FENTON — It’s hard to top the performance Mike Robb had two weeks earlier, but he gave it a great shot Friday night.
The 6-foot-6 senior caught two of Bruce Mann’s five touchdown passes, blocked a punt and intercepted a pass for 10th-ranked Dow High in a 41-14 victory over Fenton in a Division 2 district championship football game.
For most players, this would’ve been hands-down the best game of their careers. For Robb, it has become the norm.
Robb caught four touchdown passes and returned an interception for a touchdown in the regular-season finale against Midland High. He also returned an interception for a touchdown in the rematch with Midland in the first round of the playoffs.
“It’s exciting,” said Robb, who caught seven passes for 114 yards against Fenton. “I want to say I’m more of a consistent player, but I’ve had some outbursts the past couple of weeks.”
If Robb and Mann continue playing at an elite level, this could be a very special month for the Chargers.
It’s already a season to remember. By beating Fenton, Dow advances to the third round of the playoffs for the first time since 1997. It’s only the third time in school history that Dow has won two playoff games in the same season. The other two teams played for state championships. In 1976, Dow won both of its postseason games to become Class A champions when the playoffs were only two rounds. The 1997 team won three games before losing to Farmington Hills Harrison in the Class A title game.
“It’s a big win for the development of the program,” Dow coach Jason Watkins said. “Since 2010, this is our fourth trip to this round; we came away empty each time. It’s nice to be able to finish that and get that district championship. It’s a good landmark for us. Let’s try to grow the program.”
Dow’s season will continue in the regional championship game next week at second-ranked Walled Lake Western (11-0), a 34-21 winner over Birmingham Groves.
“It feels great,” Dow senior receiver Justin Cook said. “I’ve been on two losing teams in the district finals the past two years. The third time’s the charm, I guess. It feels really good to finally get the win. We’re clicking at the right time. We’re getting better each week.”
It didn’t take long for Robb to make an impact on the game. On the fourth play from scrimmage, he hauled in a pass from Mann in full stride at the 50-yard line and took it all the way for a 69-yard touchdown just 50 seconds into the contest.
“One of our goals was to jump on them as fast as we can,” said Mann, who was 16 for 29 for 261 yards. “That’s just what we did.”
Dow was more methodical on its next drive, but the result was the same. The Chargers went 50 yards in 10 plays, making it 14-0 on a 14-yard pass from Mann to Justin Cook with 5:20 left in the first quarter.
The Chargers tried to catch Fenton off-guard on the ensuing kickoff, going for an onside kick. Matt Myers recovered for Fenton at Dow’s 48-yard line. The Tigers took advantage, taking nine plays to reach the end zone on a 3-yard run by Dylan Crankshaw. Fenton kept the drive alive when Troy Smigielski threw an 18-yard pass to Myers on a fake punt.
Dow regained its 14-point advantage when Mann connected with Robb for a 12-yard touchdown with 5:27 left in the second quarter.
The punting game that gave Fenton a lift on its touchdown drive hurt the Tigers when Robb blocked a punt to set up Dow at the opponents’ 27-yard line. Dow had its third four-play touchdown drive of the game, with Mann rolling left to avoid the rush and hitting Hus in the end zone for a 27-yard touchdown with 4:12 left in the first half.
Dow moved to Fenton’s 21-yard line in the closing seconds of the first half before a 38-yard field goal attempt by Johnny Wilson went side left as time expired.
Mann was responsible for 256 of Dow’s 266 yards in the first half. He was 10-for-20 for 197 yards and four touchdowns, while running 10 times for 59 yards.
An interception by Robb and a personal foul on the return by Fenton gave Dow the ball at the Tigers’ 13-yard line with 10:40 left in the third quarter. Two plays later, Johnny Wilson made it 35-7 with a 2-yard run.
It was the fourth interception in the last three games for Robb, who didn’t play defense until the regular-season finale against Midland.
“He’s always been a special teams and offensive player for us,” Watkins said. “We only moved him up to defense two weeks ago. It’s something we saw in the scheme of things and the teams we were playing against. There was an opportunity to use his athleticism and some of his natural instincts. He’s been on a pretty good little run the last couple weeks.”
“Right time, right place,” Robb said of his four interceptions in three games.
Defensively, Josh Riepma led Dow with 10.5 tackles. Brad Drenckpohl had 9.5. Jared Mohammed and Robb both had an interception.
In the second half, the Tigers showed flashes of the form that carried them to a nine-game winning streak. they marched 79 yards in 16 plays, but failed to score on three straight runs from the 1-yard line in the third quarter. On their next drive, the Tigers broke the goal line on a 4-yard run by Shane Kolinski with 1:50 left in the third quarter.
Mann got his fifth touchdown pass with 5:38 left in the game when he threw a screen pass to Wilson, who took off for a 22-yard score.
Dow has beaten Fenton twice in three playoff meetings over the past six seasons. Fenton won 24-0 in 2010 before Dow won 30-21 two years ago.
“This is the most skilled (Dow) team we’ve seen,” Fenton coach Jeff Setzke said. “That quarterback (Mann) is very good. He always gives his guys a chance to catch the ball. He’s an elusive athlete. He can create time when he needs it.”
The Tigers tried to control the game on the ground, with Crankshaw running 22 times for 91 yards.
Fenton (9-2) has won nine games in four of the last five years, but has never won 10 games in school history.