Category Archives: MLive

Orchard Lake St. Mary’s falls to East Grand Rapids once again in the Division 3 football finals

Jake Thielen | MLive.com, November 28, 2010 12:52 a.m.

Orchard Lake St. Mary’s struggles against East Grand Rapids continued as the Eaglets were defeated in the Division 3 high school football championship game, 35-27, Saturday night.

The loss gave Orchard Lake St. Mary’s its third runner-up finish in Division 3 since 2007, with all three losses coming against East Grand Rapids. In the 2007 finals, Orchard Lake St. Mary’s lost 46-39 in a five-overtime thriller. In 2009, the Eaglets lost by a score of 24-21.

Orchard Lake St. Mary’s is 0-5 all-time against East Grand Rapids.

“They’re a great football team, and we’ve lost some great football games to them,” Orchard Lake St. Mary’s coach George Porritt said. “We’re right there; we’ve just got to keep battling.”

Defensively, Orchard Lake St. Mary’s was unable to slow down East Grand Rapids quarterback Ryan Elble, who led the Pioneers to their fifth consecutive state championship, which ties a state record. Elble threw for 241 yards on 17-of-24 passing with four touchdowns.

“He’s a special player, there’s no question about it,” Porritt said of Elble. “What makes him special is he puts the ball where you’re going to catch it. It’s one thing to throw it, but he puts it where you’re going to catch it.”

Offensively, the Eaglets were led by their trio of running backs. Grant Niemiec had 70 yards on 12 carries, including touchdowns runs of 9 and 12 yards. Corey Lucas had 69 yards and a touchdown, and Spencer McInnis added six carries for 38 yards.

The Eaglets rushed for 186 yards as a team compared to 117 for East Grand Rapids.

Porritt said the success of the running game is one positive that the Eaglets can take away from this season.

“We ran the ball extremely well today,” Porritt said. “You just didn’t need to get stopped one time against this team.”

“You had to always execute and we had a couple stops that hurt us.”

Orchard Lake St. Mary’s finished the season with an 11-3 record. Porritt said he was pleased with his team’s effort despite the loss.

“I’m very proud of this group of kids,” Porritt said. “They just battled all year long and had some great victories, and getting here was a big thing.

“We wanted to win this thing, but we lost to a good football team.”

Orchard lake St. Mary’s had the lead early following Lucas’s 4-yard touchdown run with 7:10 left in the first quarter. East Grand Rapids scored 14 straight points to take the lead before Niemiec’s first touchdown run with 5:45 left in the second quarter tied the game again.

East Grand Rapids responded with a touchdown pass from Elble to Nick Mulhall with 25 seconds left in the half that put the Pioneers up for good.

Niemiec’s second touchdown with 2:25 left in the third quarter brought the Eaglets within eight points following a missed PAT. However, the Pioneers answered with a 16-play, 68-yard drive that culminated with a touchdown to extend the deficit to two scores.

Porritt said that long East Grand Rapids drive was the difference in the game.

“Any time you can have that many plays in a drive, that’s what we’re trying to do,” Porritt said. “They put it right back at us.”

Orchard Lake St. Mary’s quarterback Mike Koenigsknecht’s touchdown pass to Allen Robinson with 3:39 left cut the lead to eight again, but the Eaglets did not get the ball back. Robinson finished with just two catches for 31 yards.

Porritt said Robinson was battling a hamstring injury that limited his effectiveness.

“He couldn’t go the way he wanted, not to make excuses,” Porritt said. “He was good in the 15-yard range, but he couldn’t go (farther down the field).

“I was afraid he would get hurt today, and I’m happy he got through it.”

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Lake Orion captures first ever Division 1 football title after defeating Plymouth, 21-13

Jake Thielen | MLive.com, November 27, 2010 7:46 p.m.

The first ever state championship for Lake Orion High School came on the legs of senior running back Marques Stevenson.

His 186 rushing yards and two scores propelled his team to a 21-13 victory over Plymouth in the Division 1 state championship game Saturday afternoon.

“That’s a huge milestone and a huge accomplishment for our program, the community the kids, all of us,” Lake Orion coach Chris Bell said.

Lake Orion out-rushed Plymouth 307 to 30 while completely dominating on defense. Lake Orion finishes the season with a 13-1 record.

Lake Orion exploded on the ground in the second quarter at Ford Field and entered the half with a 21-3 lead. The Dragons held off a determined Plymouth team in the second half to come away with the victory.

Bell said the game was a tale of two halves.

“We did some great things I felt offensively in the first half,” Bell said. “They made some key adjustments, and we had a hard time handling the defensive ends in the second half.”

“The credit goes to these kids for hanging in there and making plays when they had to, and also to our defense. Our defense really dug in and gave us an opportunity to win the football game.”

Bell said the defense’s play has been strong the whole year.

“The key to our season has been the offensive line and the defense,” Bell said. “If you play great defense, you’ve got a chance to win championships.

“We’ve had some very good athletes, and we’ve fortunate to score a lot of points over the years at Lake Orion, but when we’re good it’s because we play great defense.”

Lake Orion got off to a quick start in the game, scoring on its first possession on a 23-yard run by quarterback Cole Schaenzer, who was starting in place of the injured Sean Charette.

Bell said scoring first was a major difference in the game, and that the Dragons previous state finals appearance in 2008 helped the team prepare for what to expect.

“Obviously when you go out and score on the first drive, it gives you great confidence,” Bell said. “I think that kind of set the tempo for the first half.”

“I thought that was probably to our advantage, having been here. Our goal was to start fast, but then get used to the environment, and that’s what we did.”

