Detroit King became the third of eight defending state champions to open 2019 with a loss.
After Reading (Division 8) lost on Thursday and Warren De La Salle (Division 2) fell on Friday, the Division 3 champion Crusaders followed suit, falling to Novi Detroit Catholic Central, 24-22, Saturday afternoon in the Detroit Prep Kickoff Classic at Wayne State University.
It was the first meeting between the two storied programs since 2001.
Hot start holds up
Coach Dan Anderson says he’s got a “young and green” team, but the Shamrocks looked like the more confident bunch early, scoring the first four times they had the ball and opening up a 24-0 lead, shocking the King faithful.
CC kicked off to start the game, but got the ball back quickly as King muffed a lateral on its first play and Mo Jaffer pounced on it at the 27. It took the Shamrocks five plays to get into the end zone, with Brendin Yatooma running the final 5 yards.
Another turnover produced Yatooma’s second touchdown, three minutes later. Zach Rood intercepted a tipped screen pass, and the Shamrocks were in business from the King 42, ready to start a 6-play scoring drive.
A more conventional CC drive resulted in a 32-yard-field goal from Charlie Mentzer, and Cole Price made it 24-0 with 4:34 remaining in the first half, on a 3-yard touchdown burst.
King grows up
The Crusaders were energized by the ensuing play, as Marshawn Lee returned the kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown, winning a footrace against several would-be tacklers. King appeared to speed up from there. Three minutes later, King cut the deficit to 24-14 after quarterback Dante Moore found Kenny Merrieweather wide open in the left side of the end zone.
Moore, a freshman, completed 19 of 26 attempts — including eight in a row — for 183 yards and 2 two touchdowns.
Turnovers turn the tide
King closed to within 24-20 when Indiana commit Rashawn Williams outran a CC defender and caught a 19-yard touchdown reception, and then within two when a bad snap on a CC punt rolled out of the end zone with 1:25 to play. King had a chance to recover the loose ball in the end zone, but the bouncing ball eluded a pair of Crusaders in the area.
To add to King’s frustrations, the Crusaders turned the ball over twice in the final 3:13. On 2nd-and-goal from the CC 13, Moore faded back to pass and was hit from behind by Jack Birks, and Gabe Xuereb fell on the loose ball. CC had to kick from their 20 following the safety, and Lee’s return gave King the ball just past midfield. But on the first play of that series, Price stepped in front of Moore’s deep pass intended for Lee, sealing the deal for the Shamrocks.