With a state finals appearance last year and nine returning starters on each side of the ball, Pewamo-Westphalia was primed to take the Division 7 title this time around.
The Pirates succeeded, knocking off playoff-regular Detroit Loyola, 28-14, Saturday at Ford Field.
P-W senior running back Jared Smith came into the game as second all-time career rushing leader (8,140 yards) in Michigan, needing 291 yards to snap the record held since 2004. He was held to 48 yards on 20 carries, but it didn’t seem to surprise him, coach Jeremy Miller or Loyola coach John Callahan. Smith graciously accepted the result, especially since it meant earning a team state championship.
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“When they are keying on me like that, it opens things up for the whole offense,” Smith said, “as you could see what Ryan (Smith) and Logan (Hengesbach) did today. (Loyola was) just flying in on me, just the whole game, and it opened up things for everybody else. Then to come out with a win in the state championship; I’ve got nothing to complain about.”
Hengesbach got the Pirates (14-0) on the board first with the only score of the first half, a 14-yard catch from junior quarterback Jimmy Lehman.
In the third quarter, the duo hooked up again for a 37-yard scoring reception and a two-touchdown lead on the Bulldogs (11-3). The Pirates — who finished runner-up last year to Ishpeming — finished with 127 yards passing on 10 attempts, plus 170 yards on the ground on 49 carries.
While Lehman earned all the throwing yards, P-W uses a platooning system at quarterback with senior Ryan Smith orchestrating most of the running plays.
“Our plan going in was more concerned with their quarterback read than with Jared (Smith),” said Loyola coach John Callahan. “I thought with our speed we could contain Jared … and the quarterback did an outstanding job. He rode that (decision to hand off or not) to the very, very end, and kept it and kept it.”
Ryan Smith led with 81 yards rushing, including a 2-yard touchdown run that was set up by a 16-yard pass from Lehman to Bryce Thelan.
“Obviously you saw they can throw the ball; their offensive and defensive line I thought played really well, and we knew that going in, they were good,” Callahan said of the Pirates. “We knew our line was going to be tested by their line.”
Miller said the same about the Bulldogs, calling them the biggest defensive line his program has faced in school history. Based on the eye test, Loyola’s defensive line easily tips the scales at over 250 pounds each.
Loyola got on the board in the fourth quarter on an 18-yard reception by Keith Johnson and a two-yard run by D’Vaun Bently, but it wasn’t enough, especially after P-W got an insurance touchdown from Lehman on a half-yard dive into the end zone that capped a 63-yard drive with 5:05 left in the game.
“Detroit Loyola is a classy bunch; they are very well-coached,” Miller said. “They hit us hard.”