By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
DETROIT – Herb Brogan’s teams over 39 years coaching Jackson Lumen Christi have succeeded in part by regularly capitalizing on opportunities.
Give the Titans an inch … and in Friday’s case, they’ll take 28 straight points.
Halftime came just in time for Lumen Christi as all momentum had been lost during the Division 6 Final at Ford Field. But when Montague couldn’t keep the swing going into the second half, the Titans took the opportunity and made school history.
Lumen Christi rode a defensive stop and four straight touchdowns to a 42-28 win over the Wildcats – clinching the program’s 11th MHSAA football championship and third straight, a program first.
“The whole year, and really since freshman year, we’ve been talking about it,” Titans senior Nick Thomas said of the three-peat opportunity. “We had two good grades above us. We said we’re going to do it with those two grades, and we’re going to become the first team to make history.
“That just became a major motivator, during those early morning grinds, getting there an hour early instead of a half-hour early. You’re already sweating before anybody else gets there. We were working before anybody else gets up, and that was a big emphasis the whole season – and it paid off 10 times over.”
Lumen Christi last season became the program’s third repeat champion, and Friday’s win was the Titans’ 23rd straight – they finished 13-0 this season, with an open date Week 9.
Brogan improved his career record to 356-83 since taking over the program in 1980. He sits fifth all-time for state football coaching wins, and this season pulled within five of fourth place and longtime Waterford Our Lady coach Mike Boyd’s 361.
Although senior Bryce Stark gave Montague the game’s first lead with a 57-yard scoring run midway through the first quarter Friday, Lumen Christi tied it up with a 57-yarder by Thomas two minutes into the second. Senior Cy’Aire Johnson scored on a 40-yard pass from senior Joe Barrett a little more than two minutes later, and after senior Bobby Willis’ interception on Montague’s next possession, it seemed like the Titans might break away.
But not yet. Three plays after throwing the interception, Montague sophomore Drew Collins recovered a fumble, and Stark ran for his second touchdown to tie the score with 1:17 to go in the first half.
Lumen hustled to get to Montague’s 28-yard-line during the next minute – but Wildcats senior Sebastian Archer snagged an interception.
The score stood tied at halftime. And Montague (11-3) was set to get the ball first in the third quarter.
“It was a question mark: who was going to wear who down? They wore St. Francis down last weekend (in the Semifinal), and if you talked to those guys, they were tired,” Brogan said. “One of the things we talked about at halftime, it just comes down to playing with pain. You’re going to be uncomfortable for the next 24 minutes, but what are the results going to be if you can put up with that level of discomfort, push yourself and make plays and make some memories.”
The first possession of the third quarter didn’t include a score, but it should be memorable as the start of Lumen’s final surge.
Montague took the opening kickoff, and over three plays went backward one yard. Lumen scored on its next four possessions, twice getting the ball back on turnovers and a third time after a turnover on downs when the Wildcats had driven to the Titans’ 24.
“We ran out of gas today. They’re folding guys in all the time, and we just don’t have those guys,” said Montague coach Pat Collins. “Our guys worked hard. I’m proud of our guys. That’s who we are. We have nine guys going both ways … they’ve got a whole bunch of guys playing football, and that’s tough.
“If it was a video game, and your guys don’t get tired, that would be a closer game and maybe the ‘Cats would be on top. But it wasn’t; this is real life. … I love my guys. They’re great players. They just got tired.”
The Titans used 22 players to Montague’s 18, and Collins said the difference was most noticeable up front as the game wore on.
Lumen Christi ran for 216 of its 348 rushing yards during the second half.
“Our running backs always push us to try to be better and better every day,” Lumen junior lineman Keegan Smith said. “After every play, they’re saying ‘one more, one more.’ And ‘we’ve got 24 minutes (left)’ at halftime. They pushed us and we told each other, let’s do it for the brotherhood of the line and just try to make history.”
Thomas finished with 249 yards on 28 carries and scored twice. Barrett threw two touchdown passes – senior Dayton Keller caught the second, and Johnson and senior Brock Fitzpatrick also ran for scores. Thomas had a team-high 10 tackles.
The Wildcats cut the deficit to 14 late with two touchdown passes from Collins to junior Brennan Schwarz. Stark ran for 156 yards and three scores on 19 carries. Junior Mark Vanderleest had 12 tackles and Schwarz nine for Montague, which was playing in its first MHSAA Final since winning back-to-back titles in 2008 and 2009.
The Wildcats’ only defeats this fall were to Lumen Christi, Division 5 finalist Portland and Division 5 District champ Reed City. Montague is 39-8 over the last four seasons and 22-4 over the last two.
“Since my freshman year, the seniors set the bar pretty high,” Archer said. “Sophomore year, the seniors did their part. Junior year, I love each and every one of those seniors and they’re great guys.
“This year I felt like we raised the bar.”
PHOTOS: (Top) Jackson Lumen Christi’s Nick Thomas (10) breaks past a defender during Friday’s Division 6 Final at Ford Field. (Middle) Thomas, Delton Langley (35) and Bobby Willis celebrate the Titans’ championship.
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.)