2016 record in parenthesis; listed by predicted order of finish.


Coming off an appearance in the Division 2 state-title game, Western is primed to be the class of the newly formed Lakes Valley Conference. Sam Johnson III, a three-star junior quarterback with interest from several major college programs, has transferred to Western from Southfield A&T in hopes of being the missing piece to a state title. Up front, Johnson will have four-star junior offensive lineman Spencer Brown trying to keep him upright. Western has lost just one regular-season game over the past two years, and that was via forfeit last season after its use of an ineligible player in its Week 1 meeting against Farmington.


Coach Joe Woodruff’s team started 4-0 in 2016 before a four-game losing streak ended its hopes of a state playoff berth. Coming into 2017, Woodruff wants his team to learn how to finish, as it lost all four games by single digits. With a quarterback battle on his hands, Woodruff will look to the players who have been there to lead the way. Senior linebacker C.J. Davis and senior offensive tackle Alex Laverenz are names Woodruff mentioned as players he expects to make a big impact this fall.


Mott coach Chris Fahr brings back six starters on each side of the ball from a team that won a game in the state playoffs last year before bowing out in a hard-fought 21-7 loss to Romeo in a Divison 1 district final. Mott’s offense should continue to improve with a lot of skill position players returning as weapons for senior quarterback David McCullum.


After 34 years in football as an assistant coach, Joe Boulus gets his shot as the man in charge at Northern. Coming off a state playoff appearance, Northern welcomes back eight starters on the defensive side of the ball. On offense, junior quarterback Brenden Shelby (6-foot, 190 pounds) should continue to improve behind an imposing offensive line.


Central will look to return to the state playoffs and play into November for the first time since 2014. In its two meetings against rivals Western and Northern last season, Central was outscored 87-27.


With a nice mix of juniors and seniors, Kettering could be in for a bounce-back season under new coach Kenny Schmidt. Junior quarterback Ryan Nolan returns for a second year under center. Kettering brings back a lot of experience at the skill positions, but Schmidt is going to have to find some consistency with just two starters coming back on the offensive line.


After a tough 2016, South Lyon East will try to take a big step forward as coach Joe Pesci starts a number of juniors who gained valuable experience as sophomores last fall.


New coach Dan Novak has a big job ahead of him as he inherits a team with three starters returning on each side of the ball and takes over program that has won five games the past four seasons.


Coach Jeff Henson’s team put up quite a fight against Walled Lake Western last year in the first round of the state playoffs before falling short, 31-30. South Lyon will get its shot at revenge when the teams meet at Western on Oct. 13.

Geoff Robinson is a freelance writer.