Romeo has been the premier team in Macomb County this season, displaying a strong defense that led it to eight straight wins before a 17-14 loss to Utica Eisenhower last Friday.
Romeo coach Jason Couch feels fortunate the loss came in Week 9 instead of the playoffs, looking to clean up some mistakes before playing host to two-time defending Division 1 state champion Clarkston Friday in a district semifinal.
“We were stung by too many penalties at costly times and we can’t afford to do that again,” Couch said of the loss to Eisenhower. “We’re going up against a very good football team and we have to play fundamental football, making sound tackles and eliminating those penalties.”
Romeo’s defense owns four shutouts, allowing just 51 points this season, including a 26-14 win over four-time MAC Red champion Macomb Dakota.
Romeo’s defensive front is small, but quick, led by senior tackle Joe Meyers (5-foot-9, 180), senior noseguard Hunberto Flores (5-8, 175) and senior end Jacob Hernden (5-8, 185). They will have their toughest test going up against a healthy Nolan Eriksen, who has rushed for 600 yards since returning from an ankle injury in Week 5, and an improving quarterback in Alex Kessman.
Pick: Clarkston by 4.
Detroit East English (7-2) vs. Warren De La Salle (6-3) at Wayne State University, Friday, 7: A year ago, De La Salle entered postseason play healthy and with the momentum of a three-game winning streak after a 3-3 start.
De La Salle’s scenario has been flipped this season. Junior standout running back Allen Stritzinger, who has an offer from Michigan, will more than likely be watching the game from the sidelines with an ankle injury. His replacement, senior defensive back/running back Tru Wilson is also limping with an ankle injury, but is expected to play.
“Yes, it’s completely opposite for us this year ——we’re pretty banged up,” De La Salle coach Paul Verska said, “but we are getting two of our offensive linemen back in tackle Frankie Ragona and center Ryan Wisniewski.
“Allen (Stritzinger) tried to come back too early from his initial ankle injury, hurt it again in the Catholic Central game and missed last week. It’s important that we get our running game going to keep them (East English) off the field because they have an explosive offense.”
De La Salle earned a 21-14 win over East English in a Division 2 district title game last year.
East English is led by the passing attack of junior quarterback Delvin Washington and senior receiver Lindrell Mitchell, along with 1,000-yard rusher in senior Nathaniel Boleware.
Pick: East English by 6.
Lincoln Park (6-3) at Wyandotte (7-2), Friday, 7: Lincoln Park is making its first state playoff appearance since 2002.
In fact, it wasn’t long ago that Lincoln Park was in the midst of a 66-game losing streak (2006-13), but that streak is well in the past as far as this team is concerned.
Lincoln Park defeated Wyandotte 18-15 in Week 4, ending a 12-game losing streak in the series. Now, can it repeat that performance in a Division 2 district opener on the road?
Wyandotte has won at least one playoff game in each of the last five years and that postseason experience will be a big factor in this rematch, as will the condition of Lincoln Park senior quarterback Steve Glenn, who is not 100 percent due to an ankle injury suffered two weeks ago.
Pick: Wyandotte by 8
Farmington Hills Harrison (7-2) at Birmingham Groves (9-0), Friday, 7: Harrison could be one of the top 7-2 teams in the state, especially in Division 2, suffering a season-opening 35-28 loss to East Kentwood and a regular-season finale setback to No. 3 West Bloomfield, 20-14.
Simply put, Harrison has an outstanding defense led by Notre Dame-bound defensive end Khalid Kareem and it knows how to win close games, pulling out a 17-14 win over Southfield and a 13-12 victory against Farmington.
Groves, the OAA Blue champion, proved it could play with the big boys, defeating Ann Arbor Pioneer and standout running back Antjuan Simmons last Friday, 18-14.
Pick: Harrison by 6
Hartland (6-3) at Brighton (8-1), Friday, 7: There will definitely be a revenge factor in this Division 1 district opener.
Hartland handed Brighton its lone setback back in Week 6, 14-7, preventing Brighton from competing in the Kensington Lakes Activities Association Lakes Conference championship game.
Hartland knocked senior quarterback Grant Dunatchik out the game in the first half.
Dunatchik returned to the lineup last Friday in a win over South Lyon after missing a couple of games due to a high ankle sprain and sprained MCL.
Look for Brighton running back Joey Clifford to be the difference with Dunatchik back in the lineup.
Pick: Brighton by 8.