The first MHSAA football champion of 2011 will be crowned Friday, and by the end of Saturday we’ll know who will play for the rest Thanksgiving weekend at Ford Field.
Here’s one take of the most significant results from the postseason’s third weekend, plus links to coverage from the biggest games and a brief look at all 16 Semifinals coming up Saturday.
Let us know if I missed a game or a highlight I should've mentioned by posting below. And click here for results, schedules and more. (Rankings below by The Associated Press' panel of media voters.)
1st and 10
DIVISON 1: Detroit Cass Tech 6, Warren DeLaSalle 0 – Before 2010, Cass Tech had never won a Regional championship. Now, the Technicians have won two straight.
DIVISION 2: Walled Lake Western 21, Port Huron 20 (2OT) – A celebration for one and heart break for the other as Walled Lake Western left with its first Regional title since 2001.
DIVISION 3: East Grand Rapids 42, Holland 21 – The Pioneers avenged a Week 2 loss to the Dutch to extend their playoff winning streak to 28.
DIVISION 4: Grosse Ile 18, Battle Creek Pennfield 13 – Best win in Grosse Ile history? Gotta be up there. Pennfield was ranked No. 3, Grosse Ile unranked, and the victory gave the Red Devils their first 10-win season and second Semifinal berth ever.
DIVISION 5: Grand Rapids West Catholic 55, Menominee 34 – It came a game earlier this season, but West Catholic knocked Menominee out for the second in a row. West Catholic is ranked No. 7 and Menominee No. 5.
DIVISION 6: Ithaca 22, Montague 19 (OT) – The top-ranked Yellowjackets have had few scares during their 26-game winning streak, but No. 7 Montague likely gave them their biggest of the run.
DIVISION 7: Hudson 35, Detroit Loyola 0 – So much for rankings on this one. Loyola was No. 2 and Hudson No. 3, but the Tigers extended their own 26-game win streak in a big way.
DIVISION 8: St. Ignace La Salle 27, Crystal Falls Forest Park 14 – An Upper Peninsula team might again represent in the Division 8 Final in two weeks. But No. 4 St. Ignace will get its shot this time after knocking off near-annual Finals road-trippers, the Trojans, who came in ranked No. 6.
8-PLAYER: Rapid River 40, Engadine 0; Carsonville-Port Sanilac 47, Marine City Cardinal Mooney 0 – A coincidence that these Semifinals both ended in decisive shutouts. But they appear to be equally decisive statements about which teams belong in Friday’s first-ever MHSAA 8-player Final.
26 – Winning streaks by both Hudson and Ithaca thanks to Regional wins. Hudson is the reigning Division 7 champion and Ithaca won the Division 6 title in 2010, when both finished 14-0.
42 – Combined rushing touchdowns scored this season by Carsonville-Port Sanilac quarterback Hayden Adams and running backs Ryan Davis and Dan Rickett. All have at least 11 scores on the ground.
20 – Number of completions, in 20 attempts, Lansing Catholic quarterback Cooper Rush strung together to begin Friday’s win over Dowagiac. The streak tied the MHSAA record.
6 – Seasons, out of the last eight, that Rockford has advanced at least to the MHSAA Semifinals. The Rams will play in their second straight Saturday, and have won three MHSAA championships during that run.
MORE FANTASTIC FINISHES
Detroit Cass Tech 6, Warren DeLaSalle 0 – A bit of continuation on the above comment, as the Technicians clinched that second-straight Regional title with a touchdown run with 1:38 to play. Click to read more from the Detroit Free Press.
Rockford 30, Grand Blanc 28 – Rockford got up 23-7 before holding off a late charge by a Grand Blanc team averaging 54 points in this season’s playoffs heading into the night. Read more about it in the Grand Rapids Press.
Mount Pleasant 28, East Lansing 20 – East Lansing led by six with 11 minutes to play before Mount Pleasant, and especially its defense, took over. Find out more from the Mount Pleasant Morning Sun.
Almont 31, Jackson Lumen Christi 21 – Almont has strung together six straight winning seasons, but its only other Regional final of the 256-team playoff era ended in a loss to Lumen Christi in 2008. Two late touchdowns sent the Raiders to their first Semifinal. Click for more from the Jackson Citizen-Patriot.
UP NEXT – 8-player FINAL and 11-player SEMIFNALS
8-PLAYER: Rapid River (11-1) vs. Carsonville-Port Sanilac (11-1) – 7 p.m. Friday at Northern Michigan’s Superior Dome – The inaugural MHSAA 8-player Final matches teams separated by 382 miles and Mackinaw Bridge.
