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Harper Woods tops South Christian in MHSAA Division 4 championship

The Sailors came close to a comeback, but the Pioneers held them off
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DETROIT - The Harper Woods Pioneers (11-3) defeated the Grand Rapids South Christian Sailors (10-4) 33-27 in the Division 4 Michigan high school football state championship on Saturday at Ford Field. The Sailors came close to mounting a comeback, but the Pioneer run game helped them ultimately pull away for the first state title in school history.

Harper Woods was up 27-7 early in the third quarter after senior wide receiver Ramonty Houze went untouched for a 90 yard touchdown. Then, with just under five minutes to go in the fourth quarter, Harper Woods found its lead cut to six after senior Sailor wide receiver Noah Funk caught a 12 yard touchdown.

South Christian was able to march down the field at the end of the game with a chance to win, but it ran out of time. The Harper Woods defense was led by senior defensive back Jacob Oden (Michigan commit), who had a team-high seven tackles.

Rod Oden, Harper Woods head coach and father of Jacob, said they knew South Christian wouldn’t make it easy.

“We knew it would be a hard fought contest,” Oden said. “That program has a championship pedigree. They’re the defending champs and we knew that they weren’t going to quit (and) were going to be relentless, and we knew it would probably come down to the wire. We tried to do our best to go up three scores to create some wiggle room, (but) you can’t do that with great teams.”

The Harper Woods offense was successful with almost everything it tried on Saturday. Junior Pioneer running back Donald Adams had 197 total yards on 19 touches, and senior running back Dwight Houston ran for 62 yards and a touchdown. Freshman wide receiver Dakota Guerrant had 84 yards and a touchdown on four receptions.

Harper Woods was operating with two quarterbacks for the most of the game in senior Stephone Buford and sophomore Nate Rocheleau. Buford, who also lined up at wide receiver, was more so used for his legs while Rocheleau was more of a traditional quarterback. 

Rocheleau finished with 210 yards and two touchdowns through the air, while Buford ended up with 46 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Buford also had three catches for 13 yards.

Junior Sailor quarterback Carson Vis got it done in almost every way possible. He accumulated 441 passing yards and two touchdowns on top of 72 yards and one touchdown on the ground. Vis was also incredibly hard to force into a mistake, as he had great pocket presence and threw the ball away when necessary. 

Senior Sailor wide receiver Jake Vermaas dominated the Harper Woods secondary, finishing with 10 catches for 196 yards and a touchdown.

South Christian head coach Danny Brown gave his quarterback a ton of credit following the loss.

“People ask a lot about what he does with the ball when the play breaks down, and I wish I could take credit for all of it,” Brown said. “He’s a unique player. Sometimes even us on the headset are just astonished by what he’s doing. I think a lot of it is (he’s) comfortable, likes the big moment, and really I think the game just slows down for him.”