by Graham Sturgeon, co-editor
The New Lothrop Hornets football team knocked off Madison Heights Madison 50-44 on Saturday, Nov. 24 at Ford Field in Detroit to capture the 2018 Division 7 state championship. The 94 combined points amassed by New Lothrop and Madison Heights Madison set a new record for most points scored in an MHSAA state championship football game.
In their first 13 games, the Hornets had outscored their opponents by an average of 29 points per game, including impressive victories over Division 6 playoff teams Maple City Glen Lake (48-16) and Montrose (51-12). In their 12 wins prior to Nov. 24, New Lothrop’s smallest margin of victory was 12 points, which came in the team’s 26-14 regional final victory over defending Division 7 state champion Pewamo-Westphalia.
Against Madison, for the first time all season, New Lothrop entered the 4th quarter tied, needing to outscore their opponent with the state championship on the line. Madison did not go down without a fight, scoring two touchdowns in the final frame, but quarterback Avery Moore and the Hornets punched back and outscored Madison 20-14 in the quarter to clinch the team’s first state championship since the undefeated 2006 team that won a Division 8 state championship.
Moore opened the 2nd quarter with his first touchdown of the game, running the ball into the end zone from five yards out. Moore would carry the ball a workmanlike 27 times throughout the championship game, totaling 132 yards on the ground, but the junior signal caller shined when it mattered most. With the game and season on the line, Moore and his gritty Hornets scored three 4th quarter touchdowns – all Moore rushes – to put the game out of reach.
Madison and quarterback Austin Brown were able to match New Lothrop’s athletic talent, so the Hornets relied on their discipline and sound fundamentals to provide the edge they needed. They committed only two penalties, they punted only once, they won the ever-important turnover battle 2-0, they blocked a punt and they scored the only special teams touchdown of the game, on Aidan Harrison’s 96-yard kickoff return in the 2nd quarter.
Moore led the Hornets with 132 rushing yards and four touchdowns, and the dual-threat star completed seven of 13 passes for 99 yards through the air. Harrison’s kickoff return touchdown was a big momentum changer, since it came only minutes after a touchdown by Madison had cut the New Lothrop lead to 20-16. Harrison also got the Hornets on the board first with a 36-yard rushing touchdown on New Lothrop’s opening offensive possession of the game.
Harrison finished with 93 yards rushing and a touchdown on 11 carries, giving the star wide receiver 197 all-purpose yards to lead the Hornets. Sophomore running back Will Muron added 57 yards rushing and a touchdown on 9 carries. Defensively, New Lothrop was paced by Austin Barnette, with seven tackles, and Jacob Graves, with six. Graves and Dylan Shaydik each recorded an interception, and Austin Wendling blocked Madison’s only punt attempt.