Novi racks up 558 total yards, looks to make consecutive playoff appearances
Novi – Jeff Burnside and Novi experienced a breakthrough season in 2015.
Novi hadn’t qualified for the state playoffs since 2008 and hadn’t won a playoff game since ’07.
The Wildcats upset a 9-0 West Bloomfield team, 31-28, in the first round of the Division 1 playoffs before losing to Detroit Catholic Central, 49-35.
This is Burnside’s fourth season as Novi’s head coach and his offense picked up where it left off last season as Novi had a record-setting 49-28 victory over Hartland in a Kensington Lakes Activities Association crossover last Thursday.
Alec Bageris is a three-year starter at quarterback and he set a school record by throwing six touchdown passes, all to Anthony D’Annibale. The receiving touchdowns are also a school record.
“This group of kids are pretty close,” Burnside said. “They’re fun to be around and really do practice well. They are senior dominated and we have a great mixture of big and strong o-lineman (all five can bench 300 pounds and squat 500), and are dynamic perimeter players. All of them had a great off season in the weight room. They are a fun bunch.”
Many predicted that West Bloomfield would make a long run in the playoffs, possibly getting past Detroit C.C. for what would have been the school’s first district title. But Novi jumped out to an early lead before hanging on for the victory.
“I know some people look at that game as a fluke,” Burnside said. “We were starting all underclassmen last year with the exception of six seniors. It doesn’t matter how talented you are. It does take some time to get that varsity game speed. We were playing very well down the stretch last year (won five of its last six to qualify at 5-4) and knew that if we didn’t make mistakes, we could play with anyone. That win, along with the CC loss, has fueled our offseason. There has been a great deal of enthusiasm towards this year and I think the way it ended last year has led to increased confidence to start this season.”
The catalyst is Bageris. His experience is invaluable. He raised his level of play once past the halfway point last season as Bageris made the throws needed in key situations. He was 15-of-21 against Hartland for 324 yards.
“He was putting the ball in tight windows and put the receivers in good position to make plays,” Burnside said.
D’Annibale had 12 receptions for 223 yards last week and is complimented by the 6-4 Tray Maddox, another deep threat for the Wildcats. The two have the ability to out-leap defenders and make the spectacular play.
Novi also runs the ball effectively. Nathan Hankerson had 161 yards rushing and one touchdown. This is just his second season playing football.
Novi had 558 total yards.
“(Hankerson) had a tremendous offseason and has really blossomed as a running back,” Burnside said. “I am not sure how to defend us. We have a very good offensive line and with two tremendous wide receivers and a great tailback. If you load the box, we will throw. If you double team a receiver, we will run. I think we are very difficult to defend.”
Defensively, Novi needs seasoning. Many starters gained experience last season but the[i]secondary is raw.
“We are replacing a great pair of safeties,” Burnside said. “We ask a lot from our safeties. We just need to get faster in those positions.”