Sterling Heights Stevenson junior defensive lineman Giovanni El-Hadi looks to chase down Utica High senior quarterback Zack Keen during a 13-7 Oct. 4 Stevenson win.

Sterling Heights Stevenson junior defensive lineman Giovanni El-Hadi looks to chase down Utica High senior quarterback Zack Keen during a 13-7 Oct. 4 Stevenson win.

Photo by Sarah Purlee


Late score pushes Stevenson football past Utica High

By: Jason Carmel Davis | Online Only | Published October 4, 2019

 Utica High senior running back Gabe Olschefsky looks for a running lane during an Oct. 4 loss to Sterling Heights Stevenson. Olschefsky ran for 137 yards in the game.

Utica High senior running back Gabe Olschefsky looks for a running lane during an Oct. 4 loss to Sterling Heights Stevenson. Olschefsky ran for 137 yards in the game.

Photo by Sarah Purlee

UTICA — It wasn’t on a stage quite as big as the NFL Championship game, but the Sterling Heights Stevenson football team’s execution of the “Philly Special” helped keep the team alive in the race for a playoff spot.

Titans sophomore backup quarterback Biagio Madonna hit senior starting quarterback Dylan Kleinedler for a 7-yard touchdown pass with 25.7 seconds left in regulation for what would be the winning score in Stevenson’s 13-7 Oct. 4 win over Utica High.

Kleinedler on the play took the snap and handed the ball off to Madonna, who started the play out wide. Kleinedler went out and found a soft spot in the Chieftains defense, and Madonna hit Kleinedler for the game-winning touchdown pass.

“That was absolutely the 'Philly Special,'” said Titans coach Justin Newcomb, whose team moved to 3-3 with the triumph. “We knew we needed to come up with a big play. We got the look we wanted from (the Utica) defense and our guys executed.

“This is a big win. We have to keep winning to give ourselves a chance to make the playoffs. To start this month with a win is huge for us.”

Madonna, who took his first snaps at quarterback in the third quarter, finished with 128 pass yards and two touchdowns. On that final drive, Madonna completed passes for 23 and 33 yards and rushed twice for 12 yards.

On the final play, Madonna credited the entire offense.

“Everybody did their jobs. The offensive line blocked well. Our wide receivers baited (Utica’s) defense and helped make sure (Kleinedler) was wide open,” Madonna said. “The coaches do a good job of prepping me for spots like this. I get reps at quarterback all week, so I was ready.”

Newcomb called Madonna, who started at linebacker, a warrior. The sophomore played nearly every snap of the game and only came off the field for short breaks.

Utica High coach Matt Marulli said he was proud of his team’s effort. The Chieftains (2-4) put in a great defensive effort and flipped the field several times in a game where points came at a premium. 

“Our guys left everything out on the field,” Marulli said. “We played well enough to win. Credit to Stevenson, though, because they made one more play than we did.” 

Utica took a 7-0 lead late in the third as senior quarterback Zack Keen hit junior wide receiver Brett Berg on an out route for a 4-yard score with 54.5 seconds left in the third quarter. Chieftains senior running back Gabe Olschefsky did the lion’s share of the work on the drive, picking up 47 yards on seven carries. The scoring drive started at the Stevenson 37-yard line.

On Stevenson’s next possession, Madonna on his first pass of the game hit junior wide receiver Tony Schumate on a quick strike that Schumate would take 55 yards for a score, tying the game at 7-7 with 33 seconds left in the third.

“We needed to get going, and I think that was the play that did it,” Newcomb said.

Utica’s Olschefsky played well in defeat. The senior back ran for 137 yards on 28 carries.

Marulli’s team is now in a spot where it has to win out to have a chance to make the playoffs.

Teams that play a nine-game schedule must win six games to receive an automatic bid into the postseason. Teams that finish 5-4 have a shot at the playoffs if there are not enough six-win teams to fill out the bracket.

The Chieftains schedule features enough strong opponents that five wins could put the team into the playoff field. In its last two games, Utica has two losses by a combined 9 points.

“Our defense has played really well. They’ve given us chances to win. We’ve got to help them out, though,” Marulli said. “We’re going to come back on Monday and get back to work. We’ve got a lot of football left.”

Utica’s next game is against Warren Mott at 7 p.m. Oct. 11 on the road.

Stevenson meets Clinton Township Chippewa Valley at 7 p.m. Oct. 11 at home.