Saturday could not have been scripted any better for Romeo, making its first Division 1 football championship appearance.
The gameplan was excellent. Poise and execution was spot on and the result was a state title as the Bulldogs clearly outplayed Detroit Cass Tech in a 41-27 victory at Ford Field in front of a sea of Red.
“If any other school brought more fans I’d like to see them,” said co-coach Jason Couch. “This community pulls you in.”
The Bulldogs scored on their first drive. They took a punch from Cass Tech and responded with another score. Their tiny defensive line caused the bigger Technicians problems. They forced an early turnover and scored off it. They ran the ball. They threw the ball. They converted a hook-and-ladder play. They used a flea-flicker to try and score.
By the end of the first half, the Bulldogs had piled up 278 yards and scored 19 points.
“I think in each facet of the game we wanted to be aggressive and leave it all on the field,” said Romeo co-coach Curt Rienas. “The players felt like they played a state championship game. We executed the onside kick, punting out of our offense. All those things ended up being key plays in the game.”
The Bulldogs struck first on a 20-yard run by Brad Tanner as he weaved his way through Cass Tech defenders. He finished with 130 yards rushing and three scores.
“My O-line did a great job blocking,” said Tanner. “The running back did a good job of getting out in front on the jets (sweeps). When I got the ball around the edge it was wide open. I just turned on my jets, cut it up and it was off to the races.”
Paul Hurley found Lucas Schimon for a 40-yard TD pass to give Romeo a 13-7 lead.
On Cass Tech’s next possession, Romeo’s defensive line sacked Aaron Jackson, causing a fumble recovered by linebacker Austen Malczewski. Romeo turned the miscue into points when Tanner went around left end and found a hole in the defense, sprinting 31 yards to make it 19-7 with 9:04 left in the half.
Tanner’s 93 yards rushing was one more than Cass Tech’s entire offense in the first half as the Bulldogs built a 19-14 lead.
Romeo even pulled off a successful onside kick to start the second half, the first in a Division 1 game since 2000.
“You work on some things all year and never have a chance to use them,” said Couch.
That set up Domenic Bongiorno’s 10-yard TD run through the heart of the Cass Tech defense to take a 26-14 lead.
Romeo’s John Verellen blocked a punt. Anthony Quas picked up the ball and raced to the Cass Tech 20. One play later Hurley was in the end zone on a 20-yard TD run and it was 33-14.
Cass rallied, scoring two touchdowns, but Rienas and Couch stayed aggressive, smartly moving the ball downfield with Hurley at the controls. Eleven plays and 75 yards later, using 5:45 on the clock, the Bulldogs were back up 14.
“It’s just all trust in each other,” said Hurley, who completed 12 of 18 passes for 203 yards. “All year long we’ve been in this wing-T offense for the most part. We struggled early in the season. On that drive we went back to the old spread offense. It was just trusting in our system.”
Contact Perry A. Farrell: 313-222-2555 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @farrellperry.