Home > Novi stuns unbeaten West Bloomfield, 31-28 | USA Today High School Sports

Novi stuns unbeaten West Bloomfield, 31-28 | USA Today High School Sports

Emanuel Jackson’s 256 all-purpose yards led Novi to a 31-28 playoff victory Friday over previously unbeaten West Bloomfield.

Emanuel Jackson’s 256 all-purpose yards led Novi to a 31-28 playoff victory Friday over previously unbeaten West Bloomfield.

Apparently 5-4 Novi didn’t get the memo they that were a big underdog going into Friday’s MHSAA Division 1 football playoff opener at 9-0 West Bloomfield.

Make that 6-4 overall now for the upstart Wildcats, who rode the jet legs of Emanuel Jackson and the accurate arm of quarterback Alec Bageris to stun the previously unbeaten Lakers, 31-28, in the Region 2-District 2.

And if it wasn’t the upset of state tourney so far, it was certainly the biggest surprise in the opening-round games in Division 1. It also moves the Wildcats into the district final beginning at 7 p.m. next Friday at Novi Detroit Catholic Central (8-2).

For Jackson, the 6-foot, 175-pound senior, it may have been his finest hour as he rushed for a game-high 189 yards on 25 carries and two touchdowns, while catching nine passes for another 75 yards and a TD.

“This one mattered the most because we were in the playoffs and it’s either go hard or go home,” said Jackson, who finished with 256 all-purpose yards. “And it’s my senior year. We just had to do it. We just had to get that ‘W.’ We got after them.”

For Bageris, the 6-3, 175-pound junior, it was another sterling effort as he completed 20-of-34 passes for 214 yards and two TDs. His offensive line also kept him upright as West Bloomfield was unable to register a sack.

“It’s not just me throwing, it’s just trusting my athletes,” Bageris said. “We got a lot of weapons out there. Obviously Emanuel Jackson is a helluva player. Anthony D’Annibale, number six … I just trust all my players. I feel comfortable throwing it up to them and they’ll go get it.”

With Novi clinging to a 24-21 advantage after West Bloomfield converted a fourth-and-two resulting in a 52-yard pitch and catch from Trishton Jackson to Garrett Winn with 9:39 left in the fourth, Bageris came up with a pair of clutch throws to put the Wildcats up again by 10 points.

On a third-and-20, Jackson made an acrobatic 27-yard grab, and on a third-and-12, Bageris hit Traveon Maddox for 13 yards and another first down to keep the drive going.

Then, on a third-and-goal from the 9, Bageris slipped a pass to Anthony D’Annibale for a 9-yard TD to put Novi up again by 10 points, 31-21, with 4:10 to go.

But the Lakers refused to fold and got a clutch fourth-and-12 pass over the middle for 39 yards and TD from Trishton Jackson to Evan Foster to make it a one-score game again, 31-28, with only 2:09 remaining.

The Lakers’ Navon Mosely then successfully recovered the onside kick at the Wildcats’ 29 just six seconds later giving West Bloomfield a short field armed with two timeouts.

“It was darn good and it kept rolling and rolling,” Novi coach Jeff Burnside said of the onside kick. “It was like in slow motion. You always hear about that, but it really was. They got it, but luckily our kids responded.”

Seemingly down-and-out facing a fourth-and-17 at the the Novi 34 with just under a minute to play, West Bloomfield tried some trickery as wide receiver and back-up QB Brandon Williams took the snap, then fired pass to Trishton Jackson, who was lined up as a wideout. Jackson, in turn, connected on a 32-yard pass to Winn all the way down to the Wildcats’ 2.

But the play was whistled back for an illegal forward pass and on the next play Novi defensive back Ryan Welch ended the suspense picking off a Trishton Jackson pass near the 10-yard line to clinch the victory

“It’s a tough loss for us, we were playing a team that was hot,” West Bloomfield coach Ron Bellamy said. “We played against a team we haven’t seen all year long. This quarterback (Bageris) is the real deal. They had an unbelievable scheme. You got to give Novi credit. They came in here and they didn’t have any worries in the world. People didn’t expect them to win, no pressure on them and I thought they did a good job defensively in the first three quarters. They were in position. We played pitch and catch and they just did a phenomenal job.”

