West Bloomfield flips the script on Belleville in double OT, secures spot in Division 1 final

Eric Coughlin
Special to The Detroit News

Belleville — After being knocked out by Belleville in the playoffs each of the last two seasons, West Bloomfield football finally broke through Saturday, coming from behind to beat Belleville, 35-34, in double overtime.

The state semifinal victory gives West Bloomfield a chance to play for its first title.

West Bloomfield junior Jaydan Montgomery (37) celebrates after his team wins against Belleville in double overtime, 35-34.

The most pivotal play was the final play of the game. In the second overtime Belleville went for the win on a two-point conversion, a decision by Belleville coach Jermain Crowell that will be second-guessed across the state. With his team needing only one point to send the game to a third overtime, senior quarterback Christian Dhue-Reid’s pass fell incomplete, giving West Bloomfield the one-point win.

West Bloomfield coach Ron Bellamy now gets another shot at a state title after he took West Bloomfield to the championship in 2017, when they lost to Clarkston.

“We just beat the team that knocked us out of the playoffs the last two years on their field,” Bellamy said. “All due respect to those guys, but I’m full of emotion right now, and I’m so excited these kids get an opportunity to fulfill their dreams.”

West Bloomfield running back Donovan Edwards carried his team on offense, rushing for 117 yards and three touchdowns.

“I’m so proud of this football team,” Edwards said. “When things got tough, everyone stayed accountable. That’s what Coach Bellamy preached all week. I’m so excited that we got this win.”

Edwards is committed to play football at Michigan, and his 6-yard touchdown run in the first overtime helped force a second.

“That’s the kid (Edwards) that leaves it all out on the field,” Bellamy said. “He’s a leader. I’m proud to be his coach and be a mentor to him. It’s an amazing feeling.”

West Bloomfield led, 7-0, after a first half marred by four turnovers.

Edwards scored for West Bloomfield on a 54-yard run in the second quarter. Moments earlier, Edwards had a longer touchdown scamper called back by a holding penalty. He only carried the ball six times in the first half, but Edwards was by far the most impactful player on the field, often serving as wildcat quarterback and punt returner.

West Bloomfield’s defense dominated the first half. Belleville only managed 61 yards on offense before halftime and senior quarterback Christian Dhue-Reid threw two interceptions, one to senior defensive back Dillon Tatum and another to senior linebacker Jordan Hoskins, who made a leaping grab on a tipped ball.

Belleville came out strong in the second half with a touchdown drive capped by a 12-yard touchdown run up the gut by senior running back Cameron Jones, tying the score at 7-7. Later in the third quarter Jones got loose again and scored on a meandering 65-yard effort to put Belleville ahead, 13-7.

Jones was the most outstanding player on the field, rushing 14 times for 134 yards, a 9.6-yard average, with three touchdowns, including one in the first overtime.

In the fourth quarter, West Bloomfield reached into its bag of tricks. Quarterback Alex Short handed off to receiver Semaj Morgan who then passed it back to Short for a 35-yard touchdown pass that put West Bloomfield up, 14-13. Short finished 7-for-9 throwing for 98 yards and two touchdowns, including the reception, but he did throw one interception.

“It’s about keeping composure,” Short said. “As a quarterback, you have to have a short memory. It will break down your team unless you get over it.

"I’m open on that play every time, even against our own defense. We’ve been practicing that play every day for two weeks. We knew we would bring it out at some point today.”

Belleville struck right back when Dhue-Reid hit senior Jeremiah Caldwell on a slant for a 29-yard touchdown, giving Belleville a seven-point lead in the fourth quarter after a two-point conversion.

A little more than a minute later, Edwards rumbled for an 18-yard score, effectively sending the game to overtime.

Belleville had the ball first, and Jones ran for one of his three touchdowns, answered by a 6-yard Edwards touchdown that put the game into a second overtime.

West Bloomfield got the ball first in the second overtime and Short connected with senior receiver Maxwell Hairston for a 5-yard touchdown. Dhue-Reid hit senior wide receiver Darrell Johnson for a 10-yard touchdown pass bringing Belleville within one and leading to the failed two-point conversion attempt.

The loss ends the high school careers of many talented Belleville players.

Dhue-Reid leaves as a four-year starter and the state’s career passing touchdown leader with 137. All-American lineman Damon Payne is headed to play for Nick Saban at Alabama, and linebacker Jamari Buddin will be at Penn State next season. Against West Bloomfield, Belleville was without wide receiver Deion Burks, who opted out to enroll early at Purdue.

Belleville has been loaded with Division 1 talent in recent years but hasn’t been able to get over the hump. It was ranked No. 1 by The Detroit News all season, but Saturday’s loss marks the third straight season that Belleville has lost in the state semis.

West Bloomfield will play Davison in next week’s state final at Ford Field in Detroit.

Eric Coughlin is a freelance writer