Sterling Heights — A pair of teams that finished the regular season with 5-4 records in Sterling Heights Stevenson and Detroit Cass Tech faced each other Friday night for a Division 1 regional championship and the right to be one of the Final Four teams still alive.
Stevenson, which finished fifth in the MAC Red Division and earned its first district title in 10 years last weekend, scored off a trick play to take the lead midway through the third quarter, then recovered a fumble as Cass Tech advanced into the red zone with five minutes remaining to pull out a 9-7 victory.
Cass Tech had one more chance, getting the ball at its own 37 with 1:40 left and no timeouts, advancing to the Stevenson 23 with Sebastian Brown connecting on three straight passes before Jordan Ramsey intercepted his final toss with 7.4 seconds left to end the threat.
“It was crazy, there was a lot of pressure, but I just had to focus on just getting the ball,” said Ramsey of the interception. “Our team is used to these game-ending situations, so I just knew I had to stay calm on it.”
Ramsey, a sophomore defensive back/running back, also made a great play when he chased down Cass Tech Donny Scott after Scott broke loose for a 57-yard run to the Stevenson 3 early in the second quarter.
Stevenson went on to use a goal-line stand to keep Cass Tech off the scoreboard at the time.
“It was huge,” said Ramsey of chasing down Scott. “I didn’t know if I could get him, but I just had to go hard for my teammates and ended up getting him out of bounds.”
Stevenson head coach Justin Newcomb was proud of Ramsey’s hustle.
“They had to buckle down and make a play,” said Newcomb of the goal-line stand. “We had a guy hustle to knock him out of bounds, then had the goal line stand down there. It was a tremendous team effort, that’s assignment, fundamental defensive football at its finest and it came at the best time of the year.”
Stevenson (8-4) took a 3-0 lead late in the first quarter on Zach Imms’ 22-yard field goal after failing to get in the end zone after a first-and-goal at the 4.
But, Stevenson’s defense came up big to make a goal-line stand after Cass Tech senior running back Donny Scott broke loose down the sideline for 57 yards to the Stevenson 3.
Scott didn’t get the ball again and Stevenson’s defense stopped four straight runs, including a fourth-down run by junior Kobe King at the 1 with 6:11 left in the half.
Cass Tech stopped Stevenson, forcing a punt before a costly roughing the punter penalty kept the drive alive at the 18, but Cass Tech forced another punt and this time had a short field to work with, getting the ball at the Stevenson 43 with 2:44 remaining.
And, this time Cass Tech took advantage of the situation with Brown finding Nathaniel Briggs who made a great catch in the end zone for a 26-yard TD with 21.5 seconds left for a 7-3 halftime lead.
Stevenson scored on the opening drive of the second half, moving 57 yards on 10 plays with sophomore quarterback Biagio Madonna finding Dylan Kleinedler in the left flat and Kleinedler then tossed a perfect pass to Jordan Kwiatkowski for a 14-yard TD midway through the third for a 9-7 lead.
“That was amazing, a great set up play and we did everything correct, No. 7 Dylan Kleinedler doing the perfect catch and throw, Jordan Kwiatkowski, running the great route and making the catch and the line blocking well,” Madonna said.
Said Kwiatkowski: “I just ran my route, delayed like Coach (Newcomb) told me to and just watch the ball go in my hands and secured the catch.”
So, how many times did you practice the play?
“Three times, practiced it just three times and we completed it in the game,” Kwiatkowski said.
Cass Tech had a good drive going, moving the ball on the ground with runs of 11 and 14 yards by King and a 17-yard run by Scott to the Stevenson 16 before the fumble.
Scott had 101 yards on six carries in the first half, but had just four carries in the second half, finishing with 134 yards. King finished with 61 yards on nine carries.