West Bloomfield football holds on for dramatic 35-34 2OT win over Belleville in D1 semifinals

BELLEVILLE, Mich. – The third time was a very precious charm for the West Bloomfield.

After losing in the playoffs to Belleville in each of the previous two seasons, West Bloomfield finally bested the Tigers, doing so in dramatic fashion for a 35-34 win in second overtime on Saturday in the Division 1 state semifinals.

For the first time since 2017 and just the second time ever, West Bloomfield is heading to Ford Field for the state championship. The Lakers will face defending state champion Davison on Saturday at 1 p.m.

“Man, it’s the best feeling in the world,” said West Bloomfield two-way standout Dillon Tatum. “I’ve never done anything like this, man. I can’t wait to get up to Ford Field and tear it up with this thing all day. We’re going through all of this COVID stuff … not to win this whole thing.”

After West Bloomfield (10-1) scored on the opening possession of second overtime, Belleville (10-1) responded with a touchdown of its own to pull within 35-34. Instead of attempting the extra point, however, Belleville decided to go for the win by attempting a two point conversion.

After two timeouts, Belleville was finally able to snap the ball. Belleville quarterback Christian Dhue-Reid faked a handoff to Cameron Jones and rolled into pressure from West Bloomfield defensive end Niles King. Getting chased backward, Dhue-Reid had to let a desperation pass go as Niles got his hands on him. The ball found its way into the end zone to Jones, but he could only get one hand on the ball on a diving attempt as the ball fell to the ground.

West Bloomfield swarmed the field in exuberant celebration. West Bloomfield quarterback Alex Short meandered around the field with a stunned look on his face.

“I can’t even explain it,” Short said. “I’m extremely happy right now.”

Belleville coach Jermain Crowell said he chose to go for the two-point conversion because he did not want to go back on defense again. Plus, he said he did not want to end the game on a blocked extra point. Earlier, West Bloomfield tipped an extra point and also blocked a Belleville field goal attempt with 5 seconds left in regulation to force overtime.

“I didn’t want to go back on defense because we were not getting lined up right,” Crowell said. “They wanted to go for it and I did not want to go back on defense and I didn’t want to lose on a blocked extra point.”

West Bloomfield running back Donovan Edwards, who declined interviews following the game, scored three rushing touchdowns, including the tying touchdown in regulation and the tying touchdown at the end of the first overtime.

“Donovan is the best player in the state,” West Bloomfield coach Ron Bellamy said, with as much emphasis as possible.

With Belleville leading 21-14 in the fourth quarter, Edwards powered through and around the Belleville defense for an 18-yard touchdown to tie the game at 21-21 with 2:24 to play.

Although Belleville was able to drive to the West Bloomfield 21 yard line with 11 seconds left in the fourth quarter, its 38-yard field goal attempt was blocked, allowing West Bloomfield to take a knee and head to overtime.

Belleville had the first possession in overtime and took a 28-21 lead on Cameron Jones’s third touchdown run of the day as he powered in from two yards out.

Edwards responded for West Bloomfield with his third touchdown on the next possession, scoring from six yards out to tie it at 28-28.

With the first possession of double overtime, Short passed for his lone touchdown of the day to senior Maxwell Hairston for a five yard score. Hairston, who is heading to Kentucky to play as a defensive back, scored on his only catch of the game.

“That’s God, bro,” Hairston said of the touchdown. “That’s all I’ve got to say. That’s God, bro.”

Belleville responded on the first play of its second overtime possession as Dhue-Reid hit Darrell Johnson for a 10-yard touchdown pass to pull within 35-34 before attempting the game-deciding extra point.

In a game that was eventually filled with highlights, the first half belonged to the defensive efforts of both teams. Belleville had the first big moment when its defense came up with a goal line stand in the first quarter as West Bloomfield turned the ball over on downs at the one yard line.

Belleville went on to snag an interception and collect a fumble recovery in the first half while West Bloomfield had two interceptions.

West Bloomfield got onto the scoreboard first when Edwards broke free for a 54-yard touchdown, which came just three plays after Tatum had a 74 yard touchdown run called back on a holding penalty.

The Lakers took the 7-0 lead into halftime.

“Defense travels and ours travelled today.”

Belleville was finally able to get its offense cooking in the second half when it turned to the run game. The Tigers scored on their first two possessions of the third quarter as Jones broke free for touchdown runs of 13 and 65 yards, giving Belleville a 13-7 lead after a tipped.

West Bloomfield took the lead 9:26 left to play on what was arguably the highlight of the night. Short was in the shotgun and he handed off to wide receiver Semaj Morgan in motion. Morgan continued running with the ball for a few strides before pulling up and throwing the ball down the sideline to a wide open short for a 35-yard touchdown. The extra point put West Bloomfield up 14-13.

“We’ve been working on that play since probably the end of the regular season,” Morgan said. “But we didn’t want to play it out for real. Today when it came and it happened, I just threw the ball, he caught it and we scored.”

Simple enough. It was the first touchdown reception of Short’s football career. Catching the ball about yards away from the end zone. He was able to cross the goal line after the late coverage caught up to him.

“It’s wide open all the time, even against our own defense,” Short said.

Dhue-Reid gave Belleville the lead back, 21-14, with 3:35 left in the fourth quarter as he connected with Jeremiah Caldwell thanks to a great route and pass for a 29-yard score.

Edwards – who opted to finish the season with West Bloomfield before enrolling early at Michigan – finished the game with 105 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns on 16 carries. Edwards and Tatum often lined up as quarterback in the Wildcat formation throughout the game. Tatum finished with 43 rushing yards and a fumble on offense while also snagging an interception on defense. Jaden Green added a sack for West Bloomfield.

A few bad snaps hindered West Bloomfield’s drives in the second half, forcing Jones to race back and cover the ball for substantial losses. To go along with his 35-yard touchdown reception, Short finished with 7 total rushing yards and was 6-for-9 for 99 yards a touchdown and 2 interceptions.

For Belleville, Jones finished with 120 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns on 15 carries. Dhue-Reid was 12-for-18 for 176 yards, 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. Deshaun Lee had an interception, Jamari Buddin had a tackle for a loss and Damon Payne had a sack.

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