Dominant rushing attack leads Canton past Churchill, to district title
Canton — Canton imposed its will early and often in its Division 1 District Final match-up against Livonia Churchill.
The Chiefs used its balanced running attack to claim its first district title in five seasons with a convincing 56-21 win.
“We went into tonight thinking we might have to score every time we get the ball to beat these guys,” Canton coach Tim Baechler said.
Canton did just that scoring on all eight of their offensive drives of the game, and it started after the opening kickoff.
The Chiefs (9-2) cashed in a five-play drive that started with a 48-yard run by senior Chuck Turfe. Fellow running back sophomore Marcus Sanders gave Canton a 7-0 lead on a 20-yard touchdown run with 9:56 left in the first quarter.
Churchill quickly answered with a methodical drive that senior quarterback Brian Alsobrooks set up with two big passes on second and third downs. Alsobrooks finished the drive on a 1-yard run for a 7-7 tie.
Sanders would lead the charge from then on.
“He makes things happen. He isn’t the fastest kid, but he has great balance. All the holes were there for him to take advantage of. We have a system where each night a different guy can have a big night, and tonight was his night,” Baechler said.
Sanders had a carbon-copy run off the left guard for a 19-yard touchdown run for a 14-7 lead with 1:21 left in the first quarter. At the half, the sophomore had 17 carries for 206 yards and two touchdowns.
He’d finish the game with 316 yards on 25 carries and three touchdowns. In fact all of Canton’s running backs broke the 100-yard mark in Friday’s game.
Senior Brian Newton finished the game with 19 carries for 119 yards and three touchdowns. Fellow senior Charles Turfe had 106 yards and a touchdown, all earned in the second half.
The night was special for Newton because he’s stepped up his play after Canton suffered a key injury to one of its starting tailbacks, according to Baechler.
“All of our backs are tough, physical runners. They grind out plays. (Jacob) Wickens blew his knee out weeks ago, so we looked to Brian to step in, and he adapted well to our system,” he said.
Canton senior quarterback Greg Williams also eclipsed the 100-yard mark (107 yards on five carries). He accounted for a passing touchdown, which game in the second quarter when he found Nolan Gilo for a 4-yard score for a 35-21 lead.
As a team the Chiefs ran for 648 yards, which Baechler and Sanders credits to the offensive line becoming healthy as the season continues.
“We haven’t had a big win like this in a long time, and when you get the chance you got to make it happen,” Sanders said.
“The team chemistry is improving. You can’t have that with different guys upfront through the season. But they’re getting healthy, and we’re working to be a good football team because of it.”
Churchill fought back to bring the game within a score a couple of times in the first half. Senior Running back Paul Romain had a long touchdown run of 58-yards to cut into Canton’s lead, 21-14, with 9:30 left in the half.
He also had a one-yard touchdown run to bring the Chargers (8-3) with in a possession, 28-21, with 3:37 left in the half.
With the win though, Baechler knows his team will not be content with the win, and will not look ahead to the regional final.
“We’re just excited to keep practicing, and playing. Whomever we play next week, we’re going to be jacked to play them. We’re still not great, and because of the injuries we haven’t peaked yet,” he said.
“We could be peaking at the right time.”
Canton will face Saline, who beat Monroe 28-22 in their district final game Friday night, next week.