Connor Muldowney of The Detroit News previews the Downriver League football season. Teams listed in predicted order of finish.
GIBRALTAR CARLSON (9-2, 8-1)
Entering the season as the favorite to win the Downriver League, Carlson fell in the second round of the state playoffs in 2017, but Jack Giarmo has the pieces for a deep run in 2018. Top in-state prospect Ian Stewart stars at tight end, can play wideout and also linebacker. He accounted for 12 receptions for 247 yards and two scores last season as well as 67 total tackles, five tackles for loss and two sacks. Brandon Stewart returns at running back after posting over 1,100 yards and 12 touchdowns, and guard Dominic Bodner will help pave the way again. On defense, Carlson returns four starters, including defensive end Justin Barger, who finished with 30 tackles and two sacks a year ago.
WOODHAVEN (7-3, 7-2)
After losing the first two games last season, Woodhaven reeled off seven straight wins before Keith Christnagel's squad dropped its only playoff game. It returns five starters on offense and six on defense, including rising defensive lineman Dorian Wesley, who is in his second year of playing football. Offensive guard Joel Paras will be an integral figure in the trenches, paving the way for running backs Kyle Emery and Cortez Gibbs. Wide receivers Colin Czchowski and Bryon Wilkinson will be a load for opposing defenses. Dom Priess and Conner Kasparak are back at linebacker and Nick Suski leads the way at defensive end.
WYANDOTTE (10-1, 9-0)
Head coach Ron Adams loses starting quarterback Richie Miller from a team that went 9-0 during the 2017 regular season and didn’t lose its first game until the second round of the playoffs against Ypsilanti Lincoln. Joe Deichlebohrer and Jalin Pitchford will compete for the starting quarterback job and Christian Cooper is poised to solidify the starting running back job after accounting for 248 yards last season. Dade Craig is back to lead the defense at end, recording 36 tackles and three sacks in 2017.
TRENTON (5-5, 5-4)
Trenton was one of those rare five-win teams to make the state playoffs in 2017, losing to Riverview in the first round in the school’s 18th postseason appearance. Bob Czarnecki’s team returns five starters on offense, including senior quarterback Jay Solano, who passed for over 2,000 yards and 18 touchdowns as a junior. Zack Conti is back on the offensive line and Ethan Riley, Evan Adams and Gabe Doree are all ready to contribute on both sides of the ball. The Trenton defense returns six starters.
ALLEN PARK (5-4, 5-4)
Despite falling just one win short of playoff eligibility in 2017, coach Tom Danosky returns six starters on offense and eight on defense, poised to finish atop the Downriver League. Depth might be an issue, but Danosky likes what he has in terms of key returners such as senior quarterback Nick Arnoldy, who also plays defensive back, senior defensive back and wideout Jakob Marsee, who had 500 all-purpose yards and 13 touchdowns last year, along with 37 tackles and four interceptions, and junior running back Nico Tiberia, who rushed for 700 yards and plays linebacker, too.
DEARBORN EDSEL FORD (6-4, 3-2)
Michael MacPherson takes over Edsel Ford in its first season as a member of the Downriver League, coming from the Western Wayne Athletic Conference. Senior quarterback Max Marion leads the way fresh off a first-round loss to Detroit King in the playoffs, and he’ll be protected by senior offensive tackle Carter Conover. Edsel Ford has several experienced running backs who will split time. Defensively, it returns an experienced front-seven along with junior safety Anthony Marano and senior cornerback Keegan Rowe.
TAYLOR (first year)
Taylor Truman and Taylor Kennedy have joined programs ahead of the 2018 school year and head coach Jeff Morrow has plenty of returning players. Fullback Jeremiah Lampkin could be the focal point of the offense after rushing for 1,372 yards and 21 touchdowns last season. Christian DeGiulio is back at quarterback and he’ll have a strong returning offensive line in front of him. Truman finished 2-7 last season and Kennedy was 0-9.
SOUTHGATE ANDERSON (3-6, 3-6)
Senior quarterback Marcus Leija is back to lead coach Mitch Dobek’s offense and he’s also gearing up to start at safety. Other two-way players expected to have major impacts are Zach LaMothe on the offensive and defensive lines; Aaron Jack, who plays running back and defensive end; Nathan Batko, who is a do-it-all player in his first year on varsity; and tight end Garrett Scott, who doubles as a linebacker. Samori Dobson and Colin Naimi are back to start at wideout and patrol the defensive backfield as safeties.
MELVINDALE (4-5, 4-5)
Missing the postseason last season was disappointing for coach Derek Anderson, but he returns a number of key players on each side of the ball. He brings back five starters on offense and six on defense. Ramon Lozoya stands in as the starting quarterback as well as a safety, and running back Devin Spears is back after rushing for 667 yards and eight touchdowns last season. Brian Martinez and Seth Madison will pave the way on the offensive line. Linebacker Devin Spears leads the defense and Jose Walls joins him at linebacker, but also doubles as a defensive lineman.
LINCOLN PARK (2-7, 2-7)
Lincoln Park had a rough season in 2017, going just 2-7, and the team brings back just one starter on each side of the ball, hitting a reset button, of sorts. Jamie Grignon is back for his third stint as head coach after coming out of retirement, leading the young team. Michael McDuffie will have a major impact at center, D’Angelo Taylor is a name to watch for at running back and on the defensive line, and Hunter Mead and Stevie Carson will double as wideouts and defensive backs. Christian Neff, too, will be an integral part of the offense at running back, and offensive tackle/defensive end David Torres will be a two-way contributor.