Preseason top teams, 11-25: West Bloomfield, East English could be surprise teams in Metro Detroit
11. Macomb Dakota (8-3), A: Look for the Cougars to run the ball often. Three starting linemen return including center Adam Wojcik and tackle Colin Stark (6-1, 285), a three-year starter. Slot back Evan Sivec (5-8, 160) is a junior and he’ll be a treat on sweeps and as a receiver. The player opposing teams will certainly key on is Kaiser Carleton (5-7, 165) who rushed for 1,000 yards as a sophomore. Dakota will have new quarterback, either Tony Patrico or junior Brett Droski. Both are more than capable to take control of the offense. Droski cut his teeth on the junior varsity last season as did receiver Jaylen Hall (6-4, 170), who’s also a fine basketball player. Defensively the Cougars return half their starters led by two, three-year starters, Brendyn Tipman and safety Benji Marshall. Sonny Cooper, a transfer from Ohio, will likely start at linebacker side-by-side with Chase Fulco (5-8, 165) who will make tackles sideline to sideline. There’s experience at tackle with the return of Blake Brady and Brendan Siwajek. Coach Mike Giannone dipped into the talent pool on the soccer team and convinced Dominic Nardozzi to handle the place kicking duties.
12. Clarkston (14-0), A: The Wolves’ strengths the past two championship seasons were their offensive line play and quarterback D.J. Zezula. All are gone and playing at the next level. Coach Kurt Richardson and his staff have much work to do but this is a program, not a flash-in-the-pan. Nolan Eriksen (5-9, 195) is one of the top running backs in Metro Detroit and he’ll rely on center Carter Gale (5-8, 240) and tackles Nathan Troutbine (5-11, 250) and Sam Bullen (6-4, 250) to clear a path. Anthony Reiner is expected to start at quarterback and the play of slot back Jacob Fisher, a returning starter, could take some of the heat off of Eriksen. The Wolves have another Division I place kicker in Alex Kessman (committed to Pitt) but defensively Carter Linton (LB) is the lone starter back. And the secondary will likely be all juniors. How well, and how quickly, the defensive line develops will greatly determine how stingy the Wolves will be defensively.
13. Hudsonville (7-5), A: Six starters return on both sides from a team that lost to East Kentwood in a regional final. Team speed will be a big plus for the Eagles. Cooper Cecchini (WR) is a college prospect and a vocal leader. Jared Blum (DB/WR) is one of the fastest players on the team and Dalton Agers (LB/RB) led the team in tackles and competes on the track team. Jackson Russo (TE) competes as a pole vaulter and H-back Vinne Calabrese (LB) is one of the school’s top wrestlers. Three starting offensive linemen are back including captain Chris Bicknell (G) and center Lane Potter (6-3, 270). Juniors Brendan Willis (6-5, 275) and Calvin Luurtsema (6-3, 265) will start on the defensive line along with senior Zac Null. Junior Jack Mandryk, who started at free safety, and senior Bryce Elliott might share time at quarterback if one does not emerge as the clear-cut favorite.
14. Detroit Catholic Central (4-5), A: The last time the Shamrocks finished 4-5 (2006) they came back the following season and reached the Division 1 semifinals. Tom Mach begins his 40th season as C.C.’s head coach and history could repeat itself as he has a much improved offensive and defensive line. Tom Kowalkoski (6-5, 275) is an outstanding two-way tackle and Mike Edwards (DE/TE) showed much improvement late last season. Austin Darkangelo (RB/LB) played just three games last season due to an injury and he is expected to shine on both sides of the ball. Chyle Johnson and Tarek Dalou are two of six returning starters, and Phil Schmitz (DE/LB/RB) is a defensive captain. C.C.’s best player, and one of the best in the Catholic League, is Alex Bock (5-11, 175). Bock is a fast two-way back who might also handling the place kicking duties.
