Sterling Heights Stevenson’s Jordan Ramsey (5) runs the ball during Cass Tech’s game against Sterling Heights Stevenson at Stevenson High School on Friday, Nov. 15, 2019. Jacob Hamilton | MLive.com
STERLING HEIGHTS, Mich. — No one outside of the Sterling Heights Stevenson football locker room saw this coming. Heck, some in the locker room might have not have foreseen what the Titans did on Friday night.
Despite entering the Division 1 playoffs a few weeks ago with a 5-4 record that included a 1-4 finish in the Macomb Area Conference Red Division, Stevenson is heading to the state semifinals for the first time since 2009 after beating Detroit Cass Tech, 9-7, on its home field.
“Really, the preparation that these guys had,” Stevenson coach Justin Newcomb said. “It’s not just on the football field, it’s in the classroom, the weight room, it’s at home it’s film. They bought in. They bought in.”
With Stevenson (8-4) holding a 9-7 lead and Cass Tech (7-5) gaining possession with 1:40 to play on it’s own 37, the Titans needed one more stop as neither team had any remaining timeouts.
The Technicians drove all the way down to the Stevenson 21 yard line when Stevenson sophomore Jordan Ramsey made what can be called the defensive play of the year for the Titans, tipping a pass up in the air near the end zone and then corralling it for an interception. He quickly started running the ball back but wisely decided to slide to the ground with 7.4 seconds left to seal the victory as the offense took the field to take a knee.
“It was crazy,” Ramsey said of his game-winning play. “I had to focus. It was a lot of pressure but I just had to focus on just getting the ball.”
As Stevenson players and students loudly celebrated with the region championship trophy, Newcomb could not have been more proud of how well the defense played in big moments
“We challenged the guys all week,” Newcomb said. “Coach Carmine Madonna, our defensive coordinator, had a heck of a game plan. The kids executed it. Playing the right gap, playing assignment fundamental football — which we got away from last week — and execute against a really good team.”
Watch Sterling Heights Stevenson football celebrate its 9-7 Division 1 region title win over Detroit Cass Tech. Entering the playoffs at 5-4, Stevenson heads to the semifinals for the first time since 2009. (Jared Purcell | [email protected])
Trickery ‘right on the money’ for a TD
While Ramsey came up with arguably the defensive play of the year for Stevenson, the Titans executed what could be their offensive play of the year on their lone touchdown of the game.
After Cass Tech scored its lone touchdown of the game with 21.5 seconds left in the first half to take a 7-3, Stevenson responded in a big way to open the third quarter.
Driving 57-yards in the first 6:10 of the second half, Stevenson drew up a double pass play as quarterback Biagio Madonna passed backward to his left to connect with Dylan Kleinendler. Holding the ball only for a moment, he passed toward the back of end zone to connect in stride with Jordan Kwiatkowski for the 14-yard score.
“I just watched the ball go into my hands and made sure I secured the catch,” Kwiatkowski said.
Madonna took over starting duties in Week 6 of the season and was the third starting quarterback for Stevenson, taking over stints by Ramsey and Kleinendler. Kleinendler was just happy to step up as a passer once again for Stevenson.
“It was definitely fun to do it again,” Kleinendler said. “Got back to the old season (and) how it felt. It was great.”
Just before the play, Stevenson had to burn a timeout because their was an issue with where players were lining up. It’s safe to say it was worth correcting.
“We saw some things on film, we thought we might be able to get it,” Newcomb said. “A Dylan double pass. We wanted to motion him back to the out the single side and pull the safety. The safety stayed and I’m thinking, ‘oh, my gosh.’ I tell you what, our kid made a throw — a hell of a throw — down there and put it right on the money.”
Ramsey’s big night
As if Ramsey’s winning interception wasn’t enough, he also made a touchdown saving tackle in the second quarter.
With Cass Tech struggling to move the ball on its first two drives, it took over on its own 40 with 8:24 left in the second looking to get something going. On the first play of the drive, Cass Tech running back Donny Scott broke free and made his way over to the sideline, sprinting by the Stevenson defense. However, Ramsey was able to track Scott down in time to knock him out at the three yard line.
“I didn’t think I could get him but I just had to go hard for my teammates,” Ramsey said.
Although Cass Tech was set up with a 1st-and-goal at the 3-yard line, the Technicians could not punch it in as the Stevenson defense forced a turnover on downs at the 1-yard line.
“Here’s a sophomore now, back-to-back weeks, making big-time plays for us,” Newcomb said of Ramsey.
Ramsey also had 3 receptions for 56 yards and 10 carries for 37 yards. After opening the season as the starting quarterback, that stint lasted two games because he suffered a concussion. Weeks later, he’s back in the lineup making plays in ways he never dreamed.
“I’ve never seen myself as a defensive player but the coaches just threw me out there and told me to be an athlete.”
The Sterling Heights Stevenson dance team celebrates the team’s regional championship win over Cass Tech at Stevenson High School on Friday, Nov. 15, 2019. Jacob Hamilton | MLive.com
Cinderella run continues
Stevenson will square off against Davison (10-2) in the Division 1 semifinals next Saturday after the Cardinals beat Utica Eisenhower, 35-7.
Despite its record, Stevenson believes it belongs in the semifinals.
“They’ve been making plays now the last four weeks,” Newcomb said. “Every game, we’ve been the underdog, everybody’s saying we’re not going to win the game. They just find a way to get it done. I’m so proud of these guys. It doesn’t matter the circumstance or conditions.”
Heading to a neutral field, Stevenson is going to enjoy its Cinderella run for as long as possible.
“It’s crazy,” Kleinedler said. “We came in here 5-4. No one expected us to make it this far, and here we are now: final four in the state.”
Cass Tech offensive linemen wait to take the field for their last drive during Cass Tech’s game against Sterling Heights Stevenson at Stevenson High School on Friday, Nov. 15, 2019. Jacob Hamilton | MLive.com
Stevenson: Zach Imms 22-yard field goal attempt is GOOD! 3:15, 3-0 S
Cass Tech: Sebastian Brown pass to Nathaniel Briggs for 26-yard TOUCHDOWN! PAT GOOD (Joshua Hernandez) 21.5, 7-3 CT
S: Biagio Madonna passed back to Dylan Kleinedler who passed to Jordan Kwiatkowski for a 14-yard TD. 2 PT pass is no good. 5:50, 9-7 S
Cass Tech’s Donny Scott (6) runs the ball during Cass Tech’s game against Sterling Heights Stevenson at Stevenson High School on Friday, Nov. 15, 2019. Jacob Hamilton | MLive.com
- Stevenson rushed for 132 yards as a team, led by 54 yards on 12 carries by Nick Wingfield
- Jordan Ramsey finished with 37 rush yards and 56 receiving yards on offense with an interception on defense.
- Sal Madonna had a fumble recovery.
- Jordan Kwiatkoski had two receptions for 29 yards and a touchdown
- Cass Tech’s defense held Stevenson’s offense to just 217 total yards.
- Cass Tech rushed for 200 yards as a team, led by Donny Scott’s 134 yards on 10 carries.
- Sebastian Brown was 6-for-11 for 89 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
- Cass Tech committed two turnovers and also turned the ball over on downs twice.
Sterling Heights Stevenson’s Zach Imms (24) holds his helmet over his head in celebration after Sterling Heights Stevenson’s regional championship win over Cass Tech at Stevenson High School on Friday, Nov. 15, 2019. Jacob Hamilton | MLive.com