| Special to The Detroit News
After grabbing a 7-6 victory in the 2018 playoffs, Detroit King (6-3) was set for a Saturday rematch against the defending Division 3 champions River Rouge (7-1).
King, the 2018 Division 3 champion, was hoping to to repeat history.
It was not to be, as River Rouge’s Tayshaun Massey kicked a field goal in the closing moments to win the game, 33-30.
River Rouge came out firing on all cylinders to start the game, which is something River Rouge Coach Corey Parker said he felt his team needed to do if it were to win.
“We played fast early in the game. If we came out slow against a high-powered offense like King we were going to be in trouble,” Parker said.
Quarterback Mareyohn Hrabowski converted on third down twice for River Rouge on the opening drive, completing an 18-yard pass to Jalen Holly and then taking a 43-yard run to the house on third-and-3 just a few plays later to go up 6-0. River Rouge failed a two-point attempt.
Hrabowski, a Western Michigan commit, led the Rouge offense with 113 yards and three total touchdowns.
King (6-3) answered with a strong opening drive of its own, taking a 7-6 lead with 4:38 to go in the first on a 36-yard pass to Rahiim Mersier.
River Rouge (7-1) didn’t take long to regain the momentum, though, as Massey returned the ensuing kickoff to King’s 35.
King forced fourth-and-9 at its own 15, then jumped offside twice before a fourth-down play could be run. Daivon Hill opened the second quarter with a 3-yard touchdown run, giving River Rouge a 14-7 lead after a successful two-point attempt.
River Rouge made a fourth-down stop halfway through the second quarter, then took a 22-7 lead with 2:53 to go in the first half on a 9-yard touchdown pass to David Martin.
Moore started the 2-minute drill with a 12-yard completion, but a King fumble gave the ball right back to River Rouge with 2:19 left in the second quarter. King’s D’Juan Crudup sacked Hrabowsky for a loss of 11 on first down to effectively end River Rouge’s drive.
King opened the second half with a typically strong offensive push, and Parker said it was inevitable.
“In the second half we knew they were going to give their best version of us, so we had to match,” Coach Parker said.
With a 15-point deficit on the scoreboard, touchdowns from Mersier and Jaylon Reed would tie the score at 22 going into the fourth quarter.
After trading touchdowns and two-point conversions in the fourth quarter, Rouge would get the ball tied at 30.
A long run by Martin would put Rouge within field-goal range, but Rouge had yet to attempt a field goal or extra point during the game.
Wide receiver and second-string kicker Massey walked onto the field to attempt the kick, and Parker said he knew Massey was ready for the moment.
“Pressure is going to do one of two things, which is make diamonds or bust pipes. He’s kicked extra points for us and he’s a good player,” Parker said.
Massey knocked the field goal through to give Rouge the 33-30 win and a trip to the semi-finals. Rouge will take on Chelsea next, and Parker kept it simple when asked about what he expected from his players.
“It’s just all belief and perseverance. We had to give the best version of ourselves.”
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