Prep football preview: Oakland Activities Association
(2016 record in parenthesis; listed by predicted order of finish)
WEST BLOOMFIELD (6-5, 4-2)
Bryce Veasley (2,500 yards, 22 touchdowns) returns at quarterback and has several quality receivers to work with led by Wisconsin-bound receivers Taj Mustapha and A.J. Abbott, a transfer from Northville, as well as Tre Mosley, junior Tyrone Broden, sophomore Christian Fitzpatrick and tight end James Faulkner.
CLARKSTON (9-3, 5-1)
Noah Nicklin (6-foot-4, 290 pounds), Stewart Newblatt and Cam Pass anchor a strong offensive line that will open holes for third-year starting running back Michael Fluegel. Nate Uballe and junior Jake Jensen will battle for the quarterback job. Linebacker Gino Paese leads the defense.
SOUTHFIELD A&T (8-4, 5-1)
Coach Tim Conley is excited to have John Darby (15 touchdowns, zero interceptions) back at quarterback to work with receivers Matthew Gilbert (33 receptions, 600 yards, six touchdowns) and Saunders Carter, running back Anwar Jackson and tight end Devin Baldwin. The defense will be led by junior safety Marcus Fuqua (eight interceptions) and linebacker Javante Van Buren.
LAKE ORION (5-5, 4-2)
John Blackstock enters his 20th year as a coach at Lake Orion and his first as head coach, replacing Chris Bell, who guided the program to a Division 1 state championship game appearance in 2008 and a state title in 2010. Johnny Marshall returns at quarterback and will work with running back Dylan Frank and receivers Pierce Burke and Jon Haggitt, while playing behind the line of Austin Findlay and Sebastian Marku. Linebacker Sam Kinne leads the defense.
ROCHESTER ADAMS (6-4, 4-2 WHITE)
Adams showcases a strong secondary led by Missouri-bound cornerback Vincent Gray and Cole Patritto. Zach Soldan takes over at quarterback where he will receive protection from tackle Justin Leonard and throw to receivers Chase Kareta and Stephen Roncelli, who has 4.5 speed.
BLOOMFIELD HILLS (9-1, 6-0 BLUE)
Look for Bloomfield Hills to have a strong aerial attack with Ball State-bound quarterback John Paddock (1,600 yards, 22 touchdowns) and receiver Ty Slazinski (50 receptions) returning. Defensive end Jack Sape (Ball State) and linebackers Eli McCourt and Jordan Bailey also return from last year’s team that went unbeaten in the regular season and jumps up two divisions this year.
OXFORD (4-5, 2-4)
Parker Fleming (900 yards passing) returns at quarterback for Bud Rowley, who enters his 40th year as head coach. Fleming has multiple weapons to work with in third-year receiver/defensive back Ben Nuss, receiver/defensive back Sergio Borg and running back Trent Myre.
TROY ATHENS (2-7, 0-6)
Athens returns eight starters on defense, led by linebackers Patrick Graham (6-2, 225) and Andrew Yan, cornerback Jake Cavazos and defensive end Nathan Oprinca.
OAK PARK (7-4, 5-1)
Junior quarterback Dwan Mathis, who has an offer from Michigan State, returns to work behind a talented offensive line, led by Kentucky-bound Marquan McCall (6-4, 320) and sophomore Justin Rogers (6-4, 260), who has already received an offer from Ohio State.
FARMINGTON HILLS HARRISON (5-4, 3-3)
Harrison looks to return to the state playoffs after falling short for the first time since 2008 last season. Noah Hendricks returns at quarterback while Notre Dame-bound Ovie Oghoufo, Divine Fillemu and John O’Connor lead a strong defense.
BIRMINGHAM GROVES (11-2, 6-0)
Groves is coming off its best two-year run in program history (21-3 record) and showcases a strong offensive line led by Christian Zeitvogel and Dan Llope. Groves will try to reach the state playoffs for a fifth straight year.
BIRMINGHAM SEAHOLM (3-6, 2-4)
Eastern Michigan-bound Carter Stagner (6-4, 210) anchors the defense from the rush end position with support from linebacker Ben Barton. Junior running back Max Schumaker returns on offense.
