Ford Field used to be a house of horrors for Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, but now it is the Eaglets striking fear into the hearts of their opponents at the Detroit Lions’ home field.
The Eaglets claimed their first Detroit Catholic League championship since 2005 with a 27-10 victory over Novi Detroit Catholic Central on Saturday, Oct. 20 in the 40th edition of the Prep Bowl.
St. Mary’s had previously lost their last five Prep Bowl appearances.
“This was big, especially when we lost to (Catholic Central) the previous week,” St. Mary’s Head Coach George Porritt said. “The kids performed well and I thought our defense was stout in the first half.”
St. Mary’s (7-2) had lost two straight to the Shamrocks coming into last Saturday’s game. Catholic Central defeated the Eaglets in last season’s Prep Bowl, 21-7.
Then on Friday, Oct. 12, the Shamrocks (5-4) handed St. Mary’s its first loss on its red turf field, 33-14, behind 150 yards rushing and four touchdowns from Anthony Darkangelo.
It was a different story a week later for St. Mary’s as Grant Niemiec scored on a 1-yard touchdown run in the first quarter after Parker McInnis had a key 36-yard run to help set up the score.
After an interception by Tyson Smith, Matt Linehan then threw a 39-yard touchdown pass to Van Jefferson to put the Eaglets up 14-0 at the end of the first quarter, a score that would also stand at halftime.
The Shamrocks responded in the third quarter as David Houle scored on a 1-yard touchdown run.
Then after David Widzinski recovered an Eaglets’ fumble at the St. Mary’s 5-yard line, Garrett Moore kicked a 24-yard field goal to cut St. Mary’s lead to 4 at the end of the third.
But the Eaglets hung tough in the fourth as McInnis scored on a 45-yard touchdown run. Then after Sean Harrington recovered a Shamrock fumble, Niemiec scored again on a 1-yard touchdown run.
McInnis finished with 104 yards rushing on the night, while Darkangelo was held to just 63 yards by the Eaglets, who forced four Shamrock turnovers on the night.
“We did a good job of preparation. (Catholic Central) knocked us off the ball last time, but this time we played pursuit defense,” Porritt said.
Last year, St. Mary’s snapped a five-game losing streak in the state finals with a 45-7 victory over Mt. Pleasant to win the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) Division 3 state title at Ford Field.
The Eaglets will begin their quest for back-to-back state titles when they host an MHSAA Division 3 pre-district game against South Lyon East (5-4) on Friday, Oct. 26.
The Cougars won their final two games against Livonia Franklin and Pinckney to earn the right to make their first-ever appearance in the state playoffs.
“They have an outstanding quarterback and they’ll be fired up coming into the game,” Porritt said.