(2016 record in parenthesis; listed by predicted order of finish)
BELLEVILLE (7-3, 4-1)
Belleville returns a ton of talent to a team that bowed out in the first round of last year’s state playoffs to juggernaut Saline. Senior Davion Williams is a shutdown defensive back committed to Michigan State, junior offensive lineman Devontae Dobbs (6-foot-4, 270 pounds) is a four-star prospect and junior receiver Julian Barnett is a playmaker extraordinaire.
DEARBORN FORDSON (8-2, 5-0)
Coming off a one-loss regular season that ended with an unfortunate playoff matchup with eventual Division 1 state champion Detroit Cass Tech, Fordson will have some key pieces to replace. Coach Fouad Zaban returns just four starters on offense and three on defense.
DEARBORN (9-2, 5-0 RED)
After winning the Red Division last season, Dearborn moves into the Blue in 2017. Coach John Powell’s team also saw its season end at the hands of Detroit Cass Tech in a Division 1 district final loss. Things are going to be tough this season, as Powell returns just one starter from last year’s team. Senior Youseph Saad, who played a mix of running back and receiver, had eight touchdowns in 2016. Saad is also a third-year starter at cornerback.
DEARBORN EDSEL FORD (4-5, 3-2 RED)
Coach Mark Tyler’s team should stay competitive in 2017 with five returning starters on each side of the ball. Senior running back Will Marano will carry the load for the Edsel Ford backfield. This will be Edsel Ford’s final year as a member of the Western Wayne, as it is set to become a full-time member of the Downriver League in 2018.
GARDEN CITY (2-7, 1-4)
Coach Jim Baker is back for his second season at Garden City. It will be a tough challenge to compete with the top of the division, but Garden City has enough experience coming back (six starters on offense and defense) to keep itself in the mix. Senior Emad Rehman is a leader in the defensive backfield for Garden City, though he may split time at quarterback with junior Chase McGraw as both try to fill the hole left by Kyle Becker’s graduation.
DEARBORN HEIGHTS CRESTWOOD (5-4, 2-3 RED)
Crestwood returns a lot of experience at the offensive skill positions, but with just one player coming back on the defensive side of the ball, coach Mike Berry’s team could be in for a steep learning curve. There aren’t any weeks that Crestwood can take for granted with its tough league schedule.
REDFORD THURSTON (4-5, 2-3 BLUE)
Despite missing out on the playoffs in 2016, Thurston is poised for a rebound season under coach Bob Snell. Thurston returns four starters on an offensive line, all of who stand over 6-foot and include three over 300 pounds. Zack Crofford, a two-year starter at quarterback, is also back. Crofford threw for 1,131 yards last season, managing games with a 12-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Demetrius Dowd (635 rushing yards, nine touchdowns) also returns for an offense that looks to break out in 2017.
ROMULUS (9-2, 4-1)
After bowing out in the first round of the state playoffs in 2014 and 2015, Romulus was able beat Trenton and move on to a Division 3 district final before falling to Allen Park in 2016. Coach Thom Patterson’s squad will look to make it four consecutive playoff berths for the program this fall.
REDFORD UNION (7-4, 3-2 BLUE)
Coach Miles Tomasaitis’ numbers are down with just 22 players expected to suit up on varsity in 2017. The good news is that Union brings back six starters on both sides of the ball, including two-time team MVP and senior fullback Isaac Grant (5-10, 210), who has led the team in rushing the last two years (1,239 yards, 11 touchdowns in 2016), and can also be a menace as a linebacker. Senior running back Thorton Cain (808 yards, 13 touchdowns) provides a solid 1-2 backfield punch with Grant. A Week 3 showdown with Romulus marks both teams’ conference opener.
DEARBORN HEIGHTS ANNAPOLIS (2-7, 0-5)
Coach Scott Wiemer and Annapois could be poised for a rebound season after struggling in 2016. Wiemer returns eight starters on offense and seven on defense. Senior receiver Cam’ron Johnson (6-4, 180) is a big target on the outside.
DEARBORN HEIGHTS ROBICHAUD (1-8, 0-5 BLUE)
Athletic director Jason Malloy has stepped in and taken over as coach at Robichaud. After five consecutive playoff berths from 2011-2015, Robichaud took a step back in 2016. Malloy, a former Western Michigan linebacker, has charged himself with getting the program back on track with his F.A.M.I.L.Y approach, which stands for “Forget About Me I Love You.”
LIVONIA CLARENCEVILLE (3-6, 1-4)
Ryan Irish takes over again at Clarenceville and has a bevy of experience to work with as seven starters return on both sides of the ball. Junior quarterback Terrence Ealy Jr. is back after a strong sophomore season where he threw 14 touchdowns.