15. West Bloomfield (9-2), A: Ron Bellamy returns for his sixth season as coach and expectations have risen after the Lakers enjoyed one of the best seasons in school history. Eight starters return on offense led by Trishton Jackson (QB/WR), one of the state’s most dynamic players. Brandon Williams (SB) is also expected to see time at quarterback. Tackle Jacob Phillips (6-5, 275) is much improved and Emeka Amadi (G) is the most athletic lineman on the team. Navon Mosley (WR/FS) is a playmaker on both sides. Garrett Winn, whose brother, George (U-D Jesuit), is in the NFL, will likely start at running back. Defensively five starters return of Theo Majette (5-11, 250), the only returning starter on the line. Linebacker Jordan Swanigan (5-11, 220) is the heart of the defense. In addition to Mosley, two other defensive backs (Evan Foster to Bowling Green, Justin Clark to Toledo) have committed to Division I schools.
16. Mount Pleasant (7-4), A: The Oilers return eight starters on both sides of the ball and coach Jason McIntyre is blessed with a handful of Division I recruits. Kalebb Perry (WR/QB), who committed to Western Michigan, and Hunter Buczkowski (LB/RB), who committed to Central Michigan, are three-year starters. Other top seniors include another three-year starter, tackle Billy Tithof (6-2, 300), Dan Keller (LB/OL) and Jake Mogg (SB/TB/DB). McIntyre will rely heavily on the junior class. Obie Ricumstrict (DB/WR) has been offered a scholarship for football by CMU and he’s received scholarship offers for baseball, too. Sean Fitzgerald (G), Levan Hunter (LB) and Buczkowski’s brother, Logan (WR/RB/LB), are other starters from the class of 2017.
17. Temperance Bedford (5-4), A: Six starters return on both sides of the ball plus punter and place kicker Brad Williams who’s being recruited by Mid-American Conference schools. Tackle Tim Stevens (6-3, 265) led the team in tackles a year ago and Grant Neiszala (OT) is a three-year starter. Slot back Austin Jankowski rushed for 600 yards last season and coach Jeff Wood will likely use a two-quarterback system. Juniors Joey Wiemer and Jared Nanney are best friends and will share time there. Wiemer is the team’s top receiver but he’s also a better thrower. Nanney’s the better ball carrier. The one who doesn’t start at quarterback will likely start in the secondary. With 60 or more on varsity depth is not an issue.
18. Plymouth (7-3), A: Coach Mike Sawchuck expressed optimism entering this season and for good reason. The Wildcats return seven starters on offense, six on defense, including two-way lineman Michael Jordan who committed to Notre Dame. “We have the potential to be the strongest and fastest team we have ever had,” Sawchuck said. Chris Walls (DB) will be a three-year starter and might switch to quarterback from receiver. Jonah Peterson might also play quarterback. Elie Atallah is part of an experienced offensive line and Cam Stella returns as the featured back. The front four, led by Austin Scheffer, is the strength of the defense. Darius Timmons (LB) and Victor Abraham (FS) have the quickness to defend the run and the pass.
19. Walled Lake Western (9-2), A: The Warriors return five or six starters on both sides and have one of the state’s top place kickers in John Camilleri back. Kyle Thomas (5-11, 170) returns at quarterback and he’s proficient as a runner and a thrower. His favorite receiver will likely be junior Cody White (6-4, 195) whose father, Sheldon White, is a former NFL player. Two-way tackle Tyler Shreve (6-4, 270) has been offered a scholarship by Ferris State and Jacob Prokes (RB) is said to be healthy after suffering a hamstring injury that cut his junior season in half. There’s some inexperience in the secondary. Linebackers Darnell Lanier and Jackson Neracher both could see time as a defensive back for a defense that likes to take chances.
20. Rockford (8-3), A: The Rams will, for the most part, be inexperienced but there’s talent and coach Ralph Munger expects the effort to be 100 percent. Gabe Bowman (DT) is a three-year starter as is safety Tyler Bradfield, who will also return kicks. Receiver Andy Heider is a returning starter and Jacob Hite also saw time at that position. Sophomore Jason Whitaker will likely start at quarterback making the jump from the freshmen squad. Munger will call on a host of players to carry the ball and Brendan McKellar (LB) will get his share. Dakoda Pankratz is the top offensive lineman. Perhaps the most important player is kicker Quinn Nordin. Nordin committed to Penn State and Munger is counting on him to come through in the clutch as Nordin did as a sophomore when he was 14-of-19 on field goal tries.
