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Livonia Churchill outlasts Westland John Glenn 51-35 to improve to 3-0
By: Kyle Mills
Livonia Churchill has now won in 3 completely different ways this season. They showed blowout capability with an opening game 59-21 domination of Milford and then relied on their defense and timely offense to squeak out a victory over Brighton last week in overtime 21-14.
Tonight was a little different. Right from the get go it was evident that both teams had athletes on the perimeter and beef in the middle. This game was going to be a high scoring battle between two heavy weight programs in the KLAA-South.
With 4:41 left on the clock in the 4th quarter and Churchill leading 44-29, senior safety Armonde Yetts smelled blood in the water and attacked.
“I just saw the running back wasn’t holding the ball close to his body so I basically just grabbed it because I knew we had to get a stop,” said Yetts about his game-winning strip. “I’m just excited that I am blessed to have the opportunity to make memories and play to the best of my ability. The entire defense really came together as brothers tonight and got stops when we had to.”
The strip caused the ball to be jarred loose and several Chargers ended up jumping on it to essentially secure the victory over a very tough John Glenn team which came into the game 2-0.
The contest opened up with a little bit of trickery by the Chargers as they marched right down the field in 4 plays before senior WR Steve Szymanski took the handoff on a jet sweep and then stopped right before the line of scrimmage and fired a 30-yard bullet to senior WR Antonio Alexander for 6.
The rest of the game on offense for Churchill can simply be described in two words, Paul Romain. The senior RB has absolutely exploded onto the scene this season with a tough, slippery running style while displaying excellent vision and awareness to make cuts and change speeds in a hurry.
“Before the game I was a little skeptical because of their big guys in the middle, but our offensive line did a great job of hemming them up and I was able to find holes to run through,” said Romain.
Romain put the red and black up 13-0 on a drive capped off by a 2-yard rush that also featured several good throws from QB Brian Alsobrooks to WR’s Antonio Alexander and Steve Szymanski.
Although stagnant on their first two drives, Glenn got it going on their third drive when senior RB Leon Crawford came into the game for his first action on offense. The smooth runner burst out of the pile for a 50-yard TD run on his fifth carry of the drive.
Romain and the Chargers were not going away easily as they marched down the field on consecutive runs by the senior leader. This drive was finished off by a 14-yard touchdown run where Romain spun out of several would be tacklers arms only to carry three defenders into the end zone with him.
Trailing 20-7 and on the verge of a blowout, Glenn answered right back with a 2 play drive that saw senior WR Jaron Flourney take a pitch to the right 75-yards straight up the middle for a touchdown. With the score now 20-14, Glenn seemed to have all of the momentum with 8 minutes remaining in the first half.
“When they got their two scores, they got the momentum and we knew we had to pick it up on offense and punch it in whenever we got the chance. We told the defense to tighten up because this was our game,” said Romain.
Churchill got into shootout mode after Glenn tried a surprise onside kick, which gave the Chargers excellent field position. The first play of the drive EMU commit QB Brian Alsobrooks hit Romain on a wheel route that went for 58-yards and a touchdown to make the score 27-14.
The Charger defense then tightened up and intercepted passes on three of the next four possessions. John Glenn QB Brendan Wetmore struggled when he was blitzed and was forced into errant throws.
“The coaches got a little angry at us after they scored some long touchdowns so we had to tighten it up a bit, but our defense always comes through. We never put our heads down,” said Szymanski.
Sophomore CB Jamal Allen and senior CB Shakur Lockett both got into the action as they showed athleticism and impressive ball skills to pick off passes in the first half. But no interception was bigger then when junior LB Demarco McKinney snagged a tipped pass and rumbled 35 yards into the end zone while juking out several offensive players at the 10-yard line.
“Glenn is a tough team but our defense is real good and we are all returners from last year. We worked out every single day in the weight room preparing for games like this. We have really improved our speed on defense and we just try and put 11 hats to the ball,” said defensive leader Szymanski who contributed 9 tackles, 3 pass deflections and a bone crushing, highlight reel type hit on a receiver coming across the middle.
Churchill took a 37-14 lead into halftime, but no margin is safe in high school football, especially when playing against a top team such as John Glenn.
“We knew we were going to come out in the second half and keep fighting. Never count us out,” said John Glenn senior DB LJ Crawford who led the team with 9 tackles and is currently being recruited by Indiana University.
Crawford was right as Glenn scored on back-to-back possessions to end the third quarter only trailing 37-29. First junior RB Jaylen Smith broke free for a 65-yard touchdown on his second carry of the game. Then senior RB Jamie Melchor was able to convert from 1 yard away after a muffed punt gave the Rockets excellent field position. With the crowd holding its breath, senior WR Jaron Flourney punched in the 2-point conversion to make it a 1-possession affair.
