August 19, 2014 at 9:15 pm

Kensington Lakes Activities Association football preview

Northville tight end Ryan Roberts, right, has both the size and hands to catch most anything sent his way, and plans to do the same at Northern Illinois next fall. (Photos by Clarence Tabb Jr. / Detroit News)

South

Predicted order of finish

(Consensus of coaches)

2013 records in parentheses

1. Canton (8-2), 2. Plymouth (5-4), 3. Livonia Churchill (2-7), 4. Westland John Glenn (6-4), 5. Livonia Franklin (4-5), 6. Wayne Memorial (0-9).

Top four players

■Churchill quarterback, Brian Alsobrooks: An Eastern Michigan commit, Alsobrooks threw for 1,601 yards and 17 touchdowns as a junior. He’s also a very good kicker with a big leg, which gives his team the option of going for a field goal from long distances.

■Canton senior running back Chuck Turfe racked up 1,148 yards and 18 touchdowns on the ground in 2013.

■Churchill senior left tackle Matt Skibinski is a three-year starter who was all-state last season. Skibinski is heading to Eastern Michigan in 2015.

■John Glenn offensive tackle DeShawn Baker-Williams, a senior heading to Central Michigan, is an intimidating force on the offensive line at 6-foot-4, 300 pounds.

Top four story lines

■Canton will try to hold steady on its perch at the top of the division, but it will have to do it with an inexperienced defense which returns just four starters. The offense should click, but their coach says it’s the defense’s performance on third down that will ultimately decide Canton’s fate.

■Plymouth will try to wrestle the division crown away from Canton. It returns 17 starters from last year’s team, including 10 on defense. Plymouth just missed the playoffs in 2013, making it hungry for postseason action.

■Churchill is returning three of its top four wide receivers. It had a lot of near misses last year, but the feeling around the KLAA is that this is a talented team that is ready to compete for a division crown.

■New Wayne Memorial coach Tim Finnerty will have his work cut out for him as he takes over a program that hasn’t won a game since 2009. With the school hungry for success on the field, Finnerty will try to guide this program in the right direction.

Central

Predicted order of finish

(Consensus of coaches)

2013 records in parentheses

1. Northville (8-2), 2. South Lyon (6-4), 3. Novi (4-5), 4. Livonia Stevenson (5-4), 5. Salem (3-6), 6. South Lyon East (1-8).

Top four players

■Northville offensive lineman David Moorman, who is committed to Wisconsin, towers over his competition at 6-foot-5, 275 pounds. His mix of size and athleticism makes him one of the true elite linemen in the state.

■Northville tight end Ryan Roberts, committed to Northern Illinois, stands 6-6 and can catch just about anything thrown his way. His playmaking ability could help lead to another division crown.

■Salem quarterback Alex Nicholson threw for 1,400 yards and 18 touchdowns as a sophomore last season, and it seems the sky is the limit.

■South Lyon quarterback Anton Skupin is a dual threat who racked up 20 total touchdowns and more than 1,800 yards from scrimmage in 2013.

Top four story lines

■Northville, coming off its most successful season since going undefeated in 1961, is aiming for its fifth consecutive division title. With just three returning starters on defense, it will need big-time contributions from unproven players on that side of the ball.

■South Lyon coach Mark Thomas has racked up 228 wins in his coaching career, so it’s safe to say that with eight returning starters on both sides of the ball, South Lyon should put up a good fight for the top spot in this division.

■Novi is returning nine starters on offense and seven on defense. With this much experience coming back, coach Jeff Burnside expects his team to finish the season strong, unlike 2013 when Novi dropped its final three games and missed the playoffs.

■South Lyon East returns some very talented players on offense, but they’ve also lost a lot from a team that went 1-8 last season. It will be up to quarterback Zach Powers and tight end Trent Willenborg to carry the load.

North

Predicted order of finish

(Consensus of coaches)

2013 record in parentheses

1. Walled Lake Western (9-2), 2. Walled Lake Northern (8-3), 3. Walled Lake Central (2-6), 4. Waterford Kettering (6-3), 5. White Lake Lakeland (4-5), 6. Waterford Mott (4-5)

Top four players

■Central quarterback Nick Krumm, a four-year starter, led all of Oakland County with 21 passing touchdowns last season. If Central is to have a bounce-back season, it all starts with Krumm.

■Western defensive tackle Nathaniel Charter-Harris isn’t the most imposing figure, standing just 5-7, but he is one of the strongest and nastiest football players in the KLAA. He’s an all-state power lifter, and his strength, mixed with his low center of gravity, makes him a handful for any offensive lineman unlucky enough to draw the assignment of trying to block him.

■Northern defensive back Louis Grodman, a second-year starter always in position to make a play, has added 25 pounds to his frame for this season, and he’s going to give opposing receivers fits in the secondary.

■Kettering running back Austin Wood, the catalyst of a backfield that features three weapons, is a bruiser in between the tackles. He has deceptive speed, which allows him to also make plays on the defensive side of the ball as the team’s starting middle linebacker.

Top four story lines

■Western returns a lot of starters, but it lost some key players on offense and defense from its 9-2 season. It will need juniors and sophomores to step up if it hopes to remain the top dog in the North.

■Kettering’s triple-headed backfield will look to build on one of the better seasons in school history. Austin Wood, Danotiss Smith, and Keiron Payne will be expected to shoulder the load for a team that returns just five starters on both sides of the ball.

■Northern coach Brett Moore says this is the fastest team he’s every coached, and he likes its chances of competing for a division crown this season. After falling short in a shootout last season, Northern’s Oct. 2 battle with Western will be a sight to see.

■Mott won’t ever be the most physically imposing team, but it plays with a lot of heart. By returning nine starters on both sides of the ball, expect Mott to pull off a surprise or two this season.

West

Projected order of finish

(Coaches consensus)

2013 record in parentheses

1. Grand Blanc (7-3), 2. Brighton (6-5), 3. Howell (5-4), 4. Hartland (3-6), 5. Pinckney (7-4), 6. Milford (1-8)

Top four players

■Grand Blanc quarterback Tre’Von Avery’s numbers speak for themselves: 2,178 yards passing, 976 yards rushing and 30 total touchdowns. Avery can do it all.

■Grand Blanc linebacker Autonio Roland made 53 tackles in 2013 and will be called on to do even more for a defense that is returning just four starters from last year’s team.

■Brighton running back Joey Clifford ran for 1,350 yards and 10 touchdowns in his sophomore season. With a little more size and experience this year, those numbers should improve drastically.

■Pinckney defensive back Justin Eagy had four interceptions in 2013, and has the potential for even more this season. Eagy also can provide a spark on the offensive side of the ball. He scored five touchdowns, and averaged 21.5 yards per reception on 20 catches last season.

Top four story lines

■Grand Blanc returns about half of its starters, but it needs to fill the voids left at wide receiver and linebacker if it hopes to retain the division crown.

■Brighton coach Cliff Kiefer doesn’t mince words. He says his team is ready to dominate and win the division this season. Kiefer has good reason to feel confident as he returns 19 starting positions from last year’s team. His “unfinished business” moniker surely will liven spirits when Brighton squares off against Grand Blanc on Sept. 19.

■Pinckney took a big step in 2013, but the question is whether it can sustain that success after losing two-thirds of its starters from last year’s team. Coach Jakob Gailitis says this year’s team has more talent, but inexperience could be its downfall.

■Howell coach Aaron Metz says he has a lot of seniors who love to play, and that the goal for this team is to get into the playoffs. The biggest challenge will be replacing key guys from last year’s team on the offensive line.

Geoff Robinson