Birmingham Groves’ amazing football season soared to unprecedented heights Friday night.
Groves shocked everyone but itself in registering a stunning 10-0 triumph over 13-time state champion Farmington Harrison in a Division 2 pre-district game played at Falcon Field. The win lifted Groves to a perfect 10-0 on the season — the first time in program history it has gone undefeated through 10 games.
“A win like this means everything to this team. A lot of people didn’t think we could make it to 10-0, but we proved everyone wrong countless times,” said Groves junior quarterback Beau Kewley, who responded with clutch plays both on the ground and in the air all evening.
“Once we found out that we were playing Harrison it was ‘all right, it’s time for a big game,’” he said. “We knew it was going to be a tough game and it was going to be a battle, but we knew what we had to do. We prepared all week really hard and it all came together tonight.”
Defense ruled the Devil’s Night battle between the two OAA Division champions — Harrison the White winner and Groves the Blue.
Harrison, which averaged 25 points per game through the regular season, was shut out for the first time this season. The Hawks mustered 217 total yards, but ventured into the red zone only one time the entire game against the stingy Falcons defense, which had allowed just 58 points all season. It was Groves’ sixth shutout of the season.
Harrison missed a pair of second-quarter field-goal attempts from 46 and 40 yards and hurt itself with a pair of turnovers —a key fumble at the Groves 12-yard line late in the second quarter really stung — and a multitude of penalties.
“We just couldn’t get anything going. We had no continuity,” longtime Harrison head coach John Herrington said. “Then we messed up some of our position changes — not having the right people on the field — and that looked pretty bad. We’ve been struggling with our offense a little bit all year, but our defense played great and I’m happy about that.”
The game was scoreless through three quarters and the Falcons finally broke the deadlock on a 35-yard field goal by Christian Sosa early in the fourth quarter for a 3-0 lead.
It remained that way until a key turn of events midway through the fourth quarter.
Harrison had the ball at the Groves 43-yard line on first down, but was then saddled with four consecutive penalties before even running a play. The Hawks ended up with first down at their own 30 and, after gaining 5 yards on two plays, Herrington elected to quick kick.
The strategy worked to perfection as the ball rolled to the Groves 3-yard line. The Falcons took over with 5:24 remaining and gained 2 yards on their first two plays. On third down, Kewley hit Nick Moore with a 45-yard pass up the right sideline for a big first down in what turned out to be the game’s key play.
“That quick kick was a key. We got them down there and we needed to stop them,” Herrington said. “Then they threw a fade route and got out on us. That shouldn’t have happened, but it did.”
On another third-down play in the next series, Kewley again hit Moore with a 32-yard pass for first down at the Harrison 17-yard line. The Falcons ran three plays down to the 8-yard line. On fourth down, with just 2:16 left in the fourth quarter, the Falcons passed instead of attempting a field goal or running in an effort to get the first down.
On a perfect bootleg, Kewley faked a rushing play to the right side, then turned around and found tight end Daniel Williams all alone in the end zone for a 9-yard touchdown pass. Sosa booted the extra point to account for the final score.
Harrison’s Jamison Scarber ran the ensuing kickoff back 40 yards and the Hawks had the ball first-and-10 at the Groves 49-yard line. However, five plays later, sophomore defensive back Collin Heard picked off Anthony Giovanni’s pass to ice the triumph heard around the state.
“I thought we could hang in there with them on defense, but we just needed to make some plays on offense,” Groves head coach Brendan Flaherty said. “And Nick Moore and Beau (Kewley) stepped up big and (running backs) C.J. (Boswell) and Earnest (Allen) did what they needed to do. It was awesome.”
Kewley completed 5-of-12 passes for 149 yards and Moore had three receptions for 107 yards. Besides the touchdown catch, Williams had three tackles, including one for loss. Ian Rice had the big fumble recovery forced by Heard.
Giovanni completed 12-of-17 passes, while Scarber had nine receptions for 87 yards. Running back Jared Char had 13 carries for 43 yards.
Harrison finished the season with a 7-3 record. Groves takes its undefeated record into the district championship next week at Walled Lake Western, which beat Walled Lake Northern, 33-9.