KLAA preview: Stevenson, Canton boast powerful offenses

David Goricki
The Detroit News
Canton safety Jared Stephens

Kensington Conference: Central Division

Predicted order of finish

(Consensus of coaches)

2014 record in parentheses

1. Livonia Stevenson (6-4, 4-1), 2. Northville (6-4, 3-2), 3. South Lyon (8-2, 4-1), 4. Novi (4-5, 3-2), 5. Salem (2-7, 1-4), 6. South Lyon East (0-9, 0-5).

Top four players

1. Stevenson running back Austin Petrie rushed for 1,134 yards and 17 TDs to help the Spartans earn a state playoff spot. He has 4.5 speed, is a three-sport athlete and has an offer from NAIA Concordia for football.

2. Novi running back Emanuel Jackson (6-foot, 180), a Western Michigan commit, is one of the premier players in all the KLAA. He collected an average of 222 yards of total offense per game, including 1,061 yards rushing (16 TDs) and 629 receiving yards (5 TDs).

3. South Lyon running back/linebacker Trevor Tank (6-3, 240) is a physical player who gets things done on both sides of the ball. He averaged 7.3 yards per carry while making several big stops on defense end to lead the Lions to a playoff appearance.

4. Northville quarterback Justin Zimbo (6-0, 190) accounted for more than 2,000 yards in the Mustangs’ spread zone option attack, throwing for 1,100 and running for more than 1,000 to lead them to a postseason appearance.

Top four story lines

1. Stevenson should put some points on the board with three three-year varsity players on offense, led by running back Austin Petrie (1,134 yards, 17 TDs), along with second-year starter Chris Tanderys (1,638 yards passing, 14 TDs) returning from a state playoff team. Three of four starters return on the defensive line, including Matt Brown (46 tackles, 7 for loss).

2. Mark Thomas starts his 37th year as a head coach after guiding South Lyon to an 8-2 record last season. He will need to reload after losing quarterback Anton Skupin (EMU) and defensive back Joe Newman (Saginaw Valley). The Lions have a four-year starter in running back/linebacker Trevor Tank, along with all-KLAA defensive lineman Jeff Gill.

3. Novi plans to carry the momentum it built at the end of the ’14 season — four wins in its last six games — into this season. The Wildcats return skilled players in quarterback Alec Bageris and running back Emanuel Jackson.

4. Salem hopes to move up in the Central standings with 20 seniors back, including 10 three-year starters. The Rocks also plan to take advantage of having defensive backs/receivers Shaw Lyall and Freddie McGee healthy.

Canton running back Marcus Sanders

Kensington Conference: South Division

Predicted order of finish

(Consensus of coaches)

2014 record in parentheses

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

Top four players

1. Canton linebacker Jalen Cochran (6-4, 235) has the size and speed to chase down ball carriers. He had 53 tackles and seven pass breakups and should increase his three sacks of a year ago. He has been offered by Iowa and several MAC schools.

2. Plymouth tackle Michael Jordan (6-6, 305), an Ohio State commit, is an outstanding blocker and pass protector for the Wildcats. “He’s a great character kid who is becoming more of a vocal leader,” coach Mike Sawchuk said.

3. Plymouth running back Cam Stella (6-0, 175) used his 4.5 speed last season to rush for more than 1,100 yards, averaging 6.1 yards, to help the Wildcats earn their ninth state playoff appearance in the last 10 years.

4. Canton free safety Jared Stephens (6-0, 195) is a heavy hitter who is being recruited by MAC schools to play linebacker. He has 4.6 speed and also could be playing some quarterback for Tim Baechler’s offense.

Top four story lines

1. Canton probably won’t be able to average the 47.5 points it did the last four games last season, including three postseason games, but it will have the ability to put 30 on the board on a given night, returning a 2,000-yard rusher in junior Marcus Sanders and offensive tackle Devin Obrec. Linebacker Jalen Cochran and safety Jared Stephens will lead the defense.

2. Plymouth returned to the state playoffs last year after missing the postseason the previous year. Look for the Wildcats to play a 10th game again … and maybe more. Plymouth returns its entire offensive line, led by Ohio State-bound tackle Michael Jordan, who will block for 1,100-yard back Cam Stella.

3. Churchill had four games decided on the final play last year when the Chargers finished 8-3, including a playoff win. It will be tough for coach Bill DeFillippo’s Chargers to have a repeat performance after returning just six starters, just two on offense.

