Dow High receiver Mike Robb had one of the best individual performances in the history of the Dow High-Midland High football rivalry on Friday night.
Robb, a 6-foot, 6-inch senior likely to play Division I football next year, had nine catches for 200 yards and four touchdowns, and returned an interception for a fifth score, leading the Chargers to an emphatic 49-28 victory over the Chemics in their annual season finale at Midland Stadium.
The victory gave Dow an 8-1 record and a full head of steam going into the playoffs next week, and dropped Midland, which is also playoff-bound, to 7-2. The two teams might face each other again next week.
“It’s a really emotional win for the school and for the program,” Robb said. “The coaches put us in spots to make plays, and we went out and made plays.”
“Mike had a whale of a night,” said Chargers’ coach Jason Watkins. “(Assistant) coach (John) Streeter challenged our veteran skill guys before the game and told them that big-time players make big plays in big games. And that’s what they did tonight.”
“It seemed like any time they needed a big play, they were able to find (Robb),” said Midland coach Eric Methner. “He’s been a playmaker all year, and he certainly was tonight.”
Dow junior quarterback Bruce Mann was excellent in his first Dow-Midland game, completing 16 of 19 passes for 307 yards and three TDs, and running for 61 yards and a score.
“I was real happy for him,” Watkins said. “I was happy for all our kids.”
The win gave Dow back-to-back victories against Midland for the first time since 1997.
“For them to execute on a big stage like this, I couldn’t be happier for the kids,” Watkins enthused. “They came out and got it done against a very good football team.”
Midland quarterback Payton DeWildt completed 24 of 34 for 216 yards and three TDs, including seven passes for 80 yards and a TD to Virgil Walker.
“Congratulations to Dow High. They played extremely hard,” Methner said. “We made a few plays, but they definitely made more plays than we did.”
The first half was a back-and-forth shootout, with Dow building a 21-14 halftime lead.
Midland drove 65 yards on the opening possession and scored on DeWildt’s 9-yard pass to Luke DeLong and the first of Gavin Archbold’s four extra points to take a 7-0 lead.
Dow answered right back with its own 65-yard drive and scored on Mann’s 16-yard strike to Robb over the middle, and the first of Johnny Wilson’s seven extra points tied the game at 4:42 of the first quarter.
After forcing a quick Chemics’ punt, Dow struck quickly with a 60-yard drive, capped by Mann’s 48-yard TD pass in stride to Devontae Stine down the left sideline for a 14-7 lead with a minute to go in the quarter.
Again, Midland answered with a 76-yard drive and tied the game on DeWildt’s 16-yard slant to Martin Money at 8:38 of the second quarter.
The Chargers then marched 92 yards on 12 plays and Mann took the ball into the end zone himself from 2 yards out for a 21-14 lead at 3:20.
Dow forced the first turnover of the game on Midland’s next possession, as Kevin Murray recovered Virgil Walker’s fumble at the Dow 39. But the Chemics’ defense held, and Dow went into halftime with the seven-point lead.
Mann had 205 total yards of offense in the first half, with 159 yards passing and 46 yards on the ground.
Dow took the second-half kickoff and again quickly drove down the field. On fourth-and-2 at the Midland 29, Mann came out of the game with a leg injury, but his backup, Josh Riepma, promptly threw a 29-yard scoring pass to Robb to make it 28-14.
A few possessions later, Dow took over at its own 25 after the Chemics turned it over on downs, and Mann, back in the game, immediately found Robb for a 75-yard TD, with Robb running about the final 50 yards after the catch to stretch the lead to 35-14.
The Chemics countered with a 30-yard TD pass from DeWildt to Walker to make it 35-21 in the final minute of the third quarter.
But Robb put the exclamation point on the Dow victory with two more scores: a 22-yard interception return for a TD, followed by a 17-yard touchdown reception on which he vaulted into the end zone to make it 49-21 with 7:15 left in the game.
Robb said he enjoyed getting a very rare chance to play defense.
“It was a big change for me, and it was a lot of fun,” he said with a smile. “Getting an interception like that is a once-in-a-career opportunity.”
The Chemics closed the scoring on Vondre Warren’s 8-yard TD run with 41 seconds left in the game.
Dow’s defense hit hard all night and rarely allowed Midland’s receivers to get many yards after the catch.
“They played fast and aggressive, and that was huge,” Watkins said of his defense.
Methner said his Chemics will need to improve in a couple of areas heading into the playoffs.
“I didn’t think we were very physical. We didn’t tackle well,” he said. “We didn’t run the ball very effectively at all until that final drive. It’s pretty tough when you’re just one-dimensional (on offense).”
Methner said Midland did protect DeWildt well and played well on special teams, but didn’t make enough big plays.
“They just made a lot more plays than us. That’s what it came down to,” he said.
Stine had three catches for 71 yards and a score for Dow.
For the Dow defense, Jared Mohammed had seven tackles and Spencer Stephenson and Eric Hus each had six tackles.
For Midland, Vince Walker had 11 tackles, including two sacks, and Grant Grenesko and Brodie Curley each had seven tackles.
Both teams will await Sunday night’s announcement of the playoff pairings, starting at 7 p.m. on Fox Sports Detroit.