Morrice senior - Football
Morrice’s third-year varsity quarterback continued the play Friday that has helped his team to the best season in program history. Nowak ran 28 times for 158 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Orioles to a 40-8 win over Colon in an 8-Player Division 1 Semifinal, earning the senior signal-caller the Michigan Army National Guard “Performance of the Week.”
Nowak has run 204 times for 1,922 yards (9.4 yards per carry) and 33 touchdowns this season, and completed 24 of 49 passes for 529 yards and eight more scores. His 232 points rank third all-time since MHSAA-sponsored 8-player football was added a decade ago. He took over the QB spot in 2016, and Morrice went 4-5, but the Orioles improved to 9-2 last season and this fall finished the regular season 9-0 for the first time in the program’s 11 or 8-player history. Last week’s Semifinal was the team’s second ever and first since 1996, and this Saturday’s championship game against Pickford at Northern Michigan University’s Superior Dome will be the Orioles’ first trip to the MHSAA Finals in this sport. Along the way, Morrice avenged last season’s playoff loss to North Central Thumb League Red rival Deckerville – which went on to finish 2017 Division 1 runner-up – and handed Wyoming Tri-unity Christian its only defeat this fall in the Regional Final two weeks ago.
Nowak plays only football at Morrice, but does also play on a high school-level rugby club team based in Howell. He carries a 4.0 grade-point average while dually enrolled at Lansing Community College, and hopes to study aviation after high school with aspirations of becoming a commercial airline pilot.
Performance Point: “The defense played great. They played shutout. The defense really won us the game, I think,” Nowak said of the Semifinal win over Colon. “We were able to put up 40 points, but that was a great offense they had. … It’s the first time we ever went to a state final for this, and we’re just really excited about it. We’ve been playing football since third grade, and we’ve always had successful seasons. We always thought that especially our senior year, we always thought, man, we really need to do really good that year. For it to happen, I think it’s great, because we’ve been working hard all year (and) ever since we started playing varsity. We’re thankful to the town for showing up at the games. Everyone comes out. It’s a big deal.”
That’s when we knew: “Our sophomore year, we didn’t do too great. We got four wins as sophomores; we could’ve done better. Last year we were OK – we lost to Deckerville in the second round (38-0). … Our first game (this season), we beat Deckerville (34-14). I think that was big. We went there, we won by 20 points, and that’s when we realized we’re a good team this year – we really have a shot to go far. We had lost the second round of playoffs the year before by a lot there. So to have our first game, since playing there, be right there again, and to be able to win – it put behind all the doubt that we had last year.”
Taking this on together: “I think it’s the combination of a lot of us have been playing since third grade together. And there’s not a whole lot of us, so that bond has just grown through the years. And I think we’re just really good at football, and the whole speed thing really helps too. … I think it’s just knowing what someone else is going to do. If I’m running the ball, I can get a sense of where my lead blockers are going to go, what they’re going to do. We can try to get a sense of what other people are going to do. We can communicate easier. If something happens, we can fix it real quick, because we know how to talk to each other.”
It’s a speed thing: “I think 11-man was more about who’s going to be bigger on the line and then trying to work around that. (Eight-player) is not so much who is bigger on the line, it’s who can get off the line quicker and find the hole faster. We’re not the biggest team, but we’re a very fast team. That definitely helps us out.”
Revved and rallying: “When you’re done with the game and you’re walking back to the stands, there’s a lot of people I’ve never met before. But they’re all congratulating us, and they seem really excited about it. They’re there. They don’t know us personally, but they’re excited for the football team and they want to tell us, ‘Good job.’ There’s a lot of people talking about coming up (for the Final).”
- Geoff Kimmerly, Second Half editor
Every week during the 2018-19 school year, Second Half and the Michigan Army National Guard will recognize 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 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) Morrice quarterback Hunter Nowak (32) pulls away from a Colon defender during last week’s Semifinal win over the Magi. (Middle) Nowak and teammate Sam Koresky celebrate one of his touchdowns. (Photos courtesy of the Lansing State Journal.)
SOUTHFIELD — Normally, having students come up and say they won’t be in school the next day might have a school administrator seething and ready to reserve seats in the detention room.
But if there ever was a time to allow it, this was the moment.
Following a 36-32 upset of Belleville that stunned many around the state in the MHSAA Division 1 Football Final on Nov. 26, Southfield Arts & Technology senior quarterback Isaiah Marshall said he and other players made it known, “Don’t expect us in school on Monday.”
After all, the game was played and ended late on a Sunday night, the team achieved something nobody else in the community had done, and there were celebrations that needed to begin.
And for the record, the players were back in school Tuesday.
Whether it’s been in school or outside the halls of Southfield A&T, it’s been a week of historic celebrations and congratulations after the Warriors captured the first MHSAA Finals championship in school history.
Marshall said that remained the case when he attended the Big Ten Championship game in Indianapolis on Saturday.
“Everywhere I go, there is someone congratulating me,” he said.
Over their final decades before the schools merged in 2016, Southfield High School and Southfield-Lathrup High School had plenty of talented teams with numerous players who went on to play big-time college football and even in the NFL.
But none of those good teams was able to advance to a state championship game, let alone win it all.
“There was a lot of people that texted me and talked to me and said they graduated from the 1980s,” said Marshall, pointing out that one former player who reached out was Nic Jones, currently a member of the Kansas City Chiefs who graduated from Southfield High. “There were a lot of older people that used to go to Southfield that told me that they couldn’t do the job. They were proud of us that we could do it for them.”
Marshall said that after the game was over Sunday, he and other teammates congregated at his house at 3 a.m. to watch a replay of the game.
It was only the first time this week the replay was watched.
“We watched it that day and the day after,” Marshall said. “I think we’ve been watching it the whole week.”
A parade Saturday will start at noon at the building that housed the old Southfield-Lathrup and finish at the current school, which was the home of Southfield High before the merger. A&T then will host a celebration in the school gymnasium from 1:15-2:30 p.m.
Players will certainly soak it all in while they can, because it won’t be long before they split up.
Marshall will soon sign to play in college for Kansas and will be enrolling early there. He plans to take his last final exams at Southfield A&T next week and head to Lawrence the first week of January.
Teammate Jalen Todd will do the same as he is also committed to Kansas, while Tashi Braceful will enroll early at Toledo.
But long after this year, it’s a group that won’t be forgotten in the community, or the state after it pulled off the upset of a Belleville team that was riding a 38-game winning streak and was two-time reigning Division 1 champion.
No doubt, future reunions should be memorable and festive.
Even Marshall admitted his still rubs his eyes in amazement over what his team did.
“Yes, I still do,” he said.
Keith Dunlap has served in Detroit-area sports media for more than two decades, including as a sportswriter at the Oakland Press from 2001-16 primarily covering high school sports but also college and professional teams. His bylines also have appeared in USA Today, the Washington Post, the Detroit Free Press, the Houston Chronicle and the Boston Globe. He served as the administrator for the Oakland Activities Association’s website from 2017-2020. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties
PHOTOS (Top) Southfield A&T players enjoy the first moments after their Division 1 championship win at Ford Field. (Middle) The A&T band plays during a break in the action. (Below) Fans celebrate in the stands during the victory over Belleville. (Photos by Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)