Detroit Martin Luther King senior – Football
The Crusaders’ standout quarterback capped his high school career by leading his team to a 41-25 win over Muskegon to clinch the Division 3 championship Saturday at Ford Field. Finn completed 9-of-13 passes for 173 yards and four touchdowns and ran for another 73 yards and a score on 11 carries to earn the Michigan Army National Guard “Performance of the Week.”
This wasn’t Finn’s first time succeeding on the state’s biggest stage – the 6-foot-1, 195-pound signal-caller also quarterbacked King to the Division 2 championship in 2016, and the Crusaders fell just shy of making the Finals in 2017 as well, losing by a point in their Semifinal against Warren DeLaSalle. King was 35-6 over his three seasons as the varsity starter, and this fall he threw for 2,109 yards and 26 touchdowns and ran for 1,262 yards and 21 scores. He was further recognized Tuesday by being awarded this season’s statewide Mr. Football Award from State Champs Sports Network.
King finished 12-2 this fall, winning the Detroit Public School League Black division championship and defeating league champs River Rouge, Warren Woods Tower and DeWitt plus Allen Park on the way to Ford Field. The Crusaders’ losses came Week 2 – at Muskegon, 24-21 – and then in the PSL playoffs final to Detroit Cass Tech, 42-8. But Finn led the team’s rebound after each defeat and will get the chance to continue leading an offense at the college level. (He has been committed to sign with Central Michigan University, although the Chippewas recently fired coach John Bonamego and Finn didn’t have a comment on his future plans in the immediate aftermath of the championship win.) Finn also owns an MHSAA Finals championship in track & field – he helped King win the 800-meter relay in Lower Peninsula Division 2 this past spring – and excels academically, carrying a 3.1 grade-point average.
Coach Tyrone Spencer said: “He did a phenomenal job. That’s our 35th win together. I’m just proud of him, the way he did for us. He’s a great leader, a great competitor and a great football player. … Just his play-making ability, his decision-making. He was calm. He’s been here before, and he looked like it. He didn’t look rattled, or he wasn’t doing too much. He just played in the moment, and that’s why he plays so well.”
Performance Point: “It’s just a real moment right now,” Finn said during postgame interviews. “I’m just thankful for having it, for my team, and for just going hard these three years. It was a good experience. … I just tried to be the best me I could be – the best version of me.”
Second time’s the charm: “(Playing Muskegon twice) helped a lot, just (with) pre-snap reads – I knew where to go every single play. It was a big advantage for us to go against them Week 2. We still had that 24-21 loss in our minds. … It was an emotional game. We took it personally.”
Playoff rebound: “Coach Spencer said there’s a state championship out there (after the Cass Tech loss). If you want to get it, you’ve got to go get it. We just had to lock in mentally and prepare. That’s all we had to do, prepare and execute.”
From last season to this one: “(My) maturity, me knowing what to do and what not to do at certain points. Knowing down and distance; for instance, knowing what plays to run and what plays not to run. It’s just the little stuff.”
From Week 2 to today: “I learned I just had to calm down, not get too high, not get too low. Just remain calm at all times.”
- Geoff Kimmerly, Second Half editor
Every week during the 2018-19 school year, Second Half and the Michigan Army National Guard recognizes a “Performance of the Week" from among the MHSAA's 750 member high schools.
The Michigan Army National Guard provides trained and ready forces in support of the National Military Strategy, and responds as needed to state, local, and regional emergencies to ensure peace, order, and public safety. The Guard adds value to our communities through continuous interaction. National Guard soldiers are part of the local community. Guardsmen typically train one weekend per month and two weeks in the summer. This training maintains readiness when needed, be it either to defend our nation's freedom or protect lives and property of Michigan citizens during a local natural disaster.
Past 2018-19 honorees
November 22: Paige Briggs, Lake Orion volleyball - Read
November 15: Hunter Nowak, Morrice football - Read
November 8: Jon Dougherty, Detroit Country Day soccer - Read
November 1: Jordan Stump, Camden-Frontier volleyball - Read
October 25: Danielle Staskowski, Pontiac Notre Dame Prep golf - Read
October 18: Adam Bruce, Gladstone cross country - Read
October 11: Ericka VanderLende, Rockford cross country - Read
October 4: Kobe Clark, Schoolcraft football - Read
September 27: Jonathan Kliewer, Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern soccer - Read
September 20: Kiera Lasky, Bronson volleyball - Read
September 13: Judy Rector, Hanover-Horton cross country - Read
PHOTOS: (Top) Detroit Martin Luther King's Dequan Finn pulls away from a Muskegon defender during Saturday's Division 3 championship win at Ford Field. (Middle) Finn hands off to teammate Peny Boone.
SCHOOLCRAFT — If it is a home game for the Schoolcraft football team, head over to Vicksburg.
If it is soccer, go to Schoolcraft’s baseball field.
Things are a bit jumbled in the sports world for the Eagles this season.
With a new football field under construction and a new elementary school built on the site of the former practice fields, the two teams have been a bit displaced.
“Along with our football field, we had three practice fields that were utilized by a lot of our youth programs, Rocket football, youth soccer and our soccer and football programs,” Schoolcraft athletic director Bryan Applin said. “It’s taken a lot of understanding and flexibility from our coaches, players and our community to make it work out, and it has.”
