De La Salle’s special teams, defense down Southfield
Novi – There didn’t seem much to choose from when looking for an edge between Southfield and Warren De La Salle entering the teams’ Division 2 semifinal on Saturday at Novi High School.
If there was one clear advantage for De La Salle it might have been in the kicking game.
That became even clear at day’s end as De La Salle blocked two punts, dominated field position and, in the end, Southfield, 31-7.
De La Salle (10-3) will play in its third state final and again it will be against a team from Muskegon. De La Salle lost in the final to Muskegon High in 2006 and ’08, and will play Muskegon Mona Shores (12-1) for the title on Friday at Ford Field at 1 p.m.
Jeff Daian blocked two field goals in the first half, the second gave De La Salle possession on Southfield’s 15-yard line. Two plays pater Allen Stritzinger’s 12-yard touchdown run gave the Pilots a 10-0 with 7:25 left in the half.
After De La Salle forced a three-and-out the Pilots went 71 yards in 11 plays, all on the ground to take a 17-0 lead on Joey Garbarino’s 1-yard sneak with 30 seconds left.
The Pilots took a 31-0 lead in the fourth quarter before Southfield scored late to avert the shutout.
Five times Southfield began a drive inside its 16-yard line. Other than its first series Southfield never showed consistency on offense. The Bluejays gained 44 yards on their first series and totaled 150 yards in offense, 149 on the ground, and five first downs.
“It took a while for us to get their speed down,” De La Salle coach Paul Verska said. “It’s hard to simulate that in practice. In our league we don’t have back who spin around and gain yardage. We have backs who run at you. Once we realized that, and tackled, we were OK.”
De La Salle took a 3-0 on Jacob Townsley’s 34-yard field goal in the second quarter.
The Pilots used some trickery to score its third touchdown as Garbarino handed off to Darren Rydzewski who threw back to Garbarino for an 18-yard touchdown pass.
Garbarino’s 10 yard touchdown run gave his team a 31-0 lead.
Garbarino rushed for 57 yards on 11 carries and Stritzinger had 94 yards on 19.
For Southfield (9-4), making its second semifinal appearance, Adrian Carter had 121 yards and one touchdown on 14 carries.
De La Salle played conservatively in the second half after its established field position and a 17-point lead. The punts blocks were key but Townsley’s kickoffs and field also contributed.
“We saw something,” Verska said of the punt blocks. “We saw some other things, too. They had two ways of adjusting (to Southfield’s punts). On that one Jeff just tipped it with his finger. We almost had another. (Assistant coach) Rick Corona and I look at film all week and look for something we can use.
“With field goals, we know once we get inside their 40 we got a shot. The young guys want to score touchdowns. Us old guys will take field goals.”
De La Salle took more than that on Saturday. Now it has a shot at the school’s first football state title.