In Play with Tom Markowski

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Churchill, Franklin to meet in the playoffs for the first time; district title at stake

By: Tom Markowski, October 31, 2017, 2:28 pm

Livonia – Churchill and Franklin have played 48 times but never have the two Livonia public schools met in the Michigan High School Athletic Association playoffs.

Both teams won predistrict games as the road team last week and will play in a Division 2 district final at Churchill on Friday at 7 p.m.

Churchill (8-2) won the Kensington Lakes Activities Association Gold Division with a 6-0 record. Franklin (8-2) finished second at 5-1 with its only division loss, and its last loss, taking place on Sept. 15 at Churchill, 24-10.

Even though Churchill won rather convincingly then the rematch must be considered a toss-up.

“Franklin and us have the top two defensive teams in our league all season,” Churchill coach Bill DiFillipo said. “We took a quick 17-0 that first game and it was even after that. (Franklin senior) Isaac Moore didn’t play in that game and he’s been lighting it up recently.

“We didn’t throw it well last week, and we didn’t need to in the situations we were in. But in the playoffs, if you’re one-dimensional, you’re not going to do well. They’re going to bring their best because of that first game. I told my players at practice on Monday that you have to prepare as if you lost that first game.”

So often in rematches, the team that lost the first game comes back to win the second. Take Zeeland West for example. West lost to Zeeland East, 28-8, in week nine then came back to defeat East, 42-27, last week in Division 3.

Moore, a 6-0, 205-pound running back, has played extremely well the last month or so. In last week’s 35-28 overtime victory at Walled Lake Western Moore rushed for 225 yards and two touchdowns. He also had a touchdown reception.

“We’re getting better and better,” Franklin coach Chris Kelbert said. “Defensively, we’ve been good all season. Offensively, we’re coming into our own.

“It’s exciting. Our schedule, on paper, we knew was going to be tough. We’ve been in a lot of close games. So when we went to overtime it was like, OK, we’ve been here before. Let’s go.”

In addition to last week’s game, three of Franklin’s games have been decided by three points or less.

The Western game was a seesaw affair. Moore’s 80-yard touchdown run gave the Patriots a 28-21 lead and with six minutes left Western tied it at 28-28. Franklin had the ball first in overtime and on second down junior Julius Simmons, Moore’s backup, scored to give Franklin a 35-28 lead.

“Julius has better speed (than Moore),” Kelbert said. “He has the speed to get to the edge and we knew we had to get wide.”

Western ran the ball on its first play then Franklin sacked Sam Johnson. Johnson threw incomplete passes on third and fourth down to end the game.

“We pressured him on fourth down,” Kelbert said. “We sacked him like four or five times in the game. We used our quickness to get their eyes moving. Our defensive backs have done a great job all season and they played well that night. (Western’s) four receivers we’re the best we’ve seen all season.”

Churchill’s 24-23 victory over Pinckney featured plenty of drama as well. Churchill led 21-17 at halftime then took a 24-17 lead on its second possession of the second half.

Pinckney scored a touchdown in the fourth quarter and on the extra point try the snap was a bit off its mark and a desperation pass was incomplete. But the game wasn’t over. Pinckney drove the ball inside Churchill’s 10-yard line and on fourth down Martel Dooley blocked the potential winning field goal.

“Dooley had been close all night to blocking a kick,” DiFillipo said. “He’s had some upper body problems since the third week. He plays receiver and defensive back, and he’s one of our leaders. He’s played phenomenal all year. Our kids stepped up at key times.”

DiFillipo was concerned before the game and the poor weather conditions had nothing to do with his consternation.

“You know how teenagers are,” he said. “We just weren’t good in the locker room. I don’t think there’ll be any problem this week. They’ll be up for Franklin. We had a good practice on Monday.”