Stevenson also stressed how important it was for Lake Orion to get on the board early.

“We knew that, especially at Ford Field since it’s a really big stage, that the team that came out fast and didn’t get taken aback by the environment was going to have a huge advantage.”

Stevenson, who holds an offer from Air Force, helped Lake Orion literally run the clock away in the fourth quarter to thwart any Plymouth momentum. His 34-yard run on a third-and-15 play allowed Lake Orion to run out the rest of the clock.

“Our offense went stagnant in the second half, but that last drive we pulled it together and I ripped off some big runs that honestly I don’t even know what happened,” Stevenson said. “Instinct just took over on a couple of them.”

Plymouth did come out in the second half with a spark from returner Victor Hicks on special teams. Hicks’s cross-field sprint turned into a 46-yard punt return for a touchdown to give Plymouth some much needed momentum.

Plymouth coach Mike Sawchuk said his team wasn’t fundamentally sound in the first half.

“I thought we came out a little awestruck in the first half,” Sawchuk said. “We put ourselves in a 21-3 hole.

“We made some adjustments in the second half and shut it down for the most part except for the third-and long in the last part of the fourth quarter.”

Plymouth standout kicker and Notre Dame commit Kyle Brindza agreed with Sawchuck that the team was awestruck at the beginning of the game.

“Going into the second half, we knew that we needed to pick it up,” Brindza said. “We were awestruck like Coach said.

“We needed to get that out of our system before the game. It ended up not happening, and it was too late. I wish it could have been a different outcome.”

Brindza kicked two field goals in the game, and also had a 70-yard punt, which was the third longest in state finals history.

Bell said the win puts Lake Orion in elite company.

“There’s the accomplishment – it’s to erase that label of good enough but haven’t yet,” Bell said. “We won our state championship.

Williamston falls to Grand Rapids Catholic Central, 27-23, in the Division 4 high school football championship

Jake Thielen | MLive.com, November 29, 2010 1:40 p.m.

Williamston High School’s dream season ended with a heartbreaking defeat, as the Hornets lost the Division 4 football championship game to Grand Rapids Catholic Central in the final minute, 27-23.

Williamston led the game by 10 points with under four minutes to play, but couldn’t hold on for the victory.

A Catholic Central touchdown with 3:30 left cut the Williamston lead to three points, and the Cougars’ defense forced Williamston to go three-and-out on its ensuing possession.

Catholic Central then drove 64 yards in 12 plays for the go-ahead score. Miles Morrissey’s 5-yard touchdown pass to Kevin Vicari gave the Cougars a 27-23 lead with 57 seconds left in the game.

Williamston got the ball back at its own 15-yard line with 50 seconds left and two timeouts to spare, but the comeback attempt fell short as Catholic Central’s Joey Bowen intercepted a pass from Hornet quarterback Dylan Schultz with 26 seconds left.

Williamston coach Steve Kersten said he was proud of the way his team played, despite the loss.

“It was an unbelievable season, a dream season,” Kersten said. “We’re very disappointed right now, and it’s just sad.

“I’m so proud of our kids. They battled all year for us and did everything we asked them to do. It’s time to heal right now, but we’ll look back on this season and say ‘what a tremendous season’ for our fans and for our kids.”

Kersten said the difference in the game was the offense’s inability to get a first down in the final minutes.

“That clock was going, and I thought we had them,” Kersten said. “There’s always six or seven plays that are the difference in the game, and you never know when the six or seven are.

“I’m the offensive coordinator and we didn’t move the ball and get a couple first downs there when (the clock) was at 3:30, and so it’s on my shoulders.”

The Hornets seemed to be in control of the game early. A 2-yard touchdown run by Schultz and a 42-yard field goal by Colin Weiss gave the Hornets a 10-3 lead going into halftime.

The Hornet defense was dominant in the first half, as they held Catholic Central running back Bronson Hill to just 42 yards on nine carries through two quarters and intercepted Morrissey three times.

After Catholic Central rallied to take a 13-10 lead in the third quarter, Williamston answered right back. A 6-yard touchdown run from Dylan Monette and a 39-yard touchdown run from Schultz put the Hornets back on top, 23-13, but Williamston could not hold its lead.

Schultz finished the game with 181 yards on 13-of-20 passing with no touchdowns and two interceptions. Schultz also ran the ball 10 times for 65 yards and two touchdowns, and he had one catch for 9 yards.

Kersten said he was impressed with Schultz’s performance.

“Dylan Schultz is a warrior,” Kersten said.  “He plays offense and defense and battles for us, and I thought he did a great job.”

Schultz was disappointed with the loss, but he credited Catholic Central for playing a great game.

“Every team we played was good,” Schultz said. “These guys were a hell of a team.

“They were fast and disciplined. Hats off to them for winning.”

Monette agreed with Schultz.

“We had them, but I give (Catholic Central) credit,” Monette said. “They didn’t give up when they were down and they came back and made plays when they had to.”

Monette finished the game with 197 all-purpose yards and one touchdown. He led the team with five catches for 102 yards.

Williamston was making its first trip to the state finals, one year after the Hornets earned the first football playoff victory in school history. Williamston finished the season with a record of 12-2.

Tommy Vento’s near-record day propels Farmington Hills Harrison past Lowell, 38-28, in the Division 2 high school football championship game

Jake Thielen | MLive.com, November 26, 2010 7:49 p.m.

Tommy Vento threw for 310 yards and three touchdowns on 19-of-32 passing as Farmington Hills Harrison defeated Lowell, 38-28, in the Division 2 high school championship game Friday afternoon.