4. The South Division welcomes two new head coaches, Steve Waller at John Glenn and Donald Anderson at Wayne Memorial. Waller is familiar with John Glenn, playing for Chuck Gordon, then coaching the last 15 years. Anderson replaces Tim Finnerty, who helped Wayne end its 46-game losing streak last year.

Lakes Conference: West Division

Predicted order of finish

Consensus of coaches

(2014 records are in parentheses)

1. Grand Blanc (5-4, 4-1), 2. Hartland (7-3, 4-1), 3. Brighton (4-5, 2-3), 4. Howell (4-5, 3-2), 5. Pinckney (3-6, 2-3), 6. Milford (1-8, 0-5).

Top four players

1. Grand Blanc receiver Blake Bogan was a key target for Tre’Von Avery last season, showing his big-play ability by grabbing 30 passes for 407 yards. Now, Bogan will have to be the premier receiver for Zach Leedom.

2. Brighton running back Joey Clifford had a strong junior season, rushing for 1,121 yards and 15 TDs. He has rushed for more than 2,400 during his career and played on the Bulldogs’ state championship hockey team.

3. Hartland defensive tackle Andy Maschke (6-1, 270) causes havoc in the middle of the line, using his strength (benches 405 pounds) to get to the ball. He should be a force again for the Eagles in trying to get them to another state playoff appearance.

4. Hartland tight end Nathan Skene (6-3, 220) will once again be a big target for veteran quarterback Noah Marshall. Skene, who is also a strong blocker, had 25 receptions for 600 yards last season.

Top four story lines

1. Brian Lemons takes over as head coach at Brighton after guiding Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard to seven consecutive state playoff appearances and a run to the Division 5 state semifinals in 2012. He inherits 11 starters (six on defensive, five on offense) from a 4-5 team.

2. Aaron Metz will try to get Howell back to its winning ways after a 4-5 season. The Highlanders return seven starters on offense, including quarterback Brett Chaperon, who accounted for 1,300 yards and 10 TDs. Trevor Wetzel (4 INTs) and Thomas Lassitter (54 tackles) return to solidify the defensive secondary.

3. Joe Delaney, starting his 36th season in coaching for Grand Blanc, will have to help Zach Leedom make a transition from running back to quarterback to replace Tre’Von Avery.

4. Milford coach Tim Gough will be thrilled to see a healthy Jackson Hale in the lineup after the Mavericks went 1-8 last season. Hale, a defensive lineman who had 35 tackles in just five games, is among five back on defense.

Lakes Conference: North Division

Predicted order of finish

(Consensus of coaches)

2014 record in parentheses

1. Walled Lake Western (9-2, 4-1), 2. Walled Lake Central (9-3, 4-1), 3. Walled Lake Northern (4-5, 1-4), 4. Waterford Mott (6-4, 4-1), 5. Waterford Kettering (5-4, 2-3), 6. Lakeland (3-6, 0-5).

Top four players

1. Mott receiver Desmond Fitzpatrick (6-2, 190), a Louisville commit, transferred from Farmington High, where he had 35 receptions for 500 yards and 12 TDs last season.

2. Central defensive end Adetokunbo Ogundeji (6-4, 225), a Notre Dame commit, is a one-man wrecking crew, making 34 tackles for loss while blocking 17 passes last season.

3. Western quarterback Kyle Thomas (6-0, 170) is an impressive dual threat, throwing for 1,560 yards while rushing for 920 to help the Warriors earn a share of the division title.

4. Western kicker John Camillari (6-0, 160) kicked 12 field goals and accounted for 80 points last season.

Top four story lines

1. Central won a district championship, putting on an impressive defensive effort in a 11-7 victory over West Bloomfield. Coach Bob Meyer returns a handful of starters from that defensive unit, including Notre Dame-bound end Adetokunbo Ogundeji.

2. Mott’s spread offense which frequently showcases four receivers will only get better with the addition of 6-2, 190-pound Louisville-bound Desmond Fitzpatrick, a transfer from Farmington, and quarterback Jacob Baldwin, a transfer from Grand Blanc.

3. Expect Western success with the combination of quarterback Kyle Thomas and 6-4, 190-pound receiver Cody White. The team has a half-dozen starters returning on defense.

4. Kettering has a new head coach in Shaun Warner, who is set to put in a new offense. He’ll have a challenging job on his hands after the graduation loss of two 1,000-yard rushers from a 5-4 team.

Canton players work on tackling during practice.