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Western Wayne Athletic Conference prep football preview

Al Willman
Special to The Detroit News
Dearborn Heights Robichaud's players run through drills.

RED DIVISION

Predicted order of finish

(Consensus of coaches)

2015 record in parentheses

1. Dearborn (5-4, 4-1)

2. Dearborn Edsel Ford (5-4, 4-1)

3. Romulus (6-4, 4-1)

4. Dearborn Heights Crestwood (4-5, 2-3)

5. Livonia Clarenceville (1-8, 1-4)

6. Dearborn Heights Annapolis (1-8, 0-5)

Top four players

1. Senior quarterback Mikey Phillips is leading the way offensively for Dearborn, which finished in a three-way tie with Edsel Ford and Romulus for first place in the division. He has an NAIA offer from Concordia University.

2. Dearborn senior defensive end Ali Fayad (6-foot-2, 233 pounds) is the team’s top defensive player. Fayad, an Eastern Michigan commit, runs a 4.7-second 40-yard dash and turned down an offer from Saginaw Valley State.

3. Clarenceville junior quarterback Joshua Wright leads an offense that returns 11 upperclassmen and is looking to build off a disappointing 1-8 finish last season.

4. Annapolis sophomore quarterback Manny Ferguson is one of the players with the biggest upside in the division. He started all nine games as a freshman. “If he continues to work and keep a steady hand and steady mind, I think he has the ability to play beyond high school,” coach Scott Weimer said. “He’s very talented, very fast.”

Top four story lines

1. Annapolis coach Scott Weimer said injuries decimated his team last season. “A lot of people stepped in to fill positions and maintained a good, positive work ethic,” he said. “They stayed after it” to win our last game.

2. Crestwood’s season starts Friday with a nonconference game against Clinton Township Clintondale, which finished 5-5 last season. It plays Dearborn, in what looks to be the toughest game on its Red Division schedule, at home on Sept. 16.

3. Despite opening the season against Riverview (6-4 last year), the second half of Romulus’ schedule is its most difficult, with games against Dearborn (Sept. 23) and Dearborn Heights Robichaud (Oct. 21).

4. Edsel Ford’s gauntlet comes in the final month of the season. It heads to Romulus on Sept. 30 before going to Belleville two weeks later.

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BLUE DIVISION

Predicted order of finish

(Consensus of coaches)

2015 record in parentheses

1. Belleville (8-2, 5-0)

2. Dearborn Fordson (6-5, 3-2)

3. Dearborn Heights Robichaud (8-3, 3-2)

4. Redford Thurston (6-5, 3-2)

5. Garden City (2-7, 1-4)

6. Redford Union (3-6, 0-5)

Top four players

1. Belleville senior defensive back Devonni Reed (6-0, 180) is expected to lead the defense. Reed, a Central Michigan commit, turned down offers from Northern Illinois, Western Michigan, Minnesota, Miami of Ohio, Eastern Michigan and Toledo.

2. Fordson senior offensive lineman Zac Darwiche, a two-star recruit who was offered by Virginia over the summer, is protecting an offense that has another potential Division 1 quarterback in Hamze Elzayat. Darwiche (6-5, 290) has 12 other Division 1 offers, including Buffalo and Georgetown.

3. Robichaud junior quarterback Jaquarion McClarence will look to fill the void left by Jairus Grissom, who transferred and will play his senior season at River Rouge. “He has real good leadership, and he’s a real smart kid,” coach Anthony Hamlet said. “He has a red-hot football IQ.”

4. Robichaud senior receiver/safety Alantre Austin will be McClarence’s biggest weapon and will make an impact on both sides of the field. Austin (6-3, 2-5) has gotten some attention from Western Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Central Michigan and Toledo, but does not have any offers yet. “He’s very aggressive,” Hamlet said. “He’s explosive. He’s a great kid and very coachable.”

Top four story lines

1. Robichaud is rebuilding. In addition to quarterback Jairus Grissom transferring, the team graduated 20 seniors, including four receivers, from its 2015 team. “That’s a big change to the offense,” coach Anthony Hamlet said. “We were looking forward to him doing great things for us.” Despite the roster overhaul, Hamlet expects Robichaud to make the state playoffs for the sixth consecutive season.

2. Like Robichaud, Belleville lost its quarterback, too. After Connor Sampson (Western Illinois) graduated and Dwan Mathis transferred to Oak Park, the Tigers will have Jahz Watts under center. Watts, a 6-2, 175-pound senior who runs a 4.5-second 40-yard dash, has no offers right now, but he should turn some heads.

3. The first and last three weeks of the season will be no picnic for Fordson. It starts the season against Canton in the Prep Kickoff Classic before back-to-back road games against Edsel Ford and Belleville. Fordson plays Robichaud and Dearborn  in two of the final three weeks of the regular season, before closing out the year against Monroe — which was 5-5 in 2015.

4. Union, which started 1-6 before winning its last two games, has its toughest two-game stretch in September. It travels to Robichaud on Sept. 9 and hosts Belleville the following week. Union closes the regular season on Oct. 21 with a home game against defending Division 8 state champion Muskegon Catholic Central — the third home game in a row for Union.

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