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FOOTBALL: Practice begins around the state on the high school gridiron, promise abounds

By: Scott Burnstein, August 13, 2013, 9:00 am

The stampede to the practice field reverberated across the state Monday, as the training camp for the 2013 prep football season kicked-off.

Walled Lake Central was the first team in Metro Detroit to hit the gridiron, as Vikings head coach Bob Meyer staged his ninth-annual “Midnight Madness” practice, where the whole Central program goes at it in the their opening two practice-sessions of the season from 12:00 a.m. to 6: a.m., with a break for food and film time.

The Vikings will be spearheaded on the field this fall by the nifty junior skills-position tandem of dual-threat quarterback Nick Krumm and bruising tailback Zac Goor. Krumm is the son of former Michigan State and NFL defensive back Todd Krumm, a leader of the Spartans’ 1987-1988 Rose Bowl squad.

The majority of the rest of the area, including the state’s best overall team in Detroit Cass Tech, got going at the regular-time Monday Morning and now it’s off to the races in the trek for reservations at Ford Field and the state finals come Thanksgiving.

Cass Tech, the two-time defending state-champion in Division 1, enters the upcoming season ranked as high as No. 2 in all of the United States.

Head coach Thomas Wilcher’s Technicians already have more than a half-dozen players committed to Division I colleges. Junior quarterback Jayru Campbell just committed to Michigan State. Senior wide receiver-cornerback Damon Webb is committed to Ohio State, senior linebacker Deon Drake, like Campbell, is committed to Michigan State and incoming juniors Mike Weber (tailback) and Josh Alabi (defensive lineman) are a pair of the most-coveted recruits in their class.

While the state’s premiere team was tirelessly plying their trade on the gridiron Monday, the Mitten’s top two players were putting in work with the pigskin, as well.

University of Michigan-commit, Drake Harris (wide receiver), the state’s No. 1 player on offense, got going at Grand Rapids Christian out on the west side of the Mitten and Malik McDowell (defensive lineman), the state’s No. 1 player on defense, was made his much-hyped debut in pads at Southfield, his brand new home after a high-profile transfer last month from Detroit Loyola.

Both Harris and Grand Rapids Christian and McDowell and Southfield will have legitimate shots at appearing at Ford Field in November. Grand Rapids Christian is hoping for a repeat state crown in Division 3 and has a number of returning-starters on board for the effort. Besides Harris, Grand Rapids Christian offensive lineman Tommy Doles is headed for the Big 10 and will be suiting up for Northwestern in 2014.

Southfield (6-4 in 2012) has a dozen players on its current roster with college-scholarship offers, seven coming from the Division I ranks, four having already committed: defensive end Lawrence Marshall (Michigan), quarterback Jalen Brady (Bowling Green), offensive lineman Chukes Okorafor(Western Michigan) and wide receiver Jordan Billingslea (Western Michigan).

Two-time defending Division 2 state-champ Birmingham Brother Rice is sure to be an emotional fan-favorite in 2013 due to this being legendary head coach Al Fracassa’s final season at the helm of the program he personally constructed into a national powerhouse.

Just like Cass Tech, Fracassa and Brother Rice are searching for a “three-peat.”

Fracassa, who has been roaming the local high school sidelines since the early 1960s and is the state’s winningest coach of all-time, has sent more players to the NFL than any other coach in state history.

His 2013 team could be as prolific as any he’s coached in the past, especially on offense, where the Warriors have Division I-college recruits at multiple positions and will sport a balanced assault, headlined by heavily-recruited junior quarterback Alex Malzone.

Another returning state-title holder to keep an eye out for is Ithaca. The defending Division 6 state champion and it’s all-state signal-caller Travis Smith (Toledo) will have a solid chance at a second straight state title, with Smith now fully-healthy following missing the state finals last season with an injury experienced in the final four.

Birmingham Detroit Country Day, a club that will be fueled by a three-headed BCS monster, known as quarterback Tyler Wiegers (Rutgers), tailback Richie Wilson (Boston College) and wide receiver Maurice Ways (Michigan) and is seeking a return to the Division 5 state finals (eager to avenge a blowout-loss to Grand Rapids South Christian last year), traditionally spends the first week of practice in seclusion, out in the Northern Michigan wilderness or at an out-of-state locale.

Oak Park, the defending Oakland Activities Association White champion, and its head coach Greg Carter, practice at night during the first week, instead of the morning.