De La Salle dominates Mona Shores, wins D2 title
Detroit – Join the party, Warren De La Salle, there’s room for another Catholic League power.
Despite losing three games during the regular season and finishing as an also-ran in the Central Division of the Catholic League the Pilots proved their mettle on Saturday as they downed Muskegon Mona Shores 44-8 in the Division 2 final at Ford Field.
It’s the school’s first football title.
Quarterback Joey Garbarino rushed for two touchdowns and passed for another, and sophomore running back Allen Stritzinger rushed for 175 yards and one touchdown to lead an offense that scored on its first seven possessions.
Defensively Cooper Gammon blocked a punt that was received by Austin Ballard for a touchdown, and Mona Shores was limited to 201 yards and 12 first downs.
The special teams did their part, too, as Jake Townsley kicked three fields, had four touchbacks and he and Brandon Piwinski teamed to make all five extra points. De La Salle did not punt.
“I told our kids when we got here,” De La Salle coach Paul Verska said. “It’s not the Ws but who we played. We were going to play physical. We got lucky and hit a couple of big plays early.
“It’s awesome. When we look up at the rafters at the other championship banners in soccer and baseball, I said to my players we’re going to get one.”
De La Salle became the fourth member of the Central Division to win a state title. Detroit Catholic Central has 10 titles, Birmingham Brother Rice has nine and Orchard Lake St. Mary’s five.
Two of De La Salle’s losses came to Brother Rice (28-21) and St. Mary’s (14-10), both in the final minute.
De La Salle drove 75 yards in 11 plays to take a 7-0 lead on Garbarino’s 1-yard sneak. Stritzinger’s 24-yard run help set up the score.
A 6-yard Mona Shores punt led to Townsley’s 41-yard field goal.
A 55-yard run by Stritzinger set up Townsley’s 23-yard field goal and, after Mona Shores missed on a fake punt attempt, Stritzinger again rushed for 55 yards and this time he reached the zone and De La Salle led 20-0 with 7:25 left in the first half.
Townsley’s 29-yard field goal with 31 seconds left ended the first-half scoring.
“What caught me (watching film) was how physical they were,” Mona Shores coach Matt Koziak said. “(Stritzinger) scared us on film. He’s crazy good. He’s a back who can grind you out but he can hit the seams, too.
“Garbarino has poise. He doesn’t have numbers that jump out at you. He’s a kid who played big in a big game.”
Stritzinger and Garbarino each had 18 carries. Garbarino rushed for 85 yards and completed all seven of his attempts for 89 yards. Not big numbers but he was efficient.
His counterpart, Tyree Jackson, wasn’t as fortunate. Last week Jackson suffered a dislocated knee and played despite the injury but his mobility was limited. He had but four carries for 14 yards and was 17-27 passing for 102 yards and one touchdown.
“I was feeling good today,” Jackson said.
Jackson’s a gamer. He wasn’t about to give excuses in a title game.
“If he was healthy it might have been different,” Koziak said. “But who knows. I don’t want to take anything away from De La Salle. They did a great job of keeping stuff in front of them. Defensively they had a great game plan.”
Mona Shores (12-2), which made its first final appearance, played without starting receiver Hunter Broersma who was diagnosed with mononucleosis on Wednesday.
If both players had been healthy Mona Shores’ offense would have likely been more proficient. It’s uncertain how much of a difference it would have made.
Few teams played defense as well as De La Salle this season. This unit was a stabilizing force during the up-and-down season. When De La Salle was 3-3 defensive lineman Mike Danna, who committed to Central Michigan, returned after suffering a broken leg in the opener. Verska pointed to Danna’s return as a possible turning point. De La Salle defeated U-D Jesuit 24-7 in week seven and the Pilots continued to get better and better.
**EDITORS NOTE: Highlights from this game can be seen on the State Champs! High School Sports Show Sunday at 9 am and 10 pm on Fox Sports Detroit**