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Friday's high school football: Stevenson grinds out another close victory over Dakota

Nolan Bianchi
Special to The Detroit News

Macomb — Sterling Heights Stevenson has scored just a combined 19 points through its first two Macomb Athletic Conference games.

It also has a 2-0 record.

Stevenson brought its hard-nosed, grind-it-out brand of football to Macomb Dakota on Friday night and escaped with victory, as Dominic Rayes’ 25-yard touchdown reception with time expiring in the first half proved the difference in a 12-7 win.

Junior quarterback Biagio Madonna was 10-for-15 through the air with a touchdown, junior running back Jordan Ramsey had 62 rushing yards and a touchdown on 14 carries, plus a touchdown on defense, and Jordan Kwiatkowski caught three passes for 57 yards for Stevenson (2-0, 2-0 MAC Red).

A pair of Stevenson defenders break up a pass intended for Dakota's Preston Leon late in the fourth quarter.

Dakota (1-1, 1-1) was limited to 176 total yards. Mr. Football candidate and Central Michigan commit Je’davion Stepney was limited to 79 yards on 15 carries.

Stevenson head coach Justin Newcomb said the defensive plan was simple: Stop the wildcat formation and limit big plays, which torched Clinton Township Chippewa Valley in its season opener against Dakota a week ago.

“I thought we tackled Stepney and [Caiden] Sloan really well tonight,” Newcomb said. “We prevented Stepney from getting out on the edge, which they like to do, and prevented the big play over the top, which is a staple of what Dakota does.”

Newcomb’s quarterback, though, was no stranger to the big play. Madonna was excellent on the night; four of his five incompletions came on deep shots to the end zone before the half. 

On his final toss of that series, Madonna rolled out of a broken pocket and found Rayes for the winning score.

Stevenson's Jordan Ramsey intercepts a Dakota High School fourth down pass late in the fourth quarter.

“What contributes to that is all the work he puts in in the offseason,” Newcomb said. “The connection that they have on broken plays, which is what we saw at the end of the half, they’ve been doing that since summertime.”

Stevenson took a 6-0 lead on the opening drive. Ramsey ran the ball six times for 50 yards on the 11-play drive, dancing his way into the end zone on a 12-yard carry to cap the strong start.

Newcomb sang high praises for his two-way playmaker, saying that Ramsey should be mentioned in the same breath as the top players in the state.

“The kid doesn’t come off the field. He’s tremendous, and he needs to be in the conversation for Mr. Football,” Newcomb said. “He’s electric, tough runner, tough to bring down, plays his heart out here on defense.”

Stempney blocked the extra point after Stevenson’s touchdown. 

Dakota had some success moving the ball early, but couldn’t get out of its own way. On its first drive, it lost 5 yards on second-and-goal from the 5 and later missed a field goal. When it got the ball back with the chance to take a lead, Dakota took a delay-of-game penalty on third-and-2 in Stevenson territory before punting it away.

Stevenson limited Dakota to 97 yards in the first half.

Dakota's Clinton Roberson can't hang onto a late fourth quarter reception along the sideline.

“When you face great players, you never really stop them. You just have to contain them,” Newcomb said. “(You need to) keep the contact on them, because they need to feel it in the fourth quarter.”

Stevenson got the ball with 1:07 left in the half at its own 18-yard-line. It marched down the field quickly, thanks to a 40-yard screen pass caught by Tony Shumate. 

Then, with 1.2 seconds on the clock, Madonna rolled right and threw to the corner of the end zone, where Dominic Rayes pulled down a jump ball in double coverage to give Stevenson a 12-0 lead heading into the locker room.

That momentum carried into the third quarter, but didn’t last long. Shumate intercepted a pass by Dakota quarterback Zach Droski near midfield, returning it to Dakota’s 11. 

A strong stand by the Dakota defensive line forced a field goal, which missed to keep the score at 12-0.

On Dakota’s next drive, it found a groove, getting all the way to Dakota’s 2-yard-line with a full set of downs in hand. But again, Stevenson’s defense flexed its muscles, as Ramsey forced an incompletion in the end zone on fourth-and-goal from the 5.

That turnover, though, set up Dakota for a massive swing of events. It forced a three-and-out, and with the Stevenson special teams backed up inside its own end zone, Jack Murray tipped the ensuing punt straight up into the air and caught it in the end zone to make it 12-7 for Stevenson with 8:36 to go.