The championship was Harrison’s 13th championship overall and first since 2001. The Hawks finished the season with a 14-0 record.

Vento’s 310 yards through the air were the second most ever by a quarterback in a championship game. The record of 318 yards was set by A.J. Westendorp of Holland Christian in 2008.

Vento’s first touchdown came on a 26-yard pass to Aaron Burbridge on Harrison’s opening possession, which gave the Hawks an early 7-0 lead. Vento and Burbridge connected again on a 10-yard fade route to the corner of the Ford Field end zone in the third quarter.

Burbridge finished the game with eight catches for 123 yards and two touchdowns. Burbridge also had six carries for 33 yards, and he caught a two-point conversion pass from Vento in the third quarter.

“Aaron has great speed and he’s a great athlete,” Harrison coach John Herrington said. “He’s a go-to-guy that you always can count on.

“When it’s tough, you can go to him, and he’s going to make the play for you.”

Vento’s third touchdown pass of the day was a 56-yard strike to his brother, Jake Vento, who caught the ball in stride and outran the Lowell defender down the left sideline. That score stretched the Harrison lead to 10 points early in the fourth quarter, and that was as close as Lowell would get.

Jake Vento had six catches for 161 yards and a touchdown.

Tommy Vento said that opposing defenses have trouble preparing for all of the weapons on the Hawks’ roster.

“It’s almost like the defense has to pick their poison,” Vento said. “We started off going to Aaron and when they double covered him, we got Devin (Funchess), Garius (Coleman) and Jake.

“We got a lot of guys that we just put the ball out there and they’ll go get it.”

Jake Vento agreed with his brother’s assessment.

“We have great receivers that you can’t leave uncovered because if you double cover one guy, the other guy’s going to catch it and have a big play,” Vento said.

Tommy Vento gave the credit for his performance to his teammates.

“The line played amazing, and the receivers got open,” Vento said. “There are 10 other guys out on the field and it came down to about every single one of them.”

Harrison trailed 14-10 at halftime, and 21-10 midway through the third quarter, before four straight turnovers by Lowell changed the momentum of the game.

“We went into the half behind, I think that’s only a few times that we’ve ever done that,” Jake Vento said. “None of us put our heads down, and none of us got mad over it.

“We just all agreed that we had to step up in the second half and just give everything we had.”

Jake Vento said he was impressed with the way Tommy kept his composure, despite the deficit.

“One thing about his leadership that I’ve noticed all season is that he always keeps his poise and always stays calm,” Vento said. “No matter what happens, he doesn’t get mad at anybody else except for himself. That’s a good thing to look up to.”

Lamarr Marshall’s interception with 6:46 left set up Burbridge’s second touchdown of the game and brought the Hawks within five points after a failed two-point conversion attempt.

“When Lamarr got that pick … it sparked something in all of us,” Tommy Vento said. “We didn’t have it in the first half, and they kind of took it to us.

“We knew we had to get it, and it just lit a fire. Everyone was clicking after that – offense, defense and special teams. We took it to them, and we never looked back.”

Lowell quarterback Gabe Dean fumbled on the Red Arrows’ next possession, setting up Tommy Vento’s 1-yard touchdown run that gave Harrison the lead for good.

“Turnovers were a big part of the game, as always,” Herrington said. “Once we got the turnovers, we had to capitalize on them because we knew if they got the ball back they would just run it, and run it and run it.

“We were able to do that and get the lead, and once we got the lead it changed the momentum.”

Tommy Vento said his team didn’t lose confidence despite being down by 11 points in the third quarter.

“I didn’t know when we were going to pick it up, but this team has a lot of heart and it was just a matter of time before we did pick it up,” Vento said. “I was hoping it wasn’t going to be too late, and obviously it wasn’t.”

Herrington said he didn’t want to rank this year’s team compared to his previous teams, but he said he was proud of the way the team played.

“This team played I think the hardest schedule that any of our teams played, Herrington said. “You play (Rochester) Adams, Lake Orion, Berkley’s best team, Farmington’s best team, Brother Rice and (Warren) De La Salle.”

“I’m very proud of them for accepting all those challenges, and this was just as big as any of them.”

Tommy Vento said that the Hawks had been confident about winning the state championship at the start of the year.

“I knew that with Harrison you always got a threat of going all the way,” Vento said. “I just knew that this team had a lot of heart.

“We’re all friends, we’re all family. We knew that we could do it if we put our minds to it.”

Herrington said it’s too early to think about next year, but he is looking forward to having players like Burbridge and Jake Vento returning.

“We do have a lot of players coming back, but we lose a lot of good ones,” Herrington said. “We take it one year at a time.”

Lake Orion advances to state football finals with 24-21 victory over Detroit Cass Tech

Jake Thielen | MLive.com, November 20, 2010 9:48 p.m.

Tyler Misiak’s fumble recovery with 32 seconds left sealed a 24-21 win for Lake Orion High School over Detroit Cass Tech in a Division 1 football semifinal Saturday afternoon.

The key play came after Detroit Cass Tech had driven the ball all the way inside the Lake Orion 10-yard line in the final minute.

On second-and-4 from the 6-yard line, Cass Tech quarterback Keith Moore lined up in the shotgun formation. Moore took the snap, but was hit by Lake Orion’s Andrew Shafkalis as he attempted to pitch the ball to receiver Keenan Smith.

“I went straight for the quarterback, and I just stripped the ball out of his hands,” Shafkalis said. “It’s the greatest feeling right now, and our defense, we came up big all year.”

