Stevenson football rallies to down Dakota in classic district final

By: Jason Carmel Davis | Online Only | Published November 8, 2019

 Sterling Heights Stevenson sophomore quarterback Biagio Madonna accounted for five touchdowns in the team's 38-35 Nov. 8 Division 1 district final win over Macomb Dakota

Sterling Heights Stevenson sophomore quarterback Biagio Madonna accounted for five touchdowns in the team's 38-35 Nov. 8 Division 1 district final win over Macomb Dakota

Photo by Sarah Purlee

 Macomb Dakota junior running back DJ Stepney ran for 210 yards and four touchdowns in a 38-35 Nov. 8 Division 1 district final loss to Sterling Heights Stevenson.

Macomb Dakota junior running back DJ Stepney ran for 210 yards and four touchdowns in a 38-35 Nov. 8 Division 1 district final loss to Sterling Heights Stevenson.

Photo by Patricia O'Blenes

 Sterling Heights Stevenson sophomore running back Jordan Ramsey tallied 171 total yards and two touchdowns in a 38-35 Nov. 8 playoff win over Macomb Dakota

Sterling Heights Stevenson sophomore running back Jordan Ramsey tallied 171 total yards and two touchdowns in a 38-35 Nov. 8 playoff win over Macomb Dakota

Photo by Sarah Purlee

STERLING HEIGHTS — At 5-4, the Sterling Heights Stevenson football team just snuck into the Division 1 state playoffs.

After a 38-35 Nov. 8 win over Macomb Dakota in a district final, the Titans have proven they belong in the field.

Stevenson (7-4) outscored Dakota (6-5) 13-0 over the last 5:30 of regulation to steal the win and advance to a regional final. The Titans will host Detroit Cass Tech (7-4) at 7 p.m. Nov. 15.

Stevenson, in a regional final for the first time since 2009, went ahead for good at 38-35 on a 22-yard touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Biagio Madonna to sophomore running back Jordan Ramsey with 1:06 left in regulation. The scoring play happened on fourth and 10 following a timeout called by Titans coach Justin Newcomb.

“We had a fake field goal out there at first, but we didn’t like the look of it, so we called the timeout,” said Newcomb, in his second year leading the program. “We brought the offense back out on the field and they made a play.

“I’m so proud of our guys. There were a lot of times tonight where it looked like we didn’t have it. These guys fought and got a big win.”

The game-winning drive came about after Titans senior defensive back Nick Wingfield recovered a fumble at the Dakota 48-yard line with 4:14 left in the game. Wingfield later recorded an interception with 14 seconds left to seal the win.

The Madonna-Ramsey connection was big for Stevenson in the fourth quarter. The sophomores hooked up for a 73-yard touchdown pass to cut the Cougars lead to 35-32 with 5:09 left in the game.

Madonna accounted for five touchdowns in the game and 202 total yards. He started the season as a backup.

“I don’t know if I’m a good coach or not because I didn’t go to (Madonna) until the middle of the season,” Newcomb said. “He’s a guy who plays hard. He’s taken that position and that spot and made it his.”

Madonna said the win was a total team effort. The sophomore signal-caller said he was confident his team could pull out the win and keep its season alive.

“Everybody did their job tonight. Nobody quit. Nobody got down,” Madonna said. “I wouldn’t have been able to do any of the things I did out there tonight without my teammates.”

The Cougars, after their first district title since 2015, had owned this series recently. Coming into the district final, Dakota had won five straight over Stevenson and nine of 10. The Cougars knocked off the Titans 40-14 earlier in the regular season. Stevenson is now 3-1 against Dakota in the playoffs.

Dakota looked to have the matchup in hand, carrying a 10-point lead into the fourth quarter. The Cougars opted to stay with the run game in the second half, as the team attempted just one pass in the final two quarters.

Dakota junior running back DJ Stepney shined in the game, rushing for 210 yards and four touchdowns. Cougars sophomore back Caiden Sloan ran for 82 yards and a touchdown.

Stevenson’s Ramsey stood out on both sides of the ball. The sophomore running back notched 171 total yards and two scores, and had two interceptions in the first quarter playing defensive back.

“We’ve been fighting all season long,” Madonna said. “Now to be able to host three playoff games — that’s huge. This is unbelievable for everybody in the program and the school.”