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Catholic League football preview

David Goricki
The Detroit News

Central Division

Predicted order of finish

(Consensus of coaches)

2014 records in parentheses

1. Orchard Lake St. Mary's (12-2, 3-1), 2. Warren De La Salle (11-3, 2-2), 3. Detroit Catholic Central (4-5, 1-3), 4. Birmingham Brother Rice (11-1, 4-0), 5. U-D Jesuit (2-7, 0-4).

Top four players

1. St. Mary's junior receiver/defensive back Kahlee Hamler (5-foot-9, 165) could be the division's most exciting player with the ability to break loose for a score every time he touches the ball because of his talent and 4.4 speed. He already has more than a dozen offers, including Michigan and Michigan State.

2. St. Mary's three-star offensive lineman Cameron Kolwich, (6-5, 265) and Northwestern commit had more than a half-dozen offers, including Michigan. He will be the anchor on an offense with 1,000-yard rushers Brandon Adams and Justin Myrick returning, along with Ryan Johnson (800 yards, 9 TDs), who has 4.43 speed.

3. St. Mary's junior linebacker Josh Ross (6-1, 220) is as good as it gets, coming up with 123 tackles, including seven in the Division 3 championship game shutout of Muskegon. A hard-hitter with speed, the 15-year-old Ross already has received multiple offers from Power Five conference schools.

4. De La Salle junior running back Allen Stritzinger (6-1, 185) had a strong sophomore season, averaging 5.5 yards per carry while rushing for 1,356 yards and 20 TDs. He ran for 175 yards and a TD in the 44-8 rout of Muskegon Mona Shores in the Division 2 title game. He also plays cornerback and returns kicks.

Top four story lines

1. If De La Salle repeats as state champion, the Pilots will have to do it without standout linebacker and Western Michigan-bound Eric Rogers, who suffered a season-ending ACL injury during 7-on-7s. Still the Pilots are loaded with talent, including WMU-bound lineman Jordan Asbury, Bowling Green defensive end Drew Beesley (11 sacks) and third-year safety Tru Wilson.

2. Catholic Central offensive lineman Tom Kowalkoski (6-5, 275) will try to help get the Shamrocks back to the state playoffs after a rare year of sitting on the sidelines last season. Kowalkoski, a Boston College commit, will be opening holes for running backs Alex Bock and Tyler Laurentius and protecting a quarterback who could be any one of five players, including senior Joe Ruggirello or junior Kevin Conder.

3. Four of the Central Division teams have either played in a state championship game or won the state title during the last two years: De La Salle (Division 2) and OLSM (Division 3) won championships last season and Brother Rice (Division 2) took the title in 2013 while Catholic Central played in the Division 1 championship game. It wouldn't be a surprise to see one or more again at Ford Field over Thanksgiving.

4. Don't be surprised to see Brother Rice end up with multiple losses this season after losing a combined three the last three years. That's what happens when you lose more than 30 seniors, including Dream Team members Alex Malzone and Grant Perry. Look for 6-3 junior Johnny Tracy to take over at quarterback with 6-6, 310-pound junior Larry Borom and 6-5, 285-pound junior Octavious Miles protecting him.

AA Division

Predicted order of finish

(Consensus of coaches)

2014 record in parentheses

1. Detroit Loyola (14-0, 4-0), (tie) Dearborn Divine Child (7-4, 3-1), 3. Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard (7-3, 2-2), (tie) Pontiac Notre Dame Prep (3-5, 1-3).

Top four players

1. Loyola coach John Callahan thinks 6-foot-2, 220-pound junior linebacker Kailen Abrams will be an impact player for the defending Division 7 state champion. Abrams can chase down ball carriers with his speed and length.

2. Gabriel Richard offensive tackle Jacob Donnellon (6-5, 260) is athletic and strong, helping the Fighting Irish earn a playoff spot last year with his pass blocking and run-blocking ability.

3. Loyola linebacker/lineman Anthony Fitzpatrick (6-0, 260) was a difference-maker during last season's run to the Division 7 state championship, making a team-high 11 tackles in the 29-8 title-game win over Ishpeming.

