September 16, 2013 at 1:34 am

Tom Markowski

Prep Insider: Despite top transfers, Detroit Loyola remains formidable

Detroit Loyola coach John Callahan has improved the football schedule, which should help his team prepare for the playoffs. (David Guralnick / Detroit News)

Detroit — Much has changed for Detroit Loyola and coach John Callahan since Nov. 24.

That day Loyola entered the Division 7 final at 13-0 and an overwhelming favorite to win its first state title. Loyola lost to an undersized Ishpeming team, 20-14, at Ford Field.

As deflating as the defeat was the future looked bright. Of the 34 on the roster Callahan would lose just five seniors to graduation. Among that core of returners were three linemen who started both ways, including Malik McDowell, one of the state’s top players in the class of 2014. Braxton Willis and Ka’John Armstrong were the other two.

But McDowell transferred to Southfield and Willis, now a junior, transferred to Detroit Cass Tech. Only Armstrong remained.

What was to be the strength of the team this season appeared to be an area of concern. There’s only so much depth for a program in an all-boys Catholic school of 140 students.

Add to this Loyola’s move up from the Catholic League Intersectional to the AA Division where the four members are all Class B schools (Loyola is Class C). Callahan also upgraded his nonleague schedule, adding Class A teams Detroit East English Village Prep and Bay City Central, and 2012 Division 4 finalist Detroit Country Day.

After three games it’s evident this is not a rebuilding season for Callahan. Bolstered by quarterback Garrett Schaller, a transfer from Lapeer East, Loyola could be better than last year. One thing is certain: Loyola will be better prepared for the playoffs because of its more challenging schedule.

It opened the season at Wayne State and defeated a good East English team, 20-12. The next week it went to Bay City and whipped Central, 44-7.

Last Thursday, Loyola was tied with Country Day, 14-14, and Country Day had possession inside Loyola’s 10-yard line when Anthony Fitzpatrick recovered a fumble on Loyola’s 7 with 2:50 left. Schaller completed two passes and Marvin Campbell (21 carries, 202 yards) ran 20 yards on a third-and-15 to keep the drive going. With time for one more play on Country Day’s 7 Schaller looked to the left, then spotted Keith Graves in the back of the end zone to his right and threw a touchdown pass for a 20-14 victory.

On Saturday, Loyola (3-0) opens league play at Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard. Loyola won’t play a home game until Week 6 against Dearborn Divine Child.

“Anytime, any place,” Callahan said. “That’s our motto.

“And we’re still young. We start three seniors on defense and four on offense.”

Muskegon pads resume

Historically, no program in the state can match the one at Muskegon High. Muskegon started playing football in 1895 and is ranked No. 1 in victories (773 before this season). The Big Reds have played in the same stadium (Hackley Stadium) since 1907 and have made the state playoffs 13 consecutive years.

Last Friday, Muskegon added to its historic resume.

Since Ralph Munger took over the program at Rockford in 1992 no Rockford team had lost a game by more than 29 points.

Muskegon (3-0) defeated Rockford, 45-0, at Hackley Stadium on Friday. Rockford (2-1) entered the game ranked No. 6. It had reached the Division 1 semifinals each of the past two seasons.

Coach Shane Fairfield said his team played a near-flawless game, much like the second half against highly ranked Grand Rapids Christian the previous week. Christian led 6-0 at halftime before Muskegon came back to win, 35-13.

“When you do that to a Rockford team,” Fairfield said, “a running clock, the way we minimized our mistakes and had the hunger and drive to finish the job, that says a lot about our kids. They were businesslike.

“We don’t need to be ranked No. 1, but we want to be respected. Now, with these two wins, people give you that respect. Rankings don’t win you any trophies.”

Muskegon led Rockford, 17-0, at halftime, then turned up the pressure.

“They were content on waiting for us to make mistakes,” Fairfield said. “We did all the little things right.”

Quarterback Deshaun Thrower, who committed to Stony Brook last week for basketball, rushed for 218 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries. He also threw a touchdown pass.

Three up ...

If for no other reason, Howell is 3-0 because of its defense. This unit has allowed just two touchdowns and two field goals.

But one can also point to the work of the special teams, notably punter Darren Ford, who’s also the starting quarterback.

In Howell’s 14-12 victory at Kensington Lakes Activities Association rival Hartland before a standing-room-only crowd on Friday, Ford averaged 46 yards on four punts, two of which were downed inside the 5-yard line.

Trailing 14-6, Hartland (1-2) pieced together a 99-yard scoring drive that ended early in the fourth quarter. On the conversion try defensive back Joe Olszewski and linebacker Freddie Tast stopped running back Austin Pierce a yard short of the goal line.

“We don’t have superstars,” Howell coach Aaron Metz said. “They’re a quiet group. There are no prima donnas.”

... and three down

No one could have anticipated Detroit Country Day sitting 0-3 and forced to win its remaining games to secure a playoff spot, certainly not coach Dan MacLean. Country Day lost in the Division 4 final to Grand Rapids South Christian last season and has three of the area’s top recruits in Maurice Ways (Michigan commit), quarterback Tyler Wiegers (Rutgers) and running back Richard Wilson (Boston College).

Country Day could easily be 2-1. After losing to Zeeland West in the opener, Country Day and U-D Jesuit were tied at 21-21 with less than a minute to play in regulation. Country Day had possession inside U-D’s 20 but threw an interception. Thus, the game went to overtime. Both teams scored a touchdown but Country Day’s conversion kick was blocked, giving U-D a 28-27 victory.

On Thursday, Country Day was again tied late in the game, this time against Loyola (14-14) when Loyola recovered a Country Day fumble at its own 7-yard line. Loyola eventually would score the winning touchdown on the game’s final play.

“We beat ourselves,” MacLean said. “The last two losses were both self-inflicted. Mental errors are costing us. We’re not finishing. Tyler is pressing, trying to do too much. There’s not a lot of margin of error against good teams.”

Attendance mark

The Prep Kickoff Classic, formerly the Big Day Prep Showdown, set an attendance record on Labor Day weekend at Wayne State. The three-day, eight-game event drew 13,041. The previous record was 12,782, set in 2009 when the event was held at Eastern Michigan.

Top performance

Dakota Kupp, Waterford Mott QB

Kupp, a junior, completed 23 of 34 attempts for 376 yards and six touchdowns in a 61-58 victory over Walled Lake Northern.

tom.markowski@detroitnews.com

More Tom Markowski