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Novi Detroit Catholic Central claims crazy, heart-palpitating two-point win over Detroit King at PKC

By: MATTHEW B. MOWERY, August 31, 2019, 8:29 pm

DETROIT — Dan Anderson’s cardiologist would appreciate if his team not do this kind of thing, thank you very much.

The coach of Novi Detroit Catholic Central watched his team unexpectedly dominate the start of Saturday’s game against defending Division 3 champ Detroit King at the Prep Kickoff Classic, then hold on through a heart-palpitating final eight minutes, as the Crusaders came roaring back, scoring 22 unanswered points, only to fall two points short, 24-22.

“My blood pressure went up, and then down, and then up and then down,” said Anderson, who told his team in the postgame huddle that they’d given him a ‘heart attack’ or two. “It was crazy.”

How weird was the final quarter?

There was a turnover that wasn’t, and a turnover that was.

There was trouble with the snap — for both teams — and a safety that was probably the best possible scenario at the time. 

There was a reprieve or three … and then a final interception to seal it.

“It was just insane, all the turnovers back and forth. Had the crowd cheering, then booing. It was just crazy. But we stuck in there together, and knew as a team we needed to go through this adversity, and get this win,” said senior linebacker Cole Price, who sealed the game with an interception with just over a minute to go. “I knew that they would throw to their star player (Rashawn Williams), so I was just watching out for him, because they’d been going to him all game. … I was just reading the QB, saw him open up to his right, and just drifted over there, and made the game-saving play right there.”

Before King’s final touchdown to cut the deficit to four, there was a potential turnover waved off by a whistle stopping play. Then, with the Crusaders driving for a potential go-ahead score with just over 3:30 left, freshman quarterback Dante Moore and running back Peny Boone had trouble corralling the shotgun snap, taking King from a third-and-1 to a fourth-and-5. King got a reprieve when the Shamrocks jumped offsides, giving them a first down, only to turn the ball over on a strip sack by Jack Birks two plays later, with Gabe Xuereb recovering the fumble. 

Catholic Central got one first down, and ground 1:40 off the clock, forcing King to use its final two timeouts.

But lining up to punt on a fourth-and-3 from the CC 32 with 1:33 left, the snap sailed over the head of punter DJ Breault, and toward the goal line.

Had either team recovered in the field of play, it was a short field for King to score the go-ahead touchdown. Same thing if either team recovered it in the end zone — a score for King, or a touchback setting the Crusaders up at the CC 20. Instead, the squirted away from all attempts to recover it, and through the back line of the end zone for a safety.

“We were yelling ‘Kick it out! Kick it out!’ Thank goodness, they dove on it and knocked it out,” Anderson said. “Of course it happens there, right?”

The two points brought King within two, 24-22, but the free kick — even with a good return by Marshawn Lee — still left the Crusaders beyond midfield, and with just 80 seconds left. 

It ended up moot, as Price ended the game with the pickoff on first down, undercutting the route, and allowing CC to go into victory formation.

King coach Ty Spencer will live with his freshman quarterback, Dante Moore, trying to make another play, especially after he’d shown poise after a pair of early King turnovers to lead the team all the way back, and put them in a position to win it at the end.

“Just his composure. He took a shot, took a hit right here, and shook it off. That was the first hit he ever took in high school. He’ll be a good player,” Spencer said, admitting to a few heart palpitations of his own. “A couple. The first game, you always have those jitters. You always have those things in the first game.”

What maybe wasn’t expected was the Shamrocks to dominate the lines of scrimmage early on, posting a 200-yard advantage in total offense by the time they led 24-0. 

“We did not expect that, because of the size they have up front. We thought it was going to be a push and shove, and we’d see. But no, we did a nice job up front,” Anderson said. “We came out of the gate fast, which is interesting, because this team is … at times, practice is a slow start for them. They came out, and we were rolling right away. And then we kind of took our foot off the gas there. … We’ve got a young team. If you really look at us, we’re green, and we’re young. We’ve talked about adversity since Day 1. You’ve gotta play through adversity. There will be peaks and valleys.”

The Shamrocks converted two early King turnovers into a 14-0 lead before the first quarter was half over, with Brendin Yatooma scoring from 5 and 1 yards out to finish off the shortened scoring drives.

Charlie Mentzer added a 32-yard field goal a minute into the second quarter to give CC a 17-0 lead, then Price made it 24-0 CC with a 3-yard touchdown run with 4:34 left in the first half.

The Shamrocks wouldn’t score again.

King’s run of 22 unanswered points started on the ensuing kickoff after Price’s touchdown, with  Lee returning it 95 yards for a score. The Crusaders missed the PAT on that score, but made up with it on the next possession, turning a fumble near midfield into a scoring drive that ended with Moore hitting Kenny Merrieweather with a 9-yard scoring pass, then tossing the 2-point conversion to Peny Boone.

After a scoreless third that included a pair of Crusader interceptions, King scored seven plays into the fourth, as Moore hit Rashawn Williams with a 20-yard fade for a score. The PAT failed again, leaving the Crusaders down 24-20 with 8:48 left.

That drive, though, was when the end-of-game silliness began.

A play before Williams’ touchdown catch, the ball had been bobbled up into the air above the line of scrimmage, and Cody Daraban recovered — but the officiating crew ruled that forward progress of the runner had stopped, and a whistle stopping play had come before the fumble.

The comeback took some of the bitterness out of the loss for the Crusaders.

“I don’t feel terrible or bad, and that’s a good feeling, but we just gotta get this taste our of our mouth before Muskegon comes in,” Spencer said of King’s Week 2 opponent, a rematch of last year’s D3 title game. “It’s early for us. We’re going to get better, as the season goes on — I like this team. We’re going to be good. … As long as our leadership keeps positive, we’ll be fine.”