Prep notes: Underdog mentality fuels Adams’ perfect start

David Goricki
The Detroit News

Big upsets took place in Week 4 of the high school football season with Macomb Area Conference Red Division defending champion Utica Eisenhower avoiding one when one of its defenders knocked the ball away in the end zone on a Hail Mary pass to preserve a 49-42 victory over Clinton Township Chippewa Valley.

No. 2 Walled Lake Western, a Division 2 state finalist last season, wasn’t as lucky and lost to Waterford Mott, 47-37, while West Bloomfield — the No. 4 ranked team in The News’ Super 20 preseason poll — lived up to its potential by dominating No. 6 Clarkston, 37-16, to reach .500 for the first time this season.

Eisenhower actually moved up a notch to No. 3, as did Chippewa Valley to No. 11 with the competitive battle that had Eisenhower sweating at the end after building a 21-point second-half lead.

Rochester Adams cracked The Super 20 poll for the first time this season, coming in at No. 18 following a 54-14 rout of then-No. 20 Bloomfield Hills, forcing five turnovers and intercepting Ball State commit John Paddock four times.

The Oakland Activities Association Red Division race is wide open and Adams (4-0, 3-0) will play host to West Bloomfield (2-2, 2-1) Friday, feeling it is still in the underdog role despite the unbeaten record and impressive play, outscoring opponents by a 164-41 margin.

More: David Goricki’s prep football rankings: Week 5

Adams is off to its first 4-0 start since 2011.

Senior Vincent Gray (6-foot-1, 180 pounds), a three-star Missouri commit, showed why he is considered one of the premier shutdown corners in the state when he limited Bloomfield Hills star receiver Ty Slazinski to two catches after Slazinski had 14 receptions in a loss to Clarkston on Sept. 8 and 13 catches for 187 yards to help his team rally from a 24-7 fourth-quarter deficit to defeat West Bloomfield, 28-24, in Week 2.

“We know that any team at any time can beat us and so we’ll be going into this week thinking that we’re the underdogs and that’s how we play our best,” Gray said of facing West Bloomfield and its aerial attack led by Bowling Green-bound quarterback Bryce Veasley and Wisconsin-bound receivers Taj Mustapha and A.J. Abbott.

“We’re going to go out and play our hearts out. Things have gone really well for us this season and we have a lot of confidence, feeling we can beat any team if we play up to our potential.”

So, what did Gray do well against Slazinski?

“Our coaches got us ready for the game, they had a great game plan,” Gray said. “For me, I had to guard Ty the whole game and we knew they were a throwing team, so we worked hard on getting our coverages down all week. I feel like I can lock anybody down. I just stay positive out there and make things happen.”

No doubt, Gray will need help when Adams plays against West Bloomfield receivers Mustapha, Abbott, Tre Mosley, Tyrone Broden, Christian Fitzpatrick and tight end James Faulkner.

Senior safety Cole Patritto, son of Adams coach Tony Patritto, is looking forward to the challenge. He has three interceptions this season.

“We have real good team chemistry going, a lot of weapons on offense and we have the ability to get things done defensively, as well,” Cole Patritto said. “Everyone on the team is good friends and it translates on the field.

“We have some big weapons on offense, including Chase Kareta, who I feel is the most underrated back in the state. Vincent Gray makes big plays and Zach Soldan has done really well since taking over at quarterback this year. Stephen Roncelli is a bruising running back on offense and on defense he’s all over the field making plays at middle linebacker.

“We know West Bloomfield has a lot of playmakers, so we just have to do our jobs on defense, match up, and the big thing is to keep away the big plays from happening. I moved from corner to safety this year and Vincent plays the corner, along with Ben Luci. It should be a fun game.”

Adams showed its big-play ability in the win over Bloomfield Hills, including a 50-yard reception by Cole Patritto, a 30-yard touchdown reception by Gray and a 68-yard touchdown run by Kareta.

