Prep Insider: Niko France is Woodhaven’s top option

David Goricki
The Detroit News

Niko France was a defensive back/running back when Woodhaven earned a share of the Downriver League title his sophomore year.

Then, coach Keith Christnagel talked with France, wanting to gauge his interest in making the move to quarterback to run the triple option prior to the 2013 season.

“He said he’d give it a try and he had some success, getting better as the year went on,” Christnagel said of France, who helped Woodhaven win four of its final six games after an 0-3 start. “He’s done a great job for us this year. He scored five TDs last week (in 42-35 overtime win over Allen Park), then scored four in the last game (30-6 win over Taylor Kennedy Friday).”

Woodhaven is 4-0, already equaling its win total of a year ago. France has rushed for 340 yards the last two weeks and has scored 13 TDs this season.

“We were pretty young last year with just six or seven seniors,” Christnagel said. “We had a lot of first-year junior players competing on varsity and then Niko and Ian Miller, who both played on that 8-1 team their sophomore year. That experience has paid off.”

So, how proud is Christnagel of his team’s start?

“It’s exciting, but there’s so much parity in the league and we have (Gibraltar) Carlson, Trenton and Wyandotte the next three weeks, traditionally teams that win,” Christnagel said. “We’re focused right now on Carlson. Our goal is to make the playoffs.”

Johnson is Madison’s big-play man

Juan Johnson is Madison Heights Madison’s answer to John Kelly of Oak Park.

All Johnson has done is run for 509 yards on 39 carries and score 14 TDs this season. He has also returned two punts for TDs.

Johnson, a 5-9, 180-pound senior, has 4.5 speed. He showed his versatility last year by recovering two fumbles, intercepting a pass and scoring the winning TD in a district title game win. Madison went on to an 11-1 record.

Johnson continued right where he left off, rushing for 135 yards on 15 carries and scoring five TDs in a 49-19 win Sept. 5 over Warren Fitzgerald, then returning two punts for TDs in a 67-15 rout of East Detroit Sept. 12 and rushing for 91 yards on eight carries and scoring three TDs Friday in a 43-0 win over St. Clair Shores Lake Shore, a reason Madison is sitting atop the Macomb Area Conference Silver Division standings.

“Juan’s a special-type athlete, what I call a four-tool athlete by how he can hurt you on defense, offense and then special teams,” coach Drake Wilkins said. “He doesn’t get a lot of limelight, but he’s probably one the hardest-hitting safety, outside linebacker that I’ve ever coached, especially for his size and that’s the one thing that’s working against him because I can’t understand why a lot more schools are not paying closer attention to him. It has to be his height.

“He makes three or four big plays every game. There’s no way to defend him, receiver, running back, kick returner, interceptions, he’s just a special type of kid.”

Special night set at Warren Mott on Friday

Warren Mott will host Military Appreciation Day on Friday, playing Clinton Township Chippewa Valley in a MAC Red Division game.

“We’ll be wearing camouflage uniforms and Chippewa Valley will be having American flags on their socks,” Mott athletic director Dave Noble said. “We will be having a barbecue near the tennis courts at 5, then have the game.

“The veterans and family members will be let in free. We’ll be honoring different veterans throughout the night and a World War II veteran at halftime.”

The NFL Network has donated decals of all the branches of the military and Mott’s players will get the opportunity to pick what branch they want to represent and place the decal on their helmets.

Top performer

Paul Romain, Sr., RB, Livonia Churchill

Romain used his sub-4.5 speed to rush for 262 yards and four TDs in a 42-0 win Friday night over Plymouth. He has rushed for 416 yards and seven TDs the last two weeks.

By the numbers

13 – number of TD passes Michigan-bound quarterback Alex Malzone has thrown this season for Birmingham Brother Rice.

1,056 – number of yards rushing for Lake Orion senior Matt Krause this season in four games.

47 – number of carries Trent Stone had for Holt on Friday in a 42-41 overtime loss to Lansing Everett. Stone rushed for 180 yards and has 841 yards rushing for the season.


“I’m proud of how we played, especially since we had three guys out with injuries on the offensive line and had guys step in and play well for us,” Detroit Loyola coach John Callahan on his team’s 39-10 win over Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard.