Southfield A&T senior quarterback Isaiah Marshall looks to evade the West Bloomfield defense.

Southfield A&T senior quarterback Isaiah Marshall looks to evade the West Bloomfield defense.

Photo by Donna Dalziel

Last-second score sends Southfield A&T to state finals, edges West Bloomfield 40-35

By: Jonathan Szczepaniak | Southfield Sun | Published November 22, 2023


When in doubt, Southfield A&T’s No. 8 will figure it out.

Trailing 35-34 with two timeouts, 54 seconds left, and 80 yards to go in the Division 1 state semifinals Nov. 18 at Troy High School, Southfield A&T senior quarterback Isaiah Marshall led his offense down the field making big play after big play, and it came down to three seconds left and 1 yard to go.

Marshall, a four-year starter, has been through thick and thin during his time at Southfield A&T, facing losing records and tough playoff losses. 

After earning Southfield A&T its first-ever regional title just a week prior, Marshall took the snap and ran through the left side of the line for the one-yard score, beating West Bloomfield 40-35 and punching the Warriors Ford Field ticket for the Michigan High School Athletic Association Division 1 State Finals Nov. 27.

“The moment is never too big for No. 8 (Marshall),” Southfield A&T coach Aaron Marshall, Isaiah Marshall’s uncle, said. “The best thing to happen to us was them scoring and leaving us with a minute left. There was no flinching on the sideline because we got No. 8. Our O-line did their job and our receivers. Everyone did their job down the stretch.”

West Bloomfield senior quarterback Reqez Nance, who was sensational all game for the Lakers, broke a tackle and threw a strike to junior wideout Kamren Flowers for a 27-yard touchdown, giving the Lakers their first lead of the game with 54 seconds left.

Southfield A&T would be forced to do something they hadn’t done all throughout the game, aggressively attack the West Bloomfield secondary through the air.

West Bloomfield’s defense was allowing the Southfield A&T offense to attack the run game throughout the matchup, but the secondary stood strong.

With only two timeouts and 80 yards to go, Marshall and his wideouts knew they’d have to take chances, but Isaiah Marshall said they weren’t looking for a home run play.

“I just think it was more of taking it play-by-play,” Isaiah Marshall said. “We didn’t need a big play off of one play, so we just took it down the field.”

Marshall and senior Tashi Braceful connected for 16 yards to start the drive, and then senior DaMario Quarles had his number called with a 26-yard grab down the right sideline to the West Bloomfield 38-yard line. West Bloomfield senior safety Justin Tyler hit Quarles as he hauled in the catch and the ball appeared to spring loose, but the referees converged and deemed it a catch.

Marshall would look back to Braceful, but the West Bloomfield secondary stood tall with a pass breakup. Senior wideout Xavi Bowman squeaked past the tight coverage of the Lakers and hauled in a 27-yard pass from Marshall down the right sideline to set up shop at the West Bloomfield 5-yard line.

From there, it was on the legs of Marshall as back-to-back runs from the quarterback sent Southfield A&T home with the win, and even sent Marshall into an embrace from his uncle and head coach Aaron Marshall.

“We normally don’t hug like that,” Aaron Marshall said. “That was pretty special.”

Marshall tallied four total touchdowns in the win (two rushing and two passing), but it was senior Mathias Davis that got the Warriors scoring started. 

Davis punched in a 7-yard run early in the first to take a 7-0 lead, and Marshall would connect on two touchdown passes to Braceful (17 yards) and junior Tyjuan Esper (26 yards) for a 21-7 lead. A 43-yard touchdown pass from Nance to junior wideout Elisha Durham opened up the Lakers scoring.

West Bloomfield had an opportunity to make it a 14-14 game going into halftime after junior Josh Tate took the Warriors squib kick to the A&T 16-yard line, but back-to-back stops at the 2-yard line by the Warriors defense held the lead into half. 

Nance came out firing in the third quarter, connecting with senior Brandon Davis-Swain for two touchdowns (19 and 6 yards) to tie the game at 21 with a minute left in the third quarter.

Mathias Davis, who’s been a focal point of the Warriors rushing attack throughout the state tournament, would answer back with a 1-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter.

“Mathias Davis stepped in these playoffs for us at the running back position when we needed him to,” Aaron Marshall said. “He’s been lights out.”

Davis-Swain would counter with a 1-yard touchdown run of his own to tie the game back at 28, but a 20-yard touchdown run by Isaiah Marshall with 2:17 left in the fourth quarter would give the Warriors the late lead. West Bloomfield’s Justin Tyler would block the extra point, holding the A&T lead to six points.

 West Bloomfield’s incredible season comes to an end with a 10-3 record and a district and regional championship win to its resume.

The Lakers will graduate a talented senior class that features multiple Division 1 college football players and a plethora of playmakers on both sides of the ball.

Southfield A&T is set to take on the two-time Division 1 defending state champions Belleville Nov. 26 at Ford Field. Kickoff is expected to take place at  7 p.m.

Belleville features an array of Division 1 collegiate talent, including four-star linebacker Jeremiah Beasley, a University of Michigan commit, and the top-ranked player in the state and second nationally for the Class of 2025 according to 247 Sports, junior quarterback Bryce Underwood.

For Southfield A&T and Isaiah Marshall, it’s a historic season the program will never forget, but there’s still work to be done.

“I’m just happy that I did it for my coaches, my teammates, and for the community of Southfield,” Isaiah Marshall said. “We never made it this far before, so it feels great just to make it, but the job is not finished.”