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Central Division

Predicted order of finish

(Consensus of coaches)

2013 records in parentheses

1. Birmingham Brother Rice (14-0, 4-0); 2. Warren DeLaSalle (6-4, 2-2); 3. Orchard Lake St. Mary’s (5-4, 1-3); 4. Detroit Catholic Central (11-3, 3-1); 5. U-D Jesuit (7-5, 0-4)

Top four players

■Brother Rice senior Alex Malzone (6-2, 205), a four-star quarterback, is one of the premier quarterbacks in the country, throwing for more than 2,700 yards and 25 TDs last year to lead his team to a state title. He committed to Michigan. “He has good arm strength and his accuracy is there, but it’s the intangibles that make him special,” coach Dave Sofran said.

■Jesuit senior quarterback Ryan Brand (5-10, 190) joined Malzone at the Elite 11 Camp over the summer in Oregon. He committed to Air Force after a junior season in which he threw for 1,871 yards and rushed for 832 to help Jesuit go from 2-7 to 7-5 and a district championship. “He’s a dual-threat guy who operates our no-huddle offense and is an outstanding leader,” coach Oscar Olejniczak said.

■St. Mary’s defensive back Tyson Smith (5-11, 180) is a three-year starter who committed to Michigan State, picking the Spartans over Wisconsin. “He has great ball skills and is very quick with a knack at getting to the ball,” coach George Porritt said of Smith, who has 4.5 speed.

■DeLaSalle junior Eric Rogers (6-2, 230), a four-star linebacker, anchors an outstanding defense. “Our strength is our defense and he’s definitely one of the reasons why,” coach Paul Verska said.

Top four story lines

■Brother Rice’s Alex Malzone and Grant Perry make up one of the premier passing combinations in the state. Malzone (Michigan) and three-star receiver Perry hooked up nine times for 91 yards and two TDs in the Division 2 title win. Perry, who has 4.5 speed, is being recruited by several Mid-American Conference schools after a 50-plus reception season.

■Expect St. Mary’s to be extra motivated this season. That’s what happens when you’ve missed the playoffs after reaching the Division 3 state championship game four straight seasons. Coach George Porritt has tons of talent, including cornerbacks Tyson Smith (Michigan State) and Ross Moore, and sophomores Josh Ross (running back-linebacker) and K.J. Hamler (slot). Ross already has offers from Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Oklahoma and Hamler from Michigan State, Cincinnati and Toledo.

■This division is the most competitive in the state. Last year, Brother Rice won the Division 2 state championship, Catholic Central lost to Clarkston in the Division 1 state title game and Jesuit and DeLaSalle also earned state playoff spots. How tough is the division? Well, Oscar Olejniczak took over as head coach of Jesuit last year, inheriting a 2-7 team and taking it to the third-round of the state playoffs … before a regional loss to Brother Rice. Now, Olejniczak will try to guide Jesuit to a Central Division win, something it hasn’t been able to do the past few seasons.

■If defense wins championships, DeLaSalle will have a solid shot at the division title. Coach Paul Verska, who is just seven wins from 200, has nine starters back on a defense which gained experience in the playoffs. Defensive end Mike Danna (Central Michigan), four-star junior linebacker Eric Rogers, linebacker Ryan Smith and safety Mike Ostrowski lead the group.

AA Division

Predicted order of finish

(Consensus of coaches)

2013 record in parentheses

1. Detroit Loyola (13-1, 4-0), 2. Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard (8-3, 3-1), 3. Notre Dame Prep (8-3, 2-2), 4. Dearborn Divine Child (3-6, 1-3), 5. Macomb Lutheran North (3-6, 0-4)

Top four players

■Loyola linebacker Paul Engram (6-0, 235) is among a handful of college prospects from a two-time Division 7 state runner-up team. He is a physical player who competes at fullback on the offensive side of the ball. He picked Western Michigan over Toledo and Central Michigan.

■Loyola running back Marvin Campbell (5-10, 190) rushed for more than 1,500 yards last season despite missing three games. He has 4.6 speed and is being recruited by several MAC teams, including perennial power Northern Illinois.

