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STATE CHAMPS! SCOUT TEAM: U-M commit El-Hadi paves way for Stevenson win at Lakeview

By: TOM MARKOWSKI, September 7, 2019, 12:13 am

ST. CLAIR SHORES — Forget that Giovanni El-Hadi of Sterling Heights Stevenson is a junior for a moment. El-Hadi is not only the Titans’ best player but also one of the team’s leaders on both sides of the ball, and he proved that time and time again on Friday.

El-Hadi is a 6-foot-5, 285-pound lineman who committed to Michigan before the season. This is El-Hadi’s third season as a starter and is starting both ways, full-time, at offensive right tackle and on the defensive line, for coach Justin Newcomb for the first time. 

Stevenson (2-0) played a tight, low-scoring game in a Macomb Area Conference crossover at St. Clair Shores Lakeview, winning 14-7, and El-Hadi was in the middle of the physical play.

[To vote for Giovanni El-Hadi for the Anvil Award, CLICK HERE.]

El-Hadi’s importance was never more apparent than on two of the game’s most important plays, one offensive and one defensively.

El-Hadi, hobbled by cramps he suffered midway through the third quarter, returned to his tackle position and helped pave the way for Nick Wingfield’s 11-yard touchdown run that gave Stevenson a 14-7 lead with 3:40 left in the third.

Wingfield, Stevenson’s main running back, had 89 yards on 17 carries. 

After Stevenson missed a field goal, Lakeview (1-1) drove the ball 47 yards to the Stevenson 33. El-Hadi saw limited action, especially on the defensive side, in the fourth. But on a fourth-and-1 he convinced Newcomb to put him back in the game. El-Hadi, playing right tackle, was the main tackler holding quarterback Tristan Witt for no gain. Stevenson took over with 2:03 left and held on for the 14-7 victory.

“That’s the first time I’ve had cramps in a game,” El-Hadi said. “They were in both legs and then they went to my upper hips. It’s my fault. I should have hydrated better. That won’t happen again.

“As a team we’re starting slow in our games. Once we get into our groove we’re becoming a good team. Personally, ever since I went to the camps during the summer I’ve been getting better. Playing defense has really help me improve. My speed is getting better and I got faster.”

El-Hadi, who just turned 16 on Aug. 3, also received scholarship offers from LSU and Penn State, among others, before settling on U-M. He said his visit to Ann Arbor, meeting the coaches, was what convinced him to commit.

El-Hadi played basketball his first two seasons at Stevenson and might play again this winter. He’s also considering to compete as a wrestler. 

“He’s taken on that leadership role,” Newcomb said. “He’s taken control of the offensive and defensive lines, and that’s where the games are won. He was cramping up on the sideline and he begged me to put him in. He made a whale of a play on that quarterback sneak. Those kinds of plays carry over to the rest of the team.”

It wasn’t all good news for Newcomb and his team. Sophomore quarterback Jordan Ramsey suffered what appeared to be a head injury on the second play of the second quarter and did not return. Newcomb said Ramsey was taken to a nearby hospital at halftime and his status will be evaluated after tests are made.

Ramsey made his first start at quarterback at any level in high school last week in Stevenson’s 32-7 victory over Temperance Bedford. His 86-yard run touchdown run with 4:16 left in the first quarter gave the Titans a 7-0 lead over Lakeview.

Lakeview tied the game on its fourth possession on Evan Rochon’s 1-yard touchdown run with 7:48 left in the half. Rochon’s 25-yard punt return helped set up the score.

Lakeview wasted two good scoring chances on its first two drives. The Huskies forced a 3-and-out on the game’s first possession and took over on Stevenson’s 46-yard line. Three plays netted no yards and Lakeview punted. 

Again Lakeview forced a 3-and-out as the Huskies twice sacked Ramsey for a total of 10 yards. After a short punt, Lakeview took over on the Stevenson 38. The Huskies gained one first down but Isuf Cekaj’s 35-yard field attempt was partially blocked.

Neither team threatened to score in the half after Lakeview’s touchdown.