DeWitt Caps Finals with 1st Title Celebration

January 23, 2021

By Jason Schmitt
Special for Second Half

DETROIT – DeWitt head football coach Rob Zimmerman had every right to talk about how good it felt to capture his school’s first-ever MHSAA Finals football championship Saturday night at Ford Field.

But all he wanted to talk about after DeWitt’s 40-30 victory over River Rouge in the Division 3 Final was the character and drive of his players. That’s what was first and foremost on his mind.

“It’s unbelievable, but I think the greatest part of it all is this is such a great group of kids,” said the veteran coach, who previously has coached four Finals runners-up, the most recent in 2013. “I’ve been saying it all year long, but their character is unbelievable – the motivation, the drive, the leadership. If there’s a group of kids who deserve to win a state championship, it’s this group. I’m so happy for them.”

Total, the program was making its sixth championship game appearance, seeking its first title.

And it didn’t take long Saturday for Zimmerman and his group to take steps toward earning it.

Junior quarterback Tyler Holtz broke open a scoreless game at the 5:50 mark of the first quarter, connecting with senior Blake Beachnau for a 15-yard touchdown to make it 7-0.

River Rouge would answer back early in the second quarter, as senior Mareyohn Hrabowski would find junior Jalen Holly for a 52-yard touchdown. A two-point conversion pass from Hrabowski to freshman Nicholas Marsh gave Rouge an 8-7 lead.

But it was at that point that the DeWitt defense stepped things up. And it also was the point when Holtz began to take over the game. The Associated Press’ Player of the Year in Divisions 3 and 4 threw two more touchdown passes before halftime, then added another midway through the third quarter to help his team to a 27-8 lead. All three scores went to different receivers – eight yards to senior Andrew Debri, 35 yards to senior Nick Flegler and 25 yards to junior Thomas McIntosh.

“That’s why he’s the player of the year,” Zimmerman said of his junior signal caller. “He was front and center today, and his composure was unbelievable. He’s just off the charts, and he was the difference-maker in this game.

“We felt that we had the matchup advantage in the passing game going into this because our receivers are very good. We felt like we could throw the ball, too. We just had to mix in the run enough to take some shots without them just playing pass the whole time like they did against (Detroit Martin Luther) King (in the Regional Final).”

Holtz finished the game 12-of-16 passing for 177 yards and four touchdowns. He also rushed the ball 15 times for a game-high 118 yards – and another score. River Rouge head coach Corey Parker admitted his team couldn’t find a way to stop Holtz.

“(Holtz) is able to throw the ball on the run, and that creates threats to a defense like no other,” Parker said. “Throwing the ball on the run, that’s truly a dual-threat guy. He didn’t really run the ball on the perimeter, he ran the ball on the interior and he was able to throw the ball real well.”

Hrabowski did his best to keep his team in the game. A four-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter and a 12-yard touchdown pass to Marsh early in the fourth helped keep it a two-touchdown game. He also added a three-yard touchdown run and ensuing two-point conversion to cap off a game in which he threw for 227 yards and ran for another 94, while accounting for all of his team’s touchdowns. 

“They didn’t give up. Their kids played hard,” Zimmerman said of Rouge (9-2). “They’re the defending state champs so we knew they weren’t going to go easy. We kept scoring and they kept coming back. I’m just so proud of our kids.”

Rouge defeated Muskegon, 30-7, in last year’s Division 3 Final. Hrabowski returned this season, but many of the players on this year’s roster were new.

“Our goal is to get here (every year),” Parker said. “If you’ve got young guys making plays like that, you know exactly what your future looks like, so I’m pretty excited about what we’re going to do moving forward.”

DeWitt (12-0) capped off a magical season which saw its offense put up nearly 500 points in 11 games played, while its defense was dominant, allowing just 78, including Saturday’s Final. Flegler and fellow seniors Grant Uyl and Cooper Brumfield all led the team with 10 tackles each.

“We have unity, no matter what, on defense,” said Flegler, who also handled all the kicking duties for the team. “Our mindset is always, ‘What the next play? What’s the next play?’ We don’t linger on failure and we’re always looking to improve on the next play, and I think that’s what brings us success.”

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) DeWitt junior Thomas McIntosh (10) looks back to see if defenders are closing in as he makes his way toward the end zone Saturday. (Middle) DeWitt quarterback Tyler Holtz breaks into the open. (Click for more from Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)

Ubly Offense, Kicker Pile Up Record Book Listings During Championship Run

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

April 12, 2024

Ubly finished a combined 27-1 over the last two seasons, following up a Division 8 runner-up run in 2022 with its first MHSAA Finals championship this past November. And the Bearcats stacked plenty of record book performances along the way.

