Detroit — It’s not always how you start, but rather how you finish and Detroit King freshman phenom Dante Moore is finding out that’s a good thing.
Moore had high expectations before he even played a game at King, which happens when you receive an offer from Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh while in the seventh grade like Moore experienced.
With that in mind, Moore also had a little pressure on him when he replaced Dequan Finn at quarterback after Finn led King to the Division 3 state championship last year, throwing for 173 yards and four touchdowns in a 41-25 win over Muskegon. It was King’s third state title in four years.
Moore couldn’t have faced a tougher schedule to start the season either with King opening up against Catholic League power Detroit Catholic Central, followed by a rematch with Muskegon.
King lost to Catholic Central 24-22 in the opener, turning the ball over on its first two possessions to fall into a 14-0 hole.
Then, Muskegon dominated King, 41-18, limiting Moore to 8-of-14 passing for 71 yards and a TD with an interception.
But, Moore didn’t hang his head. Instead, he learned and grew each week with King’s coaching staff and teammates supporting him, knowing he had all the tools to get the job done.
Moore has completed 76 percent of his passes during the postseason, throwing for 936 yards and 11 scores during the four playoff games.
“The kid is tough mentally and you really have to credit his parents for raising a fine young man because that’s just character,” said King coach Tyrone Spencer of Moore, who has thrown for 2,514 yards and 32 TDs this season. “I never thought it would be like this, that this is what it would come to because in 7-on-7 it was a battle for the starting job and once the other guy left Dante just got better and better.
“He’s just been working, and once I told him ‘I’m going to ride with you, go have fun and get it done,’ I think it was just easy for him, and the offensive line has come together real good, and then Peny (running back Boone) hit his stride, so it’s been fun to see.
“Really, I like the way we’ve been playing on both sides, I really like just really seeing them getting better and working hard, it’s a beautiful thing to see.”
Maryland-bound running back Peny Boone is a two-time 1,000-yard rusher, running for 611 yards (51 carries) and 10 TDs during the postseason to earn the nickname "Playoff Peny."
Boone rushed for 170 yards and four TDs in a 60-17 semifinal win over Birmingham Seaholm Saturday, also throwing a TD pass out of the wildcat formation.
Moore is enjoying the run and is looking forward to stepping on Ford Field Friday afternoon when No. 12 King (11-2) plays against No. 19 Muskegon Mona Shores (11-2), which lost to Warren De La Salle in last year’s Division 2 title game.
“My O-line has done a great job of protecting me, making sure I’ve been healthy this season, so I’ve been able to complete my passes and get the running game going with Peny Boone,” said Moore after practice on a chilly Monday night. “When Peny does great on the football field teams will be scared and will try to come down and try to stop the run, but we have great receivers for me to throw the ball, so when Peny does a great job that’s when teams get a little shaky because we can throw the ball.
“We have a speedy receiver in Marshawn Lee who can catch the ball and I have a lot of confidence in him and I can throw the ball to him at any spot and he can go and make the catch. Rashawn Williams is everything, I can throw the ball long or short and he can go get it.”
So, where has Moore improved since the start of the season?
“I’ve improved with my confidence,” Moore said. “At the beginning of the season, I didn’t really have much confidence since I’m a freshman, then I’ve built on my confidence throughout these games because if you don’t have any confidence it means you’re not ready.
“The coaching staff helped build my confidence because they’ve won state championships and had great players like Dequan Finn.”
Moore talked to Finn for advice about playing at Ford Field.
“He was saying to just go out there and be yourself because the coaches have my back,” said Moore, who has played two games at the NFL Lions' home in Detroit Police Athletic League games. “I believe it will be a great hyped game and a lot of fans will be there. I’ll go out there and do my best.”
King four-star junior safety Jaylen Reed will also be playing his best in the title game, just like he did a year ago in the win over Muskegon when he got in on 10 tackles while forcing a fumble.
Spencer decided to make a move in Week 4, moving Reed from safety to linebacker and he has played well in his new position.
“We were young at linebacker and needed some help there, so I moved from my safety spot,” Reed said. “It’s more physical at linebacker where it’s more mental at safety. It will definitely help me at the next level because I’ll be more physical at safety. I don’t like playing linebacker as much as safety, but I’ll do whatever to help my team out.”
Yes, the move has paid off with Reed.
When asked what his highlight has been, Reed replied: “The (47-7) win over Cass Tech and the semifinal win (over Seaholm) when I got my first pick-six and had 13 tackles.”
Reed has 20 offers, including from Power Five schools Penn State, Florida, Iowa State, Michigan State, Syracuse, Kentucky and Indiana. He's watched games this season at Michigan State, Cincinnati, Indiana and Purdue and plans trips to Penn State, Florida, Kentucky and Iowa.
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)