Warren De La Salle has enjoyed a bounce-back season, going from 4-5 and missing the playoffs a year ago to earning the Catholic League Central Division title.
De La Salle clinched the Central Division title with a 20-6 victory over Detroit Catholic Central Friday night, getting off to a great start with Jacob Badalamenti’s 99-yard touchdown on the opening kickoff, then playing tough defense the rest of the way.
Now, De La Salle (6-2) — ranked No. 8 in The News Super 20 poll — has a rematch with Catholic Central (5-3) in the Prep Bowl Saturday night at Ford Field before heading into the state playoffs.
De La Salle — which won the Division 2 state championship in 2014 — last won the Prep Bowl in 2008 when it defeated Catholic Central 28-14, and used that momentum to reach the Division 2 state championship game.
Former longtime Macomb Dakota coach Mike Giannone, now in his second year at De La Salle, credits quarterback Luke Pfromm for sparking the turnaround.
“He didn’t play last year, just wanted to concentrate on basketball, but decided to come out this year and it worked out good for him and us as well,” Giannone said. “This year he has a lot of friends on the team, they talked him to coming out and I got to know him a little bit in the offseason. Greg Esler, the basketball coach, helped get him out as well, along with the tight end (6-foot-6, 220-pound Blaine Flanigan).
“They’re both good kids and have become better players throughout the season as they’ve gained experience. Blaine also took off last year to play basketball and found out you can play both sports, especially at a school our size.”
So, what makes Pfromm special at quarterback?
“The main thing is the kids believe in him,” Giannone said. “He’s a guy that has that calm demeanor and not a lot of things rattle him. In basketball, they would ask who do you want to take the last shot in the game and he’d be the guy.
“He gets along with all the guys on the team. He used to come to all of our games and the guys would go to his basketball games, so it was like, ‘You should try playing,’ and he did and he dedicated himself this summer in the offseason and really got a lot better.”
Giannone also has high praise for Badalamenti who scored on a 96-yard kickoff return in Week No. 7 against Erie Cathedral (Pennsylvania), a 33-23 loss.
“He’s fearless, played center field as a sophomore on the state championship team, plays basketball, just a great athlete, fast and a very confident kid,” Giannone said. “One of the things is he has great vision. He makes plays. He’s a playmaker.”
De La Salle’s defense played well in the win over Catholic Central, including four sacks.
“Anytime you can win a championship you don’t take it for granted so we’re excited,” said Giannone, who had tremendous success at Dakota, winning eight MAC Red championships, including his final four years while also winning at least one playoff game in 12 of his last 15 seasons, including Division 1 titles in 2006 and 2007.
“Next Saturday’s going to be a tough game because they are a very prideful team, a good football team. We’ll have our hands full.
“The playoff thing has been kind of a given for us for a while (15 straight years at Dakota) and when you take it away you don’t know how much you miss it so being in the playoffs is huge and winning the Central Division is large and winning the Prep Bowl would be really big for our school and program and the kids involved.”
De La Salle has another weapon in kicker Riley Garrison, who has converted 7 of 8 field goals, including a 39-yarder, and all 21 PATs.
PSL championship game set
Detroit East English — 8-0 and ranked No. 6 — will try to earn its first PSL title in the program’s six-year history Friday night when it plays No. 4 Detroit King (7-1) at Ford Field.
If the showdown equals the 2012 PSL championship game between the teams, a 51-48 King victory, it should be exciting for the fans.
East English has averaged more than 42 points during the last five games, including a 37-8 semifinal rout of Detroit Renaissance on Friday.
King has been challenged the last two weeks, battling back from a 22-6 first-half deficit to defeat Detroit Central, 46-34, in Week 7, then defeating Detroit Cass Tech, 17-7, Saturday in the semifinal.
King has won its last seven games against East English, with six decided by eight or fewer points, including 45-37 and 27-25 last season.
In the “B” Championship game, at 4 p.m. Friday at Ford Field, Denby (6-1) will face Central (6-2) and Western Michigan-bound quarterback El Julian Jordan.
Grosse Pointe South repeats
Grosse Pointe South earned an impressive 34-10 victory over Macomb L’Anse Creuse North Friday to repeat as MAC White champions.
Now South (5-3, 5-0) needs a win over Warren Mott (4-4) on Friday to clinch a playoff spot. Mott defeated South last year, 40-14.
Conor McKenna rushed for 160 yards on 26 carries in the win over L’Anse Creuse North to give Coach Tim Brandon his sixth MAC championship, including four Blue Division titles and the last two in the White. McKenna has topped the 1,000-yard mark.
Brandon said he was pleased to get senior two-way lineman Jamin Mays, who suffered an ACL injury during summer team camp at Notre Dame, back on the field.
“He’s our best player and we lost him during the offseason at team camp at Notre Dame when the offensive linemen were just playing touch football and he planted and cut the wrong way and got hurt,” Brandon said. “We were able to get him on the field when we went with Victory Formation to end the game so that was great to see.”
Brandon said it was also great to see South’s offense get going the past couple weeks in wins over New Baltimore Anchor Bay (31-20) and L’Anse Creuse North after consecutive losses to Grosse Pointe North and Romeo.
“Our offensive line is starting to gel and Conor McKenna is running well,” Brandon said. “He had 200 all-purpose yards (against L’Anse Creuse North), and rushed for 158 the previous game.”
Grosse Pointe North in playoffs
Grosse Pointe North coach Frank Sumbera likes his balanced attack with the running of Sheldon Cage and the passing of Iceland native Bjorn Bjornsson, a four-year starter.
Cage rushed for 286 yards on 39 carries and scored three touchdowns in a 45-28 victory over Roseville on Friday with Bjornsson completing 7 of 14 for 151 yards and three touchdowns.
“Sheldon Cage is a great young man, he’s 6-3, about 210 and runs real good, has excellent (sub-4.60) speed,” Sumbera said.
Cage has rushed for 1,401 yards on 138 carries and 18 touchdowns after playing fullback last year while blocking for Jared Jordan, who ran for 2,203 yards and 30 touchdowns.
North will host Marine City (7-1) on Friday. North already has a playoff spot clinched since it has an eight-game schedule this season.
Sumbera said North could play Grosse Pointe South or East English in the districts. North defeated South in Week 5, 26-23 in overtime.
Kensington Lakes title game
Canton and Livonia Churchill have a strong rivalry and things will only get more intense Friday when the teams meet at Churchill in the Kensington Lakes championship game.
Canton (7-1) has won seven straight to clinch the KLAA Black Division since a season-opening loss to Muskegon Mona Shores, while Churchill (7-1) won the Gold Division title with a 6-0 record, ending Grand Blanc’s unbeaten season with a 21-9 victory in Week 7.
Churchill won the regular season meetings in 2011, 2012 and 2015 with Canton sweeping the series in 2014, including a state playoff game, and dominating last year’s game, 51-7.