This was supposed to be state championship week for high school football in Michigan, but the state’s latest shutdown of fall sports has shelved any hopes for championship until at least the end of December.
To scratch the itch for championship football, here is a look back at the 10 best state championship games for Metro Detroit in the last 30 years. Admittedly, this list is supposed to be a bit biased to Metro Detroit teams, so games in which a Metro Detroit team won gets a nod over losses in a close call.
Still, win or lose, some games were just too classic to ignore.
RELATED: Top 10 Metro Detroit high school football championship performances in the last 30 years
10. Harrison wins a high-scoring affair against Creston
Score: Farmington Hills Harrison 42, Grand Rapids Creston 35
Year: 1999, Division 3
This was a battle of two schools that have since shuttered their doors. Before Harrison closed in the spring of 2019, its football team won plenty of state championships – a record 13 of them to be exact.
Although Harrison (10-4) had some close wins along the way, this one pushed the Hawks to the limit in highest-scoring championship game it was were ever involved in. After Creston (12-2) took a 28-27 lead with 9:33 to play in the third quarter, Harrison responded back with two touchdowns, the latter of which was a 10-yard touchdown run by Kevin Woods to make it 42-28 with 9:56 to play. The touchdown was Woods’ fourth of the game, which was a state championship record at the time. He finished with 153 rushing yards on 33 carries.
Creston quarterback Carlton Brewster threw his third touchdown pass of the game with 7:00 minutes left to cut Harrison’s lead to 42-35. After holding Harrison to a three-and-out and a missed field goal in consecutive drives, Creston simply ran out of time at the Harrison 39-yard line when time ran out.
9. St. Mary’s offensive outburst not enough in overtime classic
Score: Grand Rapids Christian 40, Orchard Lake St. Mary’s 37 (OT)
Year: 2012, Division 3
Although this one is a painful memory for Orchard Lake St. Mary’s fans, its hard to ignore this classic. Both teams entered the title game with one loss and Christian had the star player in Drake Harris, who was a nationally-ranked football and basketball recruit for the Eagles.
Living up to his hype, Harris finished with a finals-record 243 receiving yards – all of which came in regulation – as Christian beat St. Mary’s 40-37 in the first overtime period thanks to a 27-yard field goal by Joel Schipper. As if Schipper weren’t enough of a hero, he also hit a 28-yard field goal with 4 seconds left to force overtime.
Despite’s Harris effort, St. Mary’s (11-3) was able to keep pace with its amazing effort in the run game, totaling 459 rushing yards and 4 touchdowns as a team. Despite getting held out of the end zone, Parker McInnis shined in the run game with 269 yards on 25 carries. Grant Niemiec had 168 yards and 3 touchdowns on 28 rushes. Christian held a 27-22 lead heading into the fourth quarter before the lead changed four times by the time it was all over.
St. Mary’s set the state’s overall championship record for total offense in the game with 579 yards. It is also the only game in state championship history when both team combined for over 1,000 yards of offense, totaling an astounding 1,033 yards.
8. Bizarre score results in victory for Clarkston
Score: Clarkston 3, West Bloomfield 2
Year: 2017, Division 1
Out of all the championship games played in Michigan over the last 30 years, the 2017 D1 final between Clarkston and West Bloomfield is the lowest scoring one. In fact, it ranks only second in state history to the 1987 Class A final when Ann Arbor Pioneer beat Detroit Catholic Central, 3-0.
Heading into the game, however, this was supposed to be anything but a low-scoring affair. After West Bloomfield beat Clarkston, 37-16, in Week 4, people expected some scoring, especially from the Lakers. Instead, the West Bloomfield offense ran out of gas to close the season and scored no touchdowns in its final two games.
Clarkston (12-2) was responsible for all the scoring plays in this game. First, the Wolves spotted West Bloomfield (11-3) two points when a high snap on a punt went out of the back of the end zone for a safety, giving the Lakers a 2-0 lead in the first quarter. Then, Clarkston kicker Jermaine Roemer made the difference in the game when he converted his 30-yard field with 2 seconds left before halftime.
The biggest plays in the game came on defense as Clarkston won the turnover battle, 3-0. Perhaps the biggest defensive play of the game was in the second quarter with West Bloomfield at the Clarkston 7-yard line. With West Bloomfield looking to build on its 2-0 lead, Clarkston’s Zach Scott intercepted a pass from Lakers QB Bryce Veasley in the end zone for a touchback.
West Bloomfield crossed midfield just one more time after that. Despite out-gaining Clarkston, 285-117, the Lakers fell short of their first state title while the Wolves celebrated their third in five years.
7. Detroit Catholic Central gets sweet revenge in 1992
Score: Detroit Catholic Central 21, Saginaw Arthur Hill 20
Year: 1992, Class AA
In the early days when Detroit Catholic Central was still building its reputation as one of the state’s greatest football programs ever, the Shamrocks registered one of the best revenge wins in state championship history.
After Catholic Central convincingly won the 1990 Class AA title, the Shamrocks were robbed of a chance at winning back-to-back titles for the first time in 1991 when Saginaw Arthur Hill pulled off a tight 13-12 win.
