The score: Orchard Lake St. Mary's 35, Warren De La Salle 10
The star: Junior fullback Grant Niemiec had a big run to blow the game wide open, but also racked up short-yardage carries en route to 147 yards rushing on 16 attempts and three touchdowns.
The turning point: On the first play of the second half, with the score at 14-10, Niemiec took it up the middle from the St. Mary's 20-yard-line on a counter play, broke two tackles, and outran the Pilots' secondary for an 80-yard touchdown run which seemed to take De La Salle out of the game.
The quote: "We love to smash the football. I’m just running behind a great offensive line, led by Austin Johnson, who is just a very dominant player. I wouldn’t want to run behind any other offensive line." — Niemiec
What’s next? St. Mary's could be playing at 7 p.m. Friday for the Catholic Central League championship, and it may be on the road against Novi Detroit Catholic Central, if the Shamrocks lose to Birmingham Brother Rice on Saturday.
Bottom line: De La Salle is a formidable league opponent, with strong wins of its own against Flint Carmen-Ainsworth, Ann Arbor Pioneer and Dearborn Fordson. However, in the second half, St. Mary's proved that it is in a class above De La Salle, thanks to a strong running game and a stout defense.
The Game: St. Mary's Dominates 2nd Half
Orchard Lake St. Mary's dominated the second half, scoring three unanswered touchdowns, in a 35-10 win at home Friday night over Warren De La Salle.
After a thrilling game against Birmingham Brother Rice last week, in which the Eaglets went to overtime in the rain and pulled out the victory over the school's Catholic Central League rival, St. Mary's looked like a team on the rise in the blowout win over the Pilots (5-2, 1-2 Catholic Central).
St. Mary's head coach George Porritt credited the win in large part due to its work in the trenches.
The Eaglets finished with 303 rushing yards on 409 attempts, led by junior fullback Grant Niemiec's 147 yards and three touchdowns. Its defensive line hurried Pilots' quarterback Shane Morris continuously in addition to registering three sacks.
"The offensive line did a great job opening holes (for the backfield)," Porritt said. Our defense in that second half was outstanding. Our secondary did a nice job and we got outstanding pressure on the quarterback from the front seven."
The win qualifies St. Mary's (6-1, 2-1 Catholic Central) for the MHSAA playoffs.
It also sets the stage for what could be a dramatic game next Friday, when St. Mary's travels to Novi for a game against Detroit Catholic Central. That game could determine the Catholic Central League championship. If the undefeated CC Shamrocks fall against Brother Rice on Saturday, that sets up the St. Mary's-CC matchup on Friday as the game game for the Catholic Central title.
"It’s great," Porritt said of qualifying for the playoffs. "You get one thing off your back a little bit ... this is a big win for our team. Now, you got to go to (Novi) and you know how much tradition they've got. We've just got to do what we do and do it a little better."
Watching the second half against the Pilots, the casual fan would think that St. Mary's could do no better. On the first play of the second half, with the score at 14-10, Niemiec took it up the middle from the Eaglets' 20-yard-line on a counter play, broke two tackles, and outran the Pilots' secondary for an 80-yard touchdown run which seemed to take De La Salle out of the game.
St. Mary's forced three staight three-and-out drives against the Pilots offense, marked by two sacks from Eaglets senior linebacker James Ross on his future University of Michigan teammate, Morris.
The victory gives Porritt No. 199 in his career. Initially, it was believed Friday's game would mark No. 200, but there was a miscalculation. So although it was announced to the crowd at Msgr. Milewski Field that Porritt had won No. 200 with that night's win, he said that wasn't actually the case.
Warren De La Salle 10, Orchard Lake St. Mary’s 35
WDLS – 3 7 0 0 - 10
OLSM – 7 7 14 7 – 35
OLSM: P. McInnis 21 run (Parry kick)
WDLS: Palazzolo 30 field goal
OLSM: Niemiec 1 run (Parry kick)
DLS: Morris 21 run (Palazzolo kick)
OLSM: Niemiec 80 run (Parry kick)
OLSM: S. McInnis 38 pass from Clements (Parry kick)
OLSM: Niemiec 3 run (Parry kick)
WDLS: Abiragi 12-48, Morris 8-10, Lilly 5-8. Totals: 25-66. OLSM: Niemiec 16-147, S. McInnis 15-97, Clements 2-minus-14, P. McInnis 8-43, Smith 6-26, Croone 2-4. Totals: 49-303.
WDLS: Morris: 6-15-104-0, Rescigno 3-4-16-0. Totals: 9-19-120-0. OLSM: Clements 4-7-68-0.
WDLS: Loria 2-7, Agosta 1-9, Ciaramitaro 2-41, Lilly 1-1, Cox 1-21, Rescigno 1-14, Tava 1-27. Totals: 9-120. OLSM: Niemiec 1-21, Watts-Jackson 1-9, Ross 1-0, S. McInnis 1-38. Totals: 4-68.
WDLS: 4-50. OLSM: 3-35.
WDLS: 5-2 (1-2 Catholic Central). OLSM: 6-1 (3-0 Catholic Central).