September 2, 2013 at 1:00 am

Tom Markowski

Prep Insider: Kickoff Classic getting better and better

Cass Tech and Southfield provided one of the marquee matchups in the continually growing Prep Kickoff Classic. (Bryan Mitchell / Special to The Detroit News)

Detroit — Wayne State University was the site of some of the top games this past weekend as part of the Prep Kickoff Classic.

Friday’s Detroit Cass Tech-Southfield game featured two of the most talented teams in the state and the fans were treated to a highly competitive game won by top-ranked Cass Tech, 18-14. On Saturday Birmingham Brother Rice, ranked No. 2, surprised Cleveland St. Ignatius, 29-20.

The other six games were also competitive as the largest margin of victory took place in the Brother Rice-St. Ignatius game.

The Detroit Sports Commission moved the PKC, formerly the Big Day Prep Showdown when it was held at Eastern Michigan, to Wayne State last year and next year will be the 10th anniversary.

Executive director Dave Beachnau and his staff made some scheduling improvements this year. No game in the three-day event started past 7:10 p.m., allowing security a better opportunity to control the crowds once the games were completed. Last year, the Brother Rice-Cass Tech game started at approximately 8:30 on a Saturday evening and an altercation that took place near the entrance left many concerned about safety.

No altercations were reported at this year’s event.

Next year, Beachnau said his group is exploring the possibility of a 10-game schedule with four games on a Thursday and three each for Friday and Saturday.

A Brother Rice-Chicago Brother Rice matchup is all but a done deal. The other matchups are pending.

“From year to year we try to get the best teams,” Beachnau said. “We want to offer the opportunity to different schools (to participate). Sometimes when you have teams come back for a second or third time the excitement wears off. We’re looking at Ohio again. We’re always looking for new teams.”

Beachnau said the Detroit Sports Commission is more than pleased with its working relationship with Wayne State “from the administration on down. The security was better this year. They were more visible.”

Official attendance figures have not been released as of yet but Beachnau said he was pleased with the turnout.

Last year’s event, which went two days, drew a total of 9,676.

Payback

The last two seasons Walled Lake Northern opened the season with a heartbreaking loss to Livonia Churchill. Churchill won last year, 56-54, and the year before, 56-55.

Last Thursday, Northern set a school record for points by smothering Churchill, 69-14.

Northern led 35-7 at the end of the first quarter and 56-14 at halftime.

“We got after them pretty good,” Northern coach Brett Moore said. “We looked at film of their scrimmage and of ours, and I didn’t expect anything like this. They scored first, then Chris Cliff (two receptions for touchdowns) returned a kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown. We got a couple of turnovers and all of a sudden we’re up 35-7. We had a chip on our shoulder after the last two years.”

Quarterback Chase Burton, a defensive back last season for Moore, completed all nine of his attempts for 175 yards and four touchdowns. He also rushed for 87 yards and a touchdown.

Offense a step ahead

All things being equal, it’s usually the defense that’s ahead of the offense in the early part of the season. The proper execution takes time.

Don’t tell that to the coaches at Westland John Glenn and Farmington. Glenn won 48-39 last Thursday. The game went back and forth with neither team having a lead of more than six points until Glenn’s final touchdown.

Glenn coach Tim Hardin said his secondary did not play well. Farmington had success both throwing the ball (12-for-18) and gaining the edge on sweeps and toss plays.

“Our interior guys played well,” Hardin said. “There were three or four plays where Farmington executed so well we couldn’t stop them. Then there were other big plays they made where we just messed up.”

Glenn defensive back Andre Brown did make two huge plays, returning interceptions 50 and 19 yards for touchdowns. Teammate Devon Spaulding carried 20 times for 129 yards and three touchdowns. Glenn turned the ball over just once.

“We’re young across the board,” Hardin said. “This team is special. They’re different. They’re a joy to be around. This is why I got into coaching.”