In 1992, the two teams met in the title game again, both carrying in undefeated records. This time, it was Catholic Central turn to take a one-point victory.
With Arthur Hill (12-1) leading 20-14 late in the third quarter, Catholic Central running back Fred Taylor took a pitch, rolled out to his left and completed a pass to Brady Pankow, who then went the final 15 yards for a 37-yard scoring play with 1:09 left in the third quarter. Adam Borchert’s extra point gave the Shamrocks a lead they would not relinquish, finishing with a perfect record (13-0) for just the second time in program history.
Arthur Hill nearly spoiled the party late. Facing a 4th-and-14 at the Catholic Central 48, Lumberjack’s quarterback Marvin Wright launched a pass to wide open Kedrick Redeemer in stride, but Redeemer tipped the pass into the air and could not come down with it as it bounced off of his facemask and the through his grasp inside the Catholic Central red zone with 5 seconds left.
6. Detroit Country Day outpaces offensive juggernaut
Score: Detroit Country Day 39, Muskegon Orchard View 32
Year: 1999, Division 5
It almost seems unfair to consider a win in a championship game as an upset, but you would not be scolded for saying this one was.
Despite Country Day being a great team in its own right, Orchard View was a juggernaut in 1999. Orchard View set a state record for points in a season that fall with 774 points (55.3 per game). Despite the uptick in offense over the last two decades, it’s a record that still stands today. In fact, the previous record for points in a season heading into 1999 was 607 points.
Orchard View scored at least 50 points in its four previous playoff games while Country Day had given up an average of 10.5 points per game heading into the title game.
The game ended up being a high-scoring spectacle that saw 910 yards of offense, Country Day scored its highest point total of the tournament by 18 points to take the improbable 39-32 victory.
Ashton Aikens (Northwestern) came up with a thrilling 71-yard touchdown run with 2:49 to play to secure the victory for Country Day (11-3). Aikens was the star of the winning team, finishing with 212 rushing yards and two touchdowns for the Yellowjackets. Orchard View running back Josh Piper had a huge effort in the ground game as well with 250 yards and three touchdowns. Orchard View outgained Country Day in the ground game, 389-321, and totaled 523 yards of total offense.
It was Country Day’s Jeremy Battier who sealed the win for Country Day by coming down with an interception in the end zone with 15 seconds left, ending an Orchard View drive that started back at its own 20 yard line with 2:49 left on the clock. Battier, the brother of NBA great Shane Battier, also had a touchdown reception in the win. Sadly, Jeremy Battier died in 2015 at the age of 34.
5. Wild 4th quarter favors Brother Rice over Muskegon
Score: Birmingham Brother Rice 35, Muskegon 28
Year: 2012, Division 2
Former Brother Rice coach Al Fracassa is one of the state’s most successful ever, reaching an elite level that few ever are fortunate to climb to. His 430 wins and nine state titles speak volumes of his greatness.
Although Brother Rice’s 2013 state title win sent Fracassa into retirement in a special way, the 2012 title game was arguably the most thrilling victory he had.
After Muskegon (12-2) tied thing up 14-14 a couple of minutes before halftime, Brother Rice (12-2) would spend the second half trying to pull away only to have the Big Reds pull even again and again.
The two teams combined to score five touchdowns in the final 9:30 of the game. Muskegon tied the game at 28-28 with only 2:31 to play with a 51-yard pass from Deshaun Thrower to Keondre Craig. With overtime looking like a real possibility, the Warriors decided to pull some trickery on the ensuing kickoff that ultimately made the difference.
After accepting the kickoff at the 4-yard line, Delano Madison advanced 5 yards before tossing a lateral pass to Jason Alessi clear across the field. Alessi then went the rest of the 91 yards, weaving through blocks to eventually end up in the end zone on the opposite side of the field with just 2:13 to play.
After Muskegon turned the ball over on downs on its own 2 yard line on the ensuing drive, disaster struck when Brother Rice quarterback Cheyne Lacanaria fumbled the snap to allow the Big Reds to recover. However, Muskegon failed to advance past the Brother Rice 49 yard line before time expired.
4. Chippewa Valley halts Clarkston comeback with one tackle
Score: Clinton Township Chippewa Valley 31, Clarkston 30
Year: 2018, Division 1
Chippewa Valley had every right to be considered the clear favorite in the 2018 state championship game. Although Clarkston had won three titles in the previous five seasons, Chippewa Valley was undefeated and had a team full of talent and experience.
After Chippewa Valley took a 24-10 lead into halftime, the Wolves mounted a spirited comeback in the second half, cutting Chippewa Valley’s lead to 31-24 with 15 seconds left in the third quarter. Clarkston (11-3) was able to break through late by going on a 78-yard scoring drive to score on a 7-yard pass from Jake Jensen to Matt Miller with 23 seconds left. Trailing 31-30, Clarkston opted to go for the win and a 2-point conversion try.
On the play, Jensen rolled out to his right to try and find an open man when Chippewa Valley defensive lineman Michael Garwood made a spirited scamper to tackle Jensen before he could get a pass off.
