Prep Insider: S.H. Stevenson making playoff bid
Kevin Frederick is enjoying his first season as head football coach at Sterling Heights Stevenson.
And, for good reason.
Frederick, 36, has guided the Titans to a 5-1 record, already surpassing the win total (4-5) of a year ago.
Stevenson can qualify for the state playoffs with a win at Warren Mott Friday. A win at Mott would set up Stevenson for a Week 8 showdown against defending MAC Red champion Macomb Dakota Oct. 17 at home.
"The kids have worked real hard and they want to get Sterling Heights Stevenson back to where it was in the past," said Frederick, recalling the glory years of Rick Bye (268-94 from 1975-2009) when the Titans played in the Class A state championship game in 1986, the Class AA title game in 1996 and in Division 1 championship games again in 2004 and '09.
Frederick, who coached at Whittemore-Prescott the previous six years, believes he has at least a couple of Division 1 players, including 6-foot-2, 180-pound senior receiver/defensive back Greg McDade and 6-4, 240-pound sophomore defensive lineman Dez Lance.
"I feel Greg McDade (five interceptions, 19 receptions for 410 yards) is one of the best players, if not the best player, in the MAC Red," Frederick said. "He's a lock-down corner who has the ability to make plays on the offensive side of the ball that other kids just can't make. He's a Division 1 player who a lot of college coaches don't know about because he broke his ankle in the first game last year."
And, of Lance, Frederick replied: "He was a kid we were going to start on the JV team, but then he just dominated players on one-on-one drills and we moved him up and he's proved to be valuable. He might be the fastest kid on our team, even faster than Greg, who runs a 4.55 (40)."
The defense is limiting opponents to 39 points — an average of 6.5 per game, best in Macomb County — and an average of 168 total yards.
"Our defense has been fantastic," Frederick said. "We have some young kids on the defensive line, sophomores Jordan Lewis and Dez Lance who are getting to the quarterback and then there's McDade playing well at corner and a very good safety in Jared Cutlip."
Lewis had five sacks in a 42-0 rout of L'Anse Creuse North Sept. 26. Stevenson defeated Utica Ford, 29-3, on Friday. Lewis has eight sacks and junior defensive end Andrew Loria, seven. Cutlip has a team-high 50 tackles with linebacker Tommy Robinson at 49.
Frederick said the offense has continued to grow every week, led by junior quarterback Frankie D'Ascenzo.
"He's a dual-threat kid who is getting the ball to our playmakers," said Frederick. "He's a great runner with great vision and a good motor. He breaks a lot of tackles and has a good arm. Nick Turner is running the ball well for us, too.
"Yes, our offense has developed an identity and teams can't just load the box against us because we'll beat you through the air."
D'Ascenzo has completed 50 percent of his passes (35-of-70) for 575 yards and four touchdowns. He is also Stevenson's leading rusher (76 carries, 614 yards, four TDs) with Turner right behind (81-610, five TDs).
Underclassmen spark Robichaud
Dearborn Heights Robichaud is off to an impressive 6-0 start, thanks to the outstanding play of 5-10, 160-pound junior receiver Traivon Clayton and 6-3 sophomore quarterback Jairus Grissom.
Clayton has scored touchdowns every way possible this season, receptions, runs, kickoff returns, punt returns and interception returns.
He has 12 touchdowns, including TD receptions of 65 and 60 yards in a 20-14 win over Romulus Friday in the Western Wayne Athletic Conference showdown for first place in the Red Division. Clayton also has four interceptions, two returned for TDs.
"We knew we had the talent to be a successful team, but Traivon has really matured, worked hard in the weight room to get stronger and faster, and it has paid off for him," second-year Robichaud coach Alfred Demps. "He was 140 pounds last year and he's up to a solid 160 this season. He's getting some attention, too."
Demps had high praise for Grissom prior to the season and he's not backing down on the praise now, saying: "He's a dual-threat guy who is very elusive and makes good decisions with the ball."
Grissom's stats back up Demps' statement. He has thrown 14 TD passes with just two interceptions.
Now, Robichaud can surpass its win total of a year ago (6-4) when it hosts Annapolis Friday. Robichaud made the playoffs last year, losing to Pontiac Notre Dame Prep in the opening round, then avenging the loss with a 36-30 win over ND Prep to open the '14 season.
Sure, Clayton and Grissom can't duplicate the excitement that Tyrone Wheatley did at Robichaud some 25 years ago, but they are definitely fun to watch.
No room for error for De La Salle
Warren De La Salle (3-3) has its work cut out to make the state playoffs after suffering three consecutive close losses by a total of 15 points.
"We lost three close ones, but we still have a chance of making the playoffs and I don't think teams would want to play us then, either," said De La Salle coach Paul Verska, pointing to the tough setbacks to Birmingham Brother Rice (28-21), Orchard Lake St. Mary's (14-10) and Dearborn Fordson (28-24). "We've had a bunch of injuries, four starters out and we should have them all back for the first time next week."
Because of the injuries, four-star junior linebacker Eric Rogers (6-1, 230) has played a number of positions, including defensive end in the game against Brother Rice.
"Eric's played well for us," Verska said. "He was forced to play defensive end against Brother Rice because we didn't have anyone else to rush the passer."
Rogers put pressure all game on Brother Rice quarterback Alex Malzone, who will play next year at Michigan. He had seven tackles, including two sacks.
"I'll play anywhere they need me to play," Rogers said. "I played defensive end against Brother Rice because Mike Danna (Central Michigan recruit) was injured. I've also played outside linebacker, but it was refreshing to get back to playing inside linebacker again.
"We've lost a lot of close games and we just have to start finishing games better. It's just going to make us hungrier for the playoffs."
Rogers is the younger brother of James Rogers, who played for Michigan from 2007-10. Eric has received interest from 21 schools, including Michigan, Michigan State, Florida State, Auburn and Notre Dame, but has yet to get an offer.
"I visited Michigan State three times, Michigan twice and visited Purdue last weekend," Rogers said. "My brother played at Michigan from '07-'10 and I'm sure he wants me to follow in his footsteps with the Maize and Blue, but he'll support me in whatever I decide to do."
And, his feelings on Michigan with its current struggles?
"Michigan has a place in my heart growing up and it's still a very strong program, getting great recruits," Rogers said.
Rogers' focus is clearly on having a strong finish to the season, starting Friday with what he hopes results in a win at Detroit Jesuit to set up a huge matchup Oct. 19th at Detroit Catholic Central.
By the numbers
20 — TD passes thrown by Birmingham Brother Rice quarterback Alex Malzone, who has 1,719 passing yards this season
315 — Rushing yards by Utica running back Kumehnnu Gwilly, on 43 carries, in a 49-34 loss to Chippewa Valle.
3 — Wins by Lincoln Park this season, evening its record at 3-3 with a 23-0 homecoming win over Taylor Kennedy Friday, the same team it beat a year ago to end its 66-game losing streak
"He's a Division 1 player, a lock-down corner and a great receiver who makes plays other kids don't,"
Sterling Heights Stevenson coach, on senior receiver Greg McDade
Grant Perry, Birmingham Brother Rice
Perry, a senior, had 14 receptions for 257 yards and two TDs in a 28-20 win over Orchard Lake St. Mary's. He has 54 receptions, already topping his number for last season.