On the red turf, in the rain and under the lights, two of the state’s best teams collided as Division 3 defending champ Orchard Lake St. Mary’s hosted Division 1 title-winner Detroit Cass Tech on Friday. It might as well been a day at the beach for the run-happy, old-school Eaglets as they controlled the line of scrimmage against the bigger Technicians in a 13-6 victory.
“Old-school football,” Eaglets coach George Porritt said after the game. “It was blocking and running the ball tough tonight. We were trying to mix things up on defense because they’re such a great team.”
The weather and defenses ruled as the Eaglets (4-1) relied on the power running of Grant Niemiec and Parker McInnis against the Technicians’ big defensive line.
“We just love running the ball and playing old-school football,” said Niemiec, who rushed 28 times for 125 yards. McInnis finished with 74 yards on 17 carries.
“They controlled the line of scrimmage,” said Cass Tech coach Thomas Wilcher. “We’ve got to change some things as coaches. It was good for us to play a team like this.”
Cass Tech’s defense took heavy doses of Niemiec left, McInnis right and Niemiec up the middle as the Eaglets kept the Technicians’ offense off the field. Quarterback Matt Linehan used his feet and arm to get the Eaglets into the end zone late in the first half. Using a 16-yard fourth-down pass from Linehan to Jalen Watts-Jackson, St. Mary’s drove 69 yards in 15 plays with Linehan covering the last 5 yards on a pass-run option, diving in for the score for a 7-0 halftime lead.
Cass Tech (4-1) had trouble establishing a pass or run game as the Eaglets’ speed prevented big plays.
When the Cass Tech defense stopped the Eaglets on their first possession of the second half, Jourdan Lewis fumbled the ensuing punt with Lamon Mathison recovering at the Cass Tech 23-yard line. Niemiec turned the miscue into a 4-yard touchdown run with 5:41 left in the third to make it 13-0.
Using 45 yards in St. Mary’s penalties, Technicians quarterback Jayru Campbell’s 12-yard pass to Lewis trimmed the deficit to 13-6. Lewis then stripped Niemiec at his own 46 and raced to the Eaglets’ 25-yard line, but Watts-Jackson intercepted Campbell’s pass to end the threat.
“Our coach told us all week to be athletes and make plays,” Watts-Jackson said. “I saw the ball and went and got it; be a ball-hawk.”