Davison High quarterback Brendan Sullivan carries the ball during the team's 34-27 Nov. 23 overtime win over Sterling Heights Stevenson in a Division 1 state semifinal. The Cardinals will play for a state title for the first time.

Davison High quarterback Brendan Sullivan carries the ball during the team's 34-27 Nov. 23 overtime win over Sterling Heights Stevenson in a Division 1 state semifinal. The Cardinals will play for a state title for the first time.

Photo by Donna Dalziel


OT win sends Davison football past Stevenson, into D-1 final

By: Jason Carmel Davis | Online Only | Published November 23, 2019

 Sterling Heights Stevenson sophomore running back Jordan Ramsey, left, racked up more than 200 yards and two touchdowns in the team's Nov. 23 state semifinal loss to Davison High.

Sterling Heights Stevenson sophomore running back Jordan Ramsey, left, racked up more than 200 yards and two touchdowns in the team's Nov. 23 state semifinal loss to Davison High.

Photo by Donna Dalziel

TROY — The Davison High football team sure does know how to keep things interesting.

On their way to the Division 1 state semifinals, the Cardinals trailed in all three of their playoff games, Davison in the Nov. 23 state semifinal trailed Sterling Heights Stevenson 27-12 with 5:31 left in the third quarter.

Like the previous three instances, the Cardinals battled back. Davison outscored Stevenson 22-0 over the last 17:30 of regulation and overtime to take a 34-27 win and move on to the state final.

The Cardinals (11-2) advance to face Brighton High (11-2) at 1 p.m. Nov. 20 at Ford Field. Brighton bested Belleville High (12-1) in the other semi.

The game-winning score came on a 2-yard touchdown rush from Davison senior running back Caleb Smith on the first possession of overtime. Smith scored three times in the game. The Titans (8-5) had a shot to tie, but saw a fourth-and-goal pass fall incomplete.

The state title game appearance is the first for Davison.

“This is unbelievable,” said Cardinals junior quarterback Brendan Sullivan, who threw for a score and ran for another in the game. “We haven’t started that well in the playoffs, but we always find a way to finish. We know how to battle, and we showed it today.”

Davison used ball control to make its comeback. The Cardinals' three second-half touchdown came on drives of 10, 11 and 11 plays. Davison in the second half held the ball for nearly nine more minutes than Stevenson. The Cardinals in the third and fourth quarters racked up 13 first downs to the Titans' three.

The Titans, looking for their fifth trip to a state final, got their big lead thanks to the big play. Stevenson’s four scores came on plays that averaged more than 65 yards. Titans sophomore quarterback Biagio Madonna threw touchdown passes of 73, 73 and 67 yards. Stevenson sophomore running back Jordan Ramsey found the end zone on a 50-yard run, along with hauling in a 73-yard touchdown pass.

Madonna played valiantly. The Titans signal-caller was knocked out of the game late in the second quarter but only missed a handful of snaps.

“What can you say about (Madonna),” Stevenson coach Justin Newcomb said. “He gets knocked out of the game, but he comes back and is throwing touchdown passes and making plays.

“We had a lot of young guys make plays today. Credit to Davison, though. They made plays when they needed to. They were able to run the ball and keep the ball in the second half.”

Stevenson in the first half forced four Davison turnovers and had a plus-three turnover margin in the half. The Titans were not able to capitalize on the Cardinals early miscues, though.

Newcomb said that was key in the game. The Stevenson coach said his team needed to turn those turnovers into points.

Sullivan said Davison had some trouble in the first half with coverages, which led to Stevenson’s big scoring plays. One of those scores came on a play that saw Madonna pitch the ball to Ramsey, who then flipped the ball to junior wide receiver Dylan Kleinedler, who tossed the back to Madonna, who found sophomore running back Jordan Kwiatkowski wide open for one of those 73-yard touchdowns.

“They were really hitting on those big plays in the first half. We couldn’t stop them at all,” said Sullivan, who’s 6-yard touchdown pass to senior wide out Logan Pasco tied the game at 27-27 with 3:30 left in regulation. “We didn’t really change anything up. We just kept our heads up and made plays, and now we’re playing for a state title.”

Stevenson led 14-6 at halftime and closed out the second quarter with a 57-yard interception return from senior linebacker Zach Imms.

Davison junior running back Carter Cryderman had a game-high 175 rush yards. 

Madonna to go along with his three touchdown passes threw for 276 yards. Stevenson’s Ramsey ran for 121 yards and recorded 90 yards receiving.

Newcomb, in his second year leading the Titans program, credited the team’s seniors for turning the program around. The team finished 2-7 in 2017. Two years later, Stevenson finishes as one of the last teams standing in D-1. 

The Titans lose 18 players to graduation, including running back/defensive back Nick Wingfield and lineman Sal Madonna. The team has several key players eligible to return next season, including every player who scored in the Nov. 23 setback.

“I’m proud of our guys,” Newcomb said. “We’re the last team standing from Macomb county. Nobody thought we could get to this point. Our guys should be proud of what they accomplished. Everybody is talking about Stevenson football now.”