West Bloomfield’s defense teams up to make the tackle on a Chippewa Valley ball carrier.

West Bloomfield’s defense teams up to make the tackle on a Chippewa Valley ball carrier.

Photo by Erin Sanchez

Gutsy two-point conversion earns West Bloomfield football 22-21 win over Chippewa Valley

By: Jonathan Szczepaniak | C&G Newspapers | Published August 31, 2023


WEST BLOOMFIELD/CLINTON TOWNSHIP — Week one was an early test for West Bloomfield against Macomb Area Conference Red powerhouse Chippewa Valley, but as West Bloomfield tied the game up at 21 with only seconds remaining, first-year coach Zach Hilbers was under the microscope as he drew up a final play for the two-point conversion Aug. 24 at Wayne State University.

West Bloomfield quarterback Reqez Nance led his guys on a 79-yard drive, finishing off with an 18-yard touchdown pass to Nigel Dunton to pull the Lakers within one with 15 seconds left, and then it was decision time for coach Hilbers.

“You try to prepare as much as you can, and when you’re kind of in the moment and you get to those inflection points, it’s like, ‘Oh yeah, that’s when I have to make those decisions I’ve been thinking about and talking about,’” Hilbers said.

An assistant for the last 16 years on the West Bloomfield coaching staff, Hilbers knows the program and the players better than anyone else, so he didn’t overcomplicate things when it came to a play design.

When you need a score, you give it to the 6-foot-3, 263-pound playmaker and University of Colorado commit Brandon Davis-Swain. He took a handoff from Nance and bullied his way into the end zone to give West Bloomfield a thrilling 22-21 victory.

The gutsy call from coach Hilbers paid off, and he could breathe a sigh of relief as Davis-Swain celebrated with his teammates.

“It’s right because it worked,” Hilbers said. “It could go sideways for a number of reasons, whether it’s something as a snap, a bad exchange or the play not working and it doesn’t look as good. For us, it was just about getting one of our best players the ball and really just trying to go win the game. We had the ups and downs and the roller coaster really the whole game, and really the second half, but we felt we had a lot of the momentum right there. You get to overtime with a team as good as Chippewa Valley, you never know what’s going to happen.”

Momentum was everything in this game, and it seemed like neither team was going to budge throughout the matchup as Chippewa Valley struck first to take an early 7-0 lead.

West Bloomfield’s offense executed home run plays when they needed them most throughout the game, and Nance opened up the air attack early, finding Elisha Durham for a 63-yard gain to set up a 3-yard touchdown run by Brody Pikur.

Nance would connect with Durham again for a 33-yard gain and cap off the drive with a 35-yard touchdown pass to Durham to give West Bloomfield a 14-7 lead, but Chippewa Valley’s 14 unanswered points left the Lakers down by seven late.

Perseverance was everything for West Bloomfield, and offensive lineman Alex Walton said his team was poised to make the comeback.

“It was all heart,” Walton said. “When it comes down to it, we were behind and lacking that slight edge of execution that would’ve put us ahead earlier in the game. The only change we had was that our mindsets changed from ‘we can do it’ to ‘we have to do it.’”

Nance would lead the game-winning drive with 3:30 left on the clock, connecting on five passes for 83 yards on the drive. Nance finished with 248 yards passing and two touchdowns in the win.

West Bloomfield will look to carry the momentum of the win into their Oakland Activities Association crossover game against Birmingham Groves Aug. 31 at Groves High School.

West Bloomfield is the leading favorite in the OAA-Red conference behind their abundance of talent on both sides of the ball, and with the resilience they showed against Chippewa Valley, they’ll be able to hang with any team on any given night.

“Week ones are never perfect,” Hilbers said. “You always make a lot of mistakes and there’s always something to improve on, but I told them when we got back together the next day to review the film that that’s what I was most proud of. We had so many guys get hurt and dinged up, and some of our special teams were on our fourth or fifth backup, and those guys were down there making tackles. They responded.”