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Belleville cruises to KLAA East title with win over Livonia Churchill

David Goricki
The Detroit News

Belleville – Jermain Crowell wanted to get Belleville’s running game going heading into the postseason, which gets underway next week.

After all, Crowell had no reason to worry about his team’s passing game since senior quarterback Christian Dhue-Reid had thrown for 24 TDs to help Belleville – ranked No. 1 in The Detroit News Super 20 – to a 5-0 start, outscoring its last four opponents by a 260-0 margin.

Crowell got what he was looking for … in the second half, with 5-foot-9, 210-pound senior running back Kobe Langford rushing for all 79 of his yards on eight carries and scoring three TDs to help Belleville win the KLAA East title outright with a 35-14 victory over Livonia Churchill on Friday night.

Belleville's Damon Payne celebrates after diving on a fumbled ball in the end zone for a touchdown in the first half.

Langford busted loose for a 53-yard TD run on the first play of scrimmage in the second half to give Belleville a 15-7 lead.

“They (offensive linemen) just spread open the line and I busted right open, it was supposed to go inside but I busted outside,” said Langford of his long TD run. “I could do this in any game, have a lot of confidence in myself. We have all of the running backs in the world, it’s just not me.”

Belleville piled up 167 yards on the ground, 130 coming in the second half.

As the third quarter ended and Belleville faced a third and 4 at the Churchill 5, Crowell yelled up to the press box to his offensive coordinator, saying: “We want to go heavy, we’re running it twice.”

Langford picked up the four yards needed on third down to the 1, followed by the 1-yard TD run on the next play for a 22-7 cushion. It proved to be Belleville’s best series, a 70-yard, 12 play drive when Dhue-Reid hit on 3-of-4 passes for 47 yards.

Churchill (4-2) pulled within 22-14 on Gavin Brooks’ 21-yard pass to Josh Brown with 9:36 remaining, but Dhue-Reid made sure Belleville would answer the score less than a minute later, finding Christian Rapley for a 38-yard TD pass 29-14 lead.

Langford closed out the scoring with another 1-yard run with 4:07 left after Belleville’s fourth takeaway of the game, fumble recovery, started the drive at the Churchill 38.

Dhue-Reid’s TD pass was his 120th career scoring toss, putting him just four shy of the state’s career TD mark held by Mason Gee-Montgomery of Stockbridge (124). He finished 19-of-30 passing for 264 yards and the TD.

Churchill coach Bill DeFillippo was just hoping his team would play well, saying earlier in the week: “We obviously know the challenge we have ahead of us. They have kids going to Purdue (receiver Deion Burks), Alabama (Damon Payne) and Penn State (linebacker Jamari Buddin) and we don’t. No one is going to expect us to win so it’s kind of a no-lose situation and for me if we show up, play well and represent our school well, that’s all I can ask of our guys and coaches.”

Belleville blanked Dearborn Fordson (69-0) and Livonia Franklin (56-0) during that streak of four straight shutouts.

Belleville's Damon Payne dives on the loose ball dropped during the handoff from Livonia Churchill quarterback Gavin Brooks to running back Boston Clegg Jr. in the end zone for a Bellevelle touchdown in the first half.

Churchill entered the showdown at 4-1, scoring the game’s final 21 points in a 47-36 win over Livonia Franklin, defeating Livonia Stevenson 24-20 last week and having its only loss come on a late TD by Dearborn Fordson in a 27-22 setback.

DeFillippo had to be thrilled to see his team go on a 15-play, 77-yard drive on the opening series with Brooks completing 4-of-5 passes for 34 yards and running back Boston Clegg running for 53 yards on nine carries, including a 1-yard TD run to end the eight-minute drive.

Churchill’s defense also kept Belleville scoreless out of three red zone opportunities in the first half to play even at 7.

However, Churchill did turn over the ball three times in the first half with Brooks getting picked off twice, once by Rapley in the end zone to end a threat.

Churchill also faced a third and long from its own 1 when Brooks wasn’t ready for the snap, fumbled in the end zone where Alabama-bound Damon Payne pounced on the loose ball for a TD to pull Belleville even early in the second quarter.

“I was just at the right place at the right time, got lucky, made a play to get our team rolling,” Payne said.

And, on Langford’s performance, Payne said: “I feel good seeing my man go crazy today. He did a great job and I’m happy for him.”

Belleville limited Churchill to 90 total yards during the second half. Brooks finished 17-of-28 for 155 yards passing and Clegg rushed for 70 yards on 19 carries, just eight yards on four carries in the second half