Warren De La Salle senior quarterback Nolan Schultz hurdles a defender on a run in the Pilots 29-16 Nov. 23 win over Muskegon Mona Shores in the Division 2 state title game. De La Salle has won back-to-back state championships.

Warren De La Salle senior quarterback Nolan Schultz hurdles a defender on a run in the Pilots 29-16 Nov. 23 win over Muskegon Mona Shores in the Division 2 state title game. De La Salle has won back-to-back state championships.

Photo by Patricia O'Blenes


De La Salle football grounds Mona Shores, claims second straight state championship

Senior QB leads the way

By: Jason Carmel Davis | C&G Newspapers | Published November 23, 2018

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 Warren De La Salle senior linebacker Jacob Dobbs, right, and junior defensive back Dylan Wilson celebrate with the team's Division 2 state championship trophy.

Warren De La Salle senior linebacker Jacob Dobbs, right, and junior defensive back Dylan Wilson celebrate with the team's Division 2 state championship trophy.

Photo by Patricia O'Blenes

DETROIT — Coming into this season, Warren De La Salle senior quarterback Nolan Schultz knew he wasn’t the starter, but said he always stayed ready in case his number was called.

After an injury to junior quarterback Anthony Stepnitz, Schultz became the pilot of the De La Salle offense. Nowhere did Schultz shine brighter than in the Pilots' 29-16 win over Muskegon Mona Shores Nov. 23 in the Division 2 state title game.

Schultz scored four touchdowns — three rushing. He put an exclamation point on the win with a 1-yard score with 1:57 left that put the Pilots up 29-16. Schultz on third and 11 scrambled for 18 yards to set up the score.

“This has been an unbelievable journey,” said Schultz, who threw for 189 yards and rushed for 55. “I always thought we could end up doing this, but I wouldn’t say that because I’m not that type of person. We would have been here with (Stepnitz). We just have that type of team.

“To play like this on this stage is awesome.”

De La Salle (12-2) has now won two straight state championships and three since 2014. The Pilots are 3-2 in state title games.

“This is what you play for as a high school athlete. You want to be in a position to win championships,” said Pilots senior wide receiver/defensive back Josh DeBerry, who had two catches for 65 yards in the final. “You want to be on top. To do it two years in a row is pretty special.”

It’s the fourth state championship for Pilots coach Mike Giannone, who is in his third year with the program. Giannone led Macomb Dakota to D-1 titles in 2006 and 2007.

“I’m not going to try to separate them and say which one is more special,” Giannone said. “This is validation. That’s all it is. It’s validation for these coaches and players, and it’s a tribute to all of the hard work they put in.”

Mona Shores entered the game averaging 45.8 points per contest. The Sailors (12-2) put up 47.5 points per game in four playoff matchups prior to the state final. The 16 points scored is the lowest for Mona Shores since 2016.

“Hats off to De La Salle,” Mona Shores coach Matt Koziak said. “We just couldn’t get that one big play or that one stop.”

Hard-fought matchup

After throwing an interception on the team’s first drive, Schultz rebounded to lead a touchdown drive that began with him finding DeBerry for a 50-yard gain, as DeBerry sat down in between two Mona Shores defenders before making the catch. Schultz punctuated the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run to give De La Salle a 7-0 advantage with 5:37 left in the first.

Mona Shores, though, following a second De La Salle turnover late in the first half found its footing. Sailors senior running back Sincere Dent with a 24-yard rush put his team at the Pilots 19-yard line. Mona Shores senior quarterback Caden Broersma followed up a 9-yard rush with a 2-yard plunge that tied the game at 7-7 with 1:30 left in the half. Prior to the drive, Mona Shores had just 50 yards of offense. Dent led the Sailors with 88 rushing yards on 12 carries.

That drive was just about all the offense the Sailors could muster in the first half. The team’s first six possessions ended with either a turnover on downs or a punt. Mona Shores on its first two drives was stopped on fourth down, as De La Salle senior linebacker Jacob Dobbs made two huge plays.

“Coming in we knew (Mona Shores) had a big running back, a good quarterback, a couple of good wide receivers and a good offensive line,” said Dobbs, who had a game-high 16 tackles. “Those two plays were pretty big for us.”

“I didn’t want to think after the game that we left anything out on the field,” Koziak said. “Their defense did a great job. Dobbs was all over the place. He does a great job of filling holes. He’s a good player.”

Big plays abound

De La Salle came out firing to start the second half. After a 19-yard gain on third and 6 to keep the drive alive, Schultz, rolling to his right, hit Dobbs with a strike for a 44-yard touchdown to put the Pilots up 14-7 with 9:56 left in the third.

“That was just a great throw by (Schultz),” said Dobbs, who tallied 65 yards on three receptions.

Mona Shores cut the De La Salle lead to 14-10 on a 24-yard field goal from junior kicker Logan Hekkema with 3:09 left in the third. The drive was the best of the day for the Sailors, as they picked up four first downs on 13 plays in the 55-yard drive.

Schultz added to his day with a 1-yard rush TD with 10:44 left in regulation to put the Pilots up 21-10. The run capped a 10-play, 82-yard drive.

Mona Shores continued to battle, ending an eight-play, 63-yard drive with a 14-yard touchdown pass from Broersma to senior wide receiver Da’Varius Carter with 7:26 left in regulation to cut the De La Salle lead to 21-16. Broersma on fourth and 4 rolled left and found Carter in a crowd in the back of the end zone.

Schultz put an exclamation point on the game with a 1-yard touchdown run to give the Pilots a 29-16 lead with 1:57 left. The score capped a 12-play, 65-yard drive.

De La Salle senior linebacker Derek Roskopp sealed the win with an interception of Broersma with 31 seconds left.

Broersma credited the De La Salle defense for making big plays, particularly the Pilots linebackers.

“That group is really fast,” Broersma said.

“We knew what they liked to do. They want to eat the clock, hit you with chunk plays and use their play-action pass,” Koziak said. “We tried to match their physicality, and I think we did some good things after halftime. There wasn’t one punt in the second half.”

Strong campaign

De La Salle is 24-4 since the start of the 2017 season.

The team opened the season with a 36-21 loss to Muskegon High. The Big Reds play in the D-3 Final Nov. 24. The Pilots in the regular season also won a non-conference game against Davison High — another playoff team. Those games came in addition to an always-tough Catholic High School League Central Division slate.

“That comes from our athletic director. Mike Watson schedules tough teams and the guys want to play against tough teams,” Giannone said. “That’s what gets you ready for moments like this.”

Staying ready prepared Schultz to have a performance like he had in the D-2 final. He ends the season with a 9-1 record as a starter.

“I thought I was going to play a lot of defensive back and some kick returner this season,” Schultz said. “In those roles, I would have still felt like a big part of the team, but it’s different as a quarterback. I wanted to step up and help the team, and now we’re back-to-back state champs.”