2. DETROIT KING (12-2), CLASS A
King is the two-time defending Division 2 state champion with the potential to win the title at Ford Field once again.
King graduated receiver/cornerback Ambry Thomas (Michigan) from last year’s state championship team, but returns an explosive offense with quarterback DeQuan Finn throwing the ball to Jaeveyon Morton (38 receptions, 567 yards, 13 TDs), Eric Gibson (Minnesota) and sophomore Ra’Shawn Williams, who recently received an offer from Ohio State.
Center James Davis (6-0, 305) and guard Josh Mayberry (6-2, 305) will anchor the offensive line, along with tackle Jeremiah Hardge (6-3, 265), opening up holes for four-star junior Marvin Grant who doubles as a safety on defense and has offers from Michigan, Notre Dame and Iowa, and Jalen Jackson, a transfer from River Rouge.
“I think the strength of our team will be the defense,” said second-year head coach Tyrone Spencer. “Maurice White, Jalen Bell and Tyrece Woods return on our defensive line and we’re excited about that, as well as impact players like Jaeveyon Morton and Marvin Grant in the secondary.
“DeQuan Finn will be hard to deal with for opponents, taking his game to another level. We did lose a lot of leaders so we need to find out who that guy is going to be to pick us up when we’re down.”
3. BELLEVILLE (7-3), CLASS A
Former Cass Tech defensive coordinator Jermain Crowell has put down a solid foundation entering Year 3 as head coach of Belleville, having double figure Division I players, led by Michigan State-bound cornerback Davion Williams, four-star junior offensive tackle Devontae Dobbs, who has offers from major powers Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State; junior receiver/defensive back Julian Barnett (offers from Auburn, Notre Dame, Michigan State); 6-2, 245-pound junior linebacker/defensive end Jalen Hunt; and senior defensive back Patrick Lupro (Bowling Green).
Belleville also showcases a pair of freshman phenoms in 6-4, 250-pound offensive lineman Damon Payne and quarterback Christian Dhue-Reed. Payne has offers from Georgia, Kentucky, Syracuse and Iowa State.
“We have 15 linemen so we’re huge on both sides of the ball and we have a lot of Division 1 defensive backs so that’s our strengths,” Crowell said. “The freshman quarterback (Dhue-Reed) makes us a different team. He’s a pocket passer who can really throw.”
4. WEST BLOOMFIELD (6-5), CLASS A
West Bloomfield potentially has the premier aerial attack in the state with Bryce Veasley (Bowling Green) having numerous weapons to work with this season.
Veasley (2,500 yards, 22 TDs) will have a pair of Big Ten-caliber receivers in A.J. Abbott, a transfer from Northville, and Taj Mustapha, both headed to Wisconsin.
“We like to think we’re the top receiving corps in the state of Michigan,” coach Ron Bellamy said. “We have five receivers with Division I football offers and there’s not too many teams in the state that can say that.”
Junior Tyrone Broden (CMU offer), sophomore Christian Fitzpatrick (offers from Louisville, Syracuse, Illinois, CMU) and tight end James Faulkner (three FCS offers) are other key receivers, along with junior Tre Mosley. Running back Collin Heard, a transfer from Groves, will be a factor on defense from his secondary position, showing his ability with a pair of interceptions and a late pass break-up in a 13-7 victory over Southfield A&T last season.
5. MUSKEGON (12-2), CLASS A
Muskegon will try to close the job and win the Division 3 state championship this season after falling to Orchard Lake St. Mary’s in the championship game in two out of the last three years.
Muskegon returns four of five starters on the offensive line to protect Central Flordia-bound quarterback La’darius Jefferson, including 6-7, 330-pound A.J. Reed (Penn State) and 6-5, 330-pound junior right tackle Anthony Bradford (offers from Alabama, Georgia, MSU). Davion McCall, C.J. Jefferson and junior Lonnie Clark are Jefferson’s main weapons.
The defense is led by Eli Jackson (6-1, 300) and Paul Riley (6-1, 205) up front with 6-0, 230-pound linebacker Ali’vonta Wallace and cornerback Willie Shanks other key performers.
