DETROIT – Mission accomplished.
Shortly after Nov. 28 of last year, the momentum toward an MHSAA championship began at Detroit Cass Tech. The Technicians had just lost to Romeo, 41-27, in the Division 1 Final, and the work began in the weight room for a return trip to Ford Field with the mindset that there would be a different outcome.
Rodney Hall, who did not play in the Semifinal and Final last season after suffering a severe left ankle sprain in a Regional Final, threw five touchdown passes to lead the Technicians to 49-20 victory over Detroit Catholic Central in the Division 1 championship game Saturday at Ford Field.
Donovan Peoples-Jones was a junior and starting receiver on the team that lost to Romeo, and he said the focus on this season began almost immediately.
“When you fall down you have to get back up,” he said. “As soon as we lost, we were heartbroken. You always come into a season wanting to win a state championship. Now that we won it, it’s a dream come true.”
Coupled with Detroit Martin Luther King’s victory in the Division 2 Final on Friday, Cass Tech’s victory marks the first time two teams from the Detroit Public School League have won MHSAA titles in the same season. Cass Tech and King each have won three championships.
The Technicians also finished their first undefeated season 14-0.
An injury also added drama to this year’s title game. Austin Brown, DCC’s sophomore quarterback, suffered a broken leg in last week’s Semifinal and was on the sideline in a wheelchair.
It’s unlikely that with Brown the outcome would have been different. Cass Tech played that well.
Hall was 10 of 18 passing for 220 yards, with one interception to go with the five scoring passes – which tied the MHSAA Finals record held by three others. Peoples-Jones had six receptions for 118 yards and two touchdowns. Cass Tech rushed for 163 yards on 22 carries and did not punt. Hall gained 58 of those yards, on seven carries.
“I’m just excited to play out here,” Hall said. “It’s great to go out, throw five touchdowns. It was fun to play in this game.
“I came in (this season) a little timid to run. My coaches got behind and gave me confidence. I was able to run in the first game, but I was still timid.”
Cass Tech trailed 14-7 before Hall and the offense began to click.
He had a big hand in the Technicians’ second touchdown. His 7-yard run gave Cass Tech a first down at the DCC 46. On a 3rd-and-15, Hall scrambled for 27 yards, and then three plays later he threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to Teone Allen to tie the score at 14-14 with 5:33 left in the half.
Less than a minute later, after a DCC punt, Donovan Johnson broke free on a counter play to the left. A number of Shamrocks defenders appeared to have an angle on Johnson, but he ran untouched for a 60-yard score.
“It meant a lot to the team,” Johnson said of the run. “It was a little hole there. I knew it was going to be open on the outside.”
Cass Tech led 21-14 at halftime and outgained DCC 211 yards to 108 by that point.
DCC was unsuccessful on an onside kick attempt to open the second half, and on the second play Hall threw a 42-yard touchdown pass to Donovan Parker for a 28-14 lead.
Cass Tech scored touchdowns on its next two possessions to blow the game open.
“We planned that during the week,” DCC coach Tom Mach said of the onside kick. “We thought that was a good opportunity.
“We got it put to us pretty good today.”
DCC was making a record 17th appearance in the MHSAA Finals, after sharing the previous record of 16 with Farmington Hills Harrison.
It took the Shamrocks five seconds to score their two touchdowns. They went 73 yards in 15 plays to tie the score at 7-7 on Isaac Darkangelo’s 1-yard run. On the next play, the last of the first quarter, Jack Morris returned an interception 35 yards for a touchdown, and the Shamrocks led 14-7. Cass Tech then scored the next 42 points.
“We just stay focused,” Cass Tech coach Thomas Wilcher said. “Everyone just stayed engaged. We knew we had to pass. We had to take advantage of what we had.”
This season, Cass Tech had a lot. Peoples-Jones is rated as the state’s top college prospect. Hall committed to Northern Illinois. Jaylen Kelly-Powell has committed to Michigan, and Johnson will take an official visit to Penn State next weekend and said he will make his decision soon between Penn State and Virginia Tech.
Nick Capatina led DCC (13-1) with 85 yards rushing on 12 carries.
The MHSAA Football Finals are sponsored by the Michigan National Guard.
PHOTOS: (Top) Detroit Cass Tech quarterback Rodney Hall eludes a Detroit Catholic Central defender during Saturday's Division 1 Final. (Middle) DCC's Jack Morris sprints toward the end zone for a first-half score.
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.)