OAA Blue Division preview: Avondale and Groves expected to vie for the title
Here is a preview of the Oakland Activities Association Blue Division
Teams are listed alphabetically.
Auburn Hills Avondale (5-4; 4th place OAA Blue)
Avondale outscored its opponents 275-201, and finished the season 5-4 but missed the playoffs for the second consecutive season.
“We’re not really happy about now making the playoffs,” coach Steve Deutsch said. “The kids are motivated to get back. We’ve gotten to the point where winning is an expectation.”
Starting quarterback Travis Janes will return to school for his senior year, but Deutsch said he isn’t sure if Janes will be playing football next season. Janes has yet to show up to any workouts and could be focusing his attention on baseball.
If Janes does not return, the starting quarterback job will probably go to Tyler Grosz, a senior leader who has spent time at safety and receiver.
Ahmad Sharon rushed for 164 yards on 33 carries last season, but this year Deutsch said he would be a multi-purpose player. Sharon will likely see time at receiver as well as running back.
Vince Wright is expected to take over the starting running back spot with Sharon giving him a breather from time to time. As a team Avondale averaged 248 rushing yards per game, so expectations for Wright and Sharon will be high.
Most of the key starters on the offensive and defensive line return next season, and Deutsch expects that to be the biggest asset to his team.
“We’re going to be counting on that offensive line and (Sharon) to lead us,” Deutsch said. “Our strength is definitely our O and D line, and our other strength is our numbers.”
Robbie Ginther (73 tackles), Jerimiah Evans (39 tackles), Brennan Kuhn (35 tackles) and Tyler Grosz all return on defense.
With so many key pieces returning on defense and high expectations, anticipate Avondale to make a playoff appearance this fall.
2. Berkley (6-4; 2nd place OAA Blue)
After finishing the division in second place Berkley made the playoffs for the first time 2010.
They outscored opponents 274-226, which happened to be the most points the Bears had allowed since 2010.
In a division where the first place team finished with a 6-1 record, Berkley definitely has a chance to take home the division crown this year.
3. Birmingham Groves (7-4; 3rd place OAA Blue)
Last season was the second consecutive year Groves scored over 300 points but it could have a tough time making it three consecutive with a new starting quarterback this season.
Coach Brendan Flaherty said two players are competing for the starting spot, Beeau Kewley and Doug Rouche.
“Both bring pretty good stuff to the table,” Flaherty said. “It’s hard to say right now (who is going to win the job). I really have to see it when the pads come out.”
Flaherty said he expects eight starters to return on defense, including middle linebacker Ian Rice and defensive end Nathan Lazer.
Groves has two goals for the season, beat their hometown rival Seaholm and win the division title.
“I’m really excited for our defense. Returning those eight starters can really help us do some damage on defense,” Flaherty said. “Our expectation every year is that if we can win the league, we will qualify for the state playoffs.”
4. Ferndale (4-5; 5th place OAA Blue)
Ferndale has not made the playoffs since 2008 and it might not be a coincidence that its enrollment has decreased every year since 2007.
This season the Eagles will have a new starting quarterback and running back.
Ronald Gohagon figures to be the new starting running back. Last season he finished with 279 yards and five touchdowns on 44 carries.
Gradell Mosely, the team’s second leading tackler and leading receiver, returns for his senior year.
Defensive starters Kobie Davis, John Adams III and Kenyon Austin are all returning this season.
Rolling with a new starting quarterback is tough for any team, but Ferndale has some key defensive pieces returning and could push for a playoff spot this season.
5. Hazel Park (0-9; 8th place OAA Blue)
After making the playoffs in 2010, the Vikings have not had a winning season since and hasn’t won a game since 2013.
Last season Hazel Park scored only 20 points while giving up 416.
6. Pontiac (1-7; 7th Place OAA Blue)
This is only the seventh season for Pontiac and it could be another rough year.
In those seven seasons, Pontiac managed to make the playoffs twice with the last appearance being in 2011.
Last season it was outscored by opponents 61-301 and finished in seventh place with a 1-7 record.
Its roster is small and had more than 50 percent graduate from last season. The playoffs could be a stretch for Pontiac this season.
7. Royal Oak (0-9; 7th place OAA White)
After finishing last in the OAA White division last season, Royal Oak will now be playing in the Blue.
Although it has been moved to an easier division, Royal Oak has only finished over .500 twice and have only made the post-season once in its nine year history.
The move to the Blue can only aid Royal Oak. Nevertheless the Ravens are a longshot to finish in the top two or three.
8. Southfield-Lathrup (4-5; 6th place OAA Blue)
Last season Southfield-Lathrup had its best season since 2009. They finished in sixth place with a record of 4-5.
Its defense limited opposing teams to less than 200 combined points. Its offense only scored 165.
Southfield-Lathrup has not made the playoffs since 2007, and it looks like another middle to bottom tier finish could be in store.