Brighton came up short of playing for the KLAA championship this season, suffering an early-season loss to West Division rival Plymouth, ending its chance of playing in the title game.
Brighton (11-2) more than made up for it when it upset KLAA champion and No. 2 Belleville (12-1) in a Division 1 state semifinal Saturday at Howell, 22-19.
It was a thrilling finish with Brighton scoring the winning TD with 50 seconds left when quarterback Colby Newburg rolled left to avoid the rush and threw across his body to Nick Nemecek, who came up with a grab in double coverage in the end zone for a 16-yard TD.
It was Newburg’s lone completion of the game and punched Brighton’s ticket to the state championship game Saturday at Ford Field for the first time in school history. The Bulldogs will face Davison (11-2), which pulled out a 34-27 overtime win over Sterling Heights Stevenson. Davison will also be making its first title game appearance.
Brighton coach Brian Lemons said earlier in the week that “if we’re going to be able to pull this one out we have to take care of the football and move the chains; time of possession might be a big deal.”
Brighton did just that, having a near 2-to-1 advantage in time of possession (30:45-17:15) while limiting Belleville’s big plays.
Belleville didn’t help itself when Michigan-bound Andre Seldon had the ball fall through his arms on a perfectly-thrown deep ball by Christian Dhue-Reid in the first half, then committing two critical penalties on Brighton’s winning TD drive, one coming on a personal foul call after tackling Newburg for a loss, and another on a pass interference call to wipe out an interception.
Lemons said it was big that his players knew they could play with Belleville, losing to the Tigers in a pair of close games in season openers in 2017 (34-31) and 2018 (40-35).
“I think that was a big help, our kids had some really close games, so I don’t think there was any doubt that we could do it,” Lemons said. “We were able to control the tempo and our offense did such a good job of just grinding out tough yardage. Game planning going in was to try and limit their possessions and take advantage of any turnovers that came our way, but I don’t think the expectation was that we were going to push it on the ground as well as we did.
“Nick Nemecek, our running back, had a day, just grounded out hard yards, and when he wasn’t doing it, Colby Newburg, our quarterback, was doing the same thing. Those two guys did a great job and we ate up some clock there for two quarters and put us in position to win at the end.”
Nemecek rushed for more than 100 yards, including 83 in the first half. Newburg rushed for 79 yards in the second half, then threw the TD pass that will be talked about for decades to come, especially since he has done what Brighton legend Drew Henson, from back in the late 1990s, wasn’t able to do – get the Bulldogs to the state championship game.
Moore on postseason roll for King
Dante Moore had big expectations entering his freshman year at Detroit King.
That happens when you’re handed an offer from Michigan while in the eighth grade like Moore was … before stepping on the field to play for King.
It would be hard for Moore to play any better than he has during King’s postseason run. And now he will try to lead No. 12 King (11-2) to its fourth state title in the last five years when the Crusaders play No. 19 Muskegon Mona Shores (11-2) in the Division 2 title game Friday.
Moore completed 15-of-18 passes for 274 yards, including TD tosses of 5 and 68 yards to Marshawn Lee in King’s 60-17 semifinal win over Birmingham Seaholm Saturday. Moore has now thrown for 917 yards and 12 TDs during the four postseason games, pushing his season numbers to 2,514 yards and 32 TDs.
Maryland-bound running back Peny Boone topped the 1,000-yard mark for the season, rushing for 170 yards and four TDs to give him 611 yards (51 carries) and 10 TDs during the playoff run.
Mona Shores defeated Walled Lake Western in a shootout, 57-56 with Brady Rose taking over for an injured Caden Broersma at quarterback in the opening quarter and rushing for 205 yards and five TDs, also scoring on the winning two-point conversion with 17 seconds remaining.
This will be Mona Shores’ third state title game appearance in the last six seasons, losing to Warren De La Salle in the championship game last year, 29-16, and in 2014, 44-8.
All games at Ford Field
Division 8: Beal City (12-1) vs. Reading (12-1), 10 a.m. (FSD)
Division 2: Muskegon Mona Shores (11-2) vs. Detroit King (10-2), 1 p.m. (FSD)
Division 6: Maple City Glen Lake (12-1) vs. Monroe St. Mary CC (11-1), 4:30 p.m. (FSD Plus)
Division 4: Grand Rapids CC (12-1) vs. Detroit Country Day (13-0), 7:30 p.m. (FSD Plus)
Division 7: Pewamo-Westphalia (13-0) vs. Jackson Lumen Christi (12-0), 10 a.m. (FSD)
Division 1: Brighton (11-2) vs. Davison (11-2), 1 p.m. (FSD)
Division 5: Lansing Catholic (12-1) vs. Almont (13-0), 4:30 p.m. (FSD Plus)
Division 3: Muskegon (13-0) vs. River Rouge (12-1), 7:30 p.m. (FSD Plus)