Auspicious debut

Oscar Olejniczak is the third U-D Jesuit head coach in the last three years and the U-D alumnus got off on the right foot on Thursday as his team came back from a 7-0 halftime deficit to defeat host Grosse Pointe South, 24-7.

South was 8-2 last season and is the favorite to win the Macomb Area Conference Blue Division.

“Everybody got used to each other in that first half,” Olejniczak said. “The players were getting used to us and we were getting used to them. We keep telling the players it’s a process. I think we wore (South) down. They ran 15 plays from scrimmage in the second half. We were patient. The kids had to realize you can’t get the big play every down.”

U-D has an ambitious schedule. In addition to its Catholic League Central Division foes, it has Birmingham Seaholm (1-0), Dearborn Divine Child (1-0) and hosts Detroit Country Day (0-1) on Saturday at Ferndale.

U-D hasn’t had a winning season since 2002.

Top 20 upset

The biggest upset of any team ranked in the preseason top 20 was Rochester Adams’ 12-7 victory over No. 4-ranked Clarkston.

The game started Friday night but play was stopped with 35 seconds left in the third quarter because of lightning. Adams led 12-0 when play was resumed at 11 a.m. Saturday.

“They’re a big, physical team,” Adams coach Tony Patritto said. “Their offensive line is huge. I give credit to Mark MacFarland, our defensive coordinator. We had to play defense with pace. We preached that to our kids in the offseason. We ran 46 plays in the first three quarters. We wanted to keep their offense off the field.”

Clarkston star running back Ian Eriksen did not play Friday because of an injury (Achilles). He did play Saturday.

After stopping Clarkston on downs on its 25-yard line, Adams was able to run out the clock. The big play on that last possession was a 12-yard run by Clarence Broadnax on a third-and-11.

Too long

The time it takes to play a high school game is too long. The spread offense has contributed to this with teams throwing the ball more. A typical NFL game lasts three hours. High school games are 12 minutes shorter (four 12-minute quarters; NFL has 15-minute quarters). Take the Oak Park/Orchard Lake St. Mary’s game as an example. Both teams are run-oriented and the game took 2:40 to play.

One way to speed up play would be to start the play clock as soon as possible after each change of possession. As it is now the clock doesn’t start until the ball is snapped.

Many injuries are caused by fatigue, often in the fourth quarter when players are tired. Southfield’s top two players, Malik McDowell and Lawrence Marshall, suffered injuries in the fourth quarter in its game against Cass Tech, and Wilcher said he thought fatigue coupled with the high temperatures contributed.

Too short

Many coaches complain that the time they have to prepare for the season opener is too short. If they use that first Saturday of the first week coaches have, in most cases, five days of practice in pads before their first scrimmage. If they scrimmage on the Thursday before their first game, they have an additional three days in pads to prepare for their first game.

In jest, some coaches said the first game is almost like a second scrimmage.

Cass Tech coach Thomas Wilcher said teams should be allowed an additional week of practice, even if it is without pads. Teams then would be able to practice in pads that following Monday.

By the numbers

4: Number of first downs gained by Dearborn Edsel Ford in its 41-17 victory over Sterling Heights

11: Number of turnovers (combined) committed by Clinton Township Chippewa Valley and Dearborn High

6,583: The attendance for the Cass Tech-Southfield game

Top performance

Craig Gailliard

Dearborn Edsel Ford quarterback/free safety

A three-year starter, Gailliard scored five touchdowns in Edsel Ford’s 41-17 victory over Sterling Heights on Thursday. The junior had two interception returns (60 and 25 yards), an 80-yard kickoff return and two runs (3 and 8 yards) from scrimmage.

Quote

“It’s high school football. Especially the first week of the season, you just don’t know.”

Rochester Adams coach Tony Patritto after his team, unranked, upset Clarkston, which was ranked No. 4 in the preseason, 12-7.

tom.markowski@detroitnews.com

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