Individually, senior Brett Mueller made the single-season extra point list again this past season with 76 in 81 tries, and he set the MHSAA career record with 220 extra points over 232 attempts, 40 games and three seasons. He has signed with Saginaw Valley State.

As a team, Ubly was added to the record book 13 times for achievements over the last two years, most notably in the rushing game. The Bearcats topped 5,200 total yards both seasons, and also made the rush yardage list twice including with a sixth-best 5,148 in 2022. Their 90 touchdowns in 2022 rank seventh all-time, and their 85 this past fall tied for 13th, and they tied the record with 10 rushing touchdowns in a 2022 win over Reese and set another record with 84 rushing touchdowns total that season.

See below for more recent record book additions in 11-player football, and click the heading to see the record book in full:

11-Player Football

Dundee’s Ben Miller has a pair of basketball record book entries, and he’s also been added in football for scoring seven touchdowns in his team’s 72-36 win over Erie Mason on Oct. 20, 2017. A senior that season, he ran for five scores and caught two touchdowns passes.

Nearly four decades later, Howard City Tri County’s Mike Wagoner has reached the record book for his work on defense in 1985. A junior that season, Wagoner returned three interceptions for touchdowns – 65, 55 and 35 yards – which would have been second on the list at the time and remains tied for third-most for one season.

Jaxon Lippert tops the list of 21 who have returned kickoffs 99 yards. Lippert, now a senior at Walled Lake Western, joined the list against Davison during his junior season.

A handful of records from Warren De La Salle Collegiate’s recent run of Ford Field teams and also one from decades ago were added. Jake Badalamenti was added three times for kickoff returns between 96-99 yards, one as a junior in 2016 and two as a senior the following fall, and Marty Wyzlic was added for his 95-yarder in 1976. Mason Muragin is the new leader for tackles for loss in a career with 71 over three seasons, and he also was added to the single-season list with 31 as a junior in 2021, as was Will Beasley for 38 as a junior in 2020. Wayne Wright was added for his 16 sacks over nine games as a senior in 1984, and Josh Cox was added for his 100-yard interception return as a senior in 2012. Muragin plays at Illinois, Beesley plays at Princeton, Cox played at Central Michigan, and Badalamenti played baseball at Wayne State.

Pinckney junior Nolan Carruthers caught 16 passes during a 13-7 loss to Jackson on Sept. 15, good to tie for ninth-most in one game and breaking the Livingston County record of 14 by Hartland’s Greg Matthyssen in 2007 – a listing that also was added.

Ethan Wissner did some major lifting, or rather carrying, during Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker’s 28-14 District Final win over Montrose in 2022. The then-senior ran 42 times to make the record book, for 289 yards and three touchdowns. He’s continuing at Siena Heights.

Senior quarterback Andrew Schuster and junior receiver DeShaun Lanier formed a game-changing pass-catch combo this past season for Clinton Township Chippewa Valley, with Schuster finishing his career with nine record book listings and Lanier totaling six with a season to play. Schuster most notably was added for 212 completions on 301 attempts for 2,766 yards and 28 touchdowns this season, and 321 completions and 4,199 career yards over two years and 22 games. Lanier was added in part for 73 receptions for 1,132 yards and 15 TDs this fall. Junior kicker Juliano Haddad also earned impressive mentions with 10 field goals and 50 extra points – and he’ll carry a streak of 35 straight extra points into next fall. Schuster has committed to Grand Valley State.

Fulton’s Evan Barton has been added to the single-game touchdowns list after catching four scoring passes Sept. 8, 2017, against Potterville. He was a senior that season.

Saginaw Heritage’s Braylon Isom completed his career this past fall as arguably the most accomplished receiver in MHSAA history. His name is listed in the record book eight times, with career records of 3,837 receiving yards and 52 touchdowns over 34 games and four seasons, and with a single-season record 26 touchdowns this past fall over 12 games. His 91 career receptions rank fifth, and he’s also listed for 82 catches and 1,617 yards (seventh-most) as a senior and 1,428 yards and 18 touchdowns as a junior. He will continue at Miami (Ohio).

Evart’s 24-8 run over the last three seasons has been its most successful of the MHSAA playoff era, and senior quarterback Preston Wallace has played an enormous part. He finished his 33-game career in the fall – he came up for one game as a freshman – on record book lists twice for single-season passing yards and touchdowns and on career lists for 662 attempts, 421 completions, 6,955 yards and 88 passing touchdowns over those 32 games and three seasons. The yardage ranks 15th all-time, and the touchdowns are tied for sixth-most for one career.  

The 2005 Midland Bullock Creek team was added for scoring 547 points over 12 games. The Lancers finished 11-1, their only loss in a Division 5 Regional Final.

PHOTO Ubly's Seth Maurer (30) carries the ball during the Division 8 championship win over Ottawa Lake Whiteford in November.