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Michigan Collegiate gets a whole lot of Love, forcing eight turnovers in win over Beecher

By: MATTHEW B. MOWERY, September 7, 2019, 2:04 am

MADISON HEIGHTS — Flint Beecher’s success this season will likely be dependent on the degree of brotherly love exhibited — i.e. how often younger brother Jacoby Sanders is able to get the ball in the hands of his older brother, Kentucky-bound senior wideout Earnest Sanders. 

To be fair, Warren Michigan Collegiate’s season is going to be predicated on a big heaping helping of Love, as well, as Friday’s meeting between the small-school powerhouses showed.

Quarterback Darrius Love ran for 203 yards and three scores, and the Cougars defense forced six turnovers and two more on downs in a 30-6 win over Beecher at Madison Heights Bishop Foley.

“That win right there was an all-around, entire program win. When we play like a machine, that’s what happens,” Michigan Collegiate coach John Guth said. “I challenged my defense this week, because last week, we gave up 32 points to a great Grosse Pointe North program. … I challenged my defense this week to set the tone, to hit them right in the mouth, and start it right off the get-go. They kept on, with relentless pursuit, and you see the score.”

The Cougars (2-0) didn’t have a tremendous offensive night, completing just one pass on a 2-point conversion, and rolling up just 263 total yards, but they managed to hold the Buccaneers (1-1) to 131 total yards, and just 44 of that by the elder Sanders brother on offensive touches. 

“That kid is an unbelievable, Division 1 talent, and he’s going to Kentucky for a reason. And he’s an absolute monster. We utilized our game-plan pretty good, and we completely took him out of the game,” Guth said. “Our staff is so talented — we find out those best players that they have, and we game-plan for them. We game-plan weeks out. We do what we’re supposed to do as a staff. We do our homework, and it pays off when it’s executed the right way.”

Earnest Sanders finished with 98 total yards — 4 on two carries, 41 on two receptions, 29 on kickoff returns, and 24 on an interception return — but was kept out of the end zone. 

“We’ll do more to more to get him the rock. We gotta get the ball in his hands — he’s a heck of a talent. We’ll figure it out,” said Beecher head coach and athletic director Courtney Hawkins, the former Michigan State and NFL wideout who knows a thing or two about contributing to an offense on the perimeter.

“There was opportunities. There were some mis-reads tonight. He got doubled and tripled some. I think youth took over with my quarterback some, and he threw up a couple. Other guys are open. In order to stop that, you’ve gotta use your other weapons, and we’ve got a lot of weapons. It’ll be a learning experience for my quarterback. He will grow — I think he grew up a couple of years tonight, understanding that you’ve gotta go through your reads. If you go through you reads, you make people respect it, and they can’t double- and triple-team this kid.”

The Buccaneers fumbled on their first two offensive touches, helping the Cougars out with short fields. Love cashed in the first with a 3-yard touchdown run, and Jamar Willis added the 2-point conversion run for an 8-0 lead. 

The Bucs were turned aside inside the 10 following a bad punt snap, a short punt set Beecher up with another short field, and Jacoby Sanders punched it in from 3 yards out to cut the deficit to 8-6. 

Even after Michigan Collegiate turned a third fumble into a 2-yard Love touchdown run, and picked off a last-second Hail Mary attempt to end the first half, the Bucs were OK with being down just 14-6 at the half.

Honestly, when we went into halftime, down 14-6, when you’re on the road down one score, that’s a win for a road team. We felt good about where we were at halftime, even though we had a ton of mistakes. We were hoping we’d come out in the second half, and clean all that up. Just didn’t happen. We obviously see what we’ve gotta work on, and we’ll be better,” Hawkins said. “I think we had eight turnovers, man, and you’re not supposed to win a game when you have eight turnovers. Not to take anything from those guys — three of the turnovers, they hit my running back, and he coughed it up. They forced them. We’ve gotta be better fundamentally.”

Backup quarterback Demarco Black capped off the first drive of the second half for the Cougars, scoring on a 3-yard touchdown run, then adding the 2-point conversion run for a 22-6 lead. The teams swapped interceptions, then Michigan Collegiate salted the game away with a 14-play, 80-yard rive that took just over 10 minutes off the clock, with Love scoring his third touchdown, and Black hitting Tre Redding with the 2-point conversion pass to make it 30-6.

The only previous meeting between the programs was a 47-7 win by Michigan Collegiate in the 2011 playoffs, when both were in Division 6. While the Cougars — who have gone 31-5 over the last three-plus seasons, with one trip to the D6 semis in 2017 — have stayed relatively steady in enrollment, Beecher has dropped from a Class A school in the 1960s, to a Class B school in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s to a C school since 2005. Last year, the Bucs were in Division 8, and will likely be in the lowest division again this season.