Eventually, Andrew Copp may be best-known as a hockey star. His spot on the USA under-18 national team development program squad marks him as one of the top players his age in the country.
But he’ll be remembered as one of Ann Arbor Skyline’s first standout athletes for another sport he simply couldn’t give up.
Bittersweet and heart-breaking are how Copp described the end of this football season. The MHSAA playoffs begin this weekend, and he hoped to be a part -- a possibility that was likely closer than Skyline’s 3-6 record might imply, given four of those losses were by four or fewer points. And that’s not the worst part. Even if Skyline had earned a berth, Copp would’ve been forced to watch after breaking his right collarbone in multiple spots three weeks ago.
Still, there will be plenty to remember fondly for the first quarterback in his school’s four-year history. Two MHSAA records and his school’s first varsity football wins will top the list, even as the combination of football and the injury will force Copp the miss the first half of his USA team’s season.
“It means a lot, starting something new and trying to put your stamp on it,” Copp said. “As the quarterback, it’s a lot of weight on your shoulders to start something that 10, 20 years down the road people are going look at.
“Last year, when I got offered to play (USA) but had to quit football after the first game, I couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t quit on the team.”
That kind of leadership was “worth its weight in gold” for a school and program only just getting started, Skyline athletic director John Young said.
Copp likely would’ve attended Ann Arbor Pioneer -- like both of his parents had -- had Skyline not opened in fall 2008.
The Eagles’ football program started that first fall, but didn’t field a varsity team until 2010. Copp was the quarterback all four years until his he was injured on a run during the first quarter of his team’s Week 7 game against Temperance Bedford.
Two weeks earlier, against Ann Arbor Pioneer, Copp had thrown for an MHSAA record 557 yards and record-tying seven touchdowns. In six games this fall plus a few minutes of that seventh, Copp completed 96 of 156 passes for 1,732 yards and 27 touchdowns. Those season touchdown passes also qualify for an MHSAA record book listing, as do the 31 completions that led to his record-setting numbers against Pioneer.
“Obviously, I can’t throw for 557 yards without my line doing a great job, my receivers catching balls and making plays. And probably the most unsung heroes on our team are the running backs, who were blocking for me,” Copp said. “I just remember everything going our way, almost like a recess football game.”
But it took some flexibility from USA hockey and a tough decision by Copp to make it possible. Usually, USA players aren’t allowed to play other sports, Copp said, but he was granted that exception. He joined USA hockey after his junior football season, and this summer started that team’s workouts at 8 a.m. before then moving on to workouts and film study for football. This fall, after his five classes at Skyline to start the day, he’d work out for hockey from 1:30-4 p.m. every week Monday through Wednesday, then start football practice at 4:30. All while remaining a strong student and adhering to a hockey-imposed 9 p.m. curfew.
Ironically, the 6-foot, 185-pound Copp joined the football team to become more physical for hockey on the advice of his father Andy, a successful youth hockey coach. Andrew has seen some similarities between the two sports -- as a hockey center he also controls play. Hockey helped Copp be ready for a fast pace of play and developed the quick decision-making necessary to thrive at quarterback.
His football mind helped him help the Eagles when he could no longer lead them on the field. “He had surgery on Tuesday, missed Wednesday, and was back at practice the next day,” Skyline coach Rodrek Jones said. “That was the same day my offensive coordinator was not able to come to practice, and (Copp) called the entire practice for me. He stayed very focused.”
Copp still can’t carry his backpack around school, but hopes to play hockey by January. He is almost assured of an outstanding college hockey opportunity, and Jones thinks he has the ability to play college football as well. Young said Copp, along with receiver Jordan Woods (committed to Purdue) and volleyball player Maggie Halloran (committed to Michigan State), has put Skyline on the map. Despite the tough end this fall, it’s a legacy Copp is glad to leave for those who come after him.
“He’s one of the most popular kids in school, on the Homecoming king court ... a typical All-American kid,” Young said. “I’m extremely happy for him. I was disappointed he broke his collarbone, because he was on track for a more spectacular year. But he helped, along with other players, to elevate their play this year.”
Skyline quarterback Andrew Copp (9) takes a snap against Ann Arbor Pioneer on Sept. 23. Copp threw for an MHSAA-record 557 yards and a record-tying seven touchdowns in a 52-49 loss. (Photo courtesy of Jeff Lepley. Head shot by Pete Draugalis.)
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.)