By Jason Schmitt
Special for Second Half
DETROIT – Game planning for an all-state football player like Brady Rose certainly isn’t easy.
In fact, it’s downright awful just to think about.
The Muskegon Mona Shores senior quarterback once again proved that point to be true Friday afternoon, leading his team to a 25-19 victory over Warren De La Salle Collegiate and a second consecutive MHSAA Division 2 championship at Ford Field in Detroit.
Rose rushed 22 times for 154 yards and a pair of touchdowns. But it was a 65-yard scamper early in the fourth quarter that proved to be the play of the game – a game filled with key plays by Rose.
“We ran that play quite a bit (today), but I wasn’t being patient, I wasn’t bouncing it to the outside,” Rose said. “(This time) I just let it develop, let it do what it was supposed to do and I bounced it outside and took it down into the red zone.”
The play lifted the spirits of the entire team and provided a much-needed boost of confidence.
“We get the ball down there, everybody is excited again. Everybody is hyped,” he added. “After that run, we knew we were going to punch it in. Anytime we get into the red zone, we have to punch it in, and we did.”
Three plays later, senior wideout Keondre Pierce scored on a 10-yard pitch to the right side, giving Mona Shores a 19-7 lead with 9:25 left in the game.
De La Salle, which trailed 13-0 at halftime, didn’t give up. The Pilots answered right back on a 52-yard touchdown run by senior JC Ford with 7:58 to play. The drive took just 1:21 off the clock and also included a 23-yard pass from Ford to senior running back Brett Stanley to help set up the touchdown run.
After a quick three-and-out, the Sailors then relied on their defense to get the ball back. Coach Matt Koziak’s team came up with a clutch stop on fourth down, on De La Salle’s half of the field. Seven plays later, Rose scored his second touchdown of the game, this time from four yards out to give his team a 25-13 lead with just 1:47 left to play.
De La Salle did move the ball down the field quickly, scoring on a four-yard keeper by sophomore quarterback Brady Drogosh with 16 seconds to play. But it wasn’t enough, as Rose recovered the ensuing on-side kickoff attempt and then took a knee to end the game.
“They did have us on our heels a little bit,” Koziak said. “We jumped up on them, 13-0 going into halftime, then they come right back in the second half. We said it at halftime, ‘They’re not going to go away. They’re not going to let you win this, you’ve got to go take it.’”
The Mona Shores defense, led by senior Kyree Hamel, who finished with 11 tackles and an interception, held De La Salle to just 50 total yards and three first downs in the first half. The Pilots totaled 62 yards on the ground during their drive to start the second half. Ford provided a change of pace for De La Salle, running the ball six straight times to begin the drive. After runs of 15 and 10 yards by freshman Rhett Roeser moved the ball inside the 5-yard line, Ford capped the drive with a four-yard touchdown run to get his team on the scoreboard.
“We didn’t run a lot of plays in the first half, and we couldn’t get into a rhythm,” De La Salle head coach Dan Rohn said. “So we went into halftime and said, ‘Let’s change things up a little bit and up the tempo.’ It’s kind of been JC’s role all year long. We haven’t needed it in the playoffs because he’s playing two ways.”
Ford finished with 111 yards on 15 carries and those two touchdowns. Stanley had 42 yards and Roeser added 38 for the Pilots. Defensively, junior Will Beesley had a game-high 20 tackles, while senior Jayden Conklin added 14. Junior Dionte Dandridge had an interception.
Mona Shores (12-0) finished with 311 rushing yards. Along with Rose, junior Elijah Johnson also had a good game on the ground. He carried the ball 14 times for 81 yards and had a nine-yard touchdown in the first half. Rose also returned three kicks for 48 yards, averaged 39 yards on his three punts, blocked an extra point and had eight tackles on the other side of the ball.
“What a legacy for him to leave,” Koziak said of Rose, who will play collegiately at Ferris State University. “Obviously he’s a tremendous player, a tremendous competitor. It’s so easy to root for a dude like that. He’s not 6-foot-3, he doesn’t run a 4.3 40 (yard dash). He’s not a 5 star. But all great stories usually have an underdog in it, so it’s easy for people to get behind him, for his teammates to get behind him. They love him. I think when we look back on one of the great players, and performances, in the state over the past two seasons, he’s got to be in the conversation.”
