FOOTBALL DIVISION 1 STATE FINALS: Belleville’s big-play offense stymies Rochester Adams’ title plans

| November 27, 2021 | Comments (0)



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DETROIT    After several near misses, Belleville’s big-play offense was finally on display Saturday at Ford Field.

This time the Tigers exploded at Rochester Adams’ expense.

Belleville torched the Highlanders’ stingy defense for 453 total yards and walked away with its first Division 1 state title in a 55-33 rout of Rochester Adams.

The Tigers (13-1) forced three turnovers, including a blocked punt, and scored on eight of 11 drives in their first-ever state finals appearance.

Rochester Adams finished as the Division 1 state runner-up following a 55-33 setback Saturday to Belleville at Ford Field. Courtesy Photo | Rochester Adams Athletics

Belleville — which lost in the Division 1 state semifinals the last three years — put up the third highest total in MHSAA state finals history, tying Chelsea which also scored 55 the previous night in Division 4.

“This was a different era for Belleville,” remarked Belleville head coach Jermain Crowell. “This year was all about team, team, team. In the past it was so much about individuals and who did what and who got offered by (colleges). We changed that this year. We had one goal in mind as a team and we were finally able to accomplish that goal.”

Freshman quarterback Bryce Underwood finished 12-for-21 passing for 284 yards and five touchdowns passes to lead Belleville, which had scored 542 points coming into the game — a 42.7 average — and was riding a 10-game win streak following a 28-21 setback to Livonia Churchill in Week 3.

Jeremiah Caldwell had four catches for 204 receiving yards and three touchdowns — his performance ranks in the top 10 all-time for state finals receiving yards and touchdowns.

Underwood added five carries for 62 yards and one touchdown run, Colby Reed added 10 carries for 43 yards and a score, Jeremiah Beasley had four rushes for 30 yards and another touchdown, Deshaun Lee recorded four catches for 45 yards and a receiving touchdown, and Kevin Simes also had a touchdown grab for the Tigers. Brayden Lane was 7-for-8 on extra points for Belleville (13-1).

Adams (13-1) had not yielded more than 21 points in a single game all season and limited 12 opponents to 20 or fewer points and seven teams to 10 or fewer points this season. The wheels fell off against the Tigers.

“We’ve seen that kind of speed before. We play in the OAA and have seen that for years,” said Adams coach Tony Patritto, whose team defeated last year’s state champion West Bloomfield twice this season. “We just didn’t keep the ball long enough, which is one of our strengths, and that allowed their offense to remain on the field. And we had to settle for (two) field goals. You can’t do that against (an explosive) team like Belleville.”

Rochester Adams rarely had an answer for Belleville’s speed and big-play ability and the Tigers’ took advantage of some Highlanders miscues in the second half, where the Tigers held a 34-13 advantage.

“We saw on film that they got a little bit lazy on occasion and that they were giving us one-on-ones (in coverage). We run one-on-ones every day (in practice). We felt in those situations that we had an advantage.”

Holding its slim 21-20 lead in the third quarter, Belleville’s Jeremiah Beasley blocked a punt and recovered it at the Adams 6-yard line. Two plays later, Simes scored on a 5-yard run for a 28-20 lead.

On Adams’ next drive, Belleville’s Dennis Crawford recovered a fumble and returned the loose ball all the way down to the Adams 25. Two plays later Underwood connected with Beasley on a 25-yard strike and a 35-20 lead with 2:35 left in the third quarter.

The Tigers’ Caldwell picked off Parker Picot deep into Belleville territory later in the third period, which led to another touchdown drive. Belleville scored again eight plays later and with 10:59 to go to open up an insurmountable 41-20 advantage. Underwood found Lee with a 19-yard strike on the play as part of the 21-0 Belleville run in the second half.

Adams could not get closer than 14 points the rest of the way.

The Highlanders did close the gap down to 41-27 with 7:04 left when Picot — who committed to Alabama for baseball as a freshman — tossed a 33-yard strike to Brady Prieskorn while being hit in the backfield on a scramble.

The Highlanders could not sustain the momentum, being outscored 14-6 after that point.

“This was a great journey for these guys. The result just didn’t turn out the way we had hoped,” said Patritto, who has guided the Highlanders to five runs to the Final Four, a state championship in 2003 and this year’s state runner-up finish.

Belleville’s big-play offense struck first when Underwood threw a bomb to Jalen Johnson and Johnson leaned forward on the run to grab the pass before racing home to complete the 56-yard scoring play with 9:55 still to go in the opening frame.

Adams responded with 17 straight points, including two touchdowns and a field goal for a 17-7 advantage.

Belleville eventually led 21-20 at the half and did not relinquish the lead in the second half. The final touchdown of the first half was Underwood finding a wide-open Caldwell down the middle of the field and Caldwell completing the catch-and-run 72 yards with 1:24 left in the half.

On the previous Belleville drive, Caldwell hauled in a 64-yard TD pass from Underwood. The Tigers outscored Adams 14-3 over the final 3:19 of the first half to take the momentum and lead for good.

“Our quarterback played all right as a freshman,” smiled Crowell, who has built Belleville into a state power over 10 years after serving as an assistant at Detroit Cass Tech. “He did a great job finding his receivers.”

Picot, a junior quarterback, finished just 8-for-21 for 198 passing yards, three touchdown passes and one interception for Adams. Picot added 23 carries for 57 yards, as the Highlanders only amassed 160 rushing yards on the night after picking up over 3,400 rushing yards coming into the contest.

Prieskorn had 117 receiving yards on four catches and two touchdowns, Christian Schomer added a touchdown grab, and Peyton Montour had the other touchdown on the ground for Adams.

Colin Timko was 3-for-4 on extra points and booted field goals of 27 and 35 yards in the first half. His 35-yarder brought the Highlanders to within 21-20 just seven seconds before the half.

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