From the get-go, it was apparent what Orchard Lake St. Mary’s operating mode would be. The Eaglets asserted themselves in the trenches — running between the tackles on all 13 plays of their opening drive — and powered to their seventh state championship, 29-12, over Chelsea in the Division 3 final.
“That’s just how we play, that’s what our coaches want us to play, and that’s what we’re going to do, and we do it all the time,” right tackle Cameron Kolwich said. “It was like it was just another week. We played great, beat a great team, and we had great coaching, ran great plays; we did what we needed to win.”
“The offense is solid. That’s what we do, and for us to win, we’ve got to do things like that,” St. Mary’s coach George Porritt said. “We got great running from Troy (Marks) inside, and they were blitzing us pretty hard, and we got some great blocking from the offensive line, (Justin) Myrick was outstanding running the ball.”
St. Mary’s (12-1) scored the game’s first two touchdowns within eight minutes, and the Bulldogs couldn’t dig themselves out of that hole, especially since the Eaglets’ defense took away their run options.
By and large, Chelsea was unable to move the ball on the ground effectively. When the Bulldogs (12-2) faced first-and-goal from the 4 late in the game, two attempts netted negative yardage, and the Eaglets’ defense forced two incomplete passes to get the ball back on downs.
Meanwhile, St. Mary’s had its ground game in gear, holding a 294-13 edge in rushing yards, behind 108 from Myrick and 105 from Marks.
The Eaglets took the opening kick and moved methodically downfield, using up 6 minutes to cover 64 yards. Myrick traveled the final yard into the end zone. He later barged in from 3 yards out for the game’s final score early in the fourth quarter
“We’re just going to wear you out,” he said. “It’s hot in here, they’re not used to playing in this, they haven’t been here before, so we knew what to do. It’s definitely not easy, but the linemen made it easier for me to do my job, and I just have to follow them. Same thing with the backs; they made great blocks.”
After that first score, Josh Ross’ interception at the Chelsea 45 two plays later gave the ball back to the Eaglets, and it only took them three plays to go the distance. To switch things up, Brendan Tabone threw a pass to Kahlee Hamler, who hauled it in for a 34-yard score, and the Eaglets led, 15-0, quickly.
Chelsea fans got something to cheer about in the second quarter, as the Bulldogs put together a five-play, 80-yard scoring drive. Noah VanReesema got in the clear and took a Graham Kuras pass 47 yards into the end zone. The score was set up by a 26-yard completion from Jack Bush to Jacob Grob on the prior play.
“I think that really sparked our team and got everyone’s emotions back up; it was demoralizing being quickly down 15,” Kuras said. “I love running it; I’ve always wanted to be the quarterback but I never got the chance. It’s kind of my favorite thing to do.”
Chelsea’s regular quarterback, Jack Bush, compensated for the ground game struggles, by completing 13 of 21 passes for 145 yards. He threw a 14-yard scoring pass to Cameron Cooper in the third quarter.