Things, however, started off precariously for Novi, which gambled on a fourth-and-inches on its own 31 on their first possession, but got stuffed short of the first down.

The Lakers, despite getting an offensive pass interference call to nullify a TD, struck five plays later on a 3-yard TD run by Darrian Sanders. Aakif Lodhi converted the PAT for a 7-0 advantage with 8:12 to go in the first quarter.

Novi then put together a long drive going 71 yards in nine plays down to the Lakers’ 1, but the Wildcats couldn’t punch it in on three downs. And following offsetting 5-yard penalties, Novi got on the board thanks to a 23-yard Blake King field goal with 1:50 remaining in the same period.

The Wildcats got a big play on fourth-and-11 when Bageris led Jackson beautifully to the left corner of the end zone for a 20-yard TD pass with only 1:11 left in the half. King’s PAT gave Novi the lead 10-7.

Novi’s defense excelled during the first half limiting the Lakers to only 116 total yards as Nick Sabo finished with night with nine tackles, while Scott Latham added six.

The Wildcats got a big play on fourth-and-11 when Bageris led Jackson beautifully to the left corner of the end zone for a 20-yard TD pass with only 1:11 left in the half. King’s PAT gave Novi the lead 10-7.

And that carried through into the third quarter as Novi went up 17-7 with 6:23 left when Jackson scored on a 1-yard run to cap a nine-play, 88-yard drive that was kept alive by a 32-yard pass from Bageris to D’Annibale on fourth-and-9.

But things went a little haywire in the final quarter as West Bloomfield’s Davion Johnson burst through the middle for 80 yards and a TD on the first play of the period to cut the deficit to 17-14.

But less than a minute later, Emanuel Jackson answered for Novi with a 65-yard TD run to make it 24-14.

“I was tired, but I got the ball in my hands and tried to make it happen,” Jackson said. “Snap got to me and I just took it. My offensive line, I love them. They’re my buddies. I got to take them out to eat after this game. I’m happy.”

Meanwhile, West Bloomfield, facing a fourth-and-2, scored with 9:39 left to pull within three, 24-21, after Trishton Jackson threw a short screen pass to Winn, who manuevered through a sea of Novi tacklers for a 52-yard TD.

“They started wearing us down,” Burnside said of the frenzied fourth quarter. “When you’re running around after that kid (Trishton Jackson), you start getting tired. They somewhat platooned and we got the ‘Dirty 30,’ that’s what we go with. We got a lot of kids going both ways. We just got tired towards the end.”

But Novi was able to weather the storm and come up with the victory as they outgained the Lakers in total offense (421-374) and first downs (17-10).

“This such a great group,” Burnside said. “This group of seniors I’m so dang proud of them because they were 1-17 through their freshman and JV years, and now they’re leading us and we get our first playoff victory since 2007. I’m so dang proud of this team. I love this group of boys.”

And the Wildcats were able to match West Bloomfield’s athleticism throughout the four quarters.

“We’ve got some playmakers, we’ve got a good quarterback,” Burnside said. “Al is phenomenal. Anthony D’Annibale is phenomenal. Obviously Emanuel is Emanuel. Traveon Maddox made some great plays for us.”

And while Trishton Jackson, a Michigan State commit, was 19-of-31 passing for 216 yards and two TDs, it was Emanuel Jackson who tipped the scales in Novi’s favor.

“I’m hoping I can sneak out three more years of eligibility is what I’d like to do,” Burnside said of his Western Michigan commit. “Phenomenal kid. He’s a great football player and even a better person. I love that kid to death. He’s been so important for us to get this thing going. But the thing is, as I talked to him today, I said, ‘E,’ are you ready to go?’ He’s says, ‘Coach, the team is ready to go.’ What guy says something like that? To me it’s absolutely amazing.”

And it was an amazing Novi victory for sure.

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