David Goricki's high school football state finals preview

David Goricki
The Detroit News

Division 1

Brighton (11-2) vs. Davison (11-2), 1 Saturday

Players to watch 

Colby Newburg, Sr., QB, Brighton: Newburg has established himself as a very good dual-threat quarterback in his first year as a starter, rushing for more than 1,200 yards and 18 TDs while completing 63 percent of his passes for nearly 1,400 yards and 18 TDs, including a 16-yard TD toss to Nick Nemecek with 50 seconds left for the difference in a 22-19 state semifinal upset win over No. 2 Belleville.

Brendan Sullivan, Jr., QB, Davison: Sullivan, who has good size at 6-3 and 180 pounds, has developed into one of the premier quarterbacks in the state during his junior year, a reason he has offers from Central Michigan and Ball State. He has thrown for more than 2,800 yards and 32 TDs, rallying Davison from a 27-12 deficit midway through third quarter in a 34-27 semifinal overtime win over Sterling Heights Stevenson.

Quarterback Colby Newburg, right, hands the ball off to running back Nick Nemecek during practice.

Why Brighton can win: Brighton showed it can control the ball, keeping it for more than 30 minutes in the win over Belleville with the ability to grind things out on the ground, led by Newburg and 1,000-yard rusher Nemecek. Newburg can also spread the ball around through the air with 6-3 senior Ruben Salinas (28 receptions, six TDs), A.J. Lin and Nemecek.

Why Davison can win: Davison has pulled out comeback wins throughout the postseason with the ability to make big plays with Sullivan leading the way and having multiple assets to work with in receivers Latrell Fordham (11 TD receptions) and Harrison Terry (10 TD catches).

Prediction: This is the first state championship game for both teams. Look for Brighton to be loaded with confidence coming off the win over powerful Belleville, shutting down its outstanding aerial attack. Brighton 24, Davison 16

Division 2

No. 12 Detroit King (11-2) vs. No. 19 Muskegon Mona Shores (11-2), 1 Friday

Players to watch

Dante Moore, Fr., QB, Detroit King: Former Inkster and Michigan star Devin Gardner has worked with Moore in the past, and had high praise for him prior to the season, saying: “He’s accurate and moves in the pocket really well. He’s very mature for his age and has a great opportunity to maybe go four years in a row and win state championships and be the best quarterback to ever come out of the state.”

High praise? You bet, and Moore has lived up to the hype, throwing for 2,514 yards and 32 TDs, including 936 and 11 TDs during the four postseason games. He was never better than in King’s 60-17 semifinal win over Birmingham Seaholm when he hit on 15-of-18 passes for 274 yards, including TD tosses of 5 and 68 yards to Marshawn Lee.

Brady Rose, Sr., RB/WR/S/QB, Muskegon Mona Shores: Although standing just 5-7 and 155 pounds, Rose plays big for Mona Shores. He started the first two games of the season while quarterback Caden Broersma was recovering from a broken hand, then moved back to his slot receiver position where he makes catches and gets the ball on jet sweeps. He also returns punts and has picked off four passes from his free safety position.

When Broersma went down with an injury in the opening quarter of the semifinal game, Rose took over and rushed for 205 yards and five TDs, also scoring on the winning two-point conversion with 17 seconds left for the difference in Mona Shores’ 57-56 win over Walled Lake Western.

Peny Boone

Why Detroit King can win: King has been there and done that, winning three championships at Ford Field in the last four years, including a 41-25 upset win over previously-unbeaten Muskegon in the Division 3 title game last year when Peny Boone rushed for 111 yards, including a 52-yard TD run midway through the final quarter to open a 35-17 lead.

Boone is back, and the Maryland-bound back is playing well, earning the name “Playoff Peny” for rushing for 611 yards (51 carries) and 10 TDs during the four postseason games. He rushed for 170 yards and four TDs in the semifinal win over Seaholm, also throwing a TD pass out of the wildcat formation.

Why Mona Shores can win: Mona Shores won’t be bothered by the big-time atmosphere at Ford Field since it played in the Division 2 championship game last year, losing to Warren DeLaSalle, 29-16.

Mona Shores proved it can put a ton of points on the board, displayed in the semifinal win over Walled Lake Western when Rose rushed for 205 yards and running back Tre Hatcher (1,420 yards, 15 TDs) had 160 yards and three TDs.

Prediction: Look for King’s defense to be much tougher than what Mona Shores faced against Walled Lake Western with four-star junior linebacker Jaylen Reed making a difference and Moore and Boone continuing to play at a high level on offense. Detroit King 35, Muskegon Mona Shores 17

Division 3

No. 14 River Rouge (12-1) vs. No. 1 Muskegon (13-0), 7:30 Saturday

Players to watch

De’Andre Bulley, Sr., RB, River Rouge: Bulley is a physical back at 6-0, 245 pounds, rushing for 1,900 yards during his senior year to lead River Rouge to its first championship game appearance since 2015, a 40-34 loss to Grand Rapids West Catholic in Division 5.