21. Midland (4-5), A: Last season’s record (all five losses were to playoff teams) ended a streak of 37 consecutive winning seasons for the Chemics. This season another streak begins. Coach Eric Methner returns 15 starters and he has two, in particular, who have big-play capabilities. Luke Delong will play a variety of positions including slot back, defensive back, kick returner and will likely see time at quarterback. Payton Dewildt is a mobile quarterback and is accurate when he does throw it. Junior Vondre Warren (RB) is a speedster in the backfield and Virgil Walker (6-5, 200) is an athletic receiver. Four offensive linemen return led by Shay Methner, the coach’s son, Sean Nastase and Levi Schafely. There is some concern on the defensive line where Zach Donoghue (NG) is the lone returner. There’s experience in the secondary, notably Cheyne Maier and Grant Grenesko, and at linebacker (Max Klemish and Gavin Burrell).
22. Traverse City West (5-5), A: Eights are wild for West as coach Tim Wooer begins his eighth season as coach and he has eight returning starters on offense. The offensive line is big and experienced. Jacob Cerny (OT) committed to Illinois and Corbin Thompson (G) could see time at defensive tackle. Brad Tellison (FB/LB) and Dan Pheifer (TB) missed most of last season after suffering knee injuries. Look for sophomore Connor Hayes (6-5, 220), who plays baseball and basketball, to have a big year at tight end. Jack Mikula (DE) is one of six starters back on defense. The secondary is outstanding with the return of Keegan Kenny, Zac Zoutendam and Chase Grierson. Zoutendam and Carson Rosa (6-5, 210) are competing for the quarterback spot.
23. Muskegon Mona Shores (12-2), A: Quarterback Tyree Jackson graduated after leading the Sailors to the Division 2 final and in his place is Tyler Trovinger who would have been the starter if not for Jackson. Trovinger (5-11, 200) is a better runner than Jackson but lacks Jackson’s arm strength. Trovinger is one of 25 seniors, a group that’s experienced a great deal of success in junior high, at the freshmen level and again last season. Depth could be a problem but front line players like Hunter Broersma (WR/DB), a three-year starter who committed to Western Michigan, receiver Colby Burse (6-3, 205) who committed to Miami, Ohio, and Darece Roberson (SB/DB/KR) who committed to Western Michigan are among some of the best in the state. Mike Bordeaux (G/DT), Don Shermeta (LB/RB) and Christian Boyd (DT) are all three-year starters.
24. Detroit East English Village Prep (7-4), A: Sixteen starters return from a team that lost to De La Salle in a district final. All five offensive linemen return and just one is a senior. Both Chauncey Ghostin (DE/OT) and Cedric Lattimore (DL/TE) committed to Iowa. Linebacker Andrew DeMoss (5-9, 215) is a four-year starter. Running back Nathaniel Bolware (5-6, 175) might be the team’s best athlete. Lindrell Mitchell (WR) had 50 receptions last season. Mitchell and tackle Emani Mason are three-year starters. Delvin Washington, a transfer from Harper Woods Chandler Park Academy, is expected to start at quarterback.
25. Southfield (9-3), A: The Bluejays could be a year away from reaching the Division 2 semifinals, as they did last season, as they have but 11 seniors. The loss of running back Matt Falcon (Michigan commit who suffered a season-ending knee injury) will hurt. Josh Pickens and Tim Brown are excellent receivers and if freshman Sam Johnson (6-3, 180) develops steadily at quarterback the season will progress nicely. The offensive line is solid with the return of Eric Eldridge (OT/DT) and Cameron Tucker (G). Delan Wynn and Brown have experience in the secondary add they will be aided by Tyrone Lyte, a transfer from Farmington Hills Harrison. Brendann Brown, another Harrison transfer, will start at linebacker.
Next 10 (listed alphabetically)
Allen Park, (8-2), A; Caledonia (7-3), A; East Grand Rapids (6-4,), B; Holland West Ottawa (5-5), A; Lapeer (10-1), A; Lansing Sexton (13-1), A; Monroe (7-4), A; Oak Park (8-3), A; Petoskey (9-3), A; Romeo (6-4), A.