DETROIT – Battling back to overcome a slow start was a theme to Jackson Lumen Christi’s football season.
After starting the fall 0-3, Lumen Christi rattled off 10 straight wins to advance to Saturday’s Division 7 championship game.
So when the Titans faced a 12-point, fourth-quarter deficit against Traverse City St. Francis, there was no panic on the sidelines – just motivation to overcome it.
“Everybody, we just don’t give up,” Lumen Christi running back Derrick Walker said. “We all know the work we put in, and everything we did in the offseason and throughout the season. There were not too many people that believed in us, but we believed in ourselves. I told them that we’re not out of this game until the clock hits zero.”
Walker and his teammates had one more comeback in them, rallying for a 15-12 victory against the Gladiators to claim the school’s 12th Finals title, and first since 2018.
The win avenged one of those three losses from the beginning of the season, as St. Francis topped Lumen Christi 42-35 in Week 2.
“It was so motivating,” Lumen Christi quarterback Joe Lathers said of the early-season loss. “That’s the one thing that we were talking about all week, that we played them and lost to them earlier in the season. Also, we had an 0-3 start and faced so much adversity. A lot of people doubted us.”
Being doubted isn’t something Lumen Christi (11-3) has been able to claim often, especially not during the more than 40 years coach Herb Brogan has been in charge. Saturday’s victory was his 395th leading Lumen Christi, compared to 94 losses. It was also his 10th Finals title, breaking a tie for second most by a coach with former Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice coach Al Fracassa. Former Farmington Hills Harrison coach John Herrington holds the record with 13.
“It’s the same as the other nine (titles),” Brogan said. “It’s just great for the kids. Because no matter how many we’ve had before, they haven’t had one. That’s where the focus is at.”
Getting to No. 10 was a grind, not only in navigating the 0-3 start to the season, but in getting anything going against the Gladiators’ defense.
Lumen Christi had just 64 yards of offense at halftime, as it trailed 12-0. Eventually, though, the Titans began to find some success, specifically on the ground with Lathers. Lumen rushed for 112 yards in the fourth quarter as it mounted its comeback. Lathers had 89 of those fourth-quarter yards, and finished the game with 115 yards on the ground and 99 through the air.
Lathers scored Lumen Christi’s first touchdown on an 18-yard run 50 seconds into the fourth quarter, while Walker scored on a 2-yard run with 7:05 to play. An extra point by Andrew Salazar, and a two-point fumble recovered in the end zone by Conor Smith, ended up making the three-point difference.
“I think one of the things, I think that hurt them, is they’re so good they didn’t have to play many four-quarter games,” Brogan said. “Then you move from the up north environment to indoors and it gets hot like it did, I think they wore down a little bit.”
St. Francis (13-1) would get the ball just once more after Walker’s score, and that drive ended on an interception by Lumen Christi’s Alex Pastoriza.
Lumen Christi took over with 6:21 left on the clock and ran it all the way down by getting four first downs. The biggest was the first, as Walker converted a 4th-and-1 from the Lumen Christi 46-yard line.
“I had confidence that we were going to be able to get it,” Brogan said. “Too many bad things happen when you punt the ball. We struggled with the snap a few times. They came close to blocking the one. I felt good about our chances.”
The play was close, but Walker was sure of it before he hit the ground.
“The line had a great push,” he said. “I knew I had it. I was screaming, ‘Yes sir,’ as I was going down. Great push.”
While Lumen Christi’s offense was getting going, its defense was standing firm. St. Francis gained just 29 yards in the second half, after going for 200 in the first. The Gladiators also barely had the ball, as they ran just 12 second-half plays.
“We won the first half and lost the second half,” St. Francis coach Josh Sellers said. “We didn’t play how we typically play, but a lot of that had to do with the way Jackson Lumen Christi played us today. It’s a bitter pill to swallow for sure, especially because a lot of these guys were in the same position a couple of years ago, and had the intent of righting that runner-up finish with a championship. We just couldn’t get it done today.”
St. Francis built its lead with a pair of rushing touchdowns in the second quarter. Joey Donahue had the first with a 1-yard run, while Wyatt Nausadis had the second with a 9-yard run.
Nausadis finished with a team-leading 77 yards rushing. Donahue and Josh Hagelstein each had 13 tackles for the Gladiators, with Hagelstein adding a pair of interceptions. Garrett Hathaway had eight tackles, including four for loss and two sacks.
Smith and Devian Franklin led the Lumen Christi defense with seven tackles apiece.
PHOTOS (Top) Lumen Christi quarterback Joe Lathers (12) charges toward the end zone during the fourth quarter of Saturday’s Division 7 Final. (Middle) The Titans’ Derrick Walker (4) and Conor Smith (99) celebrate Walker’s fourth-quarter touchdown. (Below) Britton Hampton (3) makes his move during the kickoff return. (Click for more from Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)
DETROIT – Isaiah Marshall took a second Sunday night to think about the interception he’d just thrown that led to Belleville taking a late lead in the Division 1 Football Final.
But just a second.
When Marshall and his Southfield Arts & Technology teammates took the field down four points with 4 minutes, 47 seconds remaining at Ford Field, the interception wasn’t on his mind. Neither was the raucous Belleville crowd that had awoken on the home side of the stadium.