Players from both teams scrambled for the loose ball before Misiak finally fell on it near the Lake Orion 25-yard line, setting off a wild celebration on the Lake Orion sideline.

“I saw the ball fly up in the air,” Misiak said. “A kid had it on their team, and I just ripped it out of his hands.

Lake Orion will move on to face Plymouth (11-3), which defeated Rockford 20-17, next Saturday at 1 p.m. in the Division 1 championship game at Ford Field.

Misiak said he wasn’t nervous on Cass Tech’s final drive.

“(Assistant coach John Blackstock) was telling us the whole game, since the first quarter, it’s going to come down to the last drive, and look what happened,” Misiak said. “It came down to the last drive, and he said we will not lose this game.

“Coach instills confidence in us, and that helps a ton. I had no doubt at all, because I knew one of my brothers was going to come up big.”

The game nearly ended two plays before the fumble, when Cass Tech faced a fourth-and-16 from the Lake Orion 36-yard line. But Cass Tech receiver Terry Richardson made a nice adjustment on the pass from Moore and picked up 24 yards to keep the drive alive.

Lake Orion coach Chris Bell said the final drive was an emotional roller coaster.

“That’s a great team, and it’s one of those games that’s a shame that somebody had to lose,” Bell said. “It came down to who was going to make the last play, and our kids made it.”

Lake Orion was playing without its star quarterback, Sean Charette, who missed the game with a broken foot suffered last week against Utica Eisenhower.

With Charette out, the Dragons relied heavily on the running game, which was led by senior Marques Stevenson. Stevenson had 26 carries for 180 yards and two touchdowns.

“Honestly, I knew I was going to have to carry the rock a lot this week because Sean was out,” Stevenson said. “For me it was just playing my game.

“Coach Bell just told me it’s not my responsibility to win the game. It’s a team effort.”

Bell said Stevenson has played well all year long.

“He breaks a lot of big runs, but he’s our workhorse,” Bell said. “We had to control the ball, and keep their athletes off the field.

“The offensive line did a great job, and they didn’t have an answer for Danny (Ney) on the perimeter. That helped spread guys out and open the door for Marques.”

Cole Schanenzer started in place of Charette, and threw for 132 yards on 5-of-12 passing, including a 16-yard touchdown pass to Robert Aiello in the second quarter.

“We have all the confidence in Cole Schaenzer, and he played a great game,” Stevenson said. “He managed the game, and he stepped in and did exactly what he told us to do.”

Bell was also impressed with Schaenzer’s performance.

“Cole did a nice job when we needed him to make some plays,” Bell said. “We’re not surprised because we know how good a quarterback he is.

“He’s a multiple sport athlete. He’s a pitcher for our baseball team, and also plays center field, so he’s been in big games and pressure situations. He knows how to handle it.”

Schaenzer had a key 48-yard completion to Danny Ney in the fourth quarter on a second-and-16 from the Dragons’ 36-yard line. The Dragons failed to score on that drive, but the completion forced Cass Tech to have to drive 82 yards for a potential winning score.

“It changed the field position completely, and changed the momentum of the game,” Ney said. “All game we had been trying to fight for yardage, and we thought they had stopped us there.

“The seam came open, Cole threw a great ball and from there I just broke it free.”

Detroit Cass Tech looked to be in control of the game early, as running back Christian Burks scored on a 15-yard run on the game’s opening possession.

Burks finished the game with 142 yards on 18 carries and three touchdowns.

“Christian’s very valuable,” Cass Tech coach Thomas Wilcher said. “Any time you get a back that can rush for over 100, 200 yards in a game, he’s got to be valuable.

“He’s a great player, and I think he’ll go far. I think he’ll play at the next level.”

After Burks’ 46-yard run in the second quarter gave Cass Tech a 14-7 lead, the Technicians allowed Lake Orion to score 17 straight points. The scoring run gave the Dragons a 24-14 lead midway through the third quarter, and Cass Tech was unable to overcome that deficit.

Wilcher said the difference in the game was the Technicians’ inability to stop the Lake Orion running game.

“I just thought we might stop the jet sweep better than we did,” Wilcher said. “We just didn’t make the adjustments quick enough.

“Because we had to stop the jet sweep, it opened it up for (Stevenson). We didn’t really control the line of scrimmage like I thought we would.”

Late field goal helps Plymouth upset Detroit Catholic Central, 9-7, in a high school football playoff Division 1 quarterfinal

Jake Thielen | MLive.com, November 13, 2010 6:39 p.m.

Kyle Brindza’s 23-yard field goal with 35 seconds left in the fourth quarter was the difference in the game as Plymouth High School defeated Detroit Catholic Central, 9-7, in a Division 1 high school football quarterfinal on Saturday afternoon.

Following Brindza’s third field goal of the game, Detroit Catholic Central drove the length of the field for a shot at a winning field goal of its own.

The Shamrocks used a hook-and-ladder play to get the ball into Plymouth territory, but a pass that would have given Detroit Catholic Central the ball inside the Plymouth 10-yard line was negated by a holding call.

Justin D’Agostino’s 58-yard field goal attempt as time expired fell short of the goal line.

Plymouth will move on to the semifinals to face Rockford High School, which defeated Howell 31-27 on Saturday afternoon. The game will take place Nov. 20, with the time and location to be determined.

Plymouth had taken an early lead on a 51-yard field goal by Brindza, but the Wildcats trailed Detroit Catholic Central, 7-3, going into the fourth quarter.

