Southeastern (10-2) with one of the better teams to come out the PSL in recent years, saw injuries to its secondary exploited by Sterling Heights Stevenson quarterback Jason Fracassa. He threw for an amazing 488 yards, completing 31 out of 53 attempts.
“We have to contain their quarterback,” Southeastern coach Donshell English told me seconds before the kickoff. “We need to get to him and as a defense we need to put a hat on the ball and create some turnovers.”
Unfortunately, English’s prognostication did not come true as the smallish Fracassa was able to slip and dodge the defensive pressure of Southeastern all game long and he ended up accounting for all five of his team’s touchdowns.
The result was top-ranked Stevenson (12-0) held on for an exciting and entertaining 38-32 victory in a Division 1 regional final.
“I knew it would be a heck of a game,” said Stevenson 300-pound lineman, Carl Davis. “I like the PSL and I told our guys they would come out and compete. I’m just glad we got the win and we can move on.”
Under the lights the Stevenson field was over flowing. There was not an empty seat in the bleachers or an open spot around the entire infield.
Stevenson will now play Clarkston (12-0) in the state semifinals this weekend.
Meanwhile, Southeastern will be cleaning out their lockers and the seniors’ thoughts will have to move on to their potential college opportunities.
“We wanted this game badly,” said Michigan State commit William Gholson. “It hurts, but we gave 100 percent and they gave 100 percent. We lost, but we will always be Southeastern family first.”
Said quarterback Edward Thomas, who completed 13 of 26 passes for 243 yards: “We made some defensive mistakes and they took advantage of them. We came after their quarterback, but he managed to slip out and still get the ball down field. It’s hard to believe that this is the last time I’ll wear this uniform.”
I think the play that changed the game was Southeastern had a 20-17 lead with a little more than 40 second left in the first half, and Stevenson facing a third-and-five from its 48, but Fracassa hit receiver D.J. Mershman down the sidelines for a 33-yard pass touchdown as time expired.
“That was a big play,” English said. “If we could have held onto the lead it could have been a different outcome.”
Over at Osborn High, Crockett battled Orchard Lake St. Mary to a 0-0 tied going into the fourth quarter. But that is when the wheels came off and the Rockets stumbled through the final 12 minutes, while St. Mary’s soared to a 21-8 victory in a Division 3 regional final.
St Mary’s (7-4) will now contest DeWitt (12-0) in a state semifinal this weekend.
Crockett (10-2) had a wonderful season displaying discipline and heart throughout. But on this deciding day it came down to a weird inability to hand kickoffs that sealed their fate on this beautiful Saturday afternoon.
After St. Mary’s back Earnest Thomas scored the game’s first touchdown, he ended up scoring all three of his team’s touchdowns, on the ensuring kickoff Crockett mishandled the pooch kick. St. Mary’s scored and again on the ensuring kickoff Crockett could not find the handle and St. Mary’s recovered and scored again.
Before I could shout hallelujah, in the quick span of under three minutes, St. Mary’s had scored 21 points after being held scoreless for three quarters.
“Twenty-one points in three minutes,” interjected Crockett coach Rod Oden. “Believe it or not, we worked on that during the week. We knew they didn’t want to kick it deep to us. Our defense took 40 snaps in the second half. You can’t do that. That’s too long. You’ve got to cover those kicks.”
With Crockett and Southeastern going down, the PSL run in the state playoffs maybe over, but what a run it was.