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Southfield to reach first state final

By: Tom Markowski, November 19, 2014, 3:27 pm

Southfield – Talent-rich Southfield (9-3) will face a Warren De La Salle team that upset top-ranked Birmingham Brother Rice last week in a Division 2 semifinal on Saturday at Novi High School at 1 p.m.

Except for Detroit Cass Tech, no program can match the talent Southfield has had the last five or six years. This talent hasn’t always produced successful seasons.

Take last year for example. The Bluejays had two of the best linemen in the country, Malik McDowell (Michigan State) and Lawrence Marshall (Michigan), yet lost in the first round of the playoffs.

That team drew a lot of attention but didn’t live up to expectations, fairly or unfairly placed upon them.

This year’s Southfield team has exceeded expectations and is one victory away from playing for what would be the school’s first football title.

“Last year was such an incredible team,” Southfield coach Tim Conley said. “They had overwhelming depth. There’s depth on this year’s team too.

“It’s something we had to learn from. The media attention was overwhelming, for them and me. They are different teams. This one is more close-knit. We’ve always had talent here. People we judge us on how we do. It’s probably not good enough until we win a state championship.”

A fact that has helped the coaching staff manage this team is the number of players on varsity. Last year Southfield had 71. This year it’s 54, a more manageable number. The numbers remain strong in the program (185), it’s just that this year they are more evenly spread out.

Southfield’s strength is its secondary where Dior Johnson and Ray Buford top a list of college prospects. Johnson committed to Wake Forest and Buford to Minnesota, and both play receiver.

Two others defensive backs (Ja’Mar Antwine, Central Michigan, and Davonte Ginwright, Western Michigan) have also committed to Division I schools. 

Southfield’s depth at running back has also come into play. Matt Falcon, a junior who has received a dozen scholarship offers from Division I schools, suffered a knee in midseason and is out. Step in Adrian Carter, a 5-9, 175-pound senior, who has rushed for 380 yards in the last three games. Carter committed to Austin Peay.

Southfield does have the ability to throw the ball. Quarterback Kanye Harris has thrown four touchdown passes in the playoffs. But the Bluejays like to keep it on the ground, especially with weather conditions deteriorating in November.

De La Salle (9-3) defeated Southfield in the 2008 semifinals and in the region finals the following year so there is some history between the schools.

“It’s a big challenge for us,” Conley said. “When we’ve played Catholic schools in the past we’ve been outclassed on the line of scrimmage. When we played them back then we had the athletes. We didn’t have the line play. That’s been a point of emphasis this week.”                 PICK: Southfield by 4.


All games are Saturday at 1 p.m. unless noted.


Division 2

Muskegon Mona Shores (11-1) vs. Farmington Hills Harrison (10-2) at Howell: It’ll Harrison’s stout defense against Mona Shores quarterback Tyree Jackson and the spread offense. Mona Shores has a number of players who are able to make big plays offensively but what has been overlooked is the play of Mona Shores’ defense, which has allowed 28 points in three playoff games.             PICK: Mona Shores by 8.


Division 1


Detroit Cass Tech (12-0) vs. Saline (11-1) at Troy Athens: These teams met in the 2012 region finals and Cass Tech won, 21-14. Both teams are physical and both feature a playmaker. Cass Tech has running back Mike Weber, Jr., and Saline has quarterback Josh Jackson.               PICK: Cass Tech by 7.


Clarkston (12-0) vs East Kentwood (11-1) at Brighton: It should come as no surprise that this is the first time these teams have played. This will be just the second time Clarkston has played a team from Kent County (Wolves lost to Rockford 25-14 in 2012 region final). Both teams like to run the ball and it’s difficult to imagine either defense stopping the run completely. Clarkston quarterback D.J. Zezula could be the difference.            PICK: Clarkston by 8.


Division 3


New Boston Huron (11-1) vs. Orchard Lake St. Mary’s (10-2) at Dearborn: St. Mary’s will look to establish the run out of its wishbone offense. Huron must concentrate on this part of St. Mary’s game first, and worry about the pass second. It’s been a historic year for Huron but the Chiefs are up against it here.              PICK: St. Mary’s by 19.


Muskegon (11-1) vs. Zeeland West (12-0) at Rockford: Here you have the Division 2 finalist (Muskegon) against the defending Division 3 champion. Both teams will run the ball 90 percent of the time. Muskegon’s team speed will cause the Dux problems.                     PICK: Muskegon by 8.


Division 4


Detroit Country Day (8-4) vs. Lansing Sexton (12-0) at Fenton: Country Day continues to play solid defense as evident by its 21-0 victory over Chelsea. Sexton’s offense is more efficient than that of Chelsea. Also, Sexton lost in the semifinals last season and its focus this season was to get past this round regardless.                  PICK: Sexton 14.


Edwardsburg (11-1) vs. Grand Rapids South Christian (10-2) at Jackson Withington Stadium, 3: Quarterback Jon Wassink is a slick operator for South Christian. If South Christian is to get to the final it must contain an Edwardsburg offense that rushed for 424 yards last week. Edwardsburg has outscored its last four opponents 46-15.              PICK: South Christian by 6.


Division 5


Almont (12-0) vs. Lansing Catholic Central (12-0) at Ortonville Brandon: Quarterback Tony Poljan accounted for six touchdowns last week for C.C. Almont will likely have to score 35 points or more to stay close.                   PICK: C.C. by 12.


Grand Rapids West Catholic (12-0) vs. Menominee (12-0) at Marquette Superior Dome, 11 a.m.: A rematch of last year’s state final won by West Catholic. Quarterback Travis Russell is West Catholic’s playmaker. Menominee gave up 538 yards to Freeland last week. Could be a high-scoring game.              PICK: W. Catholic by 9.


Division 6


Boyne City (12-0) vs. Ithaca (12-0) at Midland, 2: Ithaca had to come from behind to beat Madison Heights Madison last week so its 68-game winning streak could be in jeopardy. Boyne City has six shutouts this season.              PICK: Ithaca by 8.



Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian (11-1) vs. Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central (11-1) at Battle Creek Harper Creek: SMCC wrecked many final brackets when it took down Jackson Lumen Christi last week, 27-26. This team is good enough to win it all. SMCC’s last title came in 1991.             PICK: SMCC by 11.       



Division 7


Detroit Loyola (12-0) vs. Pewamo-Westphalia (10-2) at Jackson Withington Stadium, 11 a.m.: Loyola was tested for a little over a half last week. Can’t see that happening here.           PICK: Loyola by 24.

Ishpeming (11-0) vs. Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary (11-1) at Marquette Superior Dome, 2: Ishpeming had trouble with Traverse City St. Francis last week needing a touchdown late to put the game away. Lutheran Seminary’s only loss was at Ithaca this season.               UPSET SPECIAL: Lutheran Seminary by 4.


Division 8

Beal City (10-2) vs. Munising (11-1) at Marquette Superior Dome, Fri., 7: This is Munising’s best season since 1980 when it finished 12-0 and won the Class C title. Munising has five shutouts and four other times it gave up just six points. Beal City’s superior schedule is the difference.             PICK: Beal City by 7.


Harbor Beach (12-0) vs. Muskegon Catholic Central (12-0) at Alma College: Both teams have dominated their opponents. Harbor Beach has five shutouts and held six other opponents to one touchdown. C.C. has had four unbeaten seasons since the playoffs began in ’75 and this season it set a school record for points (578) in 12 games.                   PICK: C.C. by 16.              


Last week’s record: 27-5

Season record: 97-55