Meanwhile, all four Eagles home football games will be played at Vicksburg High School.
If Vicksburg is home on a Friday, then the Eagles will play Saturday, including their Homecoming game this Saturday against Galesburg-Augusta.
The Eagles won their only “home” game so far, 33-14 against Kalamazoo United, and take a 3-1 record into Saturday’s contest.
The soccer team gave up its field to the football team for practices and has been practicing and playing their matches in the outfield of the baseball stadium.
For the soccer team, “It’s kind of an upgrade,” Applin said. “The soccer field they traditionally play on, they don’t have a scoreboard, they don’t have a bathroom facility, so we’ve been able to use the (baseball) scoreboard, the PA system, open up the bathroom building.
“The goal at some point is to give soccer a home, and we’re very, very excited about that.”
This year definitely has been challenging for the first-year AD, who credits Vicksburg athletic director Mike Roy with being a tremendous help.
“Mike Roy has been nothing but accommodating to us,” Applin said. “He’s been super helpful to me stepping in and assuming this scenario.
“The communities are so close, it almost feels like home for us.”
Roy said Jeff Clark, former Schoolcraft AD, reached out once the bond was passed for the new stadium last year.
“We had to make small accommodations as did Schoolcraft to make the schedules work,” Roy said. “By moving (Schoolcraft’s) games to Saturday, Vicksburg had to work with our Rocket football organization to make sure games were completed” before the Eagles varsity games.
Schoolcraft football coach Nathan Ferency said his team has been “rolling with the punches.
“These guys don’t care where it’s at; they just want to play football. We’re all taking care of each other. What a great place to be when everybody works together.”
When Jake Bailey heard the team would be playing at Vicksburg, “That got me excited,” the junior offensive tackle said. “They’ve got a really nice facility. I know the school will come out to support us no matter where we are, but it’s definitely different.
“Good thing we don’t play Vicksburg, although it would be fun because it would be both our home fields. The new facilities and being back at our home field at Roy Davis (Field next year) will be really fun.”
Vicksburg is Division 4, while Schoolcraft is Division 7.
The soccer team was “just being a team player” in giving up its own field for football practice, second-year head coach Jeremy Mutchler said.
“For the soccer team to be a team player and get behind the football team will help the community get behind the soccer team as well,” he added.
The biggest drawback is that part of the current field includes a piece of the baseball infield.
“The only odd thing is it is a smaller field, still regulation size, but smaller,” Mutchler said. “Part of the field is in the diamond, so we have to play in the dirt and it gets tricky, especially when you’re trying to throw it in or just play down the line.”
The move has cost the team a few home games.
“At the beginning of the year, we allowed schools, if they didn’t want to play here, we would go to their house,” Mutchler said. “We had to go to a few schools we would have played at home.”
Maintenance supervisor Eric McGehee was instrumental in preparing the field.
“He laid out exactly the parameters, so I was able to send that to all the ADs that were going to visit to give them an opportunity to decide whether that’s something they wanted to help us out for our home games,” Applin said. “A lot of schools were more than willing to come and play us to give our boys some home games. A couple wanted to be cautious and play on a more traditional surface, and we were able to make those arrangements as well.”
In only its second year as a varsity sport, the boys soccer team is still finding its identity, posting a 2-5 record so far.
“We’re a very young team,” Mutchler said. “All juniors and freshmen. This is the juniors' second regular season. It’s all been a learning phase with maturity and sportsmanship.”
Junior captain Jack Curtis said he was a bit “bummed out” when he heard the team would move to the baseball field.
“The first practice, I drove over to our practice field,” he said. “No one was there.
“I drove over to the high school and saw everyone practicing (at the baseball field). I didn’t think a soccer field could fit on a baseball field.”
Curtis said in spite of the temporary move, “I’m just glad we can have some home games this year on Schoolcraft soil.”
As for Applin, he spent much of his career coaching basketball at both the high school and college levels and most recently worked as a salesman for Zeigler. His wife, Meredith, is an assistant coach for Western Michigan University’s women’s basketball team.
Ferency is appreciative of the work Clark and Applin have done to make this season’s changes relatively seamless.
“I’d like to highlight how great our athletic department is,” he said. “It takes a lot of moving pieces and parts to move people around and have a space for everybody.
“I’m really proud of our athletic department and all our coaches and kids for just rolling with the punches.”
Pam Shebest served as a sportswriter at the Kalamazoo Gazette from 1985-2009 after 11 years part-time with the Gazette while teaching French and English at White Pigeon High School. She can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Calhoun, Kalamazoo and Van Buren counties.
PHOTOS (Top) Schoolcraft’s varsity boys soccer team, including Nyan Wonders (15), faces Comstock this season on its field in the outfield of the baseball stadium. (2) Schoolcraft’s Kolby Lloyd (10) works to break away from a tackler during a “home” game played at Vicksburg this fall. (3) Clockwise, from top left: Schoolcraft football coach Nathan Ferency, Schoolcraft boys soccer coach Jeremy Mutchler, soccer player Jack Curtis and football player Jake Bailey. (4) Schoolcraft athletic director Bryan Applin has taken over the maneuvering of the teams’ home sites during his first year on the job. (Action photos by Stephanie Blentlinger/Lingering Memories Photography. Headshots and Applin photo by Pam Shebest.)