Detroit — Brendan Sullivan put on an all-state type effort to lead Davison to its first state championship with a 35-25 victory over Brighton in the Division 1 title game Saturday afternoon at Ford Field.
Sullivan, a 6-foot-3 junior quarterback, completed 14 of 19 passes for 290 yards, also rushing for 40 yards on 10 carries, scoring on runs of 1 and 10.
Brighton coach Brian Lemons tried to stop the run, knowing Davison (12-2) used its ground games to advance to Ford Field, throwing just five times in a 35-7 regional final win over Utica Eisenhower and 10 times in last week’s 34-27 state semifinal win over Sterling Heights Stevenson, a game in which it came back from a 27-12 third-quarter deficit.
Well, Lemons’ strategy opened the door for Sullivan to showcase his talent and he did it in a hurry.
“Obviously, (Sullivan) did a really good job today,” Lemons said. “We put our guys in a situation to let him take a shot at it, kind of rolled the dice. We kind of had to pick our poison, stop the run or stop the pass and they did a good job of converting on the deep ball.”
Sullivan set the tempo on Davison’s opening drive when he took advantage of a short field after a bad punt and connected on 4 of 5 passes for 37 yards to set up his 1-yard touchdown run for a 7-0 lead with 7:23 left in the first quarter.
Brighton (11-3) — which was making its first state title game appearance — pulled within 7-3 on Jacob Moraschinelli’s 21-yard field goal early in the second quarter which was set up by an incredible one-handed grab by Ruben Salinas on a pass from Colby Newburg (16-of-28, 249 yards, 2 TDs, one interception, 83 yards rushing, 22 carries).
But, Davison quickly answered when Sullivan lofted a deep pass to Latrell Fordham on a third-down pass that Fordham hauled in at the Brighton 45 and ran down the left sideline for a 74-yard score and 14-3 lead with 8:08 left in the second quarter.
“Our offense came out fast and we have not scored first all playoffs so that was a big point of emphasis for us to come out and start fast on offense and we did,” Davison coach Jake Weingartz said.
“Brendan was on and we were really able to take advantage. They were giving us 1-on-1 coverage on the outside, loading the box because the last couple of weeks that’s all we’ve been doing is running the football with power and pin and pull, so it really gave us some favorable matchups on the perimeter and Brendan threw some really good balls.
“Last week we didn’t throw the ball a whole lot and he (Sullivan) got nicked up and didn’t have the type of game that he usually has. He put in a lot of hard work this week and said, ‘Hey Coach trust me, put it on my back and let me throw it around,’ and that’s obviously what we did. He made some great throws, some great, great scrambles in really key situations. People don’t realize how athletic and fast he is. We had play-action a couple of times and he was able to break contain and get some big scores and some big yardage. He’s a stud.”
Fordham talked about his catch.
“Coach (Weingartz) designed up the play and we have a great quarterback who put it right on the money,” said Fordham, who fractured his left elbow late in the first half when he successfully defended Salinas in the end zone to prevent a score.
Weingartz talked of Fordham’s TD catch.
“We check pretty much everything at the line of scrimmage based on what they are going to give us,” Weingartz said. “They came out and we were in trips away from him (Fordham), the safety shaded to the trips side and we had a favorable matchup with him 1-on-1 and you have to take a shot, you have to get the ball in your playmaker’s hands.”
After Fordham’s TD grab, Newburg was leading another drive, finding Salinas again for 32 yards to the Davison 34.
Newburg again went to Salinas down the left sideline, but the pass was defended well by Fordham, and then his next pass went through the hands of a Brighton receiver and intercepted by linebacker Gabe Smith and returned to the Davison 43.
And, Sullivan took advantage of the turnover, finding Harrison Terry for a 38-yard completion to set up Carter Cryderman’s 1-yard TD run to plays later for a 21-3 cushion with 3:52 left in the half.
“It was a great route and Coach (Weingartz) called a great play like he always does, and we dialed it up and executed it,” said Sullivan of his 38-yard pass to Terry to set up Davison’s third TD. “It was very important, getting the momentum quick since we haven’t had that for a while. That was a great win, I’m so excited right now.”
Despite the costly turnover, Brighton moved the ball again on its final drive of the half, but Newburg’s Hail Mary toss in the end zone to Salinas and tight end Luke Stanton fell incomplete on the final play.
Davison took the second half kick and increased the lead to 28-3 with Sullivan directing an 80-yard, seven-play drive, hooking up with sophomore receiver JayLen Murray-Flowers for 20 yards on first down, then keeping the drive alive with a third-down completion to Terry before ending the drive with a 10-yard TD on a quarterback keeper with 8:04 left in the third.
Lemons was proud of how his team battled back against a Davison defense led by senior linebacker Logan Pasco, who had 16 tackles, including two for lost yardage.
Brighton scored its first touchdown on a 1-yard run by Nick Nemecek with 4:14 left in the third on a fourth-down play to cut the deficit to 28-11. The score was set up with a 58-yard run by Sheldon Riley.
Brighton had another red-zone opportunity after Newburg found Salinas with a 19-yard pass on a fourth and 8 play to the 18, but it turned the ball over on downs after failing to connect on a fourth-down pass from the 13.
Newburg wasn’t finished, leading another drive which resulted in a 27-yard TD pass to Nemecek with 4:09 remaining to pull Brighton within 28-19.
Again, Davison quickly answered with Sullivan finding Caleb Smith for a 63-yard pass play to the 1, followed by Cryderman’s second TD run of the game.
Newburg threw his second TD pass with 43 seconds left, finding Austin Lin for a 3-yard scoring strike, but Brighton couldn’t convert the two-point conversion which would have made it a one-score game.
“It was very telling of our team to keep fighting all the way to the very end and I’m very proud of them for that, Lemons said. “I think we could have had a couple of more things go our way maybe through the game to kind of help out, but most importantly our kids kept fighting to the very end.”