Rohn, who completed his first year at De La Salle after having won four Division 5 championships at Grand Rapids West Catholic, said he was proud of his team for battling through a lot of adversity over the past year.
“We went against one of the best football teams in the state of Michigan and one of the best football players in the state of Michigan,” Rohn said. “Hats off to Matt (Koziak) and his team. I have nothing but respect for their program and the way they played today. Who would have thought that we’d be sitting here on January 22 with an opportunity to win a state championship?”
Koziak praised Rohn for all his accomplishments at De La Salle, while also crediting players from all over the state for forging ahead despite all the obstacles they faced over the past year.
“I’m proud of our young men. I’m proud of the state of Michigan, the football players,” Koziak said. “These young men have been through the ropes. They’ve been on an emotional rollercoaster. Football prepares you for life. But this season, holy cow, it’s going to teach you disappointment, it’s going to teach you hope, it’s going to teach you surprise, it’s going to teach you humility. I have no doubt these young men are going to be good fathers, and better sons, better husbands because things didn’t go their way this year. Whether it was wins or losses, or COVID, or a pause in the season, whatever it was. They’re all going to be better human beings for it, and I think that’s a special message we tried to preach all year.”
PHOTOS: (Top) Muskegon Mona Shores quarterback Brady Rose drops back to pass during Friday’s Division 2 championship game at Ford Field. (Middle) De La Salle’s Will Beesley makes his move as Shores defenders close in. (Click for more from Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)
On jaw-dropping moments alone, the 2023 Football Finals played over the last two weekends at Northern Michigan University’s Superior Dome and Ford Field were an unforgettable success.
The two longest active winning streaks in the state were ended by first-time champions. Perhaps the two most recognizable players in Michigan faced off in the season finale. The winningest active coach in state history led his team to a record-tying title, while two more coaches retired with their program’s first. The lone repeat champion needed every last second to score all of its points during the fourth quarter, and four reigning champions saw their repeat or three-peat bids denied.
Consider those an opening kickoff of the final “1st & Goal Review” this season.
MHSAA.com covered all 10 championship games, with quick recaps and links (click on the game scores) to those stories below followed by notations of performances entered into the MHSAA Finals record book and a report on some of the main storylines to emerge as those championships were being decided.
Finals in Review
11-Player Division 1: Southfield Arts & Technology 36, Belleville 32 – Read
The concluding game of this season’s Finals kept everyone on the edge of their seats as A&T not only claimed its first championship but ended reigning champ Belleville’s winning streak at 38 games. This matched up arguably the top quarterbacks in the state, with senior Isaiah Marshall piling up 415 total yards while running for a touchdown and throwing for two more, and Belleville junior Bryce Underwood totaling 203 total yards with a passing score as he attempted to lead the Tigers to a Division 1 title for the third-straight season.
11-Player Division 2: Muskegon 33, Warren De La Salle Collegiate 21 – Read
Muskegon also ended a two-year title streak, as De La Salle was the reigning champion and making its fourth-straight Finals appearance. The Big Reds had finished Division 3 runner-up in 2022, but followed senior quarterback M’Khi Guy, who piled up 374 total yards, ran for a pair of touchdowns and threw for two more.
11-Player Division 3: Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central 27, Mason 10 – Read
Both were playing for a first championship, and Forest Hills Central after finishing Division 2 runner-up last season. Several top contributors from the 2022 Rangers team were back, and they limited a Mason offense that had averaged 41 points per game entering the finale. In doing so, FHC sent retiring coach Tim Rogers out with the ultimate win.
11-Player Division 4: Harper Woods 33, Grand Rapids South Christian 27 – Read
Harper Woods was another first-time champion, carrying a 14-0 lead into the second quarter and extending it to as many as 20 before South Christian made a late run behind the record-setting passing of junior quarterback Carson Vis. Harper Woods lost junior lead back Colby Bailey on the second play, but junior Donald Adams stepped in and averaged 10 yards per carry with 174 total.
11-Player Division 5: Grand Rapids Catholic Central 21, Corunna 7 – Read
After missing out on a Ford Field trip last fall, Grand Rapids Catholic Central claimed its third Division 5 title over the last four seasons. Senior quarterback Connor Wolf ran for all three touchdowns and senior running back Kellen Russell-Dixon powered the attack with 133 yards on the ground. Corunna was making its first Finals appearance and gave the Cougars one of their closest games, as all but three wins had come by at least 32 points.
