DIVISION 2: De La Salle’s defense clamps down on Mona Shores, as Pilots repeat as D2 champs
DETROIT — Bruno Mars was nowhere to be found at Ford Field Friday afternoon, but there was definitely 24 karat magic in the air as Warren De La Salle won its second straight Division 2 state football championship and third in five years with a sparkling, gold-plated performance against Muskegon Mona Shores.
Using its devastating defense and another flawless Ford Field outing by senior quarterback Nolan Schultz, the Pilots powered past a normally offensively-prolific Mona Shores club, 29-16.
“Our defense was tested today and they came up with all the right answers. … It was simply a lights-out effort,” De La Salle coach Mike Giannone said. “Games like this are validation for how great a unit you are. We put our stamp on this game. Defense has been our calling card the last two years.”
Mona Shores (12-2) was averaging 46 points per game entering the state finals. The Sailors lowest point-total of the season was 33 before Friday. De La Salle All-Catholic League middle linebacker and Holy Cross-commit Jacob Dobbs dotted the stat sheet for a game-high 16 tackles, 11 solo wrap ups and several big third and fourth-down stops. Senior safety Derek intercepted Mona Shores quarterback Caden Broersma with 1:16 left at the Pilots own 25-yard line to salt the game away.
“We’re a bunch of warriors on defense, we play with a lot of emotion,” Dobbs said. “We don’t have the size we had last year, we’re faster though and we’re still fearless.”
Schultz shined under the bright lights of Ford Field again Friday, delivering a similar sterling outing to the one he had at the pro stadium last month in the Prep Bowl where he threw for 140 yards and ran for 120 against Novi Detroit Catholic Central in a 24-6 victory which brought De La Salle a second CHSL crown in a row. On Friday, Schultz, who took over under center midway through the regular season due to a season-ending injury to junior signal caller Anthony Stepnitz, scored all four Pilots touchdowns.
A Schultz 1-yard sneak opened the game’s scoring. He added two more goal-line plunges and a 44-yard touchdown pass to Dobbs in the third quarter.
“This is a surreal moment,” said Schultz of winning the state championship for a second year in a row. “Everyone on that roster knew we were capable of this and we went out there and showed why.”
Last season, Schultz played mostly on special teams. He earned a starting spot in the secondary in the offseason before assuming the reins at quarterback in Week 5.
The game Friday was knotted 7-7 at halftime. Schultz’s scoring toss to Dobbs on the first possession of the second half gave De La Salle a lead it wouldn’t look back from. His final rushing touchdown of the day at the 1:57 mark of the fourth quarter, followed by a 2-point conversion completion to Mike McGinnity, clinched the title. McGinnity plays on the line on defense (six tackles) and is one of the Pilots’ senior captains.
The nine-play, 65 yard drive engineered by Schultz proved a firm response to Mona Shores’ 14-yard touchdown connection between Broersma and Sailors wide receiver Da’Various Carter on the prior possession. Carter’s scoring grab had pulled Mona Shores to behind just 21-16 with 7:26 remaining.
Broersma’s 2-yard scramble into the end zone in the closing 90 seconds of the first half deadlocked the contest heading into the locker room. The De La Salle defense caused Broersma fits (7-of-13 for a paltry 55 yards) and bottled up star running back Sincer’e Dent for most of the game, holding him to 86 yards on the ground.
“De La Salle’s linebackers are mighty good, they were scraping off the top, filling all the gaps,” Broersma said. “That unit has a ton of speed. They made it real hard for us to do what we wanted to do.”
Logan Hekkma kicked a 24-yard field goal in the third quarter for Mona Shores. Dent registered 10 tackles from his linebacker position on defense. Western Michigan-commit Jacob Wahlberg (linebacker) recorded nine tackles and had a fumble recovery for the Sailors.
“You tip your hat to De La Salle, that defense is so tough and physical,” Mona Shores coach Matt Koziak said. “We fought, we scrapped and that makes you proud. We just couldn’t get that one stop on their final touchdown drive that we needed to give us a chance at the end.”
Koziak guided his 2014 Mona Shores squad into the state finals too. That season, the Sailors lost to De La Salle and former coach Paul Verska, 44-8. Giannone, who led Macomb Dakota to back-to-back Division 1 state titles in 2006 and 2007, got to De La Salle in 2016.