Unbeaten and No. 1-ranked Belleville football had scored to pull the Tigers within a point of No. 7 West Bloomfield in the second overtime period Saturday, then lined up to attempt a two-point conversion.
When the snap was made, West Bloomfield defensive end Niles King was lined up in front of Alabama signer Damon Payne.
Belleville quarterback Christian Dhue-Reid, who holds the state record for career touchdown passes, received the ball and simulated a handoff.
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“I saw the ball break and I saw the tackle get blocked and the quarterback held it and I started chasing him,” King said. “I knew I was faster than him, so I knew I could run him over. I put pressure on his face.”
dhue-reid managed to make a desperate pass before the 6-foot-5, 230 king could bury it in the grass, but west bloomfield linebacker jordan hoskins was in the middle of the end zone and I knew the Lakers were headed to Ford Field.
“Really, it was just a bad ball, he threw it low,” said hoskins, who watched as the ball hit the ground harmlessly. “I just knew we won. it was too close to the ground. I knew no one could catch him.”
West Bloomfield grabbed the 35-34 double-overtime victory at Belleville to earn its spot in the Division 1 state championship game Saturday against defending champ Davison at 1 p.m. in Ford Field.
It was a monumental victory for West Bloomfield (10-1), which lost to Belleville (10-1) in the previous two state playoffs by a combined eight points.
“two years ago we played these guys, donovan (edwards) hurt his ankle and they beat us on the last possession of the game,” lakers coach ron bellamy said. “Last year we jumped 15, they scored 27 in a row and then we scored.
“but dillon (tatum) was hurt and cj harris was hurt. for the most part today we had our guys, they had their guys and it was just a great high school game.”
It was a heartbreaking loss for the Tigers, who were ranked No. 1. 1 before the season began.
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belleville could have tried to kick the extra point to extend the game into a third overtime, but coach jermain crowell put the ball in dhue-reid’s hands.
“The way our defense was playing, I didn’t feel like we were going back on defense (it was for the best),” Crowell said. “they were scoring a play and in. so senior quarterback, a lot of seniors out there, we want the seniors.”
west bloomfield led 7-0 at halftime after edwards scored a 54-yard run. But the Tigers tied the game on the first possession of the third quarter and took a 13-7 lead in the fourth quarter after Cameron Jones rushed 65 yards.
West Bloomfield scored early in the fourth quarter when quarterback Alex Short handed the ball to receiver Semaj Morgan, who was running to his right. Morgan stopped and threw back to a wide-open Short for a 35-yard TD.
“As a quarterback, you don’t catch a lot of touchdown passes,” Short said. “Sometimes the best receivers let passes go because they are too wide. when I caught it, I felt very happy.”
With 2:42 remaining in regulation, Edwards tied the game with an 18-yard run, but Belleville moved into position to attempt a game-winning 38-yard field goal in the closing seconds.
Before the attempt, Bellamy called three consecutive timeouts.
“I’ve never done that before in my life,” Bellamy said. “I was like: is that a rule? Can I request another wait time? we wanted to make sure we had the right personnel and we wanted to make sure we had the right angles to be able to block the kick.”
the center snap was high and the ball was basically kicked into the middle of west bloomfield’s defensive line.
“We had a great ball out,” defensive tackle jaden green said. “Honestly, I don’t know what happened. They said I got a cut, but I was just messing around.”
so were the players from belleville, who saw their chance to advance to the state finals for the third year in a row and ended up with a short game.
“It was a great game, we didn’t make enough plays,” Crowell said. “At the end of the year, you have to run the ball and play defense to be a champion.”
edwards played like a champion, carrying the ball 18 times for 155 yards and three touchdowns. he ran with a sense of determination: this was a game he desperately wanted.
West Bloomfield was in the state finals three seasons ago, but lost to Clarkston. It was a game Edwards spent on the bench.
“Belleville beat us twice in previous years,” he said. “This is the game for the state championship, where I wanted to be since we lost my freshman year.”
It was a bit ironic that king, who had committed to grand valley, made the key move late in the game. For all the veterans of the West Bloomfield team, this is King’s first season as a starter.
“He’s still learning the game of soccer,” Bellamy said. “In the districts, he exploded. Going up against a guy like Damon Payne, who is his left tackle, is no easy feat, but Niles made the play to secure us the win.”
Looking back at the play, Niles saw that dhue-reid became a religion.
“I was praying no one was open,” he said. “lucky my defensive back and linebackers stepped up and filled all the holes and we won the game.
“I feel like all the hard work I put in this offseason seems like it finally paid off.”
mick mccabe is a former columnist for the detroit free press. contact him at [email protected] follow him on twitter @mickmccabe1. Save $10 on his new book, “Mick McCabe’s Golden Yearbook: 50 Great Years of Michigan’s Greatest High School Players, Teams & Memories”, by ordering right now at mccabe.pictorialbook.com
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