Rod Beard and Dave Goricki preview the high school football playoffs. The Detroit News
No. 10 Detroit King and No. 20 River Rouge were supposed to make deep runs in the state playoffs.
Now, just one of those teams will have the chance to play deep into November.
River Rouge plays Friday at Detroit King in a Division 3 predistrict game. Kickoff is at 5:30 p.m.
“It’s good for us, especially because of the kind of performance we played against Cass, we needed a game like this to get back on track, to be honest,” King coach Tyrone Spencer said. “I’m fired up about it. I was pretty disappointed about how we played against Cass, so it’s really like, get back to King football. They don’t have time to slouch or slack off.”
Cass Tech dominated King, 42-8, in the PSL championship game last Friday. Spencer knows King (7-2) has to bounce back quickly, or its season with quickly come to an end.
River Rouge (8-1) has won eight straight since a 40-7 loss to Cass Tech in the season opener.
“We just have to play good team defense, and definitely have to get all hands on deck with their running backs, and their quarterback likes to do a lot of different things with the ball,” Spencer said of River Rouge’s inside-outside running attack of Caleef Jenkins and De’Andre Bulley, along with Air Force-bound quarterback Emanuel Ferguson.
“Offensively, we have to get back to simple football and execute. I think we got away from that last week. If we play our game, and just do the little things right and not make it a big deal, we’ll be fine.”
Spencer knows King can’t let Daraun McKinney make the big play on special teams. McKinney, a Northern Illinois commit, has four touchdowns off kickoffs or punts.
“I don’t want no problems with that kid,” Spencer said. “He’s a pretty special, fast kid so you just want to do your best to have great coverage, hopefully the ball skips out of bounds on kickoffs. He’s just a guy you want to avoid.”
River Rouge coach Corey Parker hopes that his school can join the Western Wayne Athletic Conference — which lost Belleville, Dearborn Fordson and Dearborn to the Kensington Lakes Activities Association — next year to give it the ability to gain more points from playing bigger, more competitive schools and avoid a first-round matchup like this in the future.
River Rouge dominated the Metro Athletic Blue Division again while playing against smaller schools. Parker talked about how River Rouge tried to get in the Western Wayne in 2014, but only had an enrollment of 500. Now, River Rouge is at 1,040 students, and has added more sports.
For now, Parker has to focus on stopping King’s high-powered offense, led by Central Michigan-bound quarterback Dequan Finn. He hopes 6-4, 270-pound Clemson-bound defensive end Ruke Orhorhoro and 6-5, 270-pound Jaylen Henderson can cause some damage up front to slow down Finn.
“They play a very intense, fast brand of football, so you have to contain the quarterback well in the run game and the pass game,” Parker said.
“It’s a situation where we have to play high-level football right out of the gate. We have to play playoff brand football, similar to how we played against Southfield (A&T).”
Orhorhoro had five tackles for loss, including three sacks in the 45-0 win Friday over Southfield A&T.
Pick: King by 6.
Utica Eisenhower (6-3) at No. 2 Chippewa Valley (9-0), Friday, 7: Eisenhower won MAC Red championships in 2016 and 2017, advancing to the Division 1 state semifinals two years ago and to a regional championship game last year.
Chippewa Valley earned the MAC Red title this season, defeating Eisenhower in Week No. 3, 45-24.
Chris Smith’s Eisenhower team bounced back from a 1-3 start to win five straight games to get back in the playoffs.
Eisenhower will have a different look since that 45-24 loss ,with Smith inserting 6-3, 195-pound receiver Ian Kennelly at quarterback. Kennelly rushed for a school-record 366 yards in a Week 7 win over Anchor Bay, and 165 yards in a 21-13 upset of Macomb Dakota the next week.
Still, Chippewa Valley has too many weapons, including three-year starting quarterback Tommy Schuster, CMU-bound receiver David Ellis and MSU-bound linebacker/tight end Marcel Lewis.
Pick: Chippewa Valley by 4.
Canton (6-3) at Detroit Catholic Central (6-3), Friday, 7: The teams met in last year’s Division 1 regional, with Catholic Central earning a 27-26 overtime win by stopping Canton on a two-point attempt with 34 seconds remaining.
Catholic Central has looked great at times this season, including its 28-7 season-opening win over Walled Lake Western and 10-7 victory over defending Division 2 state champion Warren De La Salle, but also looked very beatable in losses to Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, 31-29, in Week 7 and in the Catholic League title game, a 24-6 loss to De La Salle in the rematch at Ford Field.
Catholic Central will have to slow down Canton’s 2,000-yard rusher Steven Walker to advance.
Pick: Canton by 2.
Grosse Pointe South (8-1) at No. 12 Dearborn Fordson (8-1), Friday, 7: Fordson has an explosive offense, showcased in a 49-41 win over Canton in the regular-season finale last Friday. It’s lone loss came in a Week 6 showdown at Belleville, 29-26, when it failed to protect a 10-point lead.
South had its unbeaten season come to a halt by Romeo, 41-16, Friday.
Look for Fordson’s running back Abraham Jaafar to be the difference.
Pick: Fordson by 8.
Romeo (6-3) at Macomb Dakota (7-2), Friday, 7:
Romeo ended a two-game losing streak with the win over Grosse Pointe South to punch its postseason ticket.
Now, Romeo will be trying to avenge a 37-30 Week 7 loss to Dakota.
Dakota put on a goal-line stand in the second overtime for the win over Romeo.
Expect linebacker Brock Horne & Co. to slow down Dakota’s explosive offense this time around.
Pick: Romeo by 2.