Position switch sparks Stevenson

Livonia Stevenson has showed its ability to win close games, defeating Howell, 27-23, Friday to get off to a 4-0 start for the second time in three seasons.

The 2015 season didn’t end well for Stevenson, which lost four of its final five games, including a Week 8 loss to Canton, 49-7, then another loss to Canton in the opening-round of the state playoffs, 70-35.

But this Stevenson team is a far different team than 2015 with a strong defense led by cornerbacks George Ferguson and Devin Dunn. Both players can also get things done on the offensive side of the ball.

Stevenson has 12 interceptions this season, with five from Dunn and three from Ferguson.

“We have some very athletic kids in the secondary who have great hands,” Stevenson coach Randy Micallef said.

And don’t forget about Parker Graham, who Micallef moved from running back to quarterback.

Graham has led Stevenson to a pair of victories over its Livonia rivals, coming back from a 13-0 halftime deficit in the season opener to defeat Franklin, 14-13, and lifting his team to a 20-9 win over Churchill in Week 3.

“Parker was our starting running back last year, but he’s played quarterback most of his life so he has the ability to throw the ball and run, as well,” Micallef said. “He’s a very good athlete, a three-sport kid who plays baseball and basketball.

“He’s a very intelligent player, sees things on the field and is not afraid to come to the sideline and say, ‘I think we have this’ or ‘I think we can do this’ based on what he sees defensively. It’s nice because he has a sense of what a coach is looking for. And, at 6-foot-1 and 200 pounds he’s a good sized kid who can run, and he has good speed and has a super arm when he has the opportunity to let the ball fly.”

Graham hooked up with Ferguson three times for 145 yards and two scores in the comeback win over Franklin. In a 44-21 rout of Novi in Week 2, he threw for 221 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 125 yards and three scores.

In the win over Churchill, Stevenson showed its ability to put up points in a hurry, scoring on a 12-yard touchdown pass from Graham to Joe Kubeshesky with 48 seconds left in the second quarter for a 7-3 lead, which quickly turned into a 13-3 halftime cushion with Dunn’s 75-yard interception return.

Then in the win over Howell, Graham once against showed his dual-threat ability, throwing for 221 yards and two touchdowns and running for a 190 yards and two scores. With Micallef holding Ferguson out due to an ankle injury, Graham’s primary receiver was Dunn, who had eight receptions for 147 yards and a score.

“We beat Franklin during the opening week and Churchill, so it’s good, very emotional, hard-fought victories to start the season. It’s good for the kids,” Micallef said. “We have another three-sport athlete in George Ferguson who is a super kid, starts for us at corner and receiver and in the opener he had a kickoff return and a punt return called back, still he caught two touchdown passes. He was all over the field and he’s done that in multiple games.

“In Week 2 against Novi and their great receiver (Traveon) Maddox, he (Ferguson) matched up with him and held him to four catches and did an outstanding job, had an interception return for a touchdown and had a touchdown catch, too.”

Dunn had a pair of interceptions against Howell. He had an interception against Franklin, broke up three passes against Novi, and had the game-changing interception return against Churchill.

Stevenson now enters the meat of its Kensington Lakes Activities Association Black Division schedule with games at Brighton on Friday and at home against Canton on Sept. 29.

De La Salle steps up

Warren De La Salle also cracked The News’ Super 20 poll for the first time, earning a tie for the No. 20 spot following its impressive 36-14 Catholic League Central Division win over Birmingham Brother Rice.

After its season-opening 36-6 loss to Lowell, De La Salle (3-1, 1-0) has outscored its opponents by a 125-21 margin.

The Central Division race is wide open with Detroit Catholic Central (2-2) and Brother Rice (2-2, 0-1) both having two losses through the first four games in the same season for the first time in the state playoff era, which started in 1975.

Brother Rice and C.C. will play this week with Orchard Lake St. Mary’s — which earned its first win of the season over U-D Jesuit, 38-28 — facing De La Salle.

Twitter: @DavidGoricki