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Detroit King’s Dante Moore named 2021 STATE CHAMPS! Mr. Football winner

By: MATTHEW B. MOWERY, November 30, 2021, 2:46 pm

DETROIT — Two things snuck up on Dante Moore out of the blue on the turf at Ford Field.

One was his chief competitor for the STATE CHAMPS! Mr. Football award, DeWitt’s Ty Holtz.

The second was the trophy itself.

While Holtz grabbed an interception and returned it for a touchdown in Saturday’s Division 3 title game between the defending champion Panthers and Moore’s Detroit King squad, the Crusaders held on to win, 25-21, claiming their fourth title in seven seasons and fifth overall.

After a goal-line stand to preserve the four-point lead, and after Moore and company ran the final 2:34 off the clock, the junior quarterback was doubly surprised when he was handed the big silver and blue trophy for Mr. Football just minutes after his team raised the big wooden mitten. 

“I’m gonna give a shout out I didn’t know Mr. Football was gonna be awarded right here. I turn around I see a big ball, and I’m like ‘WHAT THE HECK?’” Moore admitted. “I really appreciate this all, you know. I appreciate the fans and everybody coming out and it’s just like I said was a big game shout to DeWitt — coaching staff and players — but like I said, was a tough game. I really appreciate it all.”

Moore becomes the 14th winner of the annual award, presented by STATE CHAMPS! since 2008, and the third winner from King. This year’s finalists also included Chippewa Valley running back Cephus Harris III and Rockford quarterback Zak Ahern, but the final decision came down to Holtz vs. Moore in the title game.

For the second straight year, Holtz did his thing in the title contest, throwing touchdown passes to Bryce Debri and Tommy McIntosh to cut into a King lead that had been 13-0 and 19-7, finishing the game with 153 yards on 10-for-18 passing despite five sacks and interception. But he gave his team the lead when he picked off Moore on a pass from midfield, returning it 69 yards for the go-ahead score with 15 seconds left in the first half.

“Even though Ty was the quarterback, he can probably try out safety, too,” Moore said of his counterpart. “He was looking at me, looking from left to right, and then when I threw that pick, I didn’t even see him. He baited me, came in, got the pick-six. Shout out to him. I know he put a lot of hours in.”

Moore marched the Crusaders down to reclaim the lead on Sterling Anderson Jr.’s 3-yard run with 8:22 left in the fourth quarter, going 18-for-24 passing for 228 yards. But his most important pass may have been a little 7-yard slant to Chansey Willis on third-and-6 with 2:22 left, the first down — and subsequent first-down run by Terrence Brown — allowing the Crusaders to run the final two plays from victory formation. 

“The leadership of these seniors, man, was awesome. I mean, the trust we had in Chansey to make that slant play to get the first down — for Dante to throw it to Chansey … was just awesome, man. Those guys believe in each other. They believe in themselves and I don’t think it was one moment they thought they were gonna lose this game,” King coach Tyrone Spencer said. “They (the Panthers) had a great game plan they took the stuff away from us up top, made us earn everything underneath. And you know, we did just enough to get there. You know, we can’t have the turnovers, though. We had the ball in the red zone a lot and we got to, you know, capitalize on those opportunities.”

Moore joins 2015 winner Donnie Corley and 2018 winner Dequan Finn as King representatives to win the award. Like Moore’s win Saturday, the award came down to a title-game showdown between contenders in 2018, when Finn beat Cam Martinez — the eventual winner a year later — and the Muskegon Big Reds for the Division 3 title. 

Finn was on hand to watch his successor do the same thing. 

“It’s a big flashback for me because … like I was surprised when I got the award so we got to here, on the big stage, and we got the state championship trophy like — it’s good,” said Finn, who is now the starting quarterback at the University of Toledo. “I feel as though that’s a huge accomplishment for him. I’m very proud of him. I see him — literally seeing him putting all the hard work in the offseason in the wintertime, springtime, summertime, so … I’m really proud of him like sincerely proud of him for all the things that he did, all the accomplishments that he had.”

And the growing pile of Mr. Football awards at 3200 Lafayette Street?

“Oh, yeah. Just name it the Detroit King award,” Finn laughed. “I’m happy that he got the award and you know, to see another King alumna or King player get the award, so it’s good.”

Moore finished the season with 3,044 yards and 40 touchdowns on 171 for 244 passing — despite not accumulating stats in forfeit wins in Weeks 5 and 6 — leading the Crusaders to a 13-1 season, with only one blemish — a 42-40 win on a Hail Mary in Week 1 against Indiana powerhouse Carmel. 

“Mr. Football. I’m so happy for him. He earned it. He’s a hard worker. He’s a humble kid. He was there — I’ve seen the tears, the tears of joy, you know. Just an awesome kid. It can’t happen for a better person, man. And hats off to Ty Holtz, man. Great football player. I mean, he’s gonna do great things at Brown. I mean, he’s a terrific football player, man,” Spencer said. “I mean, this is like a story — there’s always new characters and guys that step up, just like it was guys that stepped up this year. So we had guys step up and and this is great moment for all our young kids and, man, I just can’t wait to get back to work, man. We got to celebrate this but you know, like, this is it man. This is the chase. This is what you do it for. You want to chase it every year.”

Next year already has one twist. 

Moore is the first junior to win the award, meaning he’ll be the first who gets to defend the award as a senior. It just SEEMS like he’s been around forever, leading the Crusaders to the title game in 2019 as a freshman. 

“I think it’s actually flying by, to be honest. My freshman year, we played Mona Shores, took a big ‘L.’ We got back here, and I said ‘I can’t leave the building with an ‘L.’ I said, ‘We gotta win this thing,’” Moore said. “I’m not even thinking about next year, I’m thinking about these hours that are going to be passing by. I gotta heal my body. My body’s hurting real bad. But I’m gonna think about the moment right now. I’m gonna think about next year, for sure, though, but I’m living in the moment right now.”

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Previous Mr. Football winners:

2008 — Torsten Boss, WR, Lowell

2009 — Jason Fracasa, QB, Sterling Heights Stevenson High School

2010 — Tommy Vento, QB/S, Farmington Hills Harrison

2011 — Prescott Line, RB, Oxford

2012 — Mark Chapman, QB/DB/KR, Port Huron

2013 — Travis Smith, QB, Ithaca

2014 — Alex Malzone, QB, Birmingham Brother Rice

2015 — Donnie Corley, WR, Detroit Martin Luther King

2016 — Cody White, WR, Walled Lake Western

2017 — La’Darius Jefferson, QB, Muskegon

2018 — Dequan Finn, QB, Detroit Martin Luther King

2019 — Cameron Martinez, QB, Muskegon

2020 — Donovan Edwards, RB, West Bloomfield