When quarterback Isaiah Marshall crossed the goal line at Ford Field with 47 seconds left in the Division 1 state championship, scoring the go-ahead touchdown for Southfield High School for Arts and Technology, it was more than just a play that marked the dethroning of two-time defending champion Belleville.
It also may have elevated the Kansas commit to the title of the state’s top football player, the last salvo in a head-to-head battle with Belleville junior quarterback Bryce Underwood who had led the Tigers to a 38-game win streak.
“Just a little bit,” Marshall said when asked if he was trying to prove he was the state’s best. “I do think I’m the best quarterback, the best player in the state. So me proving that and showing what I can do on the big stage, shows that, I think.”
A panel of statewide sports writers agreed. Following his 415-yard performance in A&T’s 36-32 win, Marshall was named the Michigan Associated Press Division 1-2 football Player of the Year.
Underwood joins him as first-team quarterback at a position group so loaded with talent that Notre Dame commit C.J. Carr of Saline is a second-team player.
Marshall led the Warriors to a handful of heart-stopping finishes as a senior, with one-score wins in each of their first four games and last-second scores in each of the final two games of the postseason to win the first football crown for any Southfield school.
“He’s a special kid," Southfield A&T coach Aaron Marshall said of his nephew. "It’s who he is. It’s who he is off the field that makes him great on the field. We do a lot of things where it's take care of life and life will take care of you. The moment is never too big for him. I mean, he’s always even-keeled, even when things are going good. He’s never too high. … They talk about that moxie for a quarterback or that poise. He has those intangibles, for sure.”
It was the final high school game in the four-year career for Marshall, who amassed 9,934 passing and 3,157 rushing yards and a combined 159 touchdowns, with 55 scores and 4,621 yards coming as a senior.
Teammate Tashi Braceful hauled in 31 touchdowns from Marshall over the years, including one on 10 catches in the title game, earning a receiver spot on the All-State first team.
“I knew when my number was called, I had to make plays,” Braceful said. “But that’s easy when you’ve got the best quarterback in the state throwing to you.”
The first-team running backs are Grandville’s Jayden Terry, Caledonia’s Brock Townsend, Lake Orion’s Billy Roberson II, East Lansing’s Jace Clarizio and Gibraltar Carlson’s Izaiah Wright. The receivers include Saginaw Heritage’s record-setting Braylon Isom, Clinton Township Chippewa Valley’s DeShaun Lanier and Rochester Adams’ Brady Prieskorn, while Brighton’s Braeden Chiles is the kicker.
The offensive linemen are Detroit Cass Tech’s Khalief Canty, Portage Northern’s Gregory Patrick, Birmingham Groves’ Avery Gach and Rockford’s Alex McPhee, while the defensive linemen are West Bloomfield’s Brandon Davis-Swain, Cass Tech’s Noah Bishop, Muskegon’s Stanley Cunningham and Saline’s Isaiah Harris.
The linebackers are Belleville’s Jeremiah Beasley, Clarkston’s Desman Stephens II, Davison’s Carter Herriman and East Kentwood’s Stellan Bowman. The defensive backs include West Bloomfield’s Jamir Benjamin, M’Khi Guy of Muskegon, Warren De La Salle’s Kandakai Sherman Jr. and Northville’s Cullen Murphy.
Portage Northern’s Avery Kucharski is the punter, while Rockford’s Isaac Poot, Belleville’s Adrian Walker and Portage Northern’s Jadyn Walker share the specialist spot.
Muskegon’s Shane Fairfield is the coach of the year after leading the Big Reds to the program’s 900th win and seventh state title in the Division 2 championship.