Football previews: Catholic League
David Goricki of The Detroit News previews the Catholic League football season. Teams listed in predicted order of finish.
WARREN DE LA SALLE (12-2, 3-0)
De La Salle won the Catholic League championship and earned consecutive wins over Detroit Catholic Central before going on to win the Division 2 state title after being picked to finish last in the Central Division last season. Third-year coach Mike Giannone has nine starters returning, including cornerback/receiver Josh DeBerry, linebacker/running back Jacob Dobbs, linebacker Devin Campbell, Central Michigan-bound guard Danny Motowski and tight end Mike McGinnity. De La Salle will have an early test when it travels to defending Division 3 state champion Muskegon in the opener on Friday night.
(TIE) DETROIT CATHOLIC CENTRAL (8-5, 2-1)
Coach Dan Anderson begins his second year as head coach at C.C., replacing the legendary Tom Mach (370 wins, 10 state titles). Anderson guided C.C. to the Catholic League championship game and Division 1 state semifinals last season, and has multiple key players back in quarterback Marco Genrich, fullback/defensive end Samih Beydoun and tight end/defensive end Mike Harding.
(TIE) BIRMINGHAM BROTHER RICE (7-4, 1-2)
Brother Rice advanced to the Division 2 district final last season in Adam Korzeniewski’s first year as head coach, defeating a strong Birmingham Groves team before losing to Oak Park. Junior Gregory Piscopink returns at quarterback after splitting time with Mariano Valenti last season. Valenti transferred to play his senior year at St. Thomas Aquinas in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., but Piscopink was 4-0 as the starter last season and is 7-0 as a starter during his varsity career. Central Michigan-bound defensive end Max Saylor, running back/safety James Donaldson and receiver/safety DaRon Gilbert are also key players.
ORCHARD LAKE ST. MARY’S (2-6, 0-3)
St. Mary’s had its worst season in coach George Porritt’s 30-year career at the helm. It will have a tough schedule to start the 2018 season going up against Macomb Dakota, East Kentwood and Mishawaka (Ind.) Penn, which has an enrollment upwards of 3,600. Porritt, who has guided St. Mary’s to a 257-77 record and seven state championships in 13 title game appearances, will look for big things from fullback/middle linebacker Clarence Glasker, two-way lineman Brennan Ebbert and junior receiver/defensive back Kameron Arnold.
DEARBORN DIVINE CHILD (10-2, 3-0)
Divine Child was picked to win the AA Division despite losing every starter on offense from last year’s Catholic League championship team. Coach John Filiatraut plans to replace quarterback Theo Day (Michigan State) with Cameron Urbanick. Divine Child’s strength will be on defense, led by defensive end Aeron Latham, linebacker/offensive lineman Caleb Kelly and Urbanick, who doubles as a safety. Divine Child will have a big test in its opener Thursday at Harper Woods.
U-D JESUIT (4-5, 1-2)
Matt Lewis takes over as head coach. Lewis played quarterback at De La Salle in 2003 and was an assistant at De La Salle from 2009-16, including the program’s Division 2 state championship season in 2014. This is the second year U-D Jesuit has competed in the AA after multiple years in the Central. Lewis will be looking for big things from junior receiver/defensive back Carson Hinton, who owns several Division I offers. Other key players include quarterback/defensive back Peter Loch and two-way lineman Eli Cate.
(TIE) DETROIT LOYOLA (2-6, 0-3)
John Callahan returns as head coach at Loyola after spending last season at New Haven. Callahan guided Loyola to a 86-16 record and 10 straight playoff appearances (2007-16), including appearances in the Division 7 state title game in 2012-14 and 2016 and a state championship in 2014. He feels his offensive line will be a strength, led by sophomore Derek Harmon (6-foot-4, 290 pounds), guard Jordan Smith (6-foot, 245), Donovan Brown (6-foot, 265) and Hayden Caddell (6-foot, 300).
(TIE) BLOOMFIELD HILLS CRANBROOK-KINGSWOOD (10-2, 4-0 Intersectional I)
Cranbrook moves up to AA this season after going unbeaten in Intersectional I last year. Scott Steward takes over as head coach and replaces Joe D’Angelo, who guided Cranbrook to state playoff appearances in each of the last four years, including a Division 4 regional final last season. Receiver/cornerback Kobi Russell, safety/receiver Torrell Williams and two-way lineman Danny Files are key players.
ANN ARBOR GABRIEL RICHARD (7-3, 2-1)
Gabriel Richard pushed Divine Child to the limit twice last season before falling short in each game, 14-13 in Week 7 and 34-20 in the Prep Bowl at Ford Field. Dave Lawrence takes over as head coach, replacing Brian Lewis, who has moved on to the head job at Plymouth. Gabriel Richard will be led by receivers/defensive backs Charlie Falvey and Alex Winnie, along with two-way lineman Rob Smith.
INTERSECTIONAL I DIVISION
RIVERVIEW GABRIEL RICHARD (9-2, 3-1)
Gabriel Richard is the preseason favorite after Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood moved up to the AA Division. Coach Thomas Michalsen has guided Gabriel Richard to three state playoff appearances in the last four years. He expects big seasons from 6-2, 220-pound running back/defensive end Nevin Hughes (700 yards rushing, 75 tackles), 6-5, 240-pound offensive tackle Evan Orme, junior two-way lineman Kenny Esqibile and running back/cornerback Sebastian McWilliams.
MACOMB LUTHERAN NORTH (3-6, 1-3)
Lutheran North will be looking to make its first state playoff appearance since 2010. North will be led by All-League running back/linebacker Jake Mylnarek. Junior running back/defensive back Alec Vandermeer and two-way lineman Shayne Erni will also be expected to contribute at a high level for first-year coach Garrett Wenzelburger.
ALLEN PARK CABRINI (5-4, 1-3)
Coach Ken Briere led Cabrini to its first winning season since 2012, but it failed to earn a state playoff appearance. He has multiple All-Catholic League players to work with, including junior defensive lineman/tight end Jackson Stanley and two-way lineman Noah Hamid. Niko Brithinee will also be a key contributor.
GROSSE POINTE WOODS UNIVERSITY LIGGETT (1-8, 1-3)
Dan Cimini has coached Liggett to multiple state championships in baseball, but Liggett’s run of seven straight state playoff appearances in football came to an end last year. Cimini will have a small roster of 25 players and just four seniors. He will be looking for talented junior quarterback Ian Narva, junior receiver/linebacker Drew Zelenak and receiver/linebacker Daniel Bowen to help Liggett back to a winning season.
INTERSECTIONAL II DIVISION
MADISON HEIGHTS BISHOP FOLEY (3-6, 2-2)
Brian Barnes starts his second season at Bishop Foley and has a big roster (45) to work with, a far cry from