Following Underwood's Lead, Belleville Finishes Perfect Season with Finals Repeat

By Scott DeCamp
Special for

November 26, 2022

DETROIT – Wearing a gray suit, white dress shirt and patterned tie, DeJuan Rogers was dressed "to take care of business" Saturday afternoon at Ford Field.

And with Belleville’s interim head football coach making calls and sensational sophomore quarterback Bryce Underwood making many plays, the Tigers certainly did so, finishing a repeat Division 1 championship run to conclude this time a perfect season as well. 

Belleville wore down Caledonia, 35-17, to earn that second-straight championship. Both have come under the direction of Underwood – a 6-foot-4, 200-pounder rated as the No. 1 prospect at his position in his class nationally.

On Saturday, he finished 15-of-25 passing for 155 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. Underwood also rushed 10 times for a game-high 149 yards, including a 48-yard TD scramble early in the fourth quarter that gave his team some breathing room at 28-17.

“Really just taking what they give me,” said Underwood, who already holds scholarship offers from the likes of Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame and several others. “I’d say, being back on this field, I wasn’t nervous because I know what we’ve got to do and knew what we needed to do to win the game.”

Tigers quarterback Bryce Underwood (19) sprints downfield as Caledonia’s Maddox Greenfield (21) works to keep stride.Said Rogers: “You know, second year, two championships and he’s got a lot on his plate. Everybody is watching him and just to keep his composure and do what’s asked of him … it’s not always the big play – not the 70-, 80-yard touchdown – just do what’s asked of him, I thought it was amazing.”

Caledonia (12-2), which made its second Finals appearance and first since the Fighting Scots captured the Division 3 title in 2005, had Belleville on its heels for much of the first half.

The Scots led 7-0 in the first quarter and 14-7 in the second. They had a chance to build upon their margin before halftime, but a timely interception by Adrian Walker on a tipped pass at the Tigers 2 and a 13-yard sack by Lamar Fairfax on 4th-and-4 from the Tigers 34 snuffed out potential Scots scoring drives.

With 15 seconds left in the first half, Underwood connected with Walker on a 7-yard scoring pass to tie it at 14 heading into the break.

Caledonia regained the lead, 17-14, on Luke Vogler’s 22-yard field goal with 2:06 left in the third quarter, but it was all Belleville after that. Jeremiah Beasley ripped off a 36-yard TD run, Underwood had his 48-yard scamper and the Tigers put it away with 3:51 remaining on a 25-yard scoring toss to Mychal Yharbrough.

Colbey Reed rounded out Belleville’s scoring with a tackle-shedding 38-yard run to tie it at 7 late in the first quarter.

“I mean, we expected to come out and compete. I felt like we were as good as they were. I think we needed to score and finish a couple drives early,” Caledonia coach Derek Pennington said. 

“I could tell at the end that they had worn us down. We were giving up 50 pounds a guy, so obviously as the game progressed, we knew they were going to wear us down and we needed to get a bigger lead. We came out, had a good plan – we just needed to finish (a couple drives in the first half).”

Caledonia senior quarterback Mason McKenzie finished with a team-high 134 rushing yards on 23 carries. He was 6-of-18 passing for 77 yards with two interceptions.

Belleville’s Colbey Reed (23) picks an opening.  Brock Townsend scored on 1-yard plunges in both the first and second quarters for the Fighting Scots.

“I mean, we had a great season, so like Coach P said, we’ve got to keep our heads high, but it definitely sucks to lose your last game,” McKenzie said. “It’s my last game at Caledonia, so it’s definitely tough but, I mean, we had a great season. There’s not a much better experience than this. It was really awesome here, but it sucks to lose.”

Beasley paced Belleville defensively with seven tackles, while Blake Herron made seven stops for Caledonia to lead his team.

Fighting Scots senior defensive end Derek Pennington Jr., son of the coach, said that Underwood’s being elusive and tough to bring down made it a challenge, plus of course “he threw absolute darts in the middle of the field.”

“He’s a 5-star kid. He’s the No. 1 quarterback in his class, he’s 6-4 … I mean, he’s a great player,” coach Derek Pennington said. “We had a bunch of kids from Caledonia chasing him around. He’s a good kid and hats off to him – he’s obviously got a bright future.”

Caledonia, which was the smallest school in Division 1 enrollment-wise with 1,490 students, was battle-tested by the Ottawa-Kent Conference Red featuring the likes of Rockford, Grandville and other traditionally strong programs.

Belleville, with an enrollment of 1,789, saw its toughest regular-season challenges during the final weeks before playoff selection. However, the Tigers did survive a major test from Detroit Cass Tech in last week’s Semifinal, 29-28 in overtime, on Underwood’s two-point conversion run to win it, and after defeating Saline and Detroit Catholic Central along the way as well.

Belleville (14-0) was able to overcome any adversity that came its way.

Rogers led the Tigers through this playoff run after coach Jermain Crowell was suspended first by Belleville administration before the start of the postseason and later by the MHSAA through the 2024-25 academic year for violating the MHSAA’s undue influence rules.

“Just no excuses, no excuses,” said Rogers, who shifted into the active head-coaching role after previously serving as defensive coordinator. “Things are going to happen, things might not go our way, but at the end of the day there’s still a job that’s got to be done.” 

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS (Top) Belleville interim coach Dejuan Rogers raises the Division 1 championship trophy Saturday as Felix Shorter (71), Brayden Lane (24) and their teammates celebrate. (Middle) Tigers quarterback Bryce Underwood (19) sprints downfield as Caledonia’s Maddox Greenfield (21) works to keep stride. (Below) Belleville’s Colbey Reed (23) picks an opening. (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.