DIVISION 1 STATE FINALS: Romeo takes down Cass Tech for first state title

| November 28, 2015 | Comments (0)




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DETROIT — Romeo made the most of its first ever appearance in the state finals.

With a legion of some 10,000-plus fans behind them, the seventh-ranked Bulldogs never trailed fourth-ranked Detroit Cass Tech and came way with a 41-27 victory in the Division 1 state finals at Ford Field.

Not bad for a school that wasn’t listed in the top 10 in the preseason by any state publication.

It marked the first team state title in boys sports in school history.

“You saw what it means to the Romeo community,” offered Romeo co-coach Jason Couch, who shares duties with Curt Rienas. “The Romeo community was a sea of red. I would like to see if anybody else brought as many as Romeo did. If they did, I applaud them. The community shut down. They were here. Businesses were closing. That just shows the support … It was incredible.

“The reason they come out and support the boys is because they’re busy in the offseason and in-season supporting them with community service and doing other events and activities throughout the community,” con tinned Couch. “That’s why we graduated from Romeo and we’re back in Romeo — it sucks you in. We’re proud to be Bulldogs.”

incredible? So was the Bulldogs’ journey, capped by a victory over a fifth straight opponent ranked in the Associated Press Top 10 and sixth over a ranked foe this season. A total of eight opponents on Romeo’s 14-game schedule this year were playoff teams, including three in the regular season.

The championship win came against a Cass Tech program that was making its sixth straight appearance in the D-1 Final Four and third appearance in the state finals in five years. Romeo had never played in the state finals and made its longest postseason run since falling in the 1992 Class A state semifinals.

It wasn’t without its fair share of nerves and drama.

Cass Tech (11-3) pulled to within 33-27 with 7:15 to go when Donovan People-Jones hauled in a 36-yard dart from Aaron Jackson.

Romeo, instead of wilting under the comeback pressure, strung together an 11-play, 75-yard drive that chewed up 5:45 of clock and was capped by Brad Tanner’s 16-yard touchdown run with 1:29 to play.

Mitchell Heimbuch caught Paul Hurley’s two-point conversion pass to clinch the school’s first title.

Most recently, Romeo had captured state crowns in MSHAA Class A girls volleyball (2014) and MCCA Class A sideline cheerleading (2005).

“This is what we worked for all along,” said Tanner. “We believed that we could do this.

“I knew I just had to run hard on the (game-clinching touchdown) and good things would happen,” he added.

Romeo (13-1) scored first on Tanner’s 20-yard run with 9:36 left in the opening frame, while Cass Tech countered with Donovan Johnson’s 6-yard run.

The Bulldogs went ahead at 13-7 with 1:42 still to go in the first quarter on Lucas Schimon’s 40-yard reception from Hurley — and Romeo never trailed again.

Tanner scored his second of three touchdowns in the second quarter, this time on a 31-yard sprint to push the lead up to 19-7.

Cass Tech, which won state titles in 2011 and 2012, closed the gap down to 19-14 with 2:00 remaining in the first half when Johnson scampered home on a 1-yard run.

Romeo used some trickery to gain some momentum to open the third quarter, recovering an on-side kick. Six plays and 48 yards later, Domenico Bongiorno blazed a 10-yard trail for a 26-14 advantage.

Hurley later widened the gap to 33-14 with 7:00 still to play in the third when his 20-yard scamper following a blocked punt by John Verellen.

Cass Tech began to mount a comeback later in the third, when Jackson found a streaking Demetric Vance for a 17-yard touchdown dart to pull the Technicians to within 33-20.

The Technicians never got closer than six points the rest of the way.

“I was impressed by (Romeo’s) defense and their ability to just go after it,” noted Cass Tech coach Thomas Wilcher. “They made some plays. Their speed on defense caused us some problems. It’s what they do. We knew what to expect (based on film).”

Tanner finished with 130 yards on 13 carries for Romeo, while Hurley finished 12-for-18 passing for 203 yards with one TD and one interception. Heimbuch had five catches for 65 yards and Schimon added two grabs for 61 yards for the Bulldogs.

Cass Tech was limited to only 71 rushing yards. Jackson, who stepped in for starter Rodney Hall, passed for 194 yards on a 19-for-27 performances, while People-Jones had eight catches for 85 yards for the Technicians.

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