By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
DETROIT – Clint Galvas didn’t need to tell Avery Moore what his junior quarterback already knew.
In fact, the New Lothrop coach didn’t necessarily want Moore to try to match Madison Heights Madison senior signal-caller Austin Brown on Saturday. Moore just needed to stay within himself, play his game, if the Hornets were to have their best shot at winning the Division 7 championship.
But Galvas also knew better. “He’s a 16-year-old kid who wants to go out there and outplay every kid,” the coach admitted, not long after the Hornets clinched a title seemingly years in the making.
Moore vs. Brown? Let’s call it a draw. But New Lothrop finished with the final edge in a record-breaking championship performance, outlasting Madison 50-44 to claim its first MHSAA football championship since winning Division 8 in 2006.
The combined 94 points broke the previous MHSAA Finals record of 91 set in Belding’s 50-41 Class B win over Detroit Country Day in 1994. Brown and Moore, meanwhile, both made the Finals record book in one or more categories.
“I respect him a lot. He’s a heck of an athlete,” Moore said of his counterpart Brown, who has committed to play collegiate baseball at Marshall University.
“But I knew to get the win I had to play my best game.”
Brown completed 17 of 30 passes for 298 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 105 yards and four scores on 25 carries – his 403 total yards tied for fifth-most in a championship game, and the four rushing TDs tied for third most. Moore threw for 99 yards on 7 of 13 passing and ran for 132 yards and four scores, also making the single-game rushing TD list.
They provided historical highlights to a game already deep with narrative.
New Lothrop (13-1) has lost just two regular-season games over the last nine seasons, but before Saturday’s hadn’t made the Finals since 2006. Three times over that nine-year run, the Hornets were stopped in Semifinals.
One of those regular-season defeats came this fall, 35-14 to Traverse City St. Francis in Week 9. That combined with moving to the first-year Mid-Michigan Activities Conference might have nudged the program that final step back to Detroit.
“Getting in a new league, playing a tougher regular season, definitely made us more battle-tested,” Galvas said. “Going to Traverse City and playing that team – that was a heck of a team that I thought we’d see down here as well. But at the end of the day, coming out of that loss Week 9, it kinda forced us all to take a step back, maybe have a little bit of humble pie because we were feeling good about ourselves.
“So I think that was actually a big thing for us. Since then, we hit another gear, like we can do this.”
And it was a big thing again Saturday morning.
New Lothrop built leads of 22-8 early in the second d quarter and 30-16 going into halftime. But Brown – who entered the game with 2,060 yards and 22 touchdowns passing and 1,831 yards and 33 scores rushing – capped two straight drives with short touchdown runs, and then answered a Moore scoring run early in the fourth quarter with one more to make it 36-36 with 6:38 to play.
“Our whole team is built for it, so in those situations we’re just looking forward to them,” Brown said of the back-and-forth. “But that’s a good team over there. You’ve got to give credit where credit is due.”
Moore led the Hornets back down the field, capping a nine-play, 66-yard drive with another rush score. And then, amid a battle of quarterbacks, a junior defensive back made one of the biggest plays of the game’s 130.
With Madison facing 3rd-and-12 at its 24-yard line, and trying to match scores again with just more than two minutes to play, New Lothrop junior Dylan Shaydik ripped away what would have been a first-down pass and returned the interception 33 yards. Two plays later, Moore broke through for a 13-yard score to make the advantage 14 point.
Madison added one last touchdown with 29 seconds to play. But off the onside kick, who ended up with the ball? Moore, of course.
“I never thought that we wavered at all,” Galvas said. “It wasn’t like heads hanging. It was like let’s go, let’s get the ball back and get (the lead) back. Just from having the schedule we had, from the games we played throughout the year, we knew we’d been in tight games, been in those games. No big deal, let’s keep playing, and that’s kinda how they handled it.”
Senior Aidan Harrison – who will play next at University of Missouri – added 93 yards and a score on the ground and returned a kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown. Sophomore Will Muron added a rushing score as well.
Senior Tanner Barndollar caught four passes for 102 yards for Madison, while senior Sylvester Whitley caught five for 71 yards and a score and junior Makai Johnson also pulled in a touchdown grab.
Madison (13-1) was making its first Finals appearance since finishing Division 5 runner-up in 2006, and was seeking its first MHSAA football title. The Eagles just missed returning to the Finals last fall, losing by seven to Saugatuck in a Division 7 Semifinal. They are 25-2 over the last two seasons.
“We definitely had a bitter taste in our mouth last year after falling short in the Semifinals,” Madison coach James Rogers said. “These kids have been working super hard in the offseason and the entire season to get to this point today. And I’m glad they got here and got a taste of it. But I’m sure they’ll be calling my phone in December ready to get back after it again.”
New Lothrop’s run included a Regional Final win over two-time reigning champ Pewamo-Westphalia and then a Semifinal victory over previously-unbeaten Lake City. The championship would have been memorable in the small community for a long time on its own.
But the Hornets also were playing in honor of Braden “Buddy” Miller, who had died Oct. 19 at age 9 after a fight with a rare brain cancer. Miller had been best friends with Galvas’ son Jude, and the lime green socks worn by the Hornets on Saturday were in his honor.
“We kinda embraced him as our inspiration, and obviously when he passed it was a big healing process,” Clint Galvas said. “Our football team did a huge service to help heal and continue healing with that loss. We tried the best we could to represent him, obviously with the green socks and those things, but this is really big for the community in that regard as well. … I’m just proud of the way we represented our team and represented Buddy.”
PHOTOS: (Top) New Lothrop quarterback Avery Moore scores one of his four touchdowns Saturday at Ford Field. (Middle) The Hornets’ Dylan Shaydik (10) snags an interception late as his team held off Madison Heights Madison.
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.)