WATERFORD – Football always has been a family affair at Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes.
It started with longtime coach Mike Boyd and continues on with Josh Sawicki, who’s in his third season as Lakes’ football coach.
Boyd retired after 2012 with 361 career victories, third most in MHSAA history. His sons, Mike, Jr., and Andy, played for him and contributed significantly to the Lakers’ success.
Mike Boyd played for his cousin, Leo “Smokey” Boyd, at Saginaw St. Peter & Paul.
And Boyd coached a number of siblings in his 48 seasons at Lakes. Josh and Jake Sawicki were two. Josh played linebacker and guard for four seasons, three times selected to all-state teams. Jake was a running back.
Sawicki took over for Boyd and has continued the winning tradition. Lakes was 8-3 his first season, 9-2 last season, and the Lakers are 11-0 heading into Saturday’s 1 p.m. Division 8 Regional Final against Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary (10-1).
Those family ties continue as well. Quarterback Clay Senerius and receiver Devin Senerius are fraternal twins.
Clay is a three-year starter and is one of the top quarterbacks in Division 8. He’s 6-foot-3, 185 pounds and has been offered a scholarship by Avila University, an NAIA school in Kansas City (Mo.). Kalamazoo College, Hope College and St. Francis, located in Fort Wayne (Ind.) have also shown interest.
Senerius threw a school-record seven touchdown passes in a game as a junior. During his career he’s thrown at least five touchdown passes in a game five times. Through 10 games this season, he’s completed 107 of 171 attempts for 2,226 yards, 26 touchdowns and five interceptions.
And if Lakes wasn’t such a well-balanced team, those statistics would be even more impressive.
“He’s a drop-back passer,” Sawicki said. “He has some athletic ability. What I like about him is he’s coachable. He throws a pretty pass. When he’s locked in, it’s like a video game.
“We throw it, but we don’t throw it that much.”
To the point, Lakes – Senerius, that is – threw for 2,900 yards last season and rushed for 1,200. This year the Lakers have gained half of their yards on the ground.
This team is primed to make a long playoff run. It’s dominated by seniors, and for a small school, the linemen are big. The offensive linemen average 235 pounds, the defensive linemen 260.
The best on offense is left guard Liam Sutton (6-0, 280), one of four seniors on the line. Sawicki will often run plays to Sutton’s side or use him as a pulling guard.
At nose guard is senior Anthony Clark (6-1, 310). Clark started playing football last season and is still developing. A state champion powerlifter, Clark is used just on defense.
Sawicki said a family member discouraged Clark from playing football.
“It took a while for his mom to allow him to play,” Sawicki said. “She was afraid he was going to get hurt. I assured her that Clark wasn’t going to be the one getting hurt.”
But what makes Lakes a team to be reckoned with is its offense, led by the Senerius twins and their other playmakers like Ryan Kostich, a 6-1, 215-pound linebacker and slot receiver, and running back-receiver Chris Cartier. Devin Senerius has 12 touchdown receptions and Cartier is averaging 13 yards every time he touches the ball, rushing and receiving.
“We have some really good receivers,” Clay Senerius said. “The last few weeks we’ve run the ball well, too. The offensive line is excelling.
“It’s great playing with my brother. I know typically what he’s going to do. I know where he’s going to be."
Tom Markowski is a columnist and directs website coverage for the State Champs! Sports Network. He previously covered primarily high school sports for the The Detroit News from 1984-2014, focusing on the Detroit area and contributing to statewide coverage of football and basketball. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties.
PHOTOS: (Top) Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes football coach Josh Sawicki fist-bumps his players during a Prep Bowl appearance at Ford Field. (Middle) Receiver Ryan Kostich (81) races through an opening during a 36-10 win over Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood. (Photos by Paula Imboden.)
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.)