6. WALLED LAKE WESTERN (12-2), CLASS A
Western reloaded from its Division 2 state runner-up team from last year with junior quarterback Sam Johnson, a transfer from Southfield A&T, working behind an offensive line anchored by Michigan State commit, junior Spencer Brown (6-6, 295) and having numerous weapons to work with in senior receiver Justin Thomas and sophomore Abdur Rahmaan Yaseen.
Western will be strong at linebacker with Jonathon Moffett (6-2, 230), Zak Kempster and junior Kevin Jackson, along with defensive backs in Dylan McGorisk, Randall Harris, Ben Reilly and Thomas.
7. ORCHARD LAKE ST. MARY’S (10-4), CLASS A
St. Mary’s should have an explosive offense with quarterback Caden Prieskorn returning to work with 2,000-yard rusher RaShawn Allen and Ky’ren Cunningham behind an offensive line that returns three linemen in Donnie Whalen, John Miller and Brennan Ebbert.
Allen rushed for 136 yards in the 29-28 state title win — the program’s third straight — over Muskegon to give him a school-record 2,131 yards while Prieskorn found Cunningham for a 18-yard TD pass with four seconds left for the difference.
Nathan Kolwich (6-3, 240) and Cunningham at linebacker will be key contributors on defense.
Ben Fee will be another weapon, kicking field goals of 32, 35 and 49 yards in the state-championship game.
8. RIVER ROUGE (11-2), CLASS B
River Rouge has gone deep into the state playoffs the past two years and this season should be no different with multiple Division I players leading the way, including Wisconsin-bound defensive back Reggie Pearson and tight end Lee Payton (Western Michigan).
Junior Emanuel Ferguson will take over at quarterback.
River Rouge’s defense should be outstanding with linebackers Baron Sholar (105 tackles), who has an offer from Buffalo, and Eric Chenault returning, along with 6-2, 275-pound defensive tackle Ja’veon Coleman and 6-4, 230-pound end Jalen Henderson.
9. SOUTHFIELD A&T (8-4), CLASS A
John Darby takes over at quarterback on a full-time basis after having a hand in 15 touchdowns without an interception in five starts last season.
Darby will have numerous options in receiver Matthew Gilbert (33 receptions, 600 yards, six TDs) and running backs Eric McArn (CMU) and Anwar Jackson.
Southfield’s defense will be led by junior safety Marcus Fuqua (eight interceptions), who has eight offers, and junior cornerback Brent Johnson, along with linebackers Javante Van Buren, a transfer from Livonia Churchill who has several MAC offers, and 6-5, 255-pound junior Devin Baldwin, who has offers from Bowling Green, Akron and Morgan State.
10. OAK PARK (7-4), CLASS A
Oak Park showcases one of the top offensive lines in the state with Kentucky-bound Marquan McCall (6-4, 320) joining 6-4, 280-pound right tackle Justin Rogers (offers from Ohio State, Maryland, Kentucky), three-year starting guard Drew Elly and junior center Shelby Givens.
Three-star junior Dwan Mathis, who received an offer from Michigan State, returns at quarterback. Three-star cornerback Robert Daniel, who has multiple MAC offers, leads the defense.
11. ROCKFORD (7-4), CLASS A
Northwestern-bound quarterback Jason Whittaker returns at quarterback, working with three-year starters in 6-4 tight end Logan Lee and receivers Marcus Remtema and Paul Reinke. Cody Carone (6-4, 295), a three-year starter, anchors the offensive line at left tackle.
Coach Ralph Munger feels he has a big weapon in kicker Eric Zeboor, who converted on 7-of-10 field goals last season.
12. UTICA EISENHOWER (12-1), CLASS A
Eisenhower has a talented quarterback in Max Wittwer back from last year’s MAC Red championship team which advanced to the Division 1 state semifinals, losing in the final minutes to Detroit Cass Tech.
Wittwer will be playing behind a line anchored by three-year starter Derian Doherty (6-4, 290) and have multiple weapons to use in receiver/cornerback Ben Mets and slot backs Jack Morris and Assad Bujaidar. Defensive end Henry Janeway (6-5, 230), linebackers Alex Decker and Drake Myny, and cornerback John Fantauzzo and Mets lead the defense.
13. SALINE (11-1), CLASS A
Saline has been one of the top powers in the state the last few years (34-4), including a Division 1 state title-game appearance in 2014, and regional championship games the last two years.
