De La Salle takes a team photo after their win against Forest Hills Central in the MHSAA Division 2 state championship at Ford Field on Nov. 25.

De La Salle takes a team photo after their win against Forest Hills Central in the MHSAA Division 2 state championship at Ford Field on Nov. 25.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

De La Salle football wins second straight state title

By: Jonathan Szczepaniak | Warren Weekly | Published December 2, 2022

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WARREN — De La Salle Collegiate is on top for the second straight year in Division 2 football.

Outscoring opponents 175-29 in the playoffs this year behind a core of seniors leaders on both sides of the ball, De La Salle showed once more why they were the reigning state champions.

The Pilots dominated Forest Hills Central 52-13 on Nov. 25 at Ford Field en route to their second straight win in the Division 2 state championship, and a fifth state championship in school history.

Behind senior quarterback Brady Drogosh, De La Salle jumped out to a commanding 21-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.

Drogosh ripped off a 25-yard run on the first drive of the game, and finished the drive with a 3-yard touchdown run. Junior running back Rhett Roeser would tally a 3-yard touchdown run of his own, and an interception by senior Payton Babich would set up a 38-yard touchdown pass from Drogosh to senior wideout Jack Yanachik.

De La Salle would find the end zone twice more to take a 35-0 lead, but Central would cut the lead to 35-13 after capitalizing on back-to-back De La Salle fumbles. Drogosh and Roeser would each tack on a touchdown run to put the game out of reach.

Roeser ran for 39 yards and two touchdowns while freshman wideout Damion King IV led all receivers with 91 yards. Senior wideout Triston Nichols had 56 receiving yards and one touchdown in the win.

Nichols, who suffered a torn ACL on Oct. 2 against Detroit Catholic Central, persevered through the injury in order to return for the state playoffs.

De La Salle head coach Dan Rohn had high praise for Nichols after the win, including a message for the universities that were recruiting him.

“I’m really disappointed because Triston (Nichols) had multiple college offers, and when he tore that ACL, a lot of schools dropped him,” Rohn said. “Every one of those schools now, you better take a look at what you’re doing. You want kids like this on your football team.”

Drogosh threw for 249 yards and two touchdowns while adding 152 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. He started for De La Salle in its 2020 state finals loss to Muskegon Mona Shores and said the senior class has had a different mindset ever since the loss.

“I think me and the team learned a lot from that loss to Mona Shores two years ago. I think we learned that our preparation level has to be different going into the state championship week, and our focus has to be different,” Drogosh said. “I think the offseason after that loss, we were all mentally locked in and physically locked in, and a lot of us walked off the field saying we never want to feel like this again.”

While the senior leader is set to graduate and start his collegiate career at the University of Cincinnati, he certainly has solidified a well-established legacy at De La Salle.

Before joining De La Salle, Rohn helped establish a powerhouse at Grand Rapids West Catholic, which won the Division 5 state championship on Nov. 25, from 2007-2016, winning four Division 5 state titles during his tenure.

Now, in his third year at De La Salle, Rohn has guided De La Salle down a similar path to success.

Senior defensive end Mason Muragin said Rohn has built a winning culture at De La Salle.

“I’m going to shout out coach Rohn; he’s a winning coach,” Muragin said. “He had success at other high schools like West Catholic, and obviously they’re playing here also, so I think it shows the mark he leaves on all the schools he coaches at.”

With three straight trips to the Michigan High School Athletic Association Division 2 State Championship and two state titles in the process, De La Salle has solidified itself as not only a perennial contender in the Division 2, but one of the top teams in the state.

De La Salle’s route to the finals was eerily familiar to its 2021 run where it outscored opponents 214-62 in the playoffs, including a 41-14 win over Traverse City Central in the state championship game.

The only exception was that unlike a perfect year in 2021, De La Salle suffered an early season loss to Catholic League rival Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice — a loss that only motivated the defending champions.

“Losing that game made us a better football team,” Rohn said. “Adam (Korzeniewski) had his kids prepared and ready to play, and they outplayed us, beating us 42-43. We didn’t quit and we got better because of it.”

De La Salle would win 10 straight en route to the state title, allowing only nine points per game defensively.

While De La Salle is set to graduate 43 seniors including Yanachik, Drogosh, and Nichols on the offensive side, and Muragin (a University of Illinois commit) and James McDonald, the legacy the 2023 senior class has left will be unforgettable.

“Coming in with this group three years ago, I asked a lot out of them. They stood up tall and accepted every challenge they were given,” Rohn said. “Obviously, they might walk out — and De La Salle has had some tremendous football teams and tremendous groups — as maybe the most decorated and successful class of football players. I couldn’t be more proud to be a part of that.”

With Rohn at the helm and a strong junior and sophomore core hungry to fill the void left by the departed seniors, De La Salle will make a strong case to repeat for the third straight year in 2023.