He wasn’t thinking about stopping a three-peat or snapping a 38-game Belleville win streak. He wasn’t thinking about the talk he’d heard during the week leading up to the game, that his team was on its way to getting blown out like so many of those previous 38 opponents.
All Marshall was focused on was doing his job.
“As soon as I threw the pick, I knew what I had to do differently,” Marshall said. “I just wasn’t thinking about that last play. As soon as I threw the pick, I just thought about it on the bench, then as soon as I came out, it wasn’t on my mind at all. I just knew I had to go down the field and score.”
Like he had all night, Marshall came through when the Warriors needed him most, leading his team on a 69-yard scoring drive, finishing the final 11 with his legs for the go-ahead score in Southfield A&T’s 36-32 victory against Belleville.
His defense finished the rest, as Dorian Freeman intercepted a pass during the final seconds, sealing the first Finals title for Southfield.
“It’s special,” A&T coach Aaron Marshall said. “It’s special for the community. It’s a long time coming. All week I’ve been getting calls from guys I’ve never met just congratulating the boys on making it. We had never even made it to the championship game, let alone won one. It’s real big for the community. I’m really proud.”
To do it, the Warriors needed to overcome the team that has dominated Division 1 for the past three seasons in Belleville (13-1). The Tigers had won the past two Division 1 Finals, and hadn’t dropped a game since Sept. 10, 2021.
They entered Sunday having outscored opponents this fall by an average of 49-7. They also featured the nation’s No. 1 recruit in the Class of 2025 in quarterback Bryce Underwood.
But Sunday, none of that mattered to Marshall and the Warriors (13-1). Well, except maybe the last part.
“Just a little bit,” Marshall said when asked if he was out to prove he was the state’s top quarterback. “I do think I’m the best player in the state. Me proving that tonight, and showing what I can do on the big stage shows that, I think.”
He finished the night completing 20 of 31 passes for 281 yards with two touchdowns, as well as two interceptions. He also rushed for 134 yards and the go-ahead score, as well as the two-point conversion that put his team up four.
“He came out there and played like I thought he was going to play,” said Belleville star linebacker and running back Jeremiah Beasley, who has committed to Michigan. “He’s a real tough player. Since we were little, he’s always been tough. He came out there and played with all his heart, and they came out on top.”
Underwood certainly had his moments, finishing 11 for 24 for 164 yards and a touchdown to go along with one interception. He also had five rushes for 39 yards.
And A&T was certainly cognizant of what Underwood could do, especially when he got the ball back with 47 seconds to play and a chance to take the lead. But by playing coverage, they didn’t allow the Tigers to push the ball down the field, and eventually pressure from senior defensive tackle Reggie Gardner forced the throw that Freeman intercepted to clinch the game.
“My coaches just told me to spy the quarterback, and whatever he did, I would go,” Freeman said. “Then it was just right in my zone.”
A&T led for most of the game, getting a pair of rushing touchdowns from Mathias Davis during the first half, the second score giving them a 12-7 lead.
After a 31-yard field goal from Belleville’s Brayden Lane made the score 12-10, Marshall engineered an 80-yard drive over the final three minutes of the second quarter to give his team a 10-point lead at the half. He accounted for 79 of the 80 yards with either his legs or his arm, finishing it off with a 13-yard TD pass to Tashi Braceful with 13 seconds remaining in the half. Braceful finished the night with 10 catches for 152 yards.
The Warriors nearly added to that halftime lead, as well, recovering a squib kick at the Belleville 43. Marshall hit Tyjuan Esper for a 38-yard gain on the next play, but he was tackled as the first-half clock expired.
Early in the third quarter, Marshall and the Warriors did stretch their lead when he threw a 19-yard TD pass to Xavi Bowman on a 4th-and-14. DaMario Quarles’ conversion run put them up 28-10 with 3:39 to play in the third quarter.
Of course, Belleville didn’t go away.
The Tigers responded immediately with a 45-yard TD pass from Underwood to Jalen Johnson. And after stopping Marshall on a 4th-and-2 run near midfield, they needed just three plays and 30 seconds to pull within three points of the lead as Beasley scored on a 15-yard run.
On the next A&T possession, Marquis Peoples put Belleville right back in business with an interception that he returned to the 35-yard line. Beasley again cashed in three plays later, with a 22-yard TD run that gave Belleville a 33-27 lead with 4:47 remaining.
Beasley finished the night with 106 yards and the two touchdowns on the ground.
“He’s a senior ball player; he did exactly what he was supposed to do,” Belleville coach Calvin Norman said of Beasley. “He came through in the clutch. When he ran the ball, he did his thing. I have nothing but love for the young man.”
Belleville cornerback Adrian Walker made one of the more remarkable plays of the weekend late in the first quarter, intercepting a Marshall pass deep in A&T territory.
Walker got both hands on the pass, deflecting it up and toward himself as he was spinning up the field. The ball went over his head and Walker reached behind his back to make the catch at the A&T 26.
Four plays later, Belleville was on the board with a 16-yard Colbey Reed touchdown run, and the Tigers led 7-6.
PHOTOS (Top) Southfield A&T quarterback Isaiah Marshall stretches for the game-winning touchdown during Sunday’s Division 1 Final. (Middle) The Warriors ended the night by raising their first championship trophy. (Below) Belleville’s Adrian Walker (2) makes a stunning behind-the-back interception. (Photos by Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)