4. Divine Child quarterback Jimmy Seewald (6-4, 210) completed 61 percent of his passes out of the Falcons' spread-option attack, throwing for 1,901 yards and 17 TDs, and rushing for 6 TDs.

Top four story lines

1. Loyola was hit hard by graduation losses, but the cupboard is not bare as Anthony Fitzpatrick returns on both sides of the ball and starting quarterback Nicholas Lee also is back. They will be joined by dominant junior linebacker Kailen Abrams and a trio of sophomores in linebacker Keith Johnson, running back Demetrius Christian and tackle Cory Johnson.

2. Divine Child quarterback Jimmy Seewald has plenty of weapons to work with in trying to lead the Falcons to another playoff appearance, such as tight end Shane Fugate and receiver Danny Blade.

3. Defensive coordinator Michael Girskis takes over as head coach at Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard after 11 years on staff and helping the Fighting Irish reach the playoffs the last seven years.

4. Gabriel Richard receiver Nate Schoenle (6-2, 190) is talented on the field (30 receptions) and smart in the classroom (35 on the ACT), a reason he is being recruited by Ivy League schools.

Intersectional Division

Predicted order of finish

(Consensus of coaches)

2014 records in parentheses

1. Waterford Lakes (9-2, 6-0), 2. Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood (6-4, 2-3), 3. Royal Oak Shrine (8-3, 4-2), 4. Riverview Gabriel Richard (5-5, 2-3), 5. Allen Park Cabrini (3-6, 2-3), 6. Lutheran North (2-7, 0-4 AA), 7. Madison Heights Bishop Foley (1-8, 0-5), 8. Warren Everest Collegiate (6-3, N/A).

Top four players

1. Lakes receiver Chris Cartier (6-4, 185) will be busy again, playing multiple positions while also returning kicks and punts. Cartier had 1,300 all-purpose yards and scored 14 TDs, averaging 13 yards per touch with his 4.55 speed.

2. Gabriel Richard quarterback Jake Lipetzky (6-5, 190) is a three-sport athlete who also throws a 90 mph fastball. He will be calling the signals behind center for the third straight year, after throwing for 1,100 yards last season to help the Pioneers earn a state playoff appearance.

3. Lakes quarterback Clay Senerius (6-4, 185) was extremely accurate last season while winning the division title, completing 65 percent of his passes for 2,700 yards and 36 TDs.

4. Lakes receiver Devin Senerius (6-3, 180) is a big-play threat. He used his size and speed to grab 48 passes for 848 yards and 9 TDs.

Top four story lines

1. John Goddard will have a challenge on his hands during his 47th year as head coach, including his 23rd as head man at Shrine, which graduated its entire offensive line, along with the starting quarterback and running back. Junior Asher Smith will start at quarterback after playing receiver and defensive back last year. Receiver Mike Miller (28 receptions, 5 TDs), linebacker Joe Romano and 6-5 tight end Max Thrower also return.

2. Gabriel Richard had consecutive winning regular seasons for the first time in 11 years and will be playing on a new burgundy turf field this year. Quarterback Jake Lipetzky, receiver Josh Blaszczak (20 receptions, 7 TDs) and offensive lineman Jared Machnacki are three-year starters, and defensive end Luke Gierman has 21/2 years of experience.

3. Clarkston Everest Collegiate joins the Catholic League in its third year as a program, after earning state playoff appearances its first two seasons. Another playoff spot could be in the cards with the Mountaineers returning nine players on defense, along with the entire offensive line. Marine City Cardinal Mooney will be joining the division next season, transitioning from 8-man ball to 11-man this year.

4. Cranbrook junior running back Jalen Allen is making a name for himself, rushing for 911 yards and 13 TDs last season to help the Cranes reach the state playoffs. Allen, the younger brother of former Orchard Lake St. Mary's standout Dionte Allen — the fourth-highest-ranked cornerback in the country in '07 — averaged 6.5 yards per carry, including a 260-yard, 2-TD effort in a playoff-clinching win over Detroit Allen.

Orchard Lake St. Mary's coach George Porritt