Pilots shut down No. 4 Davison

DETROIT, Mich. - When a team comes into your house averaging 50-plus points a game and all the momentum in the world, what are you supposed to do?

Just ask De La Salle Collegiate senior cornerback Ricky Pearson and the rest of his teammates.

Pearson intercepted Davison quarterback Brendan Sullivan on the Cardinals' first play from scrimmage, setting the tone for what would be a dominating defensive effort in the Pilots' 22-0 victory Friday night at Tom Adams Field in Detroit.

"We knew they were going to try something big on that first play, and that's what they did," Pearson said. "I just tried to make a play and come up big for the team. And that got some momentum for the team."

It was one of four De La Salle interceptions on the night. Seniors Daniel Triglia and Justin Desmet, along with junior Tyler Gerling, also picked off Sullivan passes, as the Pilots held the junior in check all night long. Sullivan entered the game with 1,648 yards passing through the team's first six games, which also included 23 touchdown passes and just three interceptions.

"We talked about (their offense) all week," said Pearson, who finished with six tackles. "They've put 60 points up against good teams. But I feel like our defense is a much better defense. We're the best defense in the state and that's what we proved tonight - against the best offense in the state."

The interceptions by Pearson, Triglia, and Gerling all came in the first half, with Triglia and Gerling's picks taking place in the second quarter when the Pilots outscored the Cardinals 19-0. Triglia's 52-yard interception return led to a 32-yard field goal by senior Daniel Heppler. Gerling's came with just over a minute left to play in the red zone, keeping Davison off the scoreboard.

De La Salle scored both of its touchdowns in the second quarter. Junior running back Brett Stanley scored from three yards out on the first play of the second quarter to get things going for his team. Senior running back Muzzie Kahari tacked on a two-point conversion to give his team an 8-0 lead. 

The Pilots added to the lead on its next possession, as Stanley broke through a big gap in the line, then made a spin move past a Davison linebacker and scampered 53 yards for the touchdown. The extra point was botched, but Heppler salvaged the play, finding sophomore Gavin Grzywacz in the end zone for the two-point conversion. 

"That team scores what, 50 points a game?" Stanley asked after the game. "The defense shut them out. Offensively, we dominated. The offensive line blocked well. We were just on them the whole game. (Davison's) linebackers were big and when we got to that second level, we just had them. And it helped all of our running backs do really well tonight.

"It's just confidence. It's in the huddle when we're just talking it up. It just provides motivation every time." 

Stanley finished with 63 yards rushing and another 48 receiving. Senior Anthony Stepnitz completed 6-of-11 passes for 78 yards. Heppler added a 39-yard field goal late in the game to cap off the scoring.

De La Salle entered Friday night's game having allowed just seven points a game over its previous five contests. For the season, the Pilots are allowing just 10.9 points per game - and that includes the 41 they surrendered in a 41-7 season-opening loss to unbeaten Muskegon. Take away that game and the team has allowed just 5.8 points per game this year.

De La Salle head coach Mike Giannone heard all the talk about Davison's high-octane defense entering the game and said it provided plenty of motivation for his defense. 

"I think it did because everyone was saying they were averaging 55 a game and they were going to put half (a hundred) on us," he said. "They were saying our defense wasn't that good, our corners can't play with these guys, this and that. We weren't buying in, we weren't drinking that Kool-Aid. We thought our guys were pretty good and I think they showed it tonight."

Sophomore Will Beesley led De La Salle's defense with 11 total tackles, including 1 1/2 for a loss. Desmet had five tackles and Dylan Wilson and Gerley finished with five each. Beesley, Dylan Weaver, and Bryan Schneider all had a sack in the victory. With the win, the Pilots improve to 4-3 overall. 

"This is a big win, we really needed it," Pearson said. "We had a rough start to the season but these two wins against CC and undefeated Davison were good. We needed that and now we're onto U-D Jesuit and looking to keep things going."

With three losses, the Pilots' margin for error is very slim. But the win over Davison was big for a number of reasons, according to Giannone.

"This could have gone either way," the coach explained. "My thinking was even if we didn't win this game, but we played really well, it would give us some momentum heading into our last two. But when you play really well and you win the game, now we really have some momentum going into the last two. We're going to feed off of that."

De La Salle will face Detroit U-D Jesuit this upcoming Saturday at Ford Field (6 p.m.). It will wrap up the season with an opponent yet to be determined.

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