In Return to Finals, Edwardsburg Reigns

By Tom Markowski
Special for Second Half

November 23, 2018

DETROIT – Edwardsburg finished the deal on Friday, erasing much of the disappointment the final game of last season produced.

Although the Eddies’ offense was slow to jell, they controlled the clock and Chelsea’s multi-faceted attack to capture their first MHSAA Finals championship in any boys sport with a 28-7 victory in the Division 4 title game at Ford Field.

Edwardsburg has one other MHSAA title to its credit – the girls volleyball team won Class C in 1977.

“This is a huge moment for the program,” Edwardsburg coach Kevin Bartz said. “Last year was more of a surprise. Beating a good River Rouge team, we were just happy to be here. They were more focused this year and not getting involved with all of the hoopla.”

Edwardsburg defeated River Rouge, 32-21, in a Semifinal last season and then lost to Grand Rapids Catholic Central, 42-31, in the Final. Last week, the Eddies avenged that defeat, downing GRCC 46-44 in overtime in their Semifinal matchup.

The Eddies (14-0) entered this championship game averaging 48.5 points per contest this fall and had scored 196 during the playoffs. But Chelsea (10-4) was up to the task early, and its defense gave the team a chance at winning would have been its first football championship as well.

But an underrated unit is Edwardsburg’s defense. The Eddies have five shutouts to their credit this season, and their defense kept this game close until the offense got untracked.

 “You hear a lot about our offense,” Bartz said, “but it was our defense that won the game.”

Mistakes, a missed field goal attempt and a failed fourth down try kept the scoring to a minimum in the first half.

Chelsea stopped an Edwardsburg try for a first down on 4th-and-1 at the Eddies’ 34, but the Bulldogs couldn’t take advantage of the fine field position as Bryce Blue intercepted a Chelsea pass in the end zone.

That turnover set up Edwardsburg’s lone touchdown of the first half, as Caden Goggins scored from five yards out. Isaiah Mitchell’s conversion run gave the Eddies an 8-0 lead with 1:53 left in the first quarter.

Chelsea came back on the next possession and scored on a four-yard touchdown pass from Quinn Starkey to Hunter Neff, who made a one-handed catch in the left corner to complete the play. Starkey was 3-of-3 passing for 50 yards on the 64-yard drive.

The teams exchanged turnovers in the middle of the second quarter, and Chelsea couldn’t capitalize on a good scoring opportunity late. The Bulldogs drove from their 40 to the Edwardsburg 3, but a three-yard loss and an incomplete pass produced a bit of a dilemma for Chelsea coach Josh Lucas. He decided to go for the short field goal from the 6, but it missed to the right with 20 seconds left. Edwardsburg clung to an 8-7 lead at the break.

There were just two possessions in the third quarter, and only Edwardsburg made good on its opportunity.

The Eddies took the second half kickoff and drove 83 yards in 12 plays. Mac Gaideski, on his only carry of the drive, scored on a five-yard run. Quarterback Tre Harvey’s conversion run gave Edwardsburg a 16-7 lead with 6:39 left.

Chelsea used up the rest of the quarter, but its drive stalled at the Edwardsburg 32, and third and fourth down passes were incomplete.

Edwardsburg’s first drive of the fourth quarter didn’t produce any points, but it was just what Bartz wanted. His team burned 6:31 off the clock and pinned the Bulldogs on their 15.

Chelsea did not make a first down on its next drive, and the Eddies put the game away as Harvey ran five yards around right end for a touchdown and a 22-7 lead with 3:10 left.

“I came back with a vengeance this year,” Harvey said. “I wanted it. (Chelsea) came out strong in the beginning. They’re a good team. We preach playing strong in the third and fourth quarters. We definitely wear teams down.”

Edwardsburg rushed for 382 yards on 50 carries. The Eddies did not complete a pass in two attempts, but that’s not unusual for a T-formation team that prefers physicality at the line of scrimmage over big pass plays.

“The running backs deserve the credit,” Harvey said. “They’re the ones carrying out the fakes.

“We came in here not so much in awe as last year. I might have stared at the ceiling here too much a year ago.”

Goggins led Edwardsburg with 125 yards on 15 carries, and Chase Segar had 119 yards on 14 attempts.

For Chelsea, Starkey was 16-of-27 passing for 178 yards and one touchdown. The Bulldogs were held to 69 rushing yards.

“All of the credit goes to the line,” Sager said. “They made the holes. We had a mindset after last year. We weren’t used to the atmosphere then. I think now people will know where Edwardsburg is (located). We’re making them pay attention.”

Edwardsburg is located in the southwest part of the state, by the way.

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Edwardsburg celebrated earning its first MHSAA Finals championship in any boys sport Saturday at Ford Field. (Middle) Eddies linebacker Drew Bidwell brings down a Chelsea ball carrier.

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.)