DIVISION 1: Rockford (11-1) vs. Detroit Catholic Central (11-1) – 1 p.m. at Battle Creek Central; Utica Eisenhower (11-1) vs. Detroit Cass Tech (9-3) – 1 p.m. at Troy Athens – Rockford, DCC and Utica Eisenhower are ranked 1-3, respectively, and Cass Tech didn’t make the top 10 heading into the playoffs. But the Technicians have proven their merit. The Rockford/DCC game is a rematch of the 1998 Class AA Final, which DCC won before these players had started elementary school. Eisenhower is playing for its fifth Finals berth, and first since 2003.
DIVISION 2: Lowell (11-1) vs. Walled Lake Western (11-1) – 11:30 a.m. at Central Michigan; Birmingham Brother Rice (8-4) vs. Detroit Martin Luther King (9-3) – 1 p.m. at West Bloomfield – Brother Rice beat King on opening night 28-21 and entered the postseason tied for No. 7 in the state poll with Wyandotte-Roosevelt, which King shut out last week. Lowell and Walled Lake Western aren’t completely unfamiliar either – they faced off on opening night 2010. The Warriors have won their three playoff games by a combined 11 points, and will look to harness a Lowell offense that has scored fewer than 35 only once during October and November.
DIVISION 3: Mount Pleasant (12-0) vs. East Grand Rapids (9-3) – 1 p.m. at Ferris State; Battle Creek Harper Creek (12-0) vs. Orchard Lake St. Mary (10-2) – 1 p.m. at Jackson’s Withington Stadium – Three of the top four in the Associated Press poll plus the reigning state champ making up this field, and the No. 1 Oilers are the next to try to halt EGR’s playoff winning streak (see above), which has included wins over Mount Pleasant three of the last four seasons. Orchard Lake St. Mary also is a regular in this round, coming off three MHSAA runner-up finishes in the last four seasons. Harper Creek's last Semifinal appearance, in 1999, also was against the Eaglets.
DIVISION 4: Comstock Park (10-2) vs. Zeeland West (12-0) – 1 p.m. at Jenison; Grosse Ile (10-2) vs. Marine City (12-0) – 1 p.m. at Birmingham Groves – Top-ranked Marine City and No. 2 Zeeland West are likely heavy favorites against unranked opponents. But like Grosse Ile (see above), Comstock Park is riding high in the underdog role and is in its first Semifinal since 1983.
DIVISION 5: Grand Rapids West Catholic (10-2) vs. Lansing Catholic (12-0) – 1 p.m. at East Kentwood; Almont (11-1) vs. Flint Powers Catholic (8-4) – 1 p.m. at Ortonville Brandon – Last season’s champion West Catholic must now defend against this fall’s top-ranked favorite Lansing Catholic. But the other game has similar intrigue: Almont is No. 4 and knocked off annual giant Jackson Lumen Christi, while Flint Powers knocked off a giant itself on the way here in No. 3 Millington.
DIVISION 6: Iron Mountain (11-0) vs. Ithaca (12-0) – 1 p.m. at Northern Michigan; Constantine (10-2) vs. Ecorse (10-1) – 1 p.m. at Gibraltar-Carlson – Top-ranked Ithaca is headed back to the Superior Dome for the second straight season, and knocked off No. 3 Iron Mountain in the same round, same location on the way to last year’s MHSAA title. Constantine is looking to break through playing in its third straight Semifinal, but faces an Ecorse team that has won 10 games for the first time.
DIVISION 7: Traverse City St. Francis (11-1) vs. Saginaw Nouvel (11-0) – 2:30 p.m. at Central Michigan; Pewamo-Westphalia (12-0) vs. Hudson (12-0) – 1 p.m. at Vicksburg – All four of these teams entered the playoffs ranked among the top six, and St. Francis, Nouvel and Hudson have combined to win an MHSAA championship six straight seasons (Nouvel’s two came in Division 6). P-W has never played in a final – but also has never been 12-0.
DIVISION 8: St. Ignace La Salle (12-0) vs. Fowler (10-2) – 1 p.m. at Traverse City’s Thirlby Field; Mendon (12-0) vs. New Lothrop (12-0) – 1 p.m. at Howell – Mendon has taken down two top-eight teams so far this postseason, but No. 3 New Lothrop might be the toughest still with a defense giving up 3.9 points per game. The winner will take on a rejuvenated power – St. Ignace is playing for its first MHSAA Final berth since 1985, while Fowler is looking to get back to Detroit for the first time since 1998.
(Photo courtesy of Terry McNamara Photography.)
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.)