In Play with Tom Markowski

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De La Salle heads into the Division 2 playoffs with momentum

By: Tom Markowski, October 25, 2017, 4:19 pm

Warren – Mike Giannone was as confused and bewildered as his players following Warren DeLaSalle’s 36-6 loss to Lowell in the season opener.

Giannone knew then that he needed to display a positive face or risk losing his team’s trust and motivation.

Giannone is in his second season as DeLaSalle’s head coach. He built Macomb Dakota into a state power and had hopes of carrying on what has been a fine tradition at DeLaSalle.

Last season was a bust. The Pilots finished 4-5 and were picked to finish in fourth in the four-team Catholic League Central Division.

The Lowell game was a disaster leaving DeLaSalle supporters disappointed if not surprised.

“(Lowell) surprised us in some of the things they did,” Giannone said. “It was like, here we go again and I kind of felt that way, too. Things turned around when we went to Grandville. Then it was maybe we’re better than what we thought.”

A season can’t be decided by one drive but the first drive of the Grandville game did spark a fire for the Pilots. DeLaSalle stopped Grandville on a fourth-and-1 on the Grandville 29-yard line which led to a DeLaSalle field goal and Pilots went on to dominate the game, 31-0.

That game turned the tide. DeLaSalle won its next four to move to 5-1 before losing to Erie (Pa.) Cathedral Prep, 33-23. The next week the Pilots clinched the Central Division title with a 20-6 victory over Detroit Catholic Central and had the play the Shamrocks again for the league title at Ford Field. The Pilots responded again with a 35-14 victory and head to the Division 2 playoffs with a full head of steam.

DeLaSalle (7-2) will play at Ferndale (8-1) on Friday in a predistrict and should it win that game the Pilots would play for a district title against the winner of the Roseville-Port Huron Northern game.

Statistically, the Pilots are not impressive. Their leading ball carrier, Cordell Tannyhill, has rushed for 483 yards and their top receiver (Jacob Badalamenti) has 14 receptions.

It’s on the defensive side where DeLaSalle has been especially effective. Devin Campbell has 60 tackles and two fumble recoveries. Jacob Dobbs has 66 tackles including four sacks. Since the Lowell game DeLaSalle has allowed just 95 points.

Personnel-wise the major addition from last season is senior quarterback Luke Pfromm. Pfromm played football as a freshman but concentrated on basketball the last two seasons. Giannone met with varsity basketball coach Greg Esler during the offseason to discuss the means by which Pfromm could play both.

“We’re not fighting for kids,” Giannone said. “We’re getting kids involved with the athletic program.

“Greg’s on board with Luke playing (football). Greg went to the Lowell game and made the trip to Grandville, too.

“Having Luke has made a large difference. He came in and competed. It wasn’t his job. He had to earn it. He didn’t miss any 7-on-7s. He did miss a couple of weightlifting workouts because of basketball.”

Pfromm is 6-5 and moves well for a player his size and with his lack of experience. He’s thrown for 1,042 yards and nine touchdowns. He’s rushed for 140 yards and six touchdowns.

To have success a team must have a bit of luck on their side and that’s true with DeLaSalle. In its 42-14 victory over Dearborn Divine Child there was a play that didn’t go as planned but worked as well as any as the coaching staff called all season.

“It was near the end of the half,” Giannone said. “And could have used a touchdown before halftime. So we’re lined up and one of the officials start yelling at me to get one of our receivers off the line. He was too close and (the official) had been telling that receiver all game to get off the line and now he was yelling at me. So I start yelling (at his receiver), ‘Vaillancourt! Vaillancourt! Vaillancourt!’ (Pfromm) thought I was yelling at him to throw to (Evan) Vaillancourt. And he throws a touchdown to him. So at halftime my receivers’ coach comes to me and said (Pfromm) wasn’t making his right read and what the heck is going on?

“Some things are just working out for us.”

Whatever works.