagio Madonna who has really uplifted us. And another big sophomore Jordan Ramsey is really starting to come into his own as a tailback and receiver. Tailback Nick Wingfield had 10 touchdowns and over 400 yards rushing in the last three games heading into the Dakota game, so it’s a new kid who is stepping up each week and it’s special to see.”
Wingfield, a 5-foot-10, 180-pound senior running back/linebacker, played against Dakota despite having the flu and came up big on the defensive end.
“He was like, ‘Coach, I’m going to be good tonight.’ He comes up with two turnovers on defense for us, the game-sealing interception and he actually recovered the fumbled in the fourth quarter that got us in position for the go-ahead score, so he had a great night,” Newcomb said.
Stevenson trailed Dakota by 10 with five minutes remaining when Ramsey took a 6-yard pass from Madonna and took it 70 yards for a TD.
Then Michigan commit and four-star junior linemen Giovanni El-Hadi forced a fumble and Wingfield recovered at midfield. That led to a fourth-and-10 screen pass from Madonna to Ramsey for a 20-yard TD with less than a minute remaining.
Stevenson will have the opportunity to host its third straight postseason game despite its record when it plays Detroit Cass Tech (7-4) on Friday.
Cass Tech needed a 49-14 win at Clarkston in Week 9 to make the postseason at 5-4 after starting 2-4, including a 47-7 loss to rival and No. 12 Detroit King.
Cass Tech had its run of eight straight years of advancing to at least the state semifinals come to an end in last year’s district final to Dearborn Fordson.
Cass Tech avenged the loss with an impressive 46-28 district title win at No. 6 Fordson Friday.
“Both teams had to come in Week 9 of the season and win to get in. Cass Tech got a tremendous win on the road at Clarkston and we got ours at home against Mott and here we are two 5-4 teams battling for a shot at the state semifinals,” Newcomb said. “For us, what’s neat is as a 5-4 team we get the chance to host three playoff games and that’s special to do.”
Churchill hitting its stride
Livonia Churchill finished fourth in the Kensington Lakes Activities Association East Division with losses to Belleville, Fordson and rival Livonia Franklin, all teams ranked in The News' Super 20 poll.
Churchill coach Bill DeFilippo felt playing the tough KLAA East schedule prepared his team for the postseason, which started with a 41-39 Division 2 predistrict win at Dexter.
On Saturday, Churchill scored 28 first-quarter points and went on to dominate previously unbeaten Battle Creek Lakeview on the road, 47-7 to earn its second district championship in program history and its first in the last 15 years.
Junior quarterback Gavin Brooks has thrown for 12 TDs the last three weeks, including five in the district title game.
Brooks threw four TD passes in the opening quarter, including scoring tosses of 74 and 25 yards to Shane Morelli and senior receiver/safety Brendan Lowry caught the other two.
“We’re really starting to jell offensively,” DeFilippo said. “Gavin Brooks is doing a great job, throwing for five TDs against Lakeview and four against Dexter, and he has a big weapon in Shane Morelli. Defensively, they (Lakeview) had minus-41 yards of offense in the first half, so we started fast and played really, really well against an undefeated team that was 10-0.
“I think it just goes to show you how good the KLAA, especially our East Division, is. You still have us and Belleville and Brighton in it (state playoffs). Our kids have just continued to play hard and have a great attitude and stuck together. We have great team chemistry. We’re getting better every week and our kids aren’t ready to be done yet.”
Churchill will once again be in the underdog role when it has a regional final showdown at No. 10 Walled Lake Western (10-1), which showcases Northwestern-bound receiver Abdur-Rahmaan Yaseen (71 receptions, 1,443 yards, 17 TDs).
Glodich tossed in finale
Marine City coach Ron Glodich decided earlier this year he was going to retire following the season.
Glodich’s coaching career ended early when he was ejected in the first quarter of Friday’s 22-20 Division 5 district final loss to Almont in a battle of unbeaten teams.
“I think he got a sideline warning at first and five or six plays later he was out past the numbers in the face of the ref yelling at him for some reason,” Almont coach James Leusby said of Glodich. “It’s not like him to lose his composure that way in his last game but something happened. They booted him. I saw him walk over to the bench, set his playcard down, his headphones and walked off.
“It happened in the first quarter, happened after our first drive. I think he was upset that on one of our quarterback sneaks. We were driving the line and pushing on our quarterback. I think that’s what he was upset about, but that’s no longer a rule. You can do that now.”
Glodich coached at Marine City for more than 30 years, including a Division 4 state title in 2013.
No. 14 River Rouge (10-1) will play at No. 8 Orchard Lake St. Mary’s (10-1) in a Division 3 regional final.
St. Mary’s battled back from a 20-14 deficit to earn a 56-26 victory Saturday against Flint Kearsley.
River Rouge, which lost to Detroit King in a predistrict game last year, defeated Redford Thurston, 38-8, to lift the district championship trophy.