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MIAA football preview: Adrian is favorite

Al Willman
Special to The Detroit News
Damon Fuller

ADRIAN

Last year: 7-3 overall, 4-2 MIAA

Coach: Jim Deere (Seventh season, 43-19)

Notable: Adrian was picked by MIAA coaches to win the league, after finishing behind co-champions Albion and Olivet (both 5-1 in conference) last season. The Bulldogs finished 2015 on a four-game winning streak, and will be led this year by quarterback Stephen Milarch (Hartland). The 6-foot, 189-pound senior was 73-of-141 for 992 yards passing last season and had seven touchdowns and four interceptions. Emmanuel Stewart returns after rushing for 1,487 yards on 209 carries for averages of 148.7 yards per game and 7.1 yards per carry. Stewart enters his junior season needing 481 yards to become the school’s career rusher leaders. Defensive lineman Damon Fuller (Redford Thurston) is back after making 51 tackles, including 16.5 for loss.

ALBION

Last year: 9-2 overall, 5-1 MIAA

Coach: Craig Rundle (20th season, 115-77)

Notable: Albion has a big hole to fill at quarterback. Dominic Bona, the 2015 MIAA Offensive MVP, is Albion’s all-time leader in passing yards (8,824) and touchdowns (84). Linebacker Jose Rodriguez, who had four tackles for loss in four games before getting injured and being lost for the season, returns to lead Albion’s defense. Cornerback Anthony Waite (White Lake Lakeland) also returns after making 85 tackles and breaking up 13 passes.

ALMA

Last year: 5-5 overall, 2-4 MIAA

Coach: Greg Pscodna (fifth season, 9-31)

Notable: Sophomore signal-caller Dylan Zaborowski returns after passing for 2,370 yards and 18 touchdowns. Nick Sullivan is also back; he rushed for 881 yards (5.4-yard average) and 10 TD. On defense, linebacker Zac Peterson had a team-high 104 tackles (14 TFL) and 8.5 sacks.

HOPE

Last year: 2-8 overall, 0-6 MIAA

Coach: Peter Stuursma (first season, 0-0)

Notable: Sturrsma enters his first season at Hope, after replacing Dean Kreps, who retired in December after 30 years at Hope (21 as coach). Stuursma was 162-34 in 16 seasons at East Grand Rapids High School, with 13 trips to the MHSAA playoffs. Linebacker Jacob Pardonnet (Brighton) returns for his junior season after finishing second on the team in tackles with 72. He had 7.5 tackles for loss and two forced fumbles.

KALAMAZOO

Last year: 3-7 overall, 1-5 MIAA

Coach: Jamie Zorbo (ninth season, 29-51)

Notable: Senior linebacker Dylan Zerki (Orchard Lake St. Mary’s) returns after leading the Hornets with 104 tackles. He had 11 tackles for loss and three sacks. Alex White returns after throwing for 1,872 yards and 20 TD as a freshman.

OLIVET

Last year: 9-1 overall, 5-1 MIAA

Coach: Dan Pifer (fifth season, 21-19)

Notable: Pifer has orchestrated a zero-to-hero turnaround for the Comets. Olivet finished 0-10 in 2012 and shared the MIAA title with Albion in 2015. Senior quarterback Braden Black returns after throwing for 2,151 yards and 23 touchdowns.

TRINE

Last year: 6-4 overall, 4-2 MIAA

Coach: Troy Abbs (second season, 6-4)

Notable: Junior running back Mark Wilson had a good 2015, rushing for 839 yards and 12 TD in only eight games (four starts).

MIAA PRESEASON POLL

(Voting by conference coaches)

1. Adrian

T2. Albion

T2. Olivet

4. Trine

5. Alma

6. Hope

7. Kalamazoo