Bulley broke loose for 220 yards in a 49-14 regional final rout of No. 8 and Catholic League champion Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, then celebrated his birthday Saturday by making multiple big plays in the 14-7 semifinal win over Chelsea, coming back in and scoring the winning TD with less than four minutes remaining after getting banged up earlier in the game.

Xavier Smith can be a difference maker in the special teams game.

Cameron Martinez, Sr., QB, Muskegon: Martinez will be trying to lift the state championship trophy before moving on to Ohio State. He has been an outstanding dual-threat quarterback at Muskegon, rushing for nearly 1,900 yards and 35 TDs while throwing for 11 more TDs.

Muskegon was given a scare in the semifinals with Martinez throwing for a TD and rushing for three more scores, including the winner with 2:18 left for the difference in a 28-21 win over DeWitt.

Why River Rouge can win: It has a quarterback in Mareyohn Hrabowski who can move the ball through the air, a big, bruising back in Bulley who can move the chains and have his team control the clock and a big-play man in Xavier Smith who can be a difference maker in the special teams game, scoring on six returns.

River Rouge has a force on defense in Toledo-bound linebacker Deshawn Walker, along with a strong secondary in Smith, David Carter, Leroy Watson and safeties Joshua Wiley and 6-3 Chastin Cross.

Why Muskegon can win: Muskegon has an explosive offense and tough defense, but that has been the case in past seasons when it made its way to Ford Field, only to come away with the ultimate trophy once — a 28-10 win over Farmington Hills Harrison in 2017 — in six trips this decade.

Muskegon needed to be tested before making the trip to Detroit after outscoring its first three postseason opponents by an average of 47 points, and it was in the win over DeWitt. Making long trips to the Motor City is nothing new since Muskegon opened the season with back-to-back trips to Detroit in defeating DeLaSalle (41-7) and King (41-18).

Prediction: Martinez wants to lift the championship trophy while playing for Muskegon, the same way he did in 2016 and ’17 while leading Muskegon Catholic Central to consecutive Division 8 titles. Look for him to put on a show in this one. Muskegon 30, River Rouge 21

Division 4

Grand Rapids Catholic Central (12-1) vs. Detroit Country Day (13-0), 7:30 Friday

Players to watch

Ahlon Mitchell, Sr., QB, Detroit Country Day: Mitchell makes things go for Country Day. He was sidelined during the end of the regular season with a knee injury, but has returned and is playing at a high level while wearing a brace, showing no signs of the injury when he broke loose for a 56-yard TD run behind a block from four-star junior tackle Caleb Tiernan in the 21-0 semifinal win over Flint Powers.

Joey Silveri, So., QB, Grand Rapids Catholic Central: Silveri certainly doesn’t play like a sophomore, having a hand in 48 TDs this season, throwing for 2,609 yards and 31 TDs while rushing for nearly 900 yards and 17 scores. In a dominating, 56-17 semifinal win over Hudsonville Unity Christian, he rushed for 206 yards (19 carries) and four TDs and hit on 6-of-8 passes for 118 yards.

Why Country Day can win: Country Day plays outstanding defense, limiting opponents to an average of 5.1 points this season, including three shutouts in the last five games, led by linemen in Tiernan, Will Leggon and Nick Wachol, along with linebackers Owen Bergin and Chris Rea and Marcus Sheppard, and Anthony Ammori and Saborn Campbell in the back end.

Why Grand Rapids Catholic Central can win: GRCC — which opened the season with a 17-14 win over River Rouge — has consistently made deep postseason runs, defeating Country Day in the Division 4 championship game in 2016, 10-7, then defeating Edwardsburg (42-31) in the ’17 championship game before losing to Edwardsburg in a semifinal last season, 46-44.

Not only does GRCC have an explosive offense — averaging 42.2 points — it can also force turnovers defensively, proving just that by returning two interceptions for scores by Matt Moore and Nolan Ziegler in the semifinal victory.

Prediction: Look for Country Day to get the job defensively and pull this one out to earn its first unbeaten season in program history. Country Day 21, Grand Rapids Catholic Central 14

Division 5

Lansing Catholic Central (12-1) vs. Almont (13-0), 4:30 Saturday

Players to watch

Zach Gillespie, Sr., QB, Lansing Catholic Central: Lansing Catholic Central has enjoyed its share of talented quarterbacks, including Cooper Rush and Tony Poljan who both moved on and played at Central Michigan, and now Gillespie is making a name for himself during his senior year.

Gillespie, who was a receiver his junior season, has thrown for more than 2,500 yards, hitting on 15-of-28 passes for 256 yards and a TD in a 28-14 semifinal win over Kingsley to hand 73-year-old coach Jim Ahern his 300th career win.

Jacob Hausmann, Sr., LB, Almont: Hausmann has been a force for Almont, running sideline-to-sideline to haul down running backs, receivers and quarterbacks, getting in on 98 tackles while rarely playing in the second half of games.

In the 36-8 semifinal win over Detroit Denby, Hausmann caused havoc by making 12 tackles, including a sack, and intercepting a pass.

