DIVISION 1: Davison plays from ahead, holds off Brighton rally to win first-ever state title
DETROIT — Davison found out something about itself on Saturday.
The Cardinals found out that they were able to play from ahead, as well as behind, getting their first early lead of the playoffs.
And, for the first time, they found out they had the stuff of champions, as well.
In the biggest offensive shootout to date in this year’s finals, Davison’s Brendan Sullivan outdueled Brighton’s Colby Newburg, as Davison got out to an early lead, and won the battle of first-time finalists, 35-25, in Saturday’s Division 1 title contest.
“As a coach, obviously, this is the proudest day of my life,” Davison coach Jake Weingartz said. “Until today, we had not scored first in the playoffs, so that was a point of emphasis. … They were giving us a lot of one-on-ones and loading the box.”
Sullivan was 14-for-19 passing for 290 yards and a score, and ran for two more touchdowns. Newburg was 16-for-28 passing for 249 yards and a pair of scores.
“it’s a great win, it’s just surreal,” said Sullivan.
Despite the early lead, the Cardinals could never get Brighton (11-3) to go away.
“Playing from ahead was a good feeling, but whether we’re up or down, it’s the same mentality on defense: JYD — Junk Yard Dogs,” said Caleb Smith, noting it was a situation when the Cardinals (12-2) were down against Romeo in the playoffs that flipped a mental switch for the senior class. “The seniors just looked at each other, and we all looked around, and realized that if we don’t start clicking, we could be playing our last game.”
Down 28-3, Brighton rallied for 22 second-half points, and was never really out of the contest until they missed on a 2-point conversion with 43 seconds left, attempting to make it a one-score game.
Davison never felt at ease.
“Not with their quarterback — he gets loose, he’s gone. … Up until the very end, when they missed that 2-pointer, they were in it,” Weingartz said. “I don’t think anybody took a deep breath.”
The Bulldogs spread the ball around, with five different receivers catching multiple passes, and got touchdown catches from Austin Lin and Nick Nemecek, but in the first half, it was a match-up of Ruben Salinas being checked by Davison’s Latrell Fordham.
The Brighton senior made three catches for 78 yards in the first half, but just missed coming down with a Hail Mary in the end zone as time expired before halftime.
“I think both Luke Stanton and I had our hands on it, but it just fell out,” Salinas said.
The Cardinals built a 21-3 halftime lead, getting a couple of short touchdown runs from Sullivan (1 yard) and Cryderman (1 yard), and a 74-yard bomb from Sullivan to Latrell Fordham. It was a play they drew up when they saw Brighton rotated toward triple receivers on the right, leaving Fordham one-on-one.
“Gotta take a shot, right?” Weingartz said. “Gotta get the ball in your playmakers’ hands.”
But Fordham was hurt on one of the jump balls to Salinas, fracturing his elbow, and didn’t play the rest of the game.
The Bulldogs converted a 27-yard pass play to Salinas — who caught it one-handed — into their only points of the half, but after getting it to a goal-to-go situation, were unable to punch it in, settling for a 21-yard Jacob Moraschinelli field goal.
Sullivan capped an 11-play, 80-yard drive to start the second half with a 10-yard touchdown run, making it a four-score game, at 28-3, but Brighton got a 1-yard touchdown run by Nemecek with 4:14 left third quarter to cut it to 28-11, then used a 27-yard wheel pass to Nemecek and a 2-point catch by Salinas to make it 28-19.
Smith’s 63-yard run-after-catch got the Cardinals down to the Brighton doorstep, and Cryderman scored his second 1-yard TD to make it 35-19.
Newburg hit Lin with a 3-yard TD pass with 43 seconds left, and just needed a 2-point conversion to make it a one-score game, but missed.
Davison recovered the onside kick and knelt out the clock on the win.