OAA Training Camp Update: Southfield, Harrison, West Bloomfield get practice underway
~~In Southfield, the Blue Jay’s star studded secondary somehow got even better on the first day of football practice as they saw a new face helping out when Pontiac defensive back and Central Michigan commit Ja’Mar Antwine suited up in the blue and white for the first time.
The move now give Southfield four Division I players in its secondary as Antwine will line up with Ray Buford (Minnesota), Davontae Ginwright (Western Michigan) and Dior Johnson (Wake Forest), a nightmarish task for opposing quarterbacks to face.
Southfield head coach Tim Conley said that Antwine is one of several new players that have moved into Southfield because of the academic and athletic programs.
“We have a nice atmosphere here,” said Conley. “Football’s doing well and we get a lot of notoriety and it’s just a draw. We have a lot of kids moving in and I think we had maybe 12 kids move in this year, but he’s going to be the guy that’s talked about because he’s a Central Michigan commit.”
For Antwine, the first couple of days of practicing have been exciting for him and he’s looking towards a big season for Southfield.
“It’s been a great experience for me,” he said. “This is a great environment, being able to meet new people and have some new chemistry with teammates and hopefully we can make a push towards Ford Field.”
One of the players that Antwine will be teaming up with in the secondary, Buford, said that the Pontiac transfer’s addition makes the Blue Jay secondary all the more dangerous in 2014.
“The sky’s the limit for us,” he said. “If we stay together and communicate, we can do big things. We have all the talent, we’ve just got to put it together on the field now.”
— One of the top priorities at Farmington Hills Harrison camp through the first three days was to try and find a replacement for running back Lorenzo Collins, who carried the majority of the load for the Hawks over the course of the past couple of seasons out of the backfield, before moving on to play college football at Ferris State.
For longtime Harrison head coach John Herrington, he’s seen three players who have stepped up and are trying fill Collins’ role, but none bring the same style of running the ball out of the backfield.
“Omauri Rodgers and Iwarri Smith I think have stepped up, and Delan Wynn has,” he said. “None of them are the big power back that Lorenzo was, they’re mostly speed backs, so we’ll see how the offense works out.”
One position that Harrison won’t have to worry about this fall will be quarterback, where the Hawks return one of last year’s biggest breakout players in the state in his junior season.
Shaw feels that this season in comparison to last year, he believes he’s gotten better in several areas as a quarterback, including becoming more of a pass-first signal caller.
“I’m more of a pass first guy than run now,” he said. “My vision has gotten way better from last year, and my arm has too. My feel for the game is better than last year, I’m feeling the game more than I did.”
With those improvements, Herrington believes that Shaw is a much better quarterback as he’s entering his senior season and will also have the help of a talented receiving group.
“He did and he’s better now, and we’re looking forward to that,” he said. “And we have an outstanding group of receivers to go with him this year.”
Shaw said that to have some of his top weapons in the receiving corps back at his disposal this year is definitely something he believes can give himself and his teammates a leg up on the competition early on.
“It’s great,” he said. “I couldn’t ask for anything better, because I’m already used to them and you already have a head start, we’re just developing more and we’re getting better every day.”
— After progressively improving over the past couple of years and narrowly missing out on the playoffs in 2014, West Bloomfield is now looking to take the next step, which is to qualify for the postseason.
The Lakers return several key players for the 2014 season, something that head coach Ron Bellamy says is going to play a big role in the Lakers continuing to improve and work towards becoming a playoff team this fall.
“They’re very high,” he said. “We finished 5-4 and we return a lot of players and they have a lot of playing experience. The goal for us is to take that next step, which is to get in the playoffs. Our schedule is a little bit tougher now, but that’s why we practice and we’re ready for that.”
One of those key returners for West Bloomfield is running back Michael King, who is back for his third year on the varsity team and will once again look to carry the bulk of the load out of the backfield for the Lakers.
King said that as a member of last year’s team that was on the doorstep of making the postseason, it motivates he and his teammates more trying to get over the hump and make the playoffs this fall.
“That makes us a lot more hungry,” he said. “We’ve been working all summer knowing that we were that close, so we’re just pushing a little bit harder, and we’re putting a lot of work in.”
Four years ago as head coach at West Bloomfield, playoffs weren’t even in the discussion for West Bloomfield, according to Bellamy, but now with a now experience core group of players, the Lakers know what they have to do to make it to the postseason.
“I think it makes all of us hungrier as coaches and players,” he said “It tells us that we’re almost there. Four years ago, we didn’t see playoffs, it wasn’t a realistic picture for us, last year, we went into the last game of the season and if you win, you’re in and we fell just short. So this year, we knew some of the things we had to improve upon and I think that we’ll be ready for that challenge this year.”