Two-hundred seventy three yards on 17-of-32 passing attempts. A new state record of 7,559 yards. Four more games in the season. And to think Stevenson senior quarterback Jason Fracassa may not even play in college.
Friday night, Stevenson (5-0) proved that they were the team to beat this season and that they've earned their number one in the state rank with a 28-21 victory over the talented division rival Macomb Dakota (4-1).
Fracassa proved he's not just a great quarterback, but also a great leader and team player. "Without my coaches, offensive linemen, none of this would've been possible. It should be a team award."
"All the hard work we put in, once you put that hard work in you expect a lot from yourself because you don't do that hard work for nothing," Fracassa added. "We knew this wasn't just a game, we wanted to match their intensity. We did that and we just executed better."
Farmington Hills Harrison quarterback Mill Coleman had the previous record for passing yards in Michigan set in 1989. Coleman has been working with Fracassa for about four years. "It was in the back of my mind, but now that I've beat it I can't get the smile off my face. I want to give a major shoutout to my coaches, my dad and Mr. Coleman," Fracassa said. "It's a great opportunity to be with him and I think he's proud."
Fracassa got the offense going early and from all directions. The opening play was a 24-yard pass to senior Marcus Beaurem, follwed up with three more passing plays, a 12-yard run from senior runningback Justice Wright, and a 17-yard touchdown pass to senior James Deneweth.
Dakota tied the game up with just over a minute left in the first quarter, and then Fracassa took the ball back and went 4-for-6 passing for 66 yards and another touchdown, this time for Beaurem. Fracassa ran in a one-yard touchdown near the end of the half to put Stevenson up 21-7 going into the third quarter.
Fracassa wasn't the only one with impressive numbers though. Stevenson's defense, which this season was scoffed at as one of the weaker defenses that will ride the coattails of a stellar offense, proved they can play in big games, too. Several players stood out, but it was the team effort their defense put together that lead them to 10 sacks, including one in the final seconds deep in Dakota's zone, that made the difference.
"Our defense gets a bad rap because we play kids when we get a big lead," Titans coach Rick Bye said after the game. "But we knew we could stop these guys if we played. They're a very good team, they're a well-coached team."
The momentum shifted towards Dakota in the third quarter, returning the opening kick-off 96 yards for a touchdown and then forcing Stevenson to punt without a first down on the following possession. But senior outside linebacker Carl Davis blitzed inside and forced a fumble from Dakota's junior quarterback Mark Morris, and it was recovered by Titan senior Demetrus Heard. Six plays later, Wright ran in a 33-yard touchdown to put Stevenson up 28-14 and regained the momentum for good.
Bye said that the team changed their game-plan a bit for Dakota and ran packages of, "Five and six man blitzes, because he [Dakota quarterback Morris] can run, too."
"I told the kids our season doesn't end with a loss, it doesn't end with a win. It's a game in the middle of the season," Bye said. While just a game though, it was the test Stevenson needed to give them the confidence that will carry to the playoffs, where these two teams are likely to meet again.