Coach Joe Palka has a dominant offensive line to work with in Michigan State-bound Dimitri Douglas (6-4, 290), Alex Lampman (6-1, 260) and center Zach Drevno, who has a walk-on offer at Michigan.
Cole Daniels, J. Drew McGovern and junior Cam Richardson are competing for the quarterback job with 6-2 Emmit Turner and Andrew Diuble at receivers.
Junior defensive back MJ Griffin, a transfer from Belleville who has 15 offers, leads the defense.
14. DEARBORN DIVINE CHILD (10-3), CLASS B
Divine Child returns several key starters from last year’s team, which reached the Division 3 state semifinals.
Divine Child showcases two of the top 10 players in the state in 6-6, 255-pound defensive end Aidan Hutchinson (Michigan) and four-star quarterback Theo Day (Michigan State), along with 6-6 receiver Quinn Blair (42 receptions, 978 yards, 12 TDs) and running back Marcus Owens. Linebacker Cameron Smith (Northern Michigan) and safety Cam Urbanik anchor the defense.
Day completed 65 percent of his passes, throwing for 1,833 yards and 22 TDs with just four interceptions. Hutchinson had 12 sacks.
“We have a chance to be good on defense and a chance to be really good on offense,” coach John Filiatraut said.
15. CLINTON TOWNSHIP CHIPPEWA VALLEY (6-4), CLASS A
Tommy Schuster had a strong sophomore season at quarterback (23 TDs, five INTs) and is among 19 starters back, working with receivers Jacob Rybicki and Jon’Naize Owens with running back Ja’Von Kimpson expected to have a breakout year with his 4.5 speed, running behind on a line anchored by Don Wesley.
The defense will be led by linebackers Marcel Lewis (offers from CMU, Kent State) and Brian Schieweck and end Kevin Krasniqi.
“This is the most experienced and deep team I’ve had here in my nine years,” coach Scott Merchant said.
16. CLARKSTON (9-3), CLASS A
Clarkston has averaged 11 victories over the last five years, winning consecutive state championships in 2013 and ’14.
Coach Kurt Richardson returns four starters on both sides of the ball with three-year running back Michael Fluegal running behind a talented offensive line, led by 6-4, 290-pound tackle Noah Nicklin, 6-4, 255-pound Stewart Newblatt and Cam Pass. Newblatt, Fluegal and linebacker Gino Paese will be key performers on defense.
17. DETROIT CATHOLIC CENTRAL (13-1), CLASS A
Dan Anderson, a former longtime assistant coach at CC, takes over as head coach, replacing the legendary Tom Mach, who guided the program to a record 17 state championship-game appearances, coming away with the ultimate trophy 10 times.
Anderson inherits a strong defense, led by linebackers Isaac Darkangelo (144 tackles), Cam Ryan and Matt Young.
18. LOWELL (12-1), CLASS A
Lowell returns quarterback David Kruse from a team that finished 12-1, losing 37-34 to Walled Lake Western in a Division 2 state semifinal game.
Kruse will have multiple options to go to in the aerial attack, led by the Douma twins, Brady and Connor, along with Addison Buckius. Caleb Devereaux anchors the offensive line. Linebacker Garrett Pratt leads the defense.
19. DETROIT EAST ENGLISH (5-4), CLASS A
East English will be hungry after missing the state playoffs for the first time in 20 years last season.
Senior running back Zhamaine March (Northern Illinois) has enjoyed three consecutive years of 2,000 or more all-purpose yards. He will be running behind an offensive line that returns four starters, including Syracuse-bound center Tyrone Sampson (6-3, 315). Western Michigan-bound Desjuan Johnson (6-3, 240) returns after having a 20-sack season a year ago.
20. CANTON (8-3), CLASS A
Canton will still have a strong running game with Colin Troup and Steven Walker in the backfield. Connor Engel takes over at quarterback.
Troup (60-yard run) and Walker (51-yard run) showed their potential when Sanders went down with an injury in the second game of the season in a 33-30 loss to eventual Division 2 state runner-up Walled Lake Western. Sanders returned to the lineup and finished with 1,702 yards, 6,197 for his career.