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Michigan-bound Donovan Edwards' three TDs lead West Bloomfield to Division 1 title

David Goricki
The Detroit News

Detroit — Donovan Edwards realized his dream by leading West Bloomfield to its first state championship Saturday afternoon at Ford Field.

Edwards showed why he is considered one of the premier running backs in the country, rushing for a career-high 257 yards (14 carries), including TD runs of 78, 71 and 16 yards to help West Bloomfield — 11-1 and ranked No. 4 in The News Super 20 — to an impressive 41-0 win over defending Division 1 state champion and No. 5 Davison (11-1).

BOX SCORE: West Bloomfield 41, Davison 0

The difference? Well, while Davison quarterback Brendan Sullivan enrolled early at Northwestern and moved in earlier this month, the MHSAA gave a one-time waiver for early enrollees to compete for their school even if graduating and Edwards took advantage of it before moving on to Michigan.

West Bloomfield teammates Evan Bunch (52) and Rob Harris (84) jump for joy at the end of the game.

Edwards really is already at Michigan, already moved in and has taken classes before putting on his historical performance at Ford Field with the 257 rushing yards the most in a Division 1/Class A title game.

Edwards has gotten a big glimpse of Michigan, especially since West Bloomfield had a few practices at Michigan’s Indoor facility this week.

“I was definitely motivated to win the state championship,” said Edwards, who was on the field for four plays his freshman year when West Bloomfield lost to OAA Red rival Clarkston 3-2 in the 2017 state title game. “I said it three years ago, I promised the seniors that were there, ‘I promise you by the time I leave high school we’re going to win a state championship,’ and we did it, so I’m very blessed.

“My offensive line gave me great opportunities to hit the hole, I used my vision, used my strength. I just took their deepest weakness, but they also had a great defensive game plan. Their linebackers fill holes very well, so it’s nothing new to me, I’m just going to do what a beast do.”

Edwards, working out of the wildcat, opened the scoring when he broke loose up the middle for a 78-yard TD run with 6:58 left in the first quarter.

West Bloomfield took advantage of a short field to open up a 10-0 lead on Jake Ward’s 39-yard field goal with 8:12 left in the half.

Then, Edwards again operated West Bloomfield’s offense out of the wildcat, first bursting loose for 33 yards to the Davison 25 before handing off to Dillon Tatum for 12 to the 13 to set up Mekhi Elam’s TD run for a 17-0 cushion with 6:30 left in the half.

West Bloomfield held a 200-62 edge in rushing yards after Elam’s TD run despite Davison actually having two more carries (18-16).

West Bloomfield head coach Ron Bellamy jumps up and down with his team's championship trophy.

The turning point actually came early on when linebacker Kyle Johnson pounced on the loose ball at the West Bloomfield 27 on a fumble on the exchange from quarterback Dion Brown and the running back just after Carter Cryderman ran for 15 yards to the 24 on the previous play.

West Bloomfield converted the turnover into the long TD run by Edwards moments later.

West Bloomfield’s defense again came up big during the opening drive of the second half when Davison running back Jay’len Flowers was picking up yardage on the right side but was boxed in and while reversing his field was stripped of the ball by 6-foot-4, 230-pound defensive end Niles King, who returned the fumble 40 yards for a TD and 24-0 lead with 10:16 left in the third.

No doubt, turning a pair of turnovers into 14 points is huge, especially when the defending state champions were playing without not only its starting quarterback, but also Air Force-bound defensive end/tight end Harrison Unger who was helped off the field in the first quarter after his first down reception.

Edwards made sure West Bloomfield would be hoisting the state championship trophy when he took advantage of great blocks by sophomore Dallin Henry and freshman Ryan Ross and broke loose up the middle for a 71-yard TD run to push the lead to 31-0 with 4:49 left in the third.

Edwards scored his third TD of the game on a 16-yarder for a 38-0 lead with 2:08 remaining in the third.

“He’s the best football player in the state of Michigan,” Bellamy said. “He’s five-star, big college, whatever it may be. Teams come to stop one football player and to have 200-some yards, and on what, 15 carries, and remember we’re a football team that does not play our players the entire football game. If we wanted to make Donovan Edwards a 3,000-yard rusher we could, but we play the game the right way.

“You want to leave a legacy, I remember having a conversation with Donovan and I told Donovan when we got delayed again, got paused again and the state championship game got moved to the 23rd, well he started classes on the 18th at Michigan, and I remember telling Donovan that there’s a possibility that you will not be able to play in the state championship game and he said, ‘Hell no, I’m going to play in that game,’

“I remember getting a call from Michigan compliance and they said, ‘What’s going on, Donovan Edwards called the NCAA trying to get a waiver to play in the state championship game.’ Now, remind you this is before the regionals so we still had work to do, and at that moment as soon as Michigan compliance called me and said let’s talk to the MHSAA and if you can make this happen, he has our blessings, and when Coach Harbaugh called, he said he has my blessings, I said we’re going to win the state championship because I’ve never seen him locked in and focused and I’ve been around him since he’s been in elementary school.”

Said Davison coach Jake Weingartz: “He’s a great player. There’s a reason he’s a four-star, No. 3 running back in the country. He’s very special.”

Bellamy, who played for Lloyd Carr at Michigan in the late 1990s and early 2000s, has become a special coach, leading West Bloomfield’s program the last 11 years, including a 41-9 record the last four with two state title game appearances.

So, could Bellamy be following Edwards to Michigan?

“I’ve been hearing those rumors too the last month,” said Bellamy on Friday, the eve of West Bloomfield’s biggest game on the possibility of a job on Harbaugh’s staff. “There’s been no contract that’s been placed in front of me. I’m just focused on winning the state championship and the kids haven’t been distracted, maybe the coaches, but not the players.”

Weingartz was distracted after Unger’s (hamstring) injury.

“Harry’s arguably our top player, he does a lot for us on both sides of the ball,” said Weingartz of Unger. “It’s obviously unfortunate because he’s a huge part of our game plan.”

And, on West Bloomfield’s defense?

“Their speed is real," Weingartz said. "Their four-down linemen are extremely quick and that causes a lot of problems. Again, you can’t shoot yourself in the foot and we had penalties, we had a touchdown called back, didn’t do a good job in the kicking game and you can’t do that stuff against a team of West Bloomfield’s caliber.”

West Bloomfield piled up 361 yards on the ground (33 attempts) while Ward kicked two field goals (39, 45) and the defense limited Davison to 167 total yards, 125 rushing (39 attempts).

Top title game rushers

►307 - Jim Schragg, Constantine vs. Suttons Bay (Division 6, 2004)

►306 - Nolan Fugate, Grand Rapids Catholic Central vs. Edwardsburg (Division 4, 2017)

►295 - Roy Granger, Farmington Hills Harrison vs. Cheboygan (Class BB, 1991)

►278 - Kerry Smith, Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern vs. Bad Axe (Class C, 1978)

►257 — Donovan Edwards, West Bloomfield vs. Davison (Division 1, 2020)