Canton stalls Livonia Stevenson, Caden Woodall to advance to district championship
Canton — Livonia Stevenson's Caden Woodall of Livonia Stevenson had been having a Dream Team type of season heading into Friday night’s Division 1 district semifinal game against unbeaten Canton.
Woodall, a Harvard-bound running back, entered with 1,923 yards and 30 touchdowns in just seven games, averaging 317 yards over the last five games.
Canton — 8-0 and ranked No. 16 in The News Super 20— slowed Woodall down, at least in the first half while building a 28-7 lead. Canton went on for a 35-28 victory, earning a district title game showdown with No. 1 Belleville.
Stevenson (4-4) had two costly turnovers in the first half, the first coming on a fumbled snap in the opening quarter after picking up a first-and-goal at the Canton 4.
Canton junior running back Zack Badger broke loose for 86 yards on the first play, setting up Kaleb Burg’s 15-yard pass to John Levine for a 7-0 lead.
Stevenson pulled even when Woodall showed his strength and speed, breaking a tackle on a third-and-5 play and cutting left for a 75-yard TD run.
Badger again went to work, picking up 45 yards on the first play. He and running rushed for 62 yards on four carries during the 70-yard drive to set up Burg’s 1-yard run, putting Canton 14-7.
“That first one (86-yard run) was a huge momentum changer for all of us, set the tone for the rest of the game,” Badger said. “The second one (45-yard run) was the same play, a trap which was our big play of the day.
“Our defense played well. They have a great running back, but we won the game. And, that was the best play I’ve ever seen (defensive back Wesley Faulkner) him make, just a great pick.”
On Stevenson’s second turnover, Kyle Brown telegraphed a screen pass that Wesley Faulkner intercepted, returning it 35 yards for a scorewith 7:33 left in the half.
“I saw the third guy running the bubble, I just went up and made a play,” Faulkner said. “I honestly was going for a tackle at first, then I kind of evaded the one receiver, looked at the quarterback and the ball was right there, it was like grab it and go.”
Canton wasn’t finished, with Badger scoring on a 27-yard run with 2:11 left in the half.
Canton’s defense tightened after Woodall’s 75-yard TD run gave him 100 yards on six carries. He was limited to 18 more yards during the first half on seven carries with defensive lineman Jacob Davis and linebackers Aran Patrick and Michael Renzi all stepping up to slow him down.Davis recovered the Stevenson fumble in the first half.
Woodall had a strong second half, finishing with 280 yards on 25 carries and four TDs. Badger had 252 yards on 23 carries for Canton.
Woodall broke loose on the opening drive of the second half, this time scoring on a 70-yard run to pull Stevenson within 28-14.
Canton answered with a 14-play, 69-yard drive, lasting nearly 10 minutes. Badger was the workhorse, picking up 46 yards on eight carries to set up Marco Johnson’s 3-yard run for a 35-14 lead with 42 seconds left in the third.
Woodall would score his third TD of the game on an 8-yard run to help Stevenson cut the deficit to 35-21 early in the fourth, picking up 53 yards (seven carries) during the 62-yard drive.
Things got interesting when Stevenson forced a three-and-out and Canton could only get off a 9-yard punt, giving Stevenson a short field to work with at the Canton 35.
Woodall scored on a 2-yard run with 6:44 left.
Canton's offense moved the ball and ran out the clock.
Woodall finished with 2,203 yards and 34 TDs. His 2,203 yards in eight games is the most since Jamie Sundberg of Ishpeming had 2,236 yards in nine games in 1997.
Jared Smith of Pewamo-Westphalia owns the state’s single-season rushing record when he ran for 3,250 yards in 14 games back in 2015, averaging 232 yards a game. Alex Grace of Saginaw Swan Valley rushed for 2,962 yards in 12 games in 2013, averaging 246.
Woodall averaged 275 yards this season, finishing with seven straight 200-yard plus games, falling one short of the state record of eight straight held by Grace.