Moore Making Case as Best of Martin Luther King's QB Greats

By Tom Markowski
Special for Second Half

October 7, 2021

It might come as no surprise to many, but we could be watching the best quarterback that's ever been a part of the rich football history at Detroit Martin Luther King.

Let's begin with Darnell Dickerson, an `86 King graduate. Dickerson was the Detroit News' No. 1 Blue Chip prospect and went on to play at Pittsburgh. More recently there's Dequan Finn, who led King to the 2016 Division 2 title. Finn is currently the back-up quarterback at Toledo.  

Now there's Dante Moore. Moore (6-foot-3, 200 pounds) is still a junior, so there's still much for him to accomplish, and for us to witness, at King.

As a freshman, Moore led the Crusaders to the Division 2 title game before they lost to Muskegon Mona Shores, 35-26. Last season, King lost to River Rouge, 33-30, in a Division 3 Regional Final. This season, King is 5-1 and one of the favorites to win the Division 3 title. Its only loss was Carmel High, 42-40. Carmel (6-1) is one of the top teams in Indiana.

Tyrone Spencer is in his sixth season as King's head coach and he realizes, with Moore, he has a special player.

“He's very poised, mature for his age,” Spencer said. “He's a class act on and off the field. He's got a great arm and great accuracy.”

Moore, 16, attended a number of camps throughout the country this past summer including many in the South including at Auburn, Clemson, Florida State and Georgia. At the Elite 11 camp in California, Moore was able to gauge how he measures up to a number of the top quarterbacks in the country, many of whom are a year older, and he more than held his own.

In only four games on the field (two wins came by forfeit), Moore has completed 67 of 95 pass attempts, for 1,280 yards and 17 touchdowns. He's received 27 scholarship offers including from Michigan and Michigan State.

Despite all of the hype Moore has received, he remains grounded. He's a quiet leader, but a leader nonetheless. As a sophomore he was elected captain, a rarity for any program but especially one as successful as King.

Detroit Martin Luther King football“I remember my first snap (as a freshman) against Detroit Catholic Central at Wayne State,” he said. “It was crazy. Now I'm a junior, and I'm just thankful being with my teammates at a school like King.”

Moore was King's starter from day one, and he remembers well that first game against DCC – a 24-22 defeat against the Shamrocks, who went on to share the Detroit Catholic League Central title.

“It was crazy, taking my first snap,” Moore said. “Now I'm a junior. It goes so fast.”

Life has its twists and turns, and Moore has had his share. Born in East Cleveland, Ohio, Moore and his family moved to Detroit when he was 5. His father grew up in the Detroit area and went to Southfield High, where he competed in basketball, football and track, and job opportunities brought Otha Moore and his family back to Detroit.

But before all that took place, Moore and his family had moved to Lorain, located just west of Cleveland, then they went to live with his grandmother on a farm in Lancaster, located just southeast of Columbus. Too young to be responsible for chores such as milking cows and such, Moore did get a taste of farm life and the early-to-bed, early-to-rise lifestyle.

In addition to football, Moore began playing soccer at an early age. From second grade through eighth Moore was on the pitch either as a goalkeeper or a striker. He credits that sport for improving his footwork. When asked if he'd play soccer if King sponsored the sport, Moore quickly replied yes and admits he misses the game. He does get a few opportunities to show those foot skills; Moore is King's punter and has handled the place-kicking duties at times.

There was a transitionary period, country life to the big city, but Moore said because he's the out-going type, it didn't take him long to make new friends. It was this type of personality that years later would lead to a relationship that would not only grow into a strong friendship, but one that would have a lasting effect on his development as a quarterback.

While working out at a Southfield health club, Moore recognized Devin Gardner – the former Inkster star and Michigan quarterback/receiver – going through his workout. Moore wasn't going miss out on this chance meeting. He introduced himself, and they almost instantly became friends. For the past three years or so, Gardner has worked with Moore, mostly during the offseason. But rarely does a week go by when the two don’t talk about football, school, you name it.

“We talk about anything,” Moore said. “We tell each other jokes. We go to fairs together. He gives me advice on how to be a better man in my life. He's making an impact. He gets me mentally prepared.”

Moore first acknowledges his father as the one who's had the greatest impact in his life – athletically, emotionally and socially. After that, it's his other family – the King coaching staff – who has played such an important part in his development.

First there's Spencer, then there's quarterback coach Jerrell Noland – a former King quarterback (2007 graduate) who played at Kentucky State – and Terel Patrick, King's offensive coordinator. Both Spencer and Patrick coached under one of the icons in Detroit's coaching history, James Reynolds, and Patrick like Noland also played for Reynolds.

“I lean on (Patrick's) shoulder,” Moore said. “He helps me break down film and be prepared. It's not all about football at King. It's family.”

As for college, Moore has placed those decisions on hold until after the season.

“I'm just thankful I have the opportunity to play at a school like King,” he said. “I'm concentrating on the season and winning a state title. At the end of the season, I'll narrow down my choices.”

Tom Markowski primarily covered 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. He also is a former correspondent and web content director for State Champs! Sports Network. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties.

PHOTOS (Top) King quarterback Dante Moore (5) avoids the pressure during a 41-34 Week 3 win over Detroit Cass Tech. (Middle) Moore interviews after the game with Bally Sports Detroit. (Photos by Quintin Love Jr.)

Southfield A&T, Marshall End Belleville's 2-Year Reign with 1st Finals Championship

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

November 27, 2023

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. 

The Warriors ended the night by raising their first championship trophy. 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.

Belleville’s Adrian Walker (2) makes a stunning behind-the-back interception.“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.

Click for the full box score.

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.)