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Goricki's prep picks: QBs command stage in openers

David Goricki
The Detroit News
Southfield A&T QB Sam Johnson III.

Detroit – Sam Johnson and Dwan Mathis were a pair of quarterbacks who received college offers before ever stepping in a high school classroom or football field.

Now, the quarterbacks are sophomores, put on a big stage Saturday to open the 2016 football season at Wayne State University in the Prep Kickoff Classic.

Johnson’s debut came against a talented Detroit Cass Tech team in the Prep Kickoff Classic at the same site a year ago, a 27-0 loss. He went on to throw for 1,700 yards and 20 TDs to help Southfield earn a state playoff appearance and then put on a show in the Sound Mind Sound Body camp this summer.

Mathis transferred to Oak Park after splitting time at quarterback his freshman year at Belleville.

No. 5 Southfield A&T vs. No. 19 Detroit King, Saturday, 3 p.m.

Johnson is now playing for Southfield A&T after Southfield and Southfield Lathrup merged heading into the new school year.

Johnson, 6-foot-4 and 180 pounds, is a pro-style quarterback who has a strong arm and is accurate. He will need to be going up against a King secondary led by four-star cornerback Ambry Thomas who helped the Crusaders to a 14-0 record and Division 2 state championship last year.

“Everybody’s faster, windows get tighter and the speed of the game is totally different,” said Johnson, talking about the difference of playing PAL ball his eighth grade year, then varsity football as a freshman. “As the season went on I really adjusted to the game, watching film a lot and seeing what type of coverages teams were playing. I learned a lot.

“I feel my strength is my pocket presence. I’m able to move around in the pocket and still get the ball off.”

Johnson played at 6-3 and 165 last year, then got stronger and faster. He now has 12 offers, including a half dozen this year, including Syracuse, Illinois, Western Michigan and Toledo. Pick: Southfield by 6.

No. 1 Detroit Cass Tech vs. No. 6 Oak Park, Saturday, 6 p.m.

Detroit News prep football picks: Week 1

Mathis played multiple positions to help Belleville finish 8-2, but wanted more playing time at quarterback and transferred to Oak Park to play for Greg Carter.

One thing is for sure, Mathis will get protection behind a mammoth offensive line led by Michigan-bound tackle JaRaymond Hall (6-5, 285), four-star junior guard Marquan McCall (6-4, 320), center Patrick Riley (6-1, 295), guard Andrew Elly (6-1, 280) and freshman left tackle Justin Rogers (6-4, 270) who has already received an offer from Kentucky.

Mathis, a dual-threat quarterback, received offers from Akron and Cincinnati before starting high school.

Mathis could get enough time to throw the ball, but the question is will his receivers get open against a star-studded secondary led by five-star Donovan Peoples-Jones, four-star players in Jaylen Kelly-Powell and junior Kalon Gervin and three-star Donovan Johnson. Pick: Cass Tech by 8.

No. 3 Orchard Lake St. Mary’s vs. No. 8 Macomb Dakota, Thursday, 7 p.m.

Greg Baur will be making his head coaching debut for Dakota against two-time defending Division 3 state champion Orchard Lake St. Mary’s.

St. Mary’s has an outstanding defense led by Michigan-bound linebacker Josh Ross, 6-2, 305-pound noseguard Ralph Holley (Western Michigan), linebacker Dwayne Chapman (Western Michigan) and cornerbacks Richard Bowens (Iowa State) and Shermond Dabney (Bowling Green) who will try to make life miserable for Dakota quarterback Brett Droski and running back Kaiser Carleton. Pick: OLSM by 8.

No. 14 Detroit Catholic Central vs. Sterling Heights Stevenson, Saturday, 1 p.m., Michigan Stadium

High School football players get the opportunity to play at the Big House for the first time and a couple of powers in Detroit Catholic Central and Sterling Heights Stevenson will get the chance to see what it’s like to take the field on college football’s premier stage.

Stevenson is led by 6-2, 270-pound defensive lineman Dez Lance who will play at Western Michigan next year. Catholic Central returns quarterback Austin Brown and a talented offensive line which includes Blake Bueter, Chris Bradbury and William Butler. Pick: Catholic Central by 2.