McCabe: Higley dashes for late TD as Groves closes in on title

Birmingham Groves' Collin Heard runs the ball against Rochester Adams on Friday, Oct. 7, 2016 at Birmingham Groves High School in Beverly Hills, MI.

Birmingham Groves’ Collin Heard runs the ball against Rochester Adams on Friday, Oct. 7, 2016 at Birmingham Groves High School in Beverly Hills, MI.

The score was tied and both teams were running out of time when Birmingham Groves wide receiver Nate Higley lined up wide right on a second-and-9 play from the Rochester Adams 38-yard line.

When the ball was snapped, Higley didn’t run downfield. He ran across the field and behind the line of scrimmage, and took a handoff on a reverse.

When he got the ball, Higley looked up and saw guard Brady Anderson pulling in front of him.

Higley wanted to turn the corner, but there were two Adams defenders in his way. Well, they were in Anderson’s way.

“I pulled around and blocked the nearest guys near me,” Anderson said. “And I blocked the two guys I needed to.”

They were actually the two guys Higley needed Anderson to block.

“If it wasn’t for lineman No. 52, Brady Anderson, I wouldn’t have got the corner,” Higley said. “And I wouldn’t have scored.”

Higley turned the corner and raced 28 yards into the end zone to give Groves the 15-8 victory over Adams Friday night, all but wrapping up the OAA White title for the Falcons.

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It was a monumental win for Groves, who were in the OAA Blue Division the previous six seasons before moving to the more competitive White this fall.

For most of the night, it was a game of missed opportunities for both teams.

Adams (5-2, 4-2, No. 8 in Division 1) ran 8:17 off the clock in the first quarter in driving from its 6-yard line to the Groves 9, where the Highlanders missed a 26-yard field-goal attempt.

A Groves chop-block wiped out a dazzling 46-yard touchdown run by junior Collin Heard midway through the second quarter, and the game was scoreless at halftime.

Ryan Flaherty picked off an Adams pass early in the third quarter and returned it 26 yards to the Adams’ 23-yard line. Three plays later Heard scored on a 13-yard run, and Ernest Allen added the two-point conversion for an 8-0 lead.

Adams’ Mark Patritto intercepted a Groves pass at the Adams’ 41-yard line, and that led to Cole Partritto’s 18-yard touchdown run. Quarterback Kyle Wood kept the ball to tie the game with 2:21 left in the third quarter.

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Wood’s 45-yard run got Adams to Groves’ 27-yard line early in the fourth, but three penalties wiped out a TD and pushed the Highlanders back to the Groves 48.

Adams punted and Groves (7-0, 5-0, No. 5 in Division 2) began its scoring drive from its 20.

Before Higley even touched the ball, Groves was faced with a fourth-and-one on its 41.

Ernest Allen went over the right side for a 2-yard gain and a game-saving first down.

“It came down to that one yard,” Allen said. “We had to pick it up and we did.”

He was even happier three plays later seeing Higley following Anderson around the left side.

“I have to thank him,” Higley said of Anderson. “He got two guys. He’s a hell of a guy.”

Contact Mick McCabe: 313-223-4744 or Follow him on Twitter @mickmccabe1.

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