Brindza’s second field goal, a 49-yard attempt with 8:05 remaining in the game, pulled the Wildcats within one point.

The Plymouth defense forced Detroit Catholic Central to go three-and-out on its next possession. The Wildcats got the ball back at the Catholic Central 38-yard line with 6:40 left, setting up the game-winning drive.

Thanks to key plays from running back Jerel Jenkins and quarterback Shaun Austin, Plymouth took more than six minutes off the clock on the drive, forcing Catholic Central to use the rest of its timeouts.

Plymouth coach Mike Sawchuk said he was pleased with the efforts of both players.

“(Austin) is a pretty composed kid for a junior,” Sawchuk said. “Our offensive coaching staff does a great job with him.”

Austin had 71 yards on 10-of-20 passing, including a 10-yard completion to Jacob Morris on the final drive that gave the Wildcats a key first down.

Jenkins rushed for 102 yards on 25 carries. His 12-yard run to the Catholic Central 6-yard line set up Brindza’s game-winner.

Brindza, who has already accepted a scholarship to Notre Dame, said the kick was from a difficult angle, but he knew he could make it.

“I was just trying to stay relaxed and keep composure, and just go out and kick it,” Brindza said.”I’ve kicked two game-winning field goals before so it’s nothing new. But coming for the regional championship, it just feels amazing right now.”

Sawchuk said Brindza was valuable to the team, not only for his ability to make field goals, but also for his ability to get touchbacks on kickoffs and make the opposing team drive 80 yards for a score.

He said Brindza’s range is “anywhere from 50 to 55 yards out.”

“In high school, if you miss it the ball goes to the 20,” Sawchuk said. “Why not take a shot?”

Shawchuk was also impressed with the fact that his team limited Detroit Catholic Central’s potent offense to just seven points.

Sawchuk said his team watched five games worth of film to prepare for the Shamrocks’ running attack, and he was pleased with how the defense executed its game plan.

“It’s because one, they got a lot of speed and two, they’re very coachable,” Sawchuk said. “They do what they’re supposed to do.”

Catholic Central coach Tom Mach said inconsistency and penalties hurt the Shamrocks.

“I thought we moved the ball well at times, and then penalties would hurt us,” Mach said. “In that situation, 15-yard penalties hurt your drive and then you have to go to other things.”

Mach said he was pleased with the way his team kept fighting at the end of the game.

“It shows great heart with that amount of time on the clock, we moved it right down to where we could actually get a chance to kick a field goal and win the game.

“I was real proud of our kids, and I congratulate Plymouth for doing a great job. They played a very good football game.”

Despite the loss, Mach said he was happy with the way the season went.

“They’re a great, great bunch of kids to coach, and they tough it out right to the end,” Mach said. “It’s always hard to lose, but I think I was really happy with the way they conducted themselves all year long.”

Running game powers Lake Orion past Utica Eisenhower, 17-10, in a high school football playoff Division 1 quarterfinal

, November 13, 2010 2:44 a.m.

Marques Stevenson had 27 carries for 113 yards and a touchdown as Lake Orion defeated Utica Eisenhower, 17-10, in a Division 1 high school football quarterfinal Friday night.

Lake Orion running back Danny Ney added 80 yards on five carries, including a key 73-yard touchdown run in the third quarter that broke a 7-7 tie.

The Dragons rushed for 204 yards as a team, compared to just 51 yards for Utica Eisenhower.

Lake Orion will move on to face the winner of Saturday’s matchup between Detroit Cass Tech and Macomb Dakota in the Division 1 semifinals on Nov. 20.

The game was scoreless until nearly the midway point of the second quarter when Stevenson’s 7-yard touchdown run gave Lake Orion a 7-0 lead.

Utica Eisenhower answered when Mike Connolly scored on a 5-yard run with 35 seconds left in the half.

Ney’s game-changing run came on what Lake Orion coach Chris Bell called a jet sweep during the Dragons’ first drive of the second half.

Bell said he made some adjustments at halftime to try and free up the offense.

“They have great speed on defense,” Bell said. “Their outside linebacker (Daniel Naert), we couldn’t block him the first half.

“He was running sideline to sideline making plays, so that’s why we had to do some different things in the second half.”

Ney said his touchdown came on a play that caught the Utica Eisenhower defense off guard. The Dragons had tried the play before, but on this play they ran it to the opposite side of the field.

“It happened that only two guys actually read the play, and I ended up breaking the tackle off one of them and outrunning the other,” Ney said. “The last defender, he was really close.

“I was just hoping I could outrun him, and I ended up doing that.”

Lake Orion turned to its running game to move the ball after starting quarterback Sean Charette left the game in the first quarter with an ankle injury and did not return. Charette was replaced by starting wide receiver Cole Schaenzer.

Stevenson said the rest of the team stepped up following Charette’s injury.

“The offensive line just blocked great, and we knew we were going to have to win this game on the ground when Sean went out,” Stevenson said. “Cole did a great job managing it when (Charette) went down.

“That was just a really cohesive win where everyone came together.”

Schaenzer only threw four passes in relief of Charette, completing three of them for 37 yards.

Schaenzer said he wasn’t nervous about making the switch to quarterback.

“With the O-line we have, and Marques (Stevenson) and all our receivers, I was pretty confident going in there,” Schaenzer said. “Everybody’s a threat to score.”

Bell said he didn’t change the game plan once Schaenzer entered the game, but he also didn’t take too many risks.

“(Schaenzer) could start for a lot of teams that we play at quarterback,” Bell said. “He gets a lot of reps in there, so we didn’t have to completely abandon the game plan.

