Belleville — Christian Dhue-Reid threw three touchdown passes to help No. 2 Belleville come back from a 15-0 first-half deficit to defeat No. 4 West Bloomfield 27-22 to earn the Division 1 regional title Saturday afternoon.
It was a rematch of last year’s game when Belleville won its first regional championship in school history, 13-10 while West Bloomfield played without four-star running back Donovan Edwards due to an injury.
Edwards, a junior, played in the rematch, but Belleville’s defense gave him little room to run and he couldn’t get outside with multiple defenders matching his speed, limiting him to 62 yards on 19 carries. He did score on a pair of first-half 1-yard touchdown runs and scored on a 12-yard grab with 1:54 remaining.
Belleville (12-0) will play KLAA rival Brighton (10-2) in a state semifinal next Saturday.
“The reason that I kind of wanted to play West Bloomfield is because last year when we beat them there was some speculation that if he had been there it would have been a different outcome, so I wanted to line up when they had their best and we had our best and let’s see who the better team was,” Belleville coach Jermain Crowell said. “I just like to challenge the kids and see if they’re going to rise to the challenge and they did what I thought they could do, and it was a fight, it was a 15-round heavyweight fight.”
Belleville senior defensive back Travon Monroe set the tone early, stopping Edwards for little yardage on a pair of first-quarter tackles.
“We just came into this game prepared,” Monroe said. “Big-time players step up in big-time games. I had to contain the outside the whole game so every time he (Edwards) came my way I had to make a play.”
Edwards and West Bloomfield (10-2) did make things interesting in the final minutes.
Down 27-15 and without a first down in the second half, Ohio-bound quarterback C.J. Harris directed an 80-yard drive with the aid of two Belleville interference calls. Harris found Edwards four times for 41 yards, including a 12-yard TD pass with 1:54 remaining to pull within 27-22.
Then, West Bloomfield recovered the onside kick with Michigan-bound safety Makari Paige recovering the loose ball at the Belleville 41.
Belleville was called for yet another pass interference penalty, and then Edwards rushed for five yards to the 29, but four-star junior linebacker Jamari Buddin sacked Harris on second down. A pair of incompletions ended the threat.
West Bloomfield won the battle of field position early and dominated for the first quarter and a half before Belleville scored 27 unanswered points to take control.
Belleville had its opening two possessions near its goal line, the first starting at the 2, leading to a safety when Michigan-bound linebacker Cornell Wheeler pressured Dhue-Reid into an intentional grounding call less than three minutes into the game.
On Belleville’s second drive, Dhue-Reid’s pass from his own end zone was intercepted by junior cornerback Maxwell Hairston at the Belleville 46. West Bloomfield quarterback C.J. Harris found tight end Michael Williams over the middle for 44 yards to the 1 to set up Edward’s TD run on the next play for a 9-0 cushion with 5:27 left in the first quarter.
West Bloomfield opened a 15-0 lead early in the second when Edwards scored on another 1-yard run, this one coming out of the wildcat to cap a 47-yard drive.
West Bloomfield had a chance to increase the lead when Hairston recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff at the Belleville 24, but Belleville sophomore cornerback Deshaun Lee broke up a fourth-down pass to end the threat.
“I knew he (Edwards) was a fast player, played him inside, jammed him, he tried to go back inside, I flipped the hips and made a good play,” said Lee, who suffered a torn labrum against West Bloomfield last season and the first five games of this season.
Lee didn’t start, but Crowell put him in on West Bloomfield’s second series.
“He was our starting cornerback last year, separated his shoulder so we’ve been working him back in and I thought this would be a good opportunity if the ball was in the air to get him in the game because he’s a playmaker,” Crowell said. “He didn’t start. We actually started two other corners and rotated him in. We were going to play man-to-man and I thought he could do a good job.”
At this point, West Bloomfield held huge advantages in total yards (131 to minus-4) and plays (27-12).
But, then Dhue-Reid found Jalen Williams for a 17-yard pass to give Belleville its initial first down, and on fourth-and-1 from midfield, senior TyTrayon Lewis broke loose up the middle for a 50-yard TD run to cut the deficit to 15-7 with 3:17 left in the second quarter.
Belleville wasn’t done, getting the ball back at the West Bloomfield 32 after pinning West Bloomfield deep and forcing a punt.
On third-and-8, Dhue-Reid found Deion Burks for a 30-yard scoring pass to pull within 15-13 with 52 seconds left in the half.
Belleville scored on its first two possessions of the second half, taking the opening kickoff and marching 72 yards with junior running back Kobe Langford running for 36 yards to the West Bloomfield 26. Dhue-Reid then fired a 26-yard TD pass to Williams on the next play for a 20-15 lead with 7:58 left in the third.
After stopping West Bloomfield on a three-and-out, Belleville scored on its next drive. Dhue-Reid found Darrell Johnson on a perfectly thrown deep ball down the left sideline for a 41-yard scoring toss and a 27-15 cushion.
“We started putting more playmakers on the field, trying to get people the ball and have them move in space,” said Dhue-Reid, who misfired on five of his first six passes. “We started out slow but came on fast and this team is special. When we were down 15-to-0, we weren’t stressing, had guys with their heads up.”
Said West Bloomfield coach Ron Bellamy: “One of our top defensive backs, Dillon Tatum went down (with an injury), and they attacked where he left, the two long touchdown passes and that hurt us, but they’re going to make plays, they’re a talented team. We had every opportunity to make plays in the second half, but the early down penalties hurt us in the second half and you can’t do that against a good team.”
While Dhue-Reid and Belleville’s offense were getting things done early in the second half — Dhue-Reid completing 4-of-5 passes for 87 yards and two TDs — Belleville’s defense was equally impressive, limiting West Bloomfield to six total yards during the third quarter.
“I told the defense, don’t get flustered, all we have to do is keep getting stops because sooner or later the offense is going to get going and get some points,” Crowell said. “Travon Monroe, Deshaun Lee, Jamari Buddin, all those guys came big.”
Harris was 15-for-32 for 142 yards and the TD.
Dhue-Reid was 8-for-22 for 139 yards and three TDs with two interceptions, misfiring on his final eight tosses.
More regional games
River Rouge 49, Orchard Lake St. Mary's 14: De'Andre Bulley scored on runs of 37, 1 and 23 yards while rushing for 220 yards to lead River Rouge (11-1) to a Division 3 regional championship. River Rouge's Mareyohn Hrabowski rushed for 120 yards and had TD runs of 37, 16 and 20 yards.
firstname.lastname@example.org; Detroit News staff contributed.