DETROIT – A wild day of high school football on Saturday at Ford Field ended the way it started: with a blowout.
(12-2) won the Division 3 state finals 45-7 over Mt. Pleasant in the final game of the 2011 Michigan football season. All four of the state title games Saturday were decided by 30 or more points.
The Eaglets, after losing in the finals three of the last four years, won by relying on their potent running game.
Spencer McInnis, younger brother Parker McInnis and cousin Grant Niemiec led a rushing attack that had 478 yards on the night. The trio accounted for 406 of those yards and five of the team's six touchdowns.
“We got great blocking from our line, but our backs just run so tough,” St. Mary’s head coach George Porritt said. “You saw Spencer today. And his brother ran great today. Grant is always tough, too.”
For seniors like Spencer McInnis and James Ross, the win was extra special. They had two heartbreaking losses in both their sophomore and junior years in the state finals to East Grand Rapids. As sophomores, Orchard Lake St. Mary’s lost 35-27 and then when the two were juniors the team lost 24-21.
“It’s a weight lifted,” Spencer said, exhaling. “A weight lifted on everyone, the whole Orchard St. Mary’s family. It’s an awesome feeling.”
Ross, who is bound for the University of Michigan next season, was thrilled to close the book on his high school career as a state champion.
“That’s what make it so much sweeter,” Ross said. “You’d love to have those state championships, but for us to come back and win, we put a lot of work in it. I think we are well deserving.”
The Eaglets' running game wasn’t just a pound-it-up-the-middle kind of attack. They had three scoring drives that lasted less than 90 seconds apiece, and combined for five rushing plays over 30 yards.
Oilers had no answer for athletic backfield
“They are just incredibly athletic,” Oilers head coach Jason McIntyre said. “To come at you with three different backs over-and-over again. In some games you can key one kid and try to defend him. We were there in position to make some tackles, but we just weren’t as athletic as them.”
Before Eaglets fans even had a chance to settle into their seats, Niemiec put the team ahead 7-0 with a 48-yard run up the middle 90 seconds into the game.
The offensive line gave the fullback a lot of space and Niemiec used a quick first step to get into the open field before the defense even had a chance to react.
St. Mary’s needed even less time to score on its second possession. The drive lasted all of 59 seconds. Spencer McInnis went 69 yards down the field to extend his team’s lead to 14-0 with 7:33 to go in the first.
“We were outmatched,” McIntyre said. “We spotted them 14 points early. This environment was a little crazy for all of us. It was tough on us at first.”
Mt. Pleasant defensive back Dustin Lee and linebacker Trevor Wilson couldn't catch up to the speedy back as he broke through the secondary.
The Oilers (13-1) finally settled down on their second drive after St. Mary’s was called for a face-mask penalty. The call gave Mt. Pleasant the ball at midfield and quarterback Ryan Elliott methodically moved the ball into the red zone.
Elliott put his team on the board with a 5-yard sweep to make it 14-7 with 5:20 to go in the first. On the drive, Elliott was 3-for-4 passing for 50 yards.
Mt. Pleasant tried to catch St. Mary’s off-guard with a fake punt on its next drive. Punter Dustin Lee tried to hit Cory Williams, but Lee didn’t make a good enough throw. A better pass and the Oilers would've had the first down.
The decision gave St. Mary's great field position on its own 48-yard line to start the second quarter. The Eaglets were able to get a 27-yard field goal from kicker Paul Graham.
Spencer McInnis added another long touchdown run later in the second quarter. St. Mary’s attacked the middle of the defense again and McInnis ran it 47 yards for the score to make it 24-7 before halftime. He added one last touchdown with a 5-yard run with 8:32 to go in the game.
Junior Parker McInnis didn’t want to be outdone by his older brother Spencer, so he opened the second half with a 60-yard run for a touchdown. It was the Eaglets first play of the half and extended the lead to 31-7.
The wildest stretch of the game came a few minutes later when Spencer ran it 20 yards for a touchdown. A holding penalty negated the score, but it didn’t matter. Ross scored on the next play on a 32-yard run up the St. Mary’s sideline.
Ross’ touchdown put the score at 38-7 with 4:47 to go in the third quarter. The senior linebacker’s only other offensive touchdown of the season came on a pass in the .
“I try to do anything for my team,” Ross said, smiling.