“He was ready, but the way our defense was playing, we wanted to make sure we kept him in good situations.”

Lake Orion’s conservative strategy worked as the Dragons did not turn the ball over once, which Utica Eisenhower coach Bob Lantzy said was one of the deciding factors in the game.

“It’s hard to believe, I don’t think they turned the ball over in the whole game, and that was the difference,” Lantzy said. “We’ve got like a 20-10 turnover ratio advantage for the season, and this is the first time that we didn’t get one.”

The win gave Lake Orion its second trip to the semifinals in the last three years. Bell said his team is being careful to not look too far ahead.

“Our goal is to win next week,” Bell said. “Being there before allows us to put this in perspective.

“I’m very proud of the guys, they dug down, and they won a very tough football game against a very good team. Let’s get back to work. We’re not done.”

Bell said Charette had a high ankle sprain, but he may be able to play next week.

“It was one of those things where (Charette) said he could go back and throw, but he was having a hard time putting pressure on (the ankle) and running on it,” Bell said. “He’s going to have a long week, so we’ll see.

“Either way, we’ll be ready to go.”

, November 13, 2010 2:44 a.m.

Lake Orion celebrates as time runs out in its 17-10 victory over Utica Eisenhower(Jake Thielen | MLive.com)

Marques Stevenson had 27 carries for 113 yards and a touchdown as Lake Orion defeated Utica Eisenhower, 17-10, in a Division 1 high school football quarterfinal Friday night.

Lake Orion running back Danny Ney added 80 yards on five carries, including a key 73-yard touchdown run in the third quarter that broke a 7-7 tie.

The Dragons rushed for 204 yards as a team, compared to just 51 yards for Utica Eisenhower.

Lake Orion will move on to face the winner of Saturday’s matchup between Detroit Cass Tech and Macomb Dakota in the Division 1 semifinals on Nov. 20.

The game was scoreless until nearly the midway point of the second quarter when Stevenson’s 7-yard touchdown run gave Lake Orion a 7-0 lead.

Utica Eisenhower answered when Mike Connolly scored on a 5-yard run with 35 seconds left in the half.

Ney’s game-changing run came on what Lake Orion coach Chris Bell called a jet sweep during the Dragons’ first drive of the second half.

Bell said he made some adjustments at halftime to try and free up the offense.

“They have great speed on defense,” Bell said. “Their outside linebacker (Daniel Naert), we couldn’t block him the first half.

“He was running sideline to sideline making plays, so that’s why we had to do some different things in the second half.”

Ney said his touchdown came on a play that caught the Utica Eisenhower defense off guard. The Dragons had tried the play before, but on this play they ran it to the opposite side of the field.

“It happened that only two guys actually read the play, and I ended up breaking the tackle off one of them and outrunning the other,” Ney said. “The last defender, he was really close.

“I was just hoping I could outrun him, and I ended up doing that.”

Lake Orion turned to its running game to move the ball after starting quarterback Sean Charette left the game in the first quarter with an ankle injury and did not return. Charette was replaced by starting wide receiver Cole Schaenzer.

Stevenson said the rest of the team stepped up following Charette’s injury.

“The offensive line just blocked great, and we knew we were going to have to win this game on the ground when Sean went out,” Stevenson said. “Cole did a great job managing it when (Charette) went down.

“That was just a really cohesive win where everyone came together.”

Schaenzer only threw four passes in relief of Charette, completing three of them for 37 yards.

Schaenzer said he wasn’t nervous about making the switch to quarterback.

“With the O-line we have, and Marques (Stevenson) and all our receivers, I was pretty confident going in there,” Schaenzer said. “Everybody’s a threat to score.”

Bell said he didn’t change the game plan once Schaenzer entered the game, but he also didn’t take too many risks.

“(Schaenzer) could start for a lot of teams that we play at quarterback,” Bell said. “He gets a lot of reps in there, so we didn’t have to completely abandon the game plan.

“He was ready, but the way our defense was playing, we wanted to make sure we kept him in good situations.”

Lake Orion’s conservative strategy worked as the Dragons did not turn the ball over once, which Utica Eisenhower coach Bob Lantzy said was one of the deciding factors in the game.

“It’s hard to believe, I don’t think they turned the ball over in the whole game, and that was the difference,” Lantzy said. “We’ve got like a 20-10 turnover ratio advantage for the season, and this is the first time that we didn’t get one.”

The win gave Lake Orion its second trip to the semifinals in the last three years. Bell said his team is being careful to not look too far ahead.

“Our goal is to win next week,” Bell said. “Being there before allows us to put this in perspective.

“I’m very proud of the guys, they dug down, and they won a very tough football game against a very good team. Let’s get back to work. We’re not done.”

Bell said Charette had a high ankle sprain, but he may be able to play next week.

“It was one of those things where (Charette) said he could go back and throw, but he was having a hard time putting pressure on (the ankle) and running on it,” Bell said. “He’s going to have a long week, so we’ll see.

“Either way, we’ll be ready to go.”


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Big plays on special teams help Farmington Hills Harrison defeat Berkley, 28-13, in second-round high school football Division 2 playoff action

Jake Thielen | MLive.com, November 06, 2010 9:46 p.m.

Farmington Hills Harrison didn’t produce much offensively, but the Hawks’ special teams came through in a big way in a 28-13 win over Berkley, 28-13, in a second-round high school football Division 2 playoff game Saturday afternoon.

The Hawks had a pair of 78-yard scores on special teams, the first from Aaron Burbridge on a punt return, and the second on a kickoff return by Jake Vento.

