Oak Park looks like the real deal, opening the season with three quality wins, including a 23-15 victory over OAA White Division rival Farmington Hills Harrison on Friday to live up to its No. 3 ranking.
In past years, Oak Park played the same type of competitive schedule to start the first third of the season, only to suffer a loss or two.
But this season Oak Park opened with a 31-13 win over Utica Eisenhower – which reached the Division 1 regional final – followed by a 13-7 victory over Birmingham Groves and then the win over Harrison, which reached the Division 3 state title game last year.
With Harrison closing its doors for good following the 2018-19 school year, the coaching rivalry between Harrison's John Herrington – the state's all-time winningest coach – and Greg Carter ended in a 4-4 draw since the time Carter became Oak Park's head coach in 2011.
Area fans know all about Ohio State-bound quarterback Dwan Mathis and five-star junior two-way lineman/linebacker Justin Rogers, but it’s been unheralded running back Phillip Stewart who has made a big impact.
In fact, Stewart has showed his ability to slip away from defenders, using his vision and cutback skills to score impressive TDs, including a 65-yard TD run against Harrison to open a 16-7 lead early in the third quarter.
“He runs fast, he’s not scared of nothing and he has great speed and great juking ability,” said Rogers of Stewart a 5-foot-8, 165-pound senior who has rushed for 470 yards and five TDs this season.
“It’s a team thing, not just me because without our line we couldn’t do nothing,” Stewart said. “We’re a family and this is a lot of fun.”
While Rogers is highly recruited, scheduled for a visit to Texas this weekend, Stewart is still without an offer. Stewart became the starter when Torriano Richardson was slowed by a hamstring injury.
Now, Stewart provides the speed while 5-10, 200-pound sophomore Travis Boston provides the power in Oak Park’s running attack.
Mathis threw a pair of TD passes, including a 46-yarder on third down to Michael Bowens to give Oak Park its first lead at 9-7, then a 16-yarder to Stewart on a screen pass for a 23-7 cushion on a fourth-and-goal play.
Junior Maliq Carr was out due to being suspended from an altercation in the win over Groves, but Oak Park’s receivers still need to do a better job of holding on to the ball in the weeks ahead after combining for five drops against Harrison.
Mathis and his receivers have plenty of time to get on the same page, starting with Friday’s game against Rochester Hills Stoney Creek (1-2), then Troy Athens (0-3), Troy (1-2) and Rochester (1-2) before concluding the regular season against OAA Red powers West Bloomfield and Clarkston, teams that played against each other in last year’s Division 1 state championship game.
Canton’s Walker on a run of his own
While Stewart was under the radar heading into his senior season, the same can’t be said for Canton senior running back Steven Walker, who rushed for more than 1,000 yards last season to help his team to the KLAA championship.
Walker has continued his outstanding play this season, already rushing for 745 yards (60 carries), including a 299-yard effort in a 39-0 win over Northville two weeks ago and 306 yards (24 carries) and four TDs Friday in a 47-26 victory over rival Plymouth.
“Steve is the definition of a competitor,” said Canton first-year coach Andrew Lafata. “He just wants to win the football game with his team. After the first loss (35-21 to Livonia Churchill) he has been playing with a desperate mentality.
“Our line loves blocking for him because they know how much he cares about his linemen. Steve also has been a nasty little blocker himself these past two games, leading to the success of our other running backs. So I’m proud of how well he’s blocking and how excited he gets when he puts a defender on his back. When we watch film our whole team cheers when they see our backs block someone to the ground.”
Like Stewart, Walker also is without an offer.
“Zero offers,” said Lafata. “He’s 5-foot-8 and 170 pounds. If he were 5-10, 200 he’d have offers from all over. It’s just one of those things. Colleges like height, weight and speed. He has speed, but not ideal height or weight. If a team takes a chance on him they will get a great football player.
“He has big goals for himself, but above all he just wants to win on Friday nights. He has great stats, but that’s not what we’re focused on. We just prepare to win a football game every week. If Steve runs for 300 yards that’s great. But, if Steve runs for 30 yards and we win, we are just as happy.”
This Friday, Canton will play Salem (1-2), an across-the-campus rival it has beaten 17 straight times.
Detroit Community off to 3-0 start
Del Humphrey has reason to be proud since his Detroit Community team is off to a 3-0 start, best in program history.
Community hit the road and defeated Muskegon Heights 38-12 Friday, and has outscored opponents 96-24 margin after finishing 4-5 last year.
Community is led by quarterback Rayvon Williamson, running back Kejuan Sanders and receiver Daron Davis. Williamson threw for two TDs and ran for two more scores in the win against Muskegon Heights with Sanders running for 185 yards and two TDs.
Williamson has rushed for nearly 600 yards while throwing for 424 yards and four TDs this season with all of his scoring tosses coming to Davis.
Williamson also has three interceptions from his cornerback spot while Sanders has 450 yards rushing while getting in on 30 tackles at linebacker. Cedric Martin has six sacks.
Community – which has never had a winning season in its eight year program history – will return to Michigan Metro Athletic Conference Red Division play and take on Melvindale ABT (0-3) Friday.
“These kids have been hungry since last year,” Humphrey said. “Our focus is to do something that has never been done at Community, other than basketball, and that’s win. Our offensive line is putting in a lot of work.
“A lot of schools (college coaches) don’t come into Community to recruit and that’s a huge mistake. Cass and King are not the only schools that have athletes. Detroit Community has them as well.”
Freshman phenom at Robichaud
Any quarterback in the state would be thrilled to have numbers like Dearborn Heights Robichaud freshman David Williams.
Williams has thrown for more than 1,100 yards and eight TDs to help Robichaud to a 3-0 start.
“The kid is a stud,” said Robichaud coach Donny Scott. “He’s a great, humble kid too.”
On Friday, Williams completed 27-of-32 for 534 yards and three TDs, also scoring on a TD run in a 24-20 win over Western Wayne Athletic Conference rival Redford Thurston.
Williams threw for 426 yards and five TDs in a 56-28 Week 2 rout of Romulus.