Some Metro Detroit coaches are saying players transferring to other high schools is becoming a problem, but don't expect Detroit King to complain.
High-profile players from all around the area are ending up at King, making the Crusaders the No. 1 football team in the state once practice gets underway this summer.
The players all seem to have their own reasons for enrolling at King.
Donnie Corley (Wyandotte) and Kyonta Stallworth (St. Clair Shores South Lake) transferred to King this past year. Corley — 62 receptions for 1,100 yards and 16 TDs last season — arguably will be the No. 1-rated player in the state for the upcoming season while Stallworth will be playing at Michigan State.
Now, standout running back Martell Pettaway, a former Stallworth teammate at South Lake, will be playing his senior year at King.
Lavert Hill, an outstanding cornerback/receiver at Cass Tech, also will be playing at King, as will Armani Posey, who caught 51 passes at East English last year.
In addition, Grosse Pointe North linebacker Lawrence Bryant will be playing his senior year at King, along with linebacker/running back Malik Lewis, another former East English teammate of Posey's.
Calls to King coach Dale Harvel regarding the multiple transfers that were rumored to number more than a dozen were not returned.
Pettaway's family moved back to Detroit, where older brother Devinne was a member of King's 2007 state championship team before passing away that spring after collapsing in the school's gym.
"My family moved back to the city," said Pettaway, who is rated as the No. 1 player in the state by ESPN. "My brother graduated from King and played on the state championship team. I want to graduate from King, too. My goal is to rush for over 2,000 yards and score 20 touchdowns."
Pettaway has received scholarship offers from Michigan State, Iowa, West Virginia, Vanderbilt, Cincinnati and Western Michigan.
"Michigan State was my first offer, but I haven't been up there in a while and haven't taken an official visit," he said. "My top three are Iowa, West Virginia and Western Michigan. I just got back from a visit to West Virginia (Wednesday) and I love what I saw, thought about committing, but just felt like it was too early."
King's weakness last fall was its running game, preventing it from getting past the first round of the state playoffs with a Division 2 loss to Southfield. Now, King should have a strong ground game and an elite aerial attack with senior quarterback Mikale Washington, a transfer from California last year, and receivers in Corley, Hill and Posey.
Losing Stallworth following the 2013 season and Pettaway after last season were severe blows to South Lake coach Nick Marrogy, who resigned in December.
"Kids transferring has become a big problem," Marrogy said. "It's so hard to build a program unless you're at a big school, then losing your best two players. … The MHSAA has put in new rules, like two collision practices per week during the season, so the focus and attention is on that instead of the transfer problem."
East English coach Rod Oden has problems with players transferring, especially when PSL schools are losing players to other schools from the same league.
"I feel we're losing two of the higher-profile kids and I was told it had to do with better opportunities for (college) recruiting," Oden said. "I say, go do what's best for your son, but I know we've been pretty consistent during the last 15 years I've been at Crockett and East English and that speaks for itself.
"Armani Posey was a quarterback in Little League and he came in already knowing we had a quarterback so we moved him to receiver and he flourished, 51 receptions and nine TDs last year and to leave that for a star-talent receiver lineup King has now is insane. Malik Lewis is a hard-nosed, talented player, but he's 5-foot-8, 5-foot-9, a tweener and it's going to be hard for him to play Division 1 ball at that size, and 5-foot-9 at King is still 5-foot-9 and I don't see how that gives him a better chance at getting a scholarship.
"We coach them hard here at East English Village and prepare them for the rigors of college football at whatever level and the kids will have the talent, ability and grades to play college ball, too."
Yes, Oden had Brandon Graham and Tony Lippett and the players had the size and ability to get things done at the college level with the 6-2, 265-pound Graham a star at linebacker for Michigan and now in the NFL and the 6-2, 190-pound Lippett a standout at MSU and potential NFL player.
Losing a player is a first for Frank Sumbera who has been a coach at Grosse Pointe North since 1969, running the program since '80.
"I've never lost one to someone else and I'm still trying to get a hold of him, talk to him about it," said Sumbera of Bryant. "It's a hardship thing for him. His uncle is now his guardian and he lives in Detroit. I love the kid, coached him in basketball back in middle school. He's a great kid and a great student, 3.5 (GPA). I still care about him, miss him and I'll try to do what I can to get him back here."
Hill, a Penn State commit who is ranked No. 7 in the state by ESPN, enrolled at King in January and Cass Tech coach Thomas Wilcher didn't seem bothered, saying Hill is in a better situation.
"I thought a new environment, and getting away from friends would get him back focus because the welfare of the students is always important," Wilcher said.
Chris Westfall knows how tough it is to build a football program, going 3-33 his first four years at Ypsilanti Lincoln.
Westfall and his staff have turned things around since, going 24-12 during the last four regular-seasons, earning state playoff spots in three of the past four years and winning consecutive SEC White Division titles.
But Westfall is battling the transfer problem as much as any coach in the state. He lost five players last year, three to IMG Sports Academy in Florida and two to Milan, then four more this past January to Belleville.
"We just coach the kids who want to be there and don't talk about the others," Westfall said in an interview with The News last fall. "We focus on the kids who stay and try to develop them."
After ending a 30-game losing streak in the 2008 season opener, Lincoln earned its first state playoff appearance in 2011 and has competed in the postseason three of the last four years, losing in the opening round of the Division 2 state playoffs to Wyandotte last fall.
In January, Darron Wheeler, Anthony Roberson, Devonni Reed and Jacob Muhammad all left Lincoln and enrolled at Belleville. They had played key roles for Lincoln. Wheeler caught 30 passes, Reed rushed for 574 yards and Roberson made 11 tackles for loss.
Catholic League chaos
The Catholic League had tremendous success on the field last year with Warren De La Salle (Division 2), Orchard Lake St. Mary's (Division 3) and Detroit Loyola (Division 7) winning state championships — with Birmingham Brother Rice ranked highly all season before falling to De La Salle in the regional final.
There was talk of moving Loyola up to the ultra-competitive Central Division and Loyola coach John Callahan wanted nothing of the move, especially since he lost the majority of his players to graduation.
Then, Catholic League director Vic Michaels decided to make Loyola play crossover games against Central Division opponents, OLSM in the season opener, then De La Salle in Week No. 6.
"We don't have a problem playing one Central Division opponent, St. Mary's in the opener, but we do have one with playing De La Salle, too," Callahan said. "We're not playing De La Salle.
"We only have 13 kids back from last year's team, just four starters. We have 19 kids from a JV team that won two games. We don't have some 50 kids coming back like De La Salle. We're not a big school. We have one quarterback and our backup quarterback is our running back. Yes, I'm worried about injuries.
"If I've offended anyone, I'm sorry, but I'm doing what's best for our school and definitely my players. Vic should be proud of us and support us. At the end of the day it's about kids and I don't want them hurt. ... If I have to forfeit a game (because of not playing De La Salle) or have the Prep Bowl taken away, so be it."
Michaels said the Catholic League will have an executive board meeting Tuesday to talk, including about Loyola's situation.