Farmington Hills Harrison will host Warren De La Salle, which defeated St. Clair Shores Lakeview 24-0 Friday night, in a quarterfinal game next Saturday.

Harrison coach John Herrington said the play of the special teams unit was key in helping Harrison overcome an off day from its offense.

“(Harrison special teams coach) John Witkowski did a great job,” Herrington said. “He said he thought we’d run one back in this game, and we actually ran two back.

Harrison quarterback Tommy Vento struggled to move the ball through the air, passing for 81 yards on just 2-of-11 passing with two interceptions.

The Hawks only had 199 yards of total offense in the game.

Herrington said he had never seen his offense struggle like that before.

“Berkley does frustrate you by hanging onto the ball, and when you get it you got to do something with it, and we didn’t,” Herrington said. “We missed open receivers, and we turned the ball over.

“Luckily, we had some athletes that made plays at the end.”

The Harrison defense also helped the cause by limited Berkley’s star running back, Terrell Porter, to just 46 yards on 22 carries, though Porter did score two touchdowns.

Herrington said stopping Porter was key to stopping the Berkley offense.

“We knew we had to get people there, and we’re very fast,” Herrington said. “We thought we might be able to do that when (Porter) went wide.

“They got the one little flare pass on us there that caught us off, but other than that we shut down their offense pretty well.”

The game got off to a poor start for Harrison, as Burbridge fumbled on the game’s first play. Berkley was unable to take advantage of the mistake, as the Harrison defense forced the Bears to punt.

After a Tommy Vento interception gave Berkley the ball back, the Bears again struggled to move the ball, setting up a second punt.

This time Burbridge fielded the ball, made a few tacklers miss and took off down the right sideline for a touchdown.

The Bears answered back when Porter scored on a 27-yard screen pass from quarterback Jim Birnie with 54 seconds left in the half, tying the game at 7-7.

However, Jake Vento returned the ensuing kickoff 78 yards for a touchdown to give Harrison a 14-7 lead heading into halftime.

“We worked on (special teams) the most during the week during practice,” Jake Vento said.”It gets annoying, but it just pays off.

“Our whole team worked hard – it’s not just me, it’s not just one person, it’s the whole team. Everybody does something for us.”

Porter scored on a two-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, leaving the Bears an extra point shy of tying the game. However, Harrison’s Lido Zefi blocked Berkley kicker Kyle Braun’s extra point attempt, preserving a 14-13 lead for the Hawks.

The Hawks put the game away in the fourth quarter following touchdown runs by running backs Lorenzo Collins and Austin Hunter.

The loss potentially marked the end of the coaching career of Berkley’s Jim MacDougall, who said he plans to retire. MacDougall has been coaching for 47 years, and has spent the past five years as Berkley’s coach.

MacDougall said he was proud of his team’s effort in the loss.

“I’m proud of the way the kids played,” MacDougall said. “I’ve been proud of them all year.

“We played a pretty good football team.”

Herrington said he and MacDougall have been good friends for a long time.

“He did a great job of preparing them, and I’m sure it’s emotional,” Herrington said. “When you give up something you’ve done your whole life, it’s just hard.

“He’s great with the kids, a lot more than wins and losses, everybody that plays for him loves him. He’ll be missed if he’s actually retiring.”

Utica Eisenhower outlasts Romeo, 36-29, in second-round high school football playoff thriller

Jake Thielen | MLive.com, November 06, 2010 1:58 a.m.

Daniel Naert’s interception in overtime sealed a thrilling 36-29 win for Utica Eisenhower High School over Romeo High School in second-round high school football playoff action on Friday night.

On Romeo’s second play of the overtime period, Bulldog quarterback Blake Laurain looked to his right, and threw into the end zone for receiver Taylor Brynaert who was running a slant to the middle of the field. Naert stepped in front of the pass, intercepted it, then took a few steps out of the end zone before sliding to the ground, setting off a wild celebration.

Utica Eisnhower had taken the lead in overtime following quarterback Joe Zerafa’s 10-yard touchdown pass to Troy Zilli on the Eagles’ first play of the extra session.

Utica Eisenhower will move on next week to a quarterfinal game at Lake Orion, which defeated Grand Blanc, 54-14, on Friday.

Naert said his team had practiced all week on defending that type of play, and that helped him know where to be to make the big play.

“Every day in practice my coach was like ‘you got to get in this exact spot because that wide receiver’s going to be coming behind you,’ so I knew where to be” Naert said. “I saw the pass, got my drop and I knew it was going to be right there.

“It felt amazing, I didn’t even know what to think. I dropped to the ground, and everyone piled on me. I couldn’t breathe, but it was the most amazing feeling ever.”

Eisenhower coach Bob Lantzy agreed.

“We always talk about defense and special teams, those are the first things we work on, and big plays,” Lantzy said. “Did you see any big plays out there today?”

Lantzy said he was particularly pleased with his defense’s toughness around the goal-line and its ability to overcome a lack of size and still win games.

“This team, I used the word mystique – that’s all I could say at the beginning of the year and I’m still saying it right now,” Lantzy said.

“There’s a mystique about these kids and their ability to find a way to win.”

In a game marred by turnovers, it was fitting that the game ended on one.

Both teams had a chance to win the game in regulation, but each had costly turnovers.

After Brynaert’s second touchdown reception of the day tied the score at 29-29 with 1:53 remaining, Utica Eisenhower got the ball back with all three of its timeouts remaining.