■Notre Dame Prep running back-linebacker Anthony Gunn (6-1, 210) has the ability to play multiple positions, but is being recruited as a receiver/cornerback in college. He is also a very good baseball player.

■Divine Child quarterback Colin Goslin (6-2, 220) will start his fourth season under center. A left-handed pitcher, Goslin will play college baseball at Michigan State. He will be operating the offense under first-year coach John Filiatraut.

Top four story lines

■Loyola will attempt to earn its third straight state championship-game appearance after losing to Ishpeming in the Division 7 title game the last two years.

“We feel this will be our year,” coach John Callahan said. “A couple of years ago we had seven sophomores and two freshmen playing, then last year we were older, but not wiser. We’re a senior-dominated team this year and we feel that will be the difference.”

Callahan also believes 6-3, 210-pound tight end-linebacker Phil Grey (formerly Orchard Lake St. Mary’s) will make a difference.

■A pair of new coaches will roam the sidelines in the division with Pat Fox taking over at Notre Dame Prep and John Filiatraut at Divine Child. Fox replaces Kyle Zimmerman — now at Davison — inheriting a team that advanced to the second round of the state playoffs. Fox was head coach at Milford for 10 years and, in the ’90s, at Berkley and Ann Arbor Pioneer.

■Filiatraut, who replaces Steve Robb, was previously the head coach at Livonia Churchill for 16 years (1997-2012).

■Gabriel Richard senior Matt Johnson has the ability to play multiple positions and will be in competition for the quarterback job with sophomore Jack Gaderick. They should get good protection from the line, led by 6-5, 260-pound junior Jacob Donnellon and 6-2, 230-pound Grant Dixon.

Intersectional Division

Predicted order of finish

(Consensus of coaches)

2013 records in parentheses

1. Waterford Lakes (8-3, 5-0), 2. Royal Oak Shrine (6-4, 3-2), 3. Allen Park Cabrini (4-5, 2-3), 4. Madison Heights Bishop Foley (7-4, 3-2), 5. Riverview Gabriel Richard (5-4, 2-3), 6. Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood (2-7, 0-5)

Top four players

■Lakes junior quarterback Clay Senerius (6-4, 180) returns to operate the offense after throwing for more than 1,300 yards and 11 TDs last season, including a Prep Bowl win over Shrine.

■Lakes receiver Nick Robak (6-4, 175) is back as Senerius’ top target after grabbing 35 passes for 10 TDs last season. Robak, also a very good basketball player, could top those numbers in his final year.

■Shrine quarterback Tim Niehaus (6-2, 175) is a dual-threat player with a strong enough arm to do damage through the air while quick enough to gain valuable yardage on the ground. “He is a great athlete,” coach John Goddard said.

■Cabrini junior Steve Sowa (6-3, 185) is a dominant two-way player. He has great size to give him the opportunity to go up and grab passes as a receiver while also using his size to be a presence at safety.

Top four story lines

■Josh Sawicki took over right where legendary coach Mike Boyd (361 wins, 47 years) left off, guiding Lakes to a 5-0 division record, Prep Bowl win and second-round state playoff appearance. At age 27, Sawicki — a member of Lakes’ 2002 state championship team — is one of the top young coaches in the state.

■John Goddard enters his 40th year as head coach, 23rd at Shrine, where he is now dean of the division coaches. He guided Shrine to a state playoff spot last year and should challenge Lakes for the division title with 19 starters back, including talented offensive linemen Troy Button, Ken Kruliski and Will Arce.

■Tyler Santangelo had a solid freshman year as starting quarterback at Cranbrook. It will be interesting to see his progress in Year 2 under the guidance of outstanding quarterback coach Terry Copacia.

■Cabrini’s strength will be its offensive line and for good reason with 6-3, 265-pound, three-year starter Max Fister and 6-2, 280-pound John Alosi protecting quarterback Eddie Oniel and opening holes for Brandon Macgregor.

David Goricki

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