After a huge defensive stand, Dakota got the ball back with just over two minutes to play. Josh Washington sacked Droski on third-and-10 before Ramsey iced the victorywith an interception on fourth-and-long.

More Friday games

Clinton Township Chippewa Valley 37, Romeo 17: Ryan Shuster threw four touchdown passes and Jaillen Howze made an interception for Chippewa Valley (1-1). Romeo is 0-2.

Detroit Central 28, Detroit Pershing 8: Elijah Grainger scored two rushing and two passing touchdowns and Anthony McCrary made 12 tackles and two sacks for Central (2-0). Pershing is 0-2.

Detroit Communication & Art 28, Detroit Collegiate Prep 8: Jeremiah Williams ran for 90 yards and a touchdown, Javondre Wyatt had five tackles and three for a loss and one rushing touchdown, Thomas Hutson had a 65-yard kickoff return, and Avionne Hawkins had a 23-yard touchdown run for CMA (2-0). Collegiate Prep is 1-1. 

Detroit King 33, Detroit Western 7: Sterling Anderson Jr. ran for 119 yards and a touchdown and Jameel Crose Jr. had a 65-yard interception return for King (1-1). Western is 1-1. 

Eastpointe 42, Warren Woods Tower 0: Kumauri Bennett had 86 yards receiving and one touchdown and had a 46-yard interception return for a touchdown, Kenneth Williams threw for 102 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 78 yards and a touchdown, and Maurice Davis had 89 yards and two touchdowns for Eastpointe (2-0). Woods Tower is 1-1. 

Hartland 62, Plymouth 7: Holden D'Arcy was 13-for-20 passing for 184 yards and four touchdowns and had 144 yards rushing on 12 attempts for two touchdowns for Hartland (2-0). Plymouth is 0-2.

Livonia Stevenson 50, Wayne Memorial 6: Caden Woodall had 13 carries for 211 yards and four touchdowns, Max Smith had 11 carries for 91 yards and two touchdowns and Jack Rushlow had a 28-yard touchdown catch for Stevenson (1-1). Eshun Johnson had eight carries for 75 yards and one touchdown for Wayne (0-2).

Ortonville Brandon 41, Goodrich 28: Micah Miller threw for 183 yards and three  touchdowns, Gavin Alderman ran for 104 yards and two touchdowns, Jawon Slater had 124 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns, and Drew Hickmott had a 68-yard interception return for a touchdown for Brandon (2-0). Goodrich is 1-1. 

Royal Oak Shrine 32, Allen Park 12: Conor Benson threw for 275 yards and three touchdowns, Alex Armenio had 114 yards receiving and one touchdown, Charlie Niehaus had 131 yards receiving and two touchdowns, and Tommy Robinson ran for 107 yards and two touchdowns for Shrine (2-0). Allen Park is 0-2. 

Southeastern 48, Detroit Fredrick Douglas 0: De’Sean Matthews ran for 120 yards for two touchdowns and had two interceptions, Leron Roseboro threw for 130 yards and two touchdowns, and Kasareis Crumsey had a 92-yard interception return for a touchdown for Southeastern (2-0). Douglas is 0-2.

Utica 36, New Baltimore Anchor Bay 8: Brett Berg was 8-for-13 passing for 110 yards and one touchdown, had nine carries for 100 yards and one touchdown, and had five tackles with one interception, Zach Powrozek had four catches for 60 yards and one touchdown, and Sami Elsakir had 24 carries for 66 yards and one touchdown for Utica (1-0). Anchor Bay is 1-1.

Warren Michigan Collegiate 68, Detroit Community 0: Deion Black was 6-for-11 passing for 162 yards and one touchdown and had 78 yards rushing for two touchdowns, Jamar Willis had two rushing touchdowns, Amir Jones had eight tackles, and Cameron Roetherford had seven tackles and two sacks for Warren Collegiate (2-0). Community is 0-2.

Warren Mott 30, Utica Ford 27: James Cheney was 9-for-18 passing for 151 yards and had 25 carries for 136 yards and three touchdowns, Richard Manigault had 16 carries for 144 yards, M'NChristian Gilbert had a 6-yard touchdown run, and Ben Dillabough had the winning interception for Mott (2-0). Josh Byers passed for 115 yards and had 107 yards rushing with two touchdowns and Gary Nilson had eight tackles and a forced fumble for Utica Ford (0-2).  

Nolan Bianchi is a freelance writer.