River Rouge is the four-time defending champion in the Michigan Metro Athletic Conference. (Elizabeth Conley / Detroit News)
Predicted order of finish
(Consensus of coaches)
2013 records in parentheses
1. River Rouge (7-2, 5-0); 2. Detroit Community (3-6, 2-3); 3. Hamtramck (0-9, 0-5); 4. Detroit Allen Academy (7-3, 4-1); 5. Ecorse (0-8, 0-5); 6. Highland Park Renaissance Academy (4-5, 1-4)
Top four players
■River Rouge senior cornerback DaQuan Butler was the best defensive player in the league last season and will anchor coach Corey Parker’s defense. Butler (5-foot-9, 170) led the team with six interceptions and finished with 50 solo tackles. “He’s a team leader and very smart on the field,” Parker said. “If I put him in a dogfight with anyone on the team, I’ll take him. I don’t think anyone can take him. He’s very quiet but everything he does on the field is business.” Butler has received offers from Ferris State, Siena Heights and Notre Dame College.
■River Rouge senior running back JaJuan Kemp led the league in rushing last season. Despite his size (5-7, 160), Kemp rushed for 1,600 yards, scored 22 touchdowns and also wreaked havoc as the kick and punt returner. “He’s a scat-back type of guy and he’s very explosive in space,” Parker said. “He’s definitely one of the best returning players in the league.”
■River Rouge junior offensive lineman Isaac Wyckoff starred as a sophomore and spent time at the tackle and guard positions but mostly plays guard. And make no mistake, Wyckoff (6-2, 230) is very physical and loves to hit. “You either have to be pretty tough or agile to start for us,” Parker said. “He’s as mean as the day is long. He comes from a tough neighborhood in the north end of Detroit and that embodies who he is as a player.”
■Hamtramck senior tight end Troy Adkisson never came out for football until this year. Despite his lack of experience, first-year coach Donny Scott said Adkisson (6-5, 240), who plays on the basketball team, can catch anything and has the potential to be an Antonio Gates-type player. “No matter who we played in 7-on-7s, Troy was the best player on the field,” Scott said.
Top four story lines
■River Rouge enters the season as the four-time defending league champ and is the favorite once again. With five defensive and four offensive starters returning and plenty of up-and-coming talent, River Rouge has no plans of relinquishing its reign. “We’re very young but we didn’t have a real heavy senior hit,” Parker said. “A lot of guys who will be starting were backups last season and they played a lot.” Parker added that he’ll potentially have two freshmen starting on defense.
■Allen Academy won as many games (seven) last season as it did in its first five years. It also reached the state playoffs for the first time and notched its first postseason victory with a 54-32 win over Adrian Lenawee Christian in a Division 8 pre-district. But building off that success will be a challenge since Allen Academy lost 10 two-way starters from last year’s senior-laden team. “We’re in rebuilding mode like a lot of other teams,” coach Andre Henry said. “We got guys who are ready and able to step up.”
■After an abysmal season when Hamtramck was outscored 482-36 and held scoreless in seven games, it brought in coach Donny Scott to turn things around. Scott, who spent 12 years coaching in the Detroit PAL league, has 26 kids on his team but only two are returning players. His biggest battle, though, will be bringing football to the forefront in a city where soccer and basketball reign supreme. “Me and my staff are trying to rebuild a culture,” Scott said. “We’re trying to get to that point where everybody in the city supports the football team.” Hamtramck hasn’t had a winning season since 1999.
■Ecorse’s streak of four straight winning seasons — including a trip to the Division 6 semifinals in 2011 — was snapped last year with a forgettable 0-8 record. First-year coach Stevie Freeman II, who was an assistant at Detroit Community last season, has his sights set on bringing back the winning tradition. “I want to change the mentality and instill discipline, determination, dedication and desire because with those things, there’s no place to go but up,” he said. Ecorse struggled to field a team last year, but Freeman has a roster of 24 and is expecting those numbers to go up once school starts.