Zerafa fumbled on the Eagles’ first play, and the ball was recovered by Romeo’s Garrett Hess, giving the Bulldogs an opportunity to take the lead with great field position. However, Laurain fumbled on the Bulldogs’ second play, and Eisenhower recovered.

The Eagles drove all the way to the Romeo 29-yard line before wide receiver Yousseff Bujaidar’s fumble gave the ball back to the Bulldogs.

Utica Eisenhower turned the ball over four times, three times on fumbles and once on an interception.

Romeo turned the ball over five times in total. Laurain threw three interceptions and fumbled once, and running back Ryan Burkard fumbled four times, losing one.

Laurain finished the game with 71 yards on 9-of-17 passing. Burkard had 35 carries for 143 yards in the losing effort.

Romeo coach Jason Couch said he was proud of his team, regardless of the game’s final outcome.

“I’m really proud of how they played and the seniors, how well they led this year,” Couch said. “They’re a great group of young men.

“They’ve stepped up the level of Romeo football.”

Burkard’s first fumble set up Utica Eisenhower’s first score of the game, a 19-yard field goal by Daniel Gjocaj.

The Eagles had stretched their lead to 16-0 by the midway point of the second quarter following a 39-yard touchdown pass from Zerafa to Zilli and a 10-yard rushing touchdown by Zerafa.

“In the first half, we didn’t do anything wrong,” Lantzy said. “Everything was going right on offense.”

Zerafa finshed the game with 175 yards on 16-of-20 passing and four total touchdowns. Zilli had seven catches for 91 yards and two scores, and running back Mike Connolly had 14 carries for 71 yards and a touchdown.

“I’m just doing what I’m supposed to be doing,” Zerafa said. “I’m just throwing good passes, attempting to throw good passes, and the wide receivers were catching them.”

Romeo got back into the game after linebacker Joe Bacci blocked a punt with 3:40 remaining in the second quarter. The ball landed right in the arms of Brian Roth, who returned it 33 yards for a touchdown.

Utica Eisenhower answered right back though, after a trick play worked to perfection. Bujaidar caught a pass from Zerafa and immediately lateraled the ball to Daniel Venditti, who was running up the right sideline. Vendetti was tackled at the Romeo 3-yard line, but he scored on a pass from Zerafa on the next play, giving the Eagles a 22-8 lead going into halftime.

Roth scored again for Romeo in third quarter on another unusual play. With the ball on the Eisenhower 25-yard line, Burkard ran the ball up the middle, but fumbled. Again, the ball bounced right into Roth’s hands, and he ran it up the left sideline for a touchdown.

Both schools are members of the Macomb Area Conference’s Red Division. Romeo defeated Utica Eisenhower 14-0 in the two teams’ previous meeting on Sept. 10.

Mike Birney leads Detroit Catholic Central past Detroit Mumford, 42-6, in a first-round state Division 1 playoff football game

Jake Thielen | MLive.com, November 01, 2010 11:34 a.m.

Mike Birney only threw two passes on Saturday afternoon, but both went for touchdowns, as Detroit Catholic Central won its first-round state playoff matchup with Detroit Mumford, 42-6.

The defending state champion Shamrocks (8-2) will move on to host Northville (9-1) in a second-round game set for 1 p.m. Saturday. Northville beat Livonia Franklin 37-7 on Friday night.

Birney finished the game with 80 total yards and three total touchdowns.

“Mike has done a great job for us this year, and he’s turning into a very good quarterback,” Catholic Central coach Tom Mach said. “He runs the team very well.

“He’s a runner and a passer, so we have great confidence in both areas.”

Catholic Central took control of the game early, after Birney’s 17-yard rushing touchdown gave the Shamrocks a 7-0 lead just three minutes into the game.

“The blocking from my line really helped,” Birney said. “I had a lot of time for the pass and good fakes by the running backs for the run to get me going.”

Detroit Mumford’s Jarelle Leavell returned the ensuing kickoff 80 yards to the Catholic Central 10-yard line, setting up Jalen Holley’s 2-yard rushing touchdown on fourth-and-goal to make the score 7-6.

Mumford chose to go for a two-point conversion, but Holley was stopped just short of the goal line.

That was as close as the Mustangs would get, however, as Catholic Central was able to control the clock and keep the Mumford offense off the field.

“Our line did a very good job and our backs ran hard,” Mach said. “We did what we wanted to do on offense as far as controlling the football and controlling the clock.

“That’s what we wanted to do, and try to keep them off the field as long as possible, and we were able to do that today.”

Catholic Central running back Justin Messner rushed for 90 yards on seven carries. His 15-yard touchdown reception on Birney’s first pass of the game extended the Shamrock lead to 14-6.

Running back Wyatt Shallman added 20 yards on four carries, including a pair of 1-yard touchdown runs.

Backup quarterback Kyle Cooper caught a 38-yard touchdown reception from Birney that made the score 35-6 going into halftime.

Andrew Erickson scored the other touchdown for Catholic Central, a 3-yard rushing touchdown in the second quarter.

Shallman’s second rushing touchdown put the Shamrocks ahead 42-6 in the third quarter, which prompted a running clock for the rest of the game.

As a team, Detroit Catholic Central outgained Detroit Mumford 382-66 in total yards.

The Shamrocks had 17 first downs, compared to four for Detroit Mumford.

Mach said Catholic Central still has some work to do to prepare for its second-round game with Northville.

“We have to look at the spread offense,” Mach said. “We’ve seen a little bit of that this year, and they run it very well.

“They do an excellent job of spreading you out and running and causing you a lot of difficulties.”