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FOOTBALL: Stingy defense and timely scoring have the Bears in the D2 football semifinals

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Quarterback Kevin Matejko’s last pass of the night sailed high, high into the nighttime Wyandotte sky and time kind of stood still.

“The ball seemed to hang up there forever,” recalled Roosevelt football Coach Ron Adams.

In the end zone – the dark eastern end zone – only a portion of the ball was illuminated. It looked distorted, like a dim crescent moon hovering against the cloudy backdrop.

Brandon Sowards, open in the end zone – so wide open – concentrated on the ball. It wasn’t easy. Was it ever going to come down?

Sowards kept drifting toward the back of the end zone, following the flight of the football. The defensive backs, so badly beaten, were recovering now and closing in fast.

Tick, tick, was the damn ball ever going to get there?

Finally, it did and Sowards grabbed it, doubled clutched it to make sure and then let out a whoop.

The refs signaled touchdown and with a minute and a half to play, Roosevelt had its first lead of the night in its regional championship game against Oak Park.

The crowd exploded, the band played and it was high fives and hugs all up and down the Roosevelt side line.

It was a great moment. One of those timeless moments that players, fans and coaches alike will always remember.

But it was not the end of last Friday’s game.

Oak Park, a skilled and talented team, had some bullets left in the chamber and the Knights fired them all, racing back up the field in a single minute to threaten the Roosevelt goal line once again.

A 40-yard hitch-and-go pass got them to the Roosevelt 20-yard line and another pass got them inside the Roosevelt 10, but there the Bears said “no more,” and for the umpteenth time Friday night they kept the Knights out of the end zone when a score looked like a sure thing.

Oak Park ran four plays from inside the Roosevelt 10-yard line – a run and three passes – and did not come close to scoring. When the last pass hit the ground, well short of its intended target, Roosevelt had its victory and its second regional championship in 10 years.

This victory belonged to the defense, which gave up 300 total yards but stopped the Knights three times when they reached the Roosevelt 5-yard line.

Devan Stewart and Austin Petravicius each had outstanding pass break ups to thwart Oak Park scoring attempts and Andrew Noles had a huge sack to disrupt another.

Additionally, Petravicius had a pass interception in the game and the Bears also caused and recovered a fumble.

Last Friday’s game looked like trouble at the outset as Oak Park marched down the field, converting several crucial third down plays with relative ease and scoring on its first possession of the night.

The Knights moved smartly on their second possession, too, but when they got close to the goal line, Roosevelt rose up.

It was the start of a right where the Bears rose to the occasion time and again.

Dominating defense is nothing new for these Bears, who gave up 64 points in their only loss on Sept. 28 against Woodhaven and have been playing angry ever since.

Since their lone loss, the Bears have allowed just 40 points in their last six games and just six – against high-powered rivals Truman and Oak Park – in their last two.

This is a stingy D that will give up some yardage but very few points.

Oak Park, a fast, athletic, talented team that is used to scoring a lot, found that out the hard way.

Adams said he hoped that his team’s three-game playoff winning streak and berth in the Division 2 semifinals would earn some respect for the entire Downriver Area.

It should. The area deserves it.

Although no Downriver team owns a football state championship, Roosevelt is just the latest to drive deep into the MHSAA post-season.

Riverview went to the state finals in 2002 and Allen Park in 2003.

In addition, Allen Park made it to the semifinals in 2002 and 2004 and Grosse Ile matched that record with semis berths in 2004 and last year.

Wyandotte itself went to the semifinals as recently as 2002.

It seems to me that eight “Final Four” berths in the last decade or so speaks to the strength of football Downriver.

Roosevelt, which has won more games this season than any other football team in school history, has a chance to make more school history Saturday afternoon at Carlson High School. No Roosevelt team has ever been the state finals.

Defending state champ Birmingham Brother Rice stands in the Bears’ way.

Beating the Warriors will not be easy, but Adams said his team is ready to try.

“We’re excited,” he said. “This is a chance to compete against the best and we’re going to go about preparing as we always do and go out and give it a shot.”

Last Updated: 11/13/2012 3:52:33 PM EST