Chippewa Valley senior quarterback Tommy Schuster became the first quarterback in championship history to complete 100 percent of all his passes with a minimum of 12 attempts. Shuster passed for 209 yards and 2 touchdowns on 14-for-14 passing (14.9 yards per attempt) as Chippewa Valley finished 14-0 for the first time ever. Chippewa Valley linebacker Myles Harris, who wore No. 14, led the team in total tackles with 8.
It was the second title in Chippewa Valley history and the program’s first in Division 1 after claiming the Division 2 title in the 2001.
3. Cunningham gets game-winning catch for St. Mary’s
Score: Orchard Lake St. Mary’s 29, Muskegon 28
Year: 2016, Division 3
Although St. Mary’s has seen its fair share of heartbreaks over the years, St. Mary’s found itself on the winning end of this 2016 Division 3 thriller.
Caden Prieskorn’s 18-yard touchdown pass to Ky’ren Cunningham with 4 seconds left captured a stunning 29-28 for the Eaglets (10-4) in a game that saw five lead changes in the second half.
Although Cunningham had caught two passes earlier in the game, they were both from his usual running back position. On the winning play, however, Cunningham lined up at wide receiver for just the second time all season and caught the pass in double coverage while falling to the ground to secure the win.
St. Mary’s kicker Ben Fee shined in a big way in the win too, becoming just the second kicker in state history to convert three field goals in a state championship game, going 3-for-3. After hitting a 32-yard field goal and a 35-yarder in the first half, Fee knocked in a 49-yard kick to give St. Mary’s a 23-21 lead with 4:47 to play. The 49-yard kick also set a new championship distance record.
St. Mary’s started the game-winning drive on its own 20 with 1:55 left, covering 80 yards in just nine plays. Rashawn Allen led the run game with 136 yards on 25 carries. Although St. Mary’s has always been known for its run game, Caden Prieskorn shined at quarterback too by finishing 13-for-21 passing for 200 yards, 2 touchdowns and no interceptions.
2. St. Mary’s falls in longest championship game ever
Score: East Grand Rapids 46, Orchard Lake St. Mary’s 39 (5 OTs)
Year: 2007, Division 3
From a completely neutral standpoint, this is probably the greatest championship game in state history. However, since Orchard Lake St. Mary’s came out on the losing end, it doesn’t earn the mark for the greatest championship game in Metro Detroit history.
In a game that took 3 hours and 25 minutes to play, the 30,341 fans in attendance at Ford Field saw the longest and one of the most memorable games of all time. It took a mind-boggling five overtimes for East Grand Rapids to claim a 46-39 win – and the score was only 14-14 at the end of regulation.
After the teams exchanged field goals in the first overtime period, it was all touchdowns until St. Mary’s threw an incomplete pass on 4th-and-goal at the 8-yard line to end the game. Although St. Mary’s won the total offense battle, 407-320, East Grand Rapids running back Joe Glendening highlighted the incredible day with 175 rushing yards and 4 touchdowns.
Glendening scored EGR’s only two TDs in regulation, scoring on a 68-yard run in the second quarter and an 8-yard run in the third quarter. Tied 14-14 heading into overtime, Glendening found the end zone in the fourth and fifth OT periods. His 1-yard plunge on fourth-and-goal tied the game at 39-39 in to end the fourth overtime. He then scored on 3rd-and-goal from the 3-yard line to open the fifth overtime. He also recorded one of his four tackles in the fifth overtime as EGR held on for the victory.
St. Mary’s had a great day in the run game as well as Dominique White had 158 yards and three touchdowns. Justin Semmes added 72 yards for St. Mary’s while Sam Fiorini had 26 rushing yards and a score as well. Future Michigan State and NFL player Dion Sims had 5 catches for 64 yards while also recording a team-high 12 total tackles in the game.
1. Donnie Corley catches history in last-second win over Lowell
Score: Detroit Martin Luther King 40, Lowell 38
Year: 2015, Division 2
Although Donnie Corley’s senior season was already a phenomenal one heading into the state championship game, it was the final catch of his high school career that likely won him the Michigan High School Football Player of the Year award in 2015.
While Donnie Corley finished the 2015 Division 2 title game with six catches for 108 yards and two touchdowns, there have been bigger efforts in the box score than that over the years. However, the effort Corley made on the final play of the game entered Corley into all-time championship lore.
With King trailing Lowell, 38-34, with 2 seconds left and 40 yards between them and the end zone, King quarterback Armani Posey saw Corley streaking down the left sideline, and he launched a pass his way. Near the edge of the end zone, Corley went up and grabbed the pass in the air and landed in bounds to seal a 40-38 win with no time left. Despite King being the favorites heading in, it never led in the game until Corley’s catch.
Posey set a new overall championship record with 383 passing yards on just 19-of 27 passing, while also throwing 5 touchdowns to tie the overall record.
More impressively, King scored two touchdowns in the final 4:27 to win the game and even started the final drive from just inside its own 3-yard line with 37 seconds left with no timeouts. Posey completed nine of his final 10 passes, including all five attempts on the game winning drive.
King trailed 17-0 in the second quarter and 31-13 halfway through the third quarter before mounting its unforgettable comeback.