Season previews: Downriver League race features familiar faces
The kickoff to the 2015 football season is less than two months away and with a new season on the horizon, the 10 teams in the Downriver league hope they have what it takes to win this year’s conference title.
Here is a league preview for all 10 teams:
Woodhaven (10-1, 9-0 league)
Woodhaven dominated last season, outscoring opponents 383-243, and won the title.
Several coaches around the league said they expect Woodhaven to compete for another conference title, but they’ll have to deal with a relatively new roster.
With more than 50 percent of the roster graduated, including its starting quarterback, coach Keith Christnagel will have to rely on senior running back Darious Nundley and junior Jalen Wellons to lead his team.
Last season Nundley finished was fourth in total offense (520 rush and receiving yards); Wellons was fourth in tackles.
Allen Park (8-2, 8-1)
Allen Park returns starting quarterback Antonio Mangiapane, who enters his junior year coming off a season where he averaged 114.5 passing yards per game and a rating of 137.8.
“Experience at the quarterback position is always good,” coach Tim Hoover said. “He isn’t going to be running for his life.”
Like Woodhaven, more than 50 percent of Allen Park’s roster graduated. Hoover says his team will have to mature early, especially since their toughest part of the schedule comes at the beginning.
Keep an eye out for Nate Berrelez who, as a junior, had 60 carries for 300 yards.
“Berrelez has dominated at the lower level but has always been behind someone,” Hoover said. “If he stays healthy he will have a good year.”
Wyandotte Roosevelt (9-3, 7-2)
After making the playoffs last season for the ninth consecutive year, Wyandotte is expected to be right back in the title hunt.
David Long, Angelo Bartolo and Tyler Thorington are the three main players to watch next season. All three will be seniors.
Long rushed for over 630 yards. Thorington was the team’s leading receiver and second leading tackler. Bartolo led the team in sacks and finished sixth on the team in total tackles.
Trenton (7-4, 6-3)
After outscoring opponents 289-223, Trenton made its first post-season appearance since 2008.
Unlike the three teams who finished ahead of them last season, Trenton lost 17 of its 61 players to graduation.
Coach Bob Czarnecki says he will rely heavily on his offensive line, which returns four starters from last season.
Czarnecki also said it will be beneficial to his team that he has so many returners, especially early in the season, because they will be more comfortable with the speed of play.
Patrick Czarnecki, the coach’s son, replaced Chris Mecure last season after he suffered an injury and will be the starting quarterback for Trenton this season.
“The expectation level can be a little higher than it has been the last few years,” coach Czarnecki said. “We have some significant pieces coming back.”
Southgate Anderson (5-4, 5-4)
Southgate was the only team in the league to finish the season over .500 and miss the playoffs.
Coach Frank Vilardi said he is hoping this season the coaches improve as a staff after only going through their second full year last season.
Last season Southgate had a roster of 45, 22 of which graduated this June, but Vilardi said he expects more than 50 kids on the roster this season and was proud of how he didn’t have any players quit last year.
This season Vilardi said to watch for Hunter Angileri (OL/DL), Michael Baker (RB/LB), Kendrick Stanley (WR/FS) and Kavian Graham (WR/DB).
Gibraltar Carlson (4-5, 4-5)
Offensively, Carlson should rank towards the top of the league.
Starting quarterback Nate Holmgren and the teams’ top three receivers all return. Last season Carlson averaged 108 receiving yards per game and 268 rushing yards.
However, if Carlson expects to make a playoff push the Marauders will need their defense to mature quickly.
The top 11 tacklers from last season are all gone and the only players to record a sack or interception graduated.
Lincoln Park (3-6, 3-6)
Last season was Lincoln Park’s best season since 2005 when the team won four games.
The Railsplitters haven’t made the playoffs since 2002, and this season they have to deal with replacing 50 percent of their roster due to graduation.
Coach Jamie Grignon does have his team on the rise, as last season Lincoln Park scored 58 more points and allowed 164 points less than in 2013.
This does not seem to be a playoff year for coach Grignon, but keep an eye on them a few years down the road.
Melvindale (2-7, 2-7)
Melvindale had a rough season following a 9-3 season in 2013.
Melvindale lost 22 of 31 players to graduation so things don’t seem to be getting better for a program with the third most wins in league history.
Melvindale is one of the most unpredictable teams in the conference. Over the last 10 years, they have made the playoffs six times. However, since 2011 they have had a record of 16-23.
Taylor Kennedy (1-8, 1-8)
Kennedy figures to be towards the bottom of the standings again in 2015. The Eagles have not had a winning record since ‘04 and have not made the playoffs since ‘03.
Its lone win of the season came against Truman, and the two teams figure to be towards the bottom of the standings again this season.
Taylor Truman (0-9, 0-9)
From 2012-13, Truman had a combined record of 17-5. During those two seasons they outscored opponents 878-327.
The 2014 season was a completely different story, as Truman could not win a game and was outscored by opponents 90-414.