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.)

Record-Setting Viney Gained Lifelong Confidence at Marine City

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

July 17, 2024

Olivia Viney didn’t have to look far for inspiration while taking on the challenge of applying to veterinary school.

Made In Michigan and Michigan Army National Guard logosThe 2015 Marine City graduate and record-setting placekicker simply drew from her own experience as a high school athlete.

“It just really taught me that I could do hard things,” Viney said. “I was very involved when I was in school. I did soccer, theater, travel soccer and then football. Especially with football, I learned that if I put my mind to it, I can do it. That helped me to excel in undergrad. When it came time to get accepted to vet school, it was like, ‘This is what I have to do,’ and I did it. That was very confidence-building. It taught me that I really can do hard things.”

Viney, who graduated from Saginaw Valley State University in 2019 and Michigan State Veterinary School in 2023, is now working as an associate veterinarian at Deporre Veterinary Hospital in West Bloomfield. 

Accomplishing her goals is nothing new to Viney, and not at all a surprise to those who watched her come through the Mariners athletic program.

“She was very serious, she was focused and she was dialed in,” said Dave Frendt, who coached Viney in both football and soccer at Marine City. “She knew what she wanted to accomplish, and she set out to do that. She was a fierce competitor and very driven. She was a good leader in that way where she was kind of feisty, but the team would follow that.”

Viney was an all-state soccer player for the Mariners, leading them to a pair of District titles and a Macomb Area Conference Gold title during her four years as a varsity player. It’s the sport she grew up playing, but the one she was most known for after graduation was football. American football.

The 5-foot-1-ish center attacking midfielder found herself in the MHSAA football record book after hitting all seven of her extra point attempts in the Mariners’ 2013 Division 4 Final victory against Grand Rapids South Christian.

“I think it makes sense,” she said. “There were lots of great soccer players, even that I played with. Great players that had gone through school, so I don’t think it’s weird that people remember me for that. When I talk with people, they’ll connect the dots – ‘Oh, you played football.’

“I was more accomplished as a soccer player and had more accolades. But I’m prouder of my football accomplishments, because it was really setting a pathway for girls that wanted to get into that. It’s so much more common now, or accepted. Even though it’s been almost 11 years since we won at Ford Field, I’m so proud of high school Olivia and what she did, the courage she had. She wasn’t scared of anything.”

Viney graduated from MSU’s Veterinary School in 2023. Viney joined Marine City’s football program as a sophomore, playing on the junior varsity squad. While she was there only to kick, she was all in when it came to practicing.

“Coach (Joe) Fregetto made me do tackling drills and drills in the mud – I really did earn my spot on the team,” Viney said. “I think it was mostly because he didn’t know what to do with me, so I guess just do everything that the guys do.”

She handled varsity kicking duties the next two years, setting the school record in 2013 for most extra points made during a single season – a record that still stands. Former Mariners coach Ron Glodich said that Viney actually never missed an extra point that season, as the four failed attempts were never even kicked.

It was her performance in the Division 4 Final that gained her statewide acclaim, as she hit 7 of 7 attempts, tying a record for most extra points made in a Finals game. It stood until a pair of kickers hit eight in 2022.

One record that never will be broken, however, is Viney becoming the first female to score a point at the Finals.

“Everything was so surreal, I was so nervous,” Viney said. “One of my most vivid memories was that day, or maybe the day before, Coach Glodich said, ‘Just so you know, when you get to the field, the goal posts are two feet narrower on each side. But that doesn’t matter if you kick it in the middle.’

“We got there and watched the team before us so we could get used to it, and I remember thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, they’re so narrow.’ … Seeing myself up on the big screen was kind of almost a little embarrassing, because I knew people were talking about me being the girl. But once we were in the game, it was a lot like any other game. I was just waiting for my turn to go on the field and do my job.”

Viney later was featured in Sports Illustrated’s “Faces in the Crowd” – ironically, right below current U.S. Women’s National Team forward Mallory Pugh – but she wasn’t looked at any differently by her teammates, and she wouldn’t have wanted to be.

“That team was all about sacrifice for the team,” Frendt said. “For them to realize, ‘None of us can do what she does, so we better embrace it, because no one else can do it.’ They really made her feel like part of the team. They wanted to protect her, too. But she was tough. She wasn’t going to take anything.”

Viney went to SVSU to study biology and played for its club soccer team. During her time there, she volunteered at an animal shelter and made the decision she wanted to help animals in her career. She works in general practice at Deporre, and would eventually like to work in shelter medicine.

She and her husband Matt, who were married in May, live with their three dogs. She’s not far from home, and in the spring of 2023 she visited Frendt’s college and career readiness class to speak with students at her alma mater. Her presentation and the attention to detail and hard work she put into it, Frendt said, blew his students away. Not that it surprised him.

“That’s poured into her life after sports,” he said of her work ethic. “She just kept plugging away. She’s awesome.”

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PHOTOS (Top) Marine City’s Olivia Viney kicks at the 2013 11-Player Football Finals, also during her spring soccer season, and cares for one of her patients as an associate veterinarian. (Middle) Viney graduated from MSU’s Veterinary School in 2023. (Photos courtesy of Olivia Viney.)