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FOOTBALL: Tons of top-notch talent on tap for upcoming border war, MHSFCA announce state’s roster

By: Scott Burnstein, February 11, 2014, 10:00 am

Buckeye State beware, Michigan is coming for ya and its’ locked and loaded.

The Michigan High School Football Coaches Association announced the state’s 40-man roster for the inaugural Michigan-Ohio Border Classic over the weekend and it’s a line-up that is stacked to the gills with high-caliber, Division I college talent.

The first-annual border war will take place June 14 on the campus of the University of Findlay in Ohio, an event that replaces the three decade-plus East-West All-Star Game, which in latter- years had begun encountering difficulty attracting the state’s biggest names.

Head coach Mike Zdebski of Walled Lake Western, who last summer led the East squad to a commanding victory in the final intra-state game, knew that couldn’t be the case if Michigan wanted to have a chance in the new series against Ohio, a state known for pumping out piles of Blue-Chippers year-in and year-out.

“We went after the best out there, that’s what we needed to do in order to put our strongest foot forward and compete at the highest-level,” he said.

The offense is set to be in the hands of some very capable quarterbacks; Wake Forest-signee Travis Smith (Ithaca) and Rutgers-signee Giovanni Rescigno (Warren De La Salle). Smith is one of the state’s all-time most prolific field generals, winning three state titles and never losing a game behind center as a prepster.

Rushing the ball will be workhorse Ian Eriksen (Clarkston), the leading-rusher in Oakland County the past two years and fresh off signing with Eastern Michigan and winning a state championship himself back in November.

Slated to be catching passes from Smith and Rescigno is an ultra-reliable receiving corps, led by Pittsburgh-signee, Avonte Maddox (Detroit King), Ball State-signee Corey Lacanaria (Birmingham Brother Rice) and Marquian Johnson (Clawson), signed with Saginaw Valley State and Oakland County’s leading receiver the last two seasons.

Michigan State-signee Nick Padla (Berrien Springs) will anchor the offensive line and the star-studded Southfield duo of Malik McDowell and Lawrence Marshall and Navy-signee Dylan Roney (Novi Detroit Catholic Central) will pace the defensive line and pass-rush attack. McDowell, the only U.S. Army All-American to dot the roster, is committed to Michigan State, but unsigned, while Marshall is signed with Michigan.

The linebacker corps, spearheaded by the likes of Michigan State-signee Byron Bullough (Traverse City St. Francis), Michigan-signee Jared Wangler (Warren De La Salle) and Syracuse-signee Paris Bennett (Detroit U-D Jesuit) will be fearsome and the secondary, headlined by Michigan State-signee Jalen Watts-Jackson (Orchard Lake St. Mary’s), Iowa-signee Jalen Embry (Detroit King) and Yale-signee Jason Alessi (Birmingham Brother Rice) is as lockdown as you could ask for.

If the game comes down to a field goal, the special teams’ unit will no doubt be up to the task, since Kyle Bambard, destined to kick in the ACC next fall at North Carolina State, has one of the top and most clutch legs Metro Detroit has seen in the past decade.

"The opportunity to participate in something like this means a lot to all of us," Watts-Jackson said, "We’ll be the first ones to experience it and we’re going to get a chance to set a path to be followed by the guys in years to come. That’s pretty cool to be part of."

Other players from around the state that were selected include: Devin Spaulding (Westland John Glenn), Amari Coleman (New Lothrop), Zach Walker (GR Forest Hills Central), Brandon Sowards (Wyandotte Roosevelt), Malik Taylor (Montrose), Curtis Doyle (Alma), Dimitri Angelis (Northville), Malik King (Muskegon), Chukes Okorafor (Southfield), Brandon Keen (Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes), Austin Labus (Portage Northern), Alex Joss (Walled Lake Western), Kenny Finley (Muskegon), Nick Matich (Clarkston), Blake Williams (Romeo), Jeremiah Harris (Temperance Bedford), Mitch Stanitzek (GR West Catholic), Kyle Rachwal (Lapeer East), Damon Singleton (Wyandotte Roosevelt), Rico Lewis (Detroit East English Village), Dillon Dixon (Detroit U-D Jesuit), Javonte Alexander (Flint Carmen-Ainsworth), Curtis Brunson (Farmington)