ROCHESTER HILLS STONEY CREEK (2-7, 1-5 RED)
Three-year starting quarterback Frank Potenza III and receiver Adam Hilton will try to help Stoney Creek have a winning season after dropping down from the Red. Athletic Jones (6-4, 240) will try to do some damage from the defensive end spot for Bob Lantzy, who is one of 11 coaches to have more than 300 career wins (306).
ROCHESTER (5-4, 4-2 BLUE)
Brent Burtraw returns at quarterback after throwing for 1,300 yards and 18 touchdowns last season and has a new weapon in 6-2 receiver David Karwaski, a transfer from Berkley. Junior defensive back Gabe Szafran (four interceptions) will be a third-year starter.
BERKLEY (6-4, 4-2 BLUE)
Billy Keenist Jr. replaces Chris Sikora as coach and inherits a state playoff team that returns cornerback David Long, receivers/cornerbacks Marquel Dalton and Riko Cunningham, and running back/linebacker Kedar Browning.
TROY (3-6, 3-3 BLUE)
Chris Frasier takes the reins from Gary Griffith, who stepped down after 26 years and won a state title in 1994. Frasier will inherit an offense that returns six starters, including running back Teron Kinnard and offensive linemen Alex Samson (6-3, 300), Cole Hayden, Andrew Habib and Mattias Johansson.
NORTH FARMINGTON (0-9, 0-6 WHITE)
After a winless season in the White Divison, North Farmington drops down to the Blue this season with first-year coach Bob Chiesa at the helm. Despite not having played a game yet, Chiesa has already injected life into the program, taking numbers that were in the 20s last season and bringing 60-plus players out for football this fall. Running back Dylan Gordon, an Eastern Michigan commit, returns and lightning-quick sophomore Myles Gresham should turn some heads as the Swiss Army knife in Chiesa’s run-and-shoot offense.
FERNDALE (7-3, 4-2)
Coach Eric Royal conducted a five-game turnaround from 2015 to 2016 to lead Ferndale back to the state playoffs. Royal’s team got a tough draw in Detroit King in the opening round and had its season come to an end with a 38-14 loss to the two-time defending Division 2 state champion.
FARMINGTON (2-7, 1-5 WHITE)
Kory Cioroch takes over at Farmington as his program drops from the White Division to the Blue this season. A reason for optimism and growth is the fact that a lot of sophomores saw the field last year and will make up the core of this year’s squad as juniors.
AUBURN HILLS AVONDALE (3-6, 2-4)
After a steep learning curve in coach Ed Couturier’s first year at the helm in 2016, Avondale could be primed for big things this fall with eight starters returning on offense and defense. Couturier’s triple-option offense will look to wear down opponents in the Blue, and senior quarterback Adam Mather’s ability to keep things running smoothly will go a long way in determining how things play out for Avondale in 2017.
HAZEL PARK (2-7, 2-4)
Despite a subpar record in 2016, there’s reason for optimism at Hazel Park. So much so that one coach in The News’ poll picked coach Kyle Rowley’s team to win the Blue this year. Rowley returns eight starters on offense and seven on defense. For the first time in his four years at the school, Rowley is excited to have leadership he can count on as seniors make up what he approximated was 90 percent of the roster. Speedy senior receiver/defensive back Logan Hamilton-Mathy is a weapon anywhere on the field despite his 5-8 frame because of his outstanding ball skills.
ROYAL OAK (2-7, 2-4)
It’s been a long time since Royal Oak made the playoffs (2006), and with just four returning starters in 2017, coach Ray McMann has his work cut out for him in his third season. One bright spot for McMann is senior receiver/safety Patrick Tesho (6-1, 200), who has garnered some interest from Mid-American Conference teams (Toledo, Bowling Green and Central Michigan) for his play in the secondary.
PONTIAC (0-9, 0-6)
Charles Talley has been on the staff at Pontiac since 1999, and now he’s the man in charge, taking over a program that has gone winless in three of its last four seasons. The numbers aren’t bad at Pontiac, but Talley says he needs to get everyone on the same page to turn things around. Romell Chambers is a load at running back, but stability across the board is something Pontiac needs, as Talley is the team’s fourth coach in four years.