Churchill could not move the ball the third quarter as penalties and mental mistakes killed their chances of any long drives. Senior defensive linemen Renardo Brown and Shawn Baker-Williams were run stoppers in the middle all night long. Coming in at 6’3 318 and 6’4 310 respectively, these big boys started to eat against the side of the Charger offensive line that did not include Miami (OH) commit LT Matt Skibinski and LG Nick Davis.
Churchill got the ball back in the 4th quarter only leading 37-29 with 9:32 left on the clock. They were set up on their own 43-yard line after senior utility man Dylan Padget had a nice 15-yard punt return to put the team in a better position.
After needing a defining drive against Brighton in the closing seconds to tie the game and send it into overtime, Churchill again needed to make something happen to close out the contest.
Senior QB Brian Alsobrooks stepped up big time and was cool under pressure. The Chargers gave carries to 4 different players on the drive and Alsobrooks completed a huge third down pass to senior WR Tim Dulin to move the chains. With 6:18 left in the game, Alsobooks hit WR Antonio Alexander on a 23-yard pass for his 2nd touchdown of the contest to increase the lead to 44-29.
“We knew they'd be tough up front and we embraced that challenge. Being able to run the ball like that on a good team like Glenn and continue to move down the field when we had to really shows us where we are at,” said team captain and LT Matt Skibinski after the game.
The game really ended when senior SS Armonde Yetts caused a fumble with 4:41 left on the clock. Yetts also was tied for the team lead in tackles with 10 and added a tipped pass as well.
Even with their first loss, John Glenn is still in a great position to bounce back and make the playoffs when everything is said and done.
“We have work to do but we will come back. We are always improving,” said John Glenn’s LJ Crawford.
On the opposing side, Churchill was celebrating their best start since 2013 when the team went undefeated during the regular season. Now 3-0 with quality wins against Brighton and John Glenn, they are still not satisfied.
“We are just going to take it game by game and now look forward to Plymouth next week,” said Romain after a tough victory.
Churchill now moves on to play a 3-0 Plymouth team, which will go a long way in determining who holds the top spot in the KLAA South at the end of the season.
John Glenn moves on to play a weak Livonia Franklin team and should be 3-1 when they faceoff against perennial powerhouse Canton in two weeks from now.
- John Glenn used a 4-headed monster of sorts on the ground to punish Churchill all game long for big plays, scoring all 5 of their touchdowns on the ground.
- Senior RB Jamie Melchor had 30 yards on 10 attempts for 1 TD and 1 catch for 5 yards
- Senior RB Leon Crawford had 116 yards on 13 attempts for 1 TD
- Junior RB Jaylen Smith had 105 yards on 7 attempts for 2 TDs
- Senior WR Jaron Flourney had 77 yards on 3 attempts for 1 TD and a 2-pt conversion while adding 4 catches for 29 yards
- On top of being the leading rushing, John Glenn’s Leon Crawford also played the entire game on defense as well and helped his brother LJ Crawford rack up the tackles
- Churchill QB/K/P Brian Alsobrooks did not star, but was still effective and kept calm under pressure.
- 9 completions on 19 attempts for 197 yards and 2 TDs
- 55 yards on the ground on 5 attempts
- 30 yard field goal
- 6/6 on extra points
- Churchill RB Paul Romain was the clear star of the show the entire game.
- 160 rushing yards and 3 rushing TDs on 26 rushes
- 6.2 yards per carry average
- 3 receptions for 71 yards and a receiving TD
- Churchill SS/WR Steve Szymanski did just about everything humanly possible to help his team win tonight.
- 1 completed pass for 30 yards and a TD
- 3 receptions for 66 yards
- 1 rush for 2 yards
- 9 tackles
- 3 pass deflections
- Churchill WR Antonio Alexander proved to be a deep threat several times tonight in big situations.
- 3 receptions for 70 yards and 2 TDs
- No fly zone for Churchill? The Charger secondary only allowed Glenn’s QB to finish 10/26 for 81 total yards through the air.
- Shakur Lockett first INT of the game which gave the secondary some confidence
- Jamal Allen had two diving interceptions right on the sidelines. Both very nice grabs. Definitely someone to watch in the future as he rapidly improves.
- Demarco McKinney snagged his 2nd interception of the season and this time was able to take it back to the house, which was probably especially fulfilling for him since he was stopped on the 1-yard line against Milford.
- Although this does not show up on the stat sheet, senior SS Tyler Melow deflected several passes which would have gone for completions. Look for him to grab a few interceptions in the upcoming weeks.
- Churchill LB Aaron Kerr continues to dominate. The 6’1 220 pound beast led the way on defense again with 10 tackles. He is not afraid to stick his nose into any pile and uses an alpha dog mentality to consistently track down ball carriers and run them into the ground.
- Churchill junior DL Austin Simpson is strong, really strong. Watch out as he continues to improve, as he has the potential to turn into a run stopping interior lineman who also gets constant pressure on opposing QB’s. He officially had 3 tackles tonight but was in on a lot more and pressured the QB into bad throws multiple times.
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