Southfield A&T players hoist the Michigan High School Athletic Association Division 1 State Finals trophy.

Southfield A&T players hoist the Michigan High School Athletic Association Division 1 State Finals trophy.

Photo by Erin Sanchez

Southfield A&T claims first state championship in school history in 36-32 win over Belleville

By: Jonathan Szczepaniak | Southfield Sun | Published November 28, 2023

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DETROIT — Southfield A&T head coach Aaron Marshall described his squad after their regional championship win over West Bloomfield Nov. 18 as a “team of firsts,” in reference to the school’s first-ever regional title and state finals berth.

The Warriors had never so much as held a district championship in the school’s history, but as Southfield A&T took the field for the Michigan High School Athletic Association Division 1 State Finals Nov. 26 at Ford Field against the two-time Division 1 defending state champions Belleville, the Warriors were banded together for one final gridiron matchup in the brightest lights in Michigan high school football.

Southfield A&T senior quarterback Isaiah Marshall (Kansas commit) has been the frontman for the Warriors all season long with his dual threat ability, and an 11-yard rushing touchdown from Marshall would put the Warriors up 36-32 with 0:47 left in the fourth. Marshall ran in the two-point conversion to make it a 4-point lead.

Belleville claimed the 32-28 lead on a 17-yard rushing touchdown by senior Jeremiah Beasley (Michigan commit) with 4:47 left in the fourth, holding their first lead since Belleville senior running back Colbey Reed punched in a 16-yard rushing touchdown just before the end of the first quarter to make it a 7-6 game.

“For us, we kind of handle adversity a little bit differently,” Aaron Marshall said. “I looked at Isaiah (Marshall) as they scored the last touchdown and said, ‘What else would you want?’” The first thing I said on the headphones was, ‘Good,’ because they left us that much time left.”

Belleville junior quarterback Bryce Underwood, a consensus five-star recruit and top player in the nation in the 2025 class according to 247Sports, went out firing on the final drive in efforts to get the ball downfield, almost coughing up two interceptions on his first two passes.

As Underwood stepped back to pass with under 20 seconds left at their own 33-yard line, A&T senior linebacker Dorian Freeman locked onto Underwood’s line of sight and jumped right in front of Underwood’s pass for the game-sealing interception.

“My coaches just told me to spy the quarterback, and wherever he did I would go, and then just read my zone,” Freeman said.

The Warriors were given a little more time to operate on their game-winning drive in comparison to the 54 seconds West Bloomfield gave them in the regional championship, and Isaiah Marshall and his offensive unit exhausted all the time they could get.

Isaiah Marshall connected with senior wideout Tashi Braceful (Toledo commit) for a 6-yard and 12-yard gain to continue the drive at midfield.

Braceful, who hauled in 10 receptions for 152 yards and a touchdown in the win, was Marshall’s security blanket all night in the passing game, and A&T needed him to step up with senior wideout Jawon Jarrett sidelined due to injury.

“We knew we had a guy down,” Braceful said. “I believe we have the best receiving core in the state, and I knew when my number was called that I knew I had to make plays, so that just goes back to Isaiah (Marshall). It’s easy when you got the best quarterback in the state throwing to you.”

Marshall would connect with senior wideout Xavi Bowman for a 13-yard gain down to the Belleville 29, and it was all on the legs on Marshall from there.

Marshall would tally two rushes for 15 yards before making a house call on an 11-yard touchdown run.

When you talk about cornerstone pieces for a program, Isaiah Marshall has been the Warriors’ leader throughout his entire career at A&T.

“My four years here have been a lot of ups and downs,” Isaiah Marshall said. “Just to win with my team this last year has meant a lot to me. Just doing it with these guys, my coaches, and for the community of Southfield means a lot. I couldn’t do it without them.”

Marshall threw for 281 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for 134 yards and a touchdown in the win, garnishing excitement from not just the A&T crowd but Kansas Jayhawk fans everywhere for what they hope to see on future Saturdays.

“We knew he was going to run the ball, and he shows a lot of strength and a lot of speed,” Belleville head coach Calvin Norman said. “We knew that going into the game.”

Southfield A&T took a 28-10 lead on a 19-yard touchdown pass from Marshall to Bowman as the Belleville defender tipped the pass and Bowman stayed focused to make the catch at the back of the end zone.

The Warriors’ offense jumped out to the healthy lead courtesy of two rushing touchdowns from senior Mathias Davis and a 13-yard touchdown pass from Marshall to Braceful.

“We got out early, which was great on our part,” Aaron Marshall said. “I think we needed that lead, as you can see. It gave us a little bit of a cushion. We knew the score at halftime had to be 0-0. We knew they do what great teams do, which is make a big run in the second half, and they did just that. They got some key stops, got a turnover, and made some big plays.”

Belleville, which went into the state finals with a 38-game win streak, stormed back behind a 45-yard touchdown connection from Underwood to senior Jalen Johnson and back-to-back rushing touchdowns from Beasley to take the lead. Beasley finished with 15 attempts for 106 yards and two scores in the loss.

It will be an entirely new look Southfield A&T next season as the majority of the team’s core will be graduating this year, but the foundation for success has been laid by the 2024 senior class for future seniors to follow.

While it may be a new group, expectations will be high for the Warriors as they enter next season as the defending Division 1 state champions.

“It’s special for the community,” Aaron Marshall said. “It’s been a long time coming. All week, I’ve been getting a lot of calls from guys I never met congratulating the boys on making it here. We never made it to the championship game, let alone won one, so it’s real big for the community.”

The victory lap
Southfield Public Schools will hold a parade at noon Dec. 9 to celebrate Southfield A&T’s big win.

Following the parade, a special program will be held in the gym of Southfield A&T, 24675 Lahser Road, at 1:15 p.m.

The best spots to view the parade are along Evergreen Road, between 12 Mile Road and Civic Center Drive, and Lahser Road between Civic Center Drive and 10 Mile Road.