OAA Red Division preview: Lake Orion, Oxford and West Bloomfield expected to seriously challenge Clarkston for title
The football is just over a month away and the Oakland Activities Association Red, White and Blue divisions are expected to be as competitive as ever.
Below is a preview of how things might shape out this season in the Red Division.
Teams are listed alphabetically.
Bloomfield Hills (2-7; 6th place OAA Red)
With a record of 5-13 over the last two seasons, Bloomfield Hills is looking to make the playoffs for the first time since Andover and Lahser high schools merged after the 2012-2013 school year.
Bloomfield Hills spent its first season in the White Division but got moved to the Red after a 3-6 season and a sixth-place finish.
Bloomfield Hills was outscored 190-315 last season but only eight players were lost to graduation so head coach Dan Loria will have a lot of returners with which to work.
A division title probably is not in this year’s plan but Loria’s squad should be improved.
Clarkston (14-0; 1st place OAA Red)
Clarkston is 27-1 over the last two seasons, won the school’s first two state titles and outscored opponents 1057-457.
Clarkston is looking to increase its consecutive playoff appearance streak to 13 but with 36 players lost to graduation the Wolves will have a lot of work to do.
“It’s a whole new team and we just try to work off the momentum (from last season),” coach Kurt Richardson said. “They’ve had a very good offseason. They haven’t talked about how good they are. They’ve worked their butts off and whatever happens, happens, and that’s all that you can ask for.”
Clarkston will have a new starting quarterback after last year’s starter, D.J. Zezula, graduated. Zezula was a Mr. Football finalist and his leadership will be missed.
Richardson said it is Anthony Reiner’s job to lose.
Other key players must be replaced including four receivers, each had over 15 receptions, and eight of the top ten leading tacklers.
However, with Carter Linton and Bryce Witherspoon expected to lead the team on defense, and running back Nolan Eriksen leading the team on offense, Richardson isn’t too worried about the loss of seniors.
“They’ve had success all the way through,” Richardson said. “We always have that turnover rate.”
Clarkston is expected to take a step back this season but should still be competitive. Richardson said that West Bloomfield and Lake Orion are expected to be Clarkston’s most serious competition for the division title.
Lake Orion (4-5; 4th place OAA Red)
Last year marked the first time Lake Orion failed to make the playoffs since 2000.
The Dragons just couldn’t seem to get things together after a series of injuries.
“We played very uncharacteristic of the way our team usually plays,” coach Chris Bell said. “It was frustrating because we were right on the edge. If we played a little bit better we had chances to win.”
Bell said his team was very one-dimensional last season, focusing too much on running the ball.
This season sophomore Caden Prieskorn (6-5, 200) is expected to take over the starting quarterback position.
Prieskorn will have Justin Cathers, Brendan Thompson and Josh Benson returning on the offensive line.
Bay Smart, Ryan Kolp and Cameron Shadaia are the players to watch out for on defense.
Max Horneffer, who played defensive back last season, has been switched to slot receiver and Bell says he is one of the best athletes on the team.
Nearly half of last year’s roster graduated but several players return from injuries and Lake Orion figures to be a division contender again.
“I expect us to be right in the thick of it,” Bell said. “I think it’s going to be very balanced. I think you are looking at Clarkston, West Bloomfield and us.”
Oxford (6-4; 3rd place OAA Red)
Oxford has made the playoffs in each of the previous four seasons, yet it is still considered an underdog in the division.
“That’s good. It doesn’t mean a thing,” coach Bud Rowley said. “I really don’t care what anyone thinks to be honest. We’ll be ready when our first game comes up.”
Rowley said that Brenden Lewis will be the starting quarterback this season after waiting two years for his opportunity.
In front of him on the offensive line is Ethan Kiern, Seth Retkowiak, Royce Davenport, Jared Dymond and Tyler Thorne, all of whom started last season.
Rowley also mentioned receiver Devon Davenport as a player to watch out for this season. Aside from those few players, Rowley is fine with his no-name players and the focus being off his team.
“Everyone else is a wait and see. No one ever does pick Oxford, but that doesn’t make any difference,” Rowley said. “Were kind of like a no-name defense but we have the coaches and players that want to do well.”
Last season Oxford outscored opponents 225-218, but Rowley said his defense needs a lot of work.
“Were going to put that baby together and work on it and go from there,” Rowley said. “We have to shore our defense up. That’s been our big point all summer. We have to do a better job on the front seven.”
Oxford might not be the popular pick, but it has been consistently good the last four seasons and shouldn’t be overlooked to contend for an OAA Red title this season.
“Our goal is to win the red division,” Rowley said. “We will do our part to make the 2015 season very exciting.”
Rochester Hills Stoney Creek (5-4; 5th place OAA Red)
Stoney Creek has only made the playoffs three times in its 14 seasons.
However, if not for the Cougars poor play against division opponents last season, they could have qualified for a fourth time last season.
Stoney Creek finished over .500 and outscored opponents each of the last three seasons.
If it can pull out an upset against West Bloomfield, Lake Orion or Clarkston, it definitely has a shot of making the post-season.
Troy (1-8; 8th place OAA Red)
Troy finished last in the division last season and coach Gary Griffith is hoping for better days in 2015.
Last season Troy only managed to score 104 points.
Troy has not made the playoffs since 2009 and its offense must show rapid improvement if the Colts expect to finish with a winning record.
Troy Athens (2-7; 7th Place OAA Red)
Just above Troy in the standings was Athens. After allowing opponents to score 327 points Athens finished 2-7 for the third consecutive season.
Although only 17 players graduated from the roster, two of those players were the starting quarterback, running back and four of six starting offensive lineman.
Athens had a relatively balanced attack last season, averaging 163 receiving yards and 124 rushing yards per game. However, the team only scored 197 points.
Eddie Oprinca, Jake Vincent and Louis Kassak should be the three primary wide receivers this season.
On a brighter note, five of the top six leading tacklers return for their senior season, including Brendan Genereau and Curtis Hemingway.
West Bloomfield (9-2; 6-1 OAA Red)
Last season was a historic year for the West Bloomfield football program. It was the first time it made the playoffs since 2008 and the first time it recorded at least seven wins since 1991.
A huge part of West Bloomfield’s success was due to Trishton Jackson, the team’s starting quarterback and recent commit to Michigan State.
“He is ready to take that next step,” coach Ron Bellamy said. “One of the best parts of him committing early is that the pressure is off of him.”
Last season Jackson and the West Bloomfield offense scored 394 points, the highest amount ever in West Bloomfield’s 66 years of football.
Jackson is expected to play receiver this season.
This upcoming season West Bloomfield is expected to contend for the division title but Bellamy knows Clarkston is still the team to beat.
“I mean they are the two time state champs,” Bellamy said. “The target is definitely on their back.”
Bellamy returns 30 players including Navon Mosley (FS/WR) and Theo Majette (DL).
“(Mosely) has had a fantastic summer. He has had a fantastic winter in the weight room,” Bellamy said. “(Majette) was the forgotten one on the defensive line. I’m so excited to see what these boys are going to do this year.”
With Jackson back for his senior year, West Bloomfield is definitely a preseason contender for a division title and possible long playoff run.
“I think our offense is going to be ahead of our defense, but I think we have some guys that have emerged this summer and I’m excited,” Bellamy said. “We lost some valuable guys, but I think we have some guys ready to fill in that void.”
The biggest concerns for Bellamy are the offensive and defensive line, as well as special teams.
“There are a lot of question marks. That’s why there is a training camp,” he said. “State championship is the ultimate goal. For us, winning the OAA Red is a must.”