Why Lansing Catholic Central can win: Catholic Central has played outstanding defense, led by linebacker Sam Edwards and can put big numbers up offensively with Gillespie playing at a high level and having multiple weapons to work with, including receiver Alex Watters.

Why Almont can win: Almont is a senior-dominant team which showcases a lot of experience and gets things done defensively, led by Hausmann, 6-6, 240-pound Meric Okoniewski — who had three sacks against Denby — and 6-6 defensive back/receiver Colby Schapman, who has 4.6 speed.

Prediction: Look for Almont quarterback Josh Hellebuyck to have a big game and use his multiple options in 6-5, 230-pound tight end Jackson Malcom, Schapman and running back Jack Paupert, to be lifting the championship trophy. Almont 27, Lansing Catholic Central 16

Division 6

Maple City Glen Lake (12-1) vs. Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central (11-1), 4:30 Friday

Players to watch

Alex Morgan, Sr., RB/LB, MSMCC: Morgan has been sensational during the postseason run, rushing for 713 yards on 51 carries and six TDs.

Reece Hazelton, Sr., QB, Maple City Glen Lake: Hazelton was bruised and battered in its semifinal showdown with Montague, but somehow rallied his team from a 14-point deficit with five minutes left, then tossed a 5-yard TD pass to sophomore tight end Brett Peterson on fourth down in overtime for the difference in a 31-30 win over Montague. He completed 26-of-40 passes for 220 yards and two TDs.

Why MSMCC can win: MSMCC has showed its ability to control the ball and the clock with its impressive running attack, led by Alex Morgan and Sam Cousino, averaging nearly 40 points in the three postseason games prior to its 17-14 semifinal win over Onsted, while working behind a senior-dominant offensive line.

Why Maple City Glen Lake can win: Maple City Glen Lake has a balanced attack offensively, led by quarterback Reece Hazelton, and showed its ability to pull out close games in the semifinal win over state runner-up Montague, a 15-14 regional final win over Calumet and a 38-30 district final win over Harrison. 

Prediction: Maple City Glen Lake will be hungry to get the job done after falling short against Jackson Lumen Christi in the 2016 title game, but look for MSMCC to be lifting the trophy for the second time in the last five years. MSMCC 24, Maple City Glen Lake 20

Division 7

Pewamo-Westphalia (13-0) vs. Jackson Lumen Christi (12-0), 10 a.m. Saturday

Players to watch

Walker Plate, Sr., RB, Jackson Lumen Christi: Plate has rushed for more than 2,400 yards and 34 TDs, including 125 yards (19 carries) and two TDs in a 27-0 semifinal win over Cass City, a week after rushing for 286 yards (48 carries) and three TDs in a 35-30 regional final victory over Schoolcraft and its standout running back Kobe Clark.

Tanner Wirth, So., RB, Pewamo-Westphalia: Wirth has been a force in P-W’s rushing attack while also getting things done on special teams.

Why Lumen Christi can win: Lumen Christi knows where Ford Field is, winning three straight Division 6 championships before dropping down to Division 7 this season. Herb Brogan, the fourth-winningest coach in state history (368-83), has guided Lumen Christi to nine state titles in his 40 years of guiding the program — eight since 2000 — and again has a strong running attack. Brendan Wilson has shown the ability to hit on big pass plays as well.

Why Pewamo-Westphalia can win: Aside from giving up 35 points in a thrilling 36-35 regional final win over defending state champion New Lothrop, P-W’s defense has been outstanding, dominating Iron Mountain 43-7 in a state semifinal and posting a pair of shutouts in the pre-district and district title games.

Prediction: Walker Plate badly wants to put his name with all the great running backs in Lumen Christi’s proud history, including Nick Thomas, who rushed for 249 yards and two TDs in last year’s title game win, Sebastion Toland, who rushed for 244 yards and a TD two years ago and Bo Bell, who rushed for 238 yards and a TD three years ago. Lumen Christi 35, Pewamo-Westphalia 21

Division 8

Beal City (12-1) vs. Reading (12-1), 10 a.m. Friday

Players to watch

Hunter Midtgard, Sr., RB/DB, Reading: Midtgard has averaged 9.4 yards a carry and joined Elijah Strine to combine for 42 TDs this season.

Midtgard was an impact player in Reading’s state championship game win last season, scoring a pair of TDs, including a 57-yard run midway through the fourth quarter to open a 32-14 lead over Breckenridge.

Trey Small, Sr., RB, Beal City: Small is Beal City’s go-to running back while also getting things done on special teams. He scored the winning TD with just over eight minutes left in a 21-20 semifinal win over Ubly.

Why Reading can win: It has the blueprint to getting things done at Ford Field, winning the championship last year, and it has an explosive offense which put up 680 total yards in a 62-18 semifinal win over Fowler, led by the running of Midtgard and Strine.

Reading also returns multiple key players from last year’s defense, including Nick and Ben Affholter and Strine.

Why Beal City can win: Beal City has a strong running game and knows how to win close games, but it needs to keep the game close to be able to pull out a win.

Prediction: Reading 35, Beal City 18