In order for Southfield to win a huge Oakland Activities Association game at Farmington Hills Harrison, Blue Jays coach Tim Conley said during Friday evening’s warmups that his team needed to be mistake-free — limit turnovers and penalties.
Judging by early results, Conley was going to have a disconcerting night. But then again, so did Harrison coach John Herrington, up until the very end when the Hawks posted a 17-14 win on a fourth-quarter, 27-yard field goal by Alex Bolstrum to advance to 4-0 in the league.
“The penalties helped us and hurt us, I guess,” Herrington said. “Just too many of them for both our teams. If you’re going to be really good, you can’t get the penalties.”
The Blue Jays took an early 7-0 lead, when Brandon Gray leapt high to grab a 25-yard TD pass from freshman quarterback Sam Johnson III, but Harrison tied the game shortly after two huge mistakes.
Harrison drove 54 yards to score, but 30 of those yards came on Southfield penalties — a targeting call, plus an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. The latter put Harrison well into the red zone, and QB Anthony Giovanni scored on 1-yard dive, tying the game at 7-7.
Southfield (3-2, 3-1) led at halftime, 14-7, after Justin Cain grabbed a 25-yard pass between two defenders with 29 seconds left in the second quarter. The 72-yard drive — in 1:11 — was aided by a 15-yard personal foul on Harrison.
Jared Char, who finished with 138 yards rushing, raced 42 yards past the entire Southfield defense on Harrison’s third offensive play of the second half to tie the score at 14-14. Both defenses were strong from that point forward, often penetrating each other’s offensive line. Southfield earned six sacks, and Harrison took down Johnson four times and rushed many throws. After going 6-for-6 for 80 yards in the first half, Johnson finished 9-for-16 for 98 yards.
“They couldn’t throw any deep passes, and we couldn’t get our deep passes off, so both running teams did pretty well, but ours came out on top,” Char said. “We’re very happy about it, very excited. Biggest league game.”
The drive that led to the winning field goal began at Southfield’s own 30-yard line, again due to a personal foul penalty, this time interfering with the punt returner who signaled fair catch but was knocked over before the ball even got near.
“I knew this one would be close,” Herrington said. “Last year it was triple overtime and the year before they beat us at the end with a long pass. So this one didn’t surprise me at all.”