11-Player Division 6: Kingsley 38, Almont 24 – Read
Kingsley claimed its first Finals championship since 2005 led by another record-setting performance. Senior running back Eli Graves tied the Finals record scoring 30 points, the last of his four touchdowns with 2:19 to play and after Almont had pulled within six points of the lead. The Stags controlled the ball for more than 33 minutes – or nearly 70 percent of the game.
11-Player Division 7: Jackson Lumen Christi 34, Menominee 30 – Read
The Titans and longtime coach Herb Brogan tied the MHSAA record with their 13th Finals championship as they scored the game-winning points with 4:04 to play to complete this repeat title run. Junior running back Kadale Williams ran for 276 yards, the fifth-most in Finals history, and scored his first two touchdowns during the second quarter to bring Lumen back from an early 14-0 deficit.
11-Player Division 8: Ubly 21, Ottawa Lake Whiteford 6 – Read
The rematch of the 2022 Division 8 Final – won by Whiteford – this time went Ubly’s way as the Bearcats also ended the Bobcats’ 27-game winning streak in coach Eric Sweeney's final game. Ubly had finished Finals runner-up three times, but concluded its first championship season 14-0. The teams played a scoreless first quarter and Whiteford scored first in the second before the Bearcats stacked three scoring drives of at least 5 minutes, 30 seconds apiece.
8-Player Division 1: Martin 30, Indian River Inland Lakes 26 – Read
Martin scored all 30 of its points during the final 10:17 to repeat as Division 1 champion in unimaginable fashion. Junior quarterback Gavin Meyers’ 21-yard run with five seconds to play put the Clippers ahead for good, and he finished with 358 total yards and also threw a touchdown pass with 33 seconds left to pull Martin within four points of the lead. Inland Lakes was playing its first Final.
8-Player Division 2: Adrian Lenawee Christin 36, Marion 18 – Read
Lenawee Christian clinched its third Finals championship over the last four seasons and after falling short a year ago. Senior quarterback Sam Lutz piled up one more massive statistical performance, throwing for 350 yards and three touchdowns on near-perfect passing, while also running for two scores. Marion was making its first Finals appearance since 1990.
As noted above, Jackson Lumen Christi tied the MHSAA football record by winning its 13th Finals championship. The Titans share that top spot with now-closed Farmington Hills Harrison, and Grand Rapids Catholic Central and Muskegon also moved up that list with their eighth and seventh titles, respectively. Lumen Christi also played in its 16th championship game – third-most and two short of Harrison’s record in that category, while Muskegon played in its 14th, GRCC in its 10th and Grand Rapids South Christian and Warren De La Salle Collegiate both in their ninth Final.
Kingsley senior Eli Graves became one of five to score a record 30 points in an 11-Player Final, doing so with four rushing touchdowns and three 2-point conversions. His four touchdowns tied for fifth-most TDs in a Final and tied for third-most rushing scores. Graves also made the single-game rushing yards list with 210 yards on 33 carries.
Jackson Lumen Christi junior Kadale Williams finished his season with more than 1,900 yards rushing after reaching the single-game Finals rushing list with 276 on 27 carries. Muskegon senior quarterback M’Khi Guy joined Williams and Graves with 215 rushing yards on 25 carries.
Although Harper Woods and Grand Rapids South Christian combined to score just 60 points, they combined for 1,030 total yards, second-most on the list for both teams combined, and South Christian’s 533 total yards alone tied for fourth-most by a single team. Sailors junior quarterback Carson Vis set 11-Player Finals records with 441 passing yards, 30 completions and 513 total yards, and his 44 pass attempts rank second. His senior receiver Jake Vermaas made lists with 10 receptions and 176 yards. Not surprisingly, Vis’ passing yards also make the most by one team in an 11-Player Final.
Southfield A&T senior Isaiah Marshall also made the total yardage list with 415, ranking fourth, and his 281 passing yards and 20 completions also earned entries. Guy made the total yardage list with 374 and also the longest pass list with a 94-yarder to senior Destin Piggee for a score. De La Salle junior Sante Gasperoni made the single-game passing yardage list with 249, and Harper Woods sophomore Nate Rocheleau also made the longest throw list with a 90-yard scoring toss to senior Ramonty Houze. Mason junior Cason Carswell made the attempts and completions lists connecting on 22 of 40 passes.
Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central senior Alex Moeller made the single-game field goals list in 11-player with two, from 35 and 27 yards out. Lumen Christi junior Andrew Salazar made the single-game extra points list with five in five tries.
Senior Tashi Braceful was on the other end of some of Marshall’s record work making the 11-player receptions list with 10 catches, for 152 yards.
Conversely, two teams made the list for fewest passing attempts in an 11-player championship game – Almont, which completed one pass on two attempts, and Ubly, which attempted three passes and completed two.
South Christian earned one more entry from the Division 4 game, tying for third-most first downs with 28. Kingsley also made that list, ranking sixth with 27.
Kingsley and Ubly also made the list for fewest punts in an 11-Player Final, as neither punted last weekend.
Marion senior Gavin Prielipp set the 8-Player Finals record for the fastest touchdown scored on an opening kickoff, bringing it back in Division 2 76 yards for a score over the game’s first nine seconds.
Lenawee Christian sophomore Max Stamats made the records for longest field goal also in that game, drilling a 42-yarder.
Cougars senior quarterback Sam Lutz is all over the record book. His 396 total yards in the Division 2 Final rank fifth on that list, while his 350 passing yards are third and .870 percentage throwing the ball (20 for 23) is the first entry in that category. The 350 passing yards also represent the third-most on the team list for 8-Player Finals.
Senior teammate Easton Boggs also made his marks in Division 2, with his 210 receiving yards ranking third and his three touchdown receptions tying for second-most in an 8-Player title game.
Both Division 1 quarterbacks also made the 8-Player Finals list for total offense, Martin junior Gavin Meyers with 358 yards and Inland Lakes junior Aidan Fenstermaker with 323.
Martin as a team ranked second on the 8-player list for most points scored in a quarter, with its 30 during the fourth, and also made the first downs list with 27. Neither Martin nor Inland Lakes punted in that Division 1 game, placing those teams on the lists for fewest punts by one team and fewest between both teams in one game.
Stories Behind the Scores
Legendary Lineup: From a competitiveness point of view, this was as strong a set of Football Finals as we’ve enjoyed in recent memory. Over the last five seasons alone, only 12 championship games – out of 50 – had been decided by seven points or fewer, and only 24 had margins of 14 or fewer points, including only three of 10 games in 2022. But the last two weekends saw four games decided by seven points or fewer, three more by 8-14 points, and the remaining three by 15, 17 and 18.
Some Old, Some New: Of 10 champions this season, four earned football titles for the first time – and only two were repeat winners from 2022. While nine teams played in Finals for at least the second season in a row, five played in a championship game in this sport for the first time. More than 45,000 fans attended the 11-Player Finals, up 2,000 from a year ago and thanks in part to notable crowds from first-time finalists Mason, Corunna and A&T.
Scheduling Notes: Due to Michigan State playing Penn State on Friday at Ford Field, the MHSAA 11-Player Finals were moved to Saturday and Sunday, and Sunday’s games also started at 9:30 a.m. instead of the traditional 10 kickoff time. The schedule adjustment also allowed for experimentation with the order of games, with the largest schools each day – Division 2 on Saturday and Division 1 on Sunday – moved to the final time slots those evenings.
Dazzling Finishes: The Division 1 games – both in 11-player and 8-player – provided last-minute game-winning touchdowns to cap storybook seasons. In 11-player, Isaiah Marshall’s 11-yard scoring run with 47 seconds to play pushed Southfield Arts & Technology past Belleville 36-32 after the Tigers previously had come back from an 18-point deficit. In 8-Player Division 1, Martin scored all of its 30 points during the fourth quarter – the last 16 over the final 33 seconds – and with quarterback Gavin Meyers scrambling 21 yards for the winning score with five seconds to play. The Martin win kicked off the championship weekends, while the Southfield A&T victory ended the season.
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PHOTOS (Top) Our collage includes photos from all 10 MHSAA Football Finals. (2) Muskegon’s Da'Carion Taylor holds up the ball after his touchdown catch during the 11-Player Division 2 game. (3) Inland Lakes’ Jacob Willey (4) and Avery Enos celebrate Willey’s second touchdown of the 8-Player Division 1 Final. (4) Southfield A&T’s DeMario Quarles enjoys a moment after his team’s 11-Player Division 1 victory. (11-Player Finals photos by Hockey Weekly Action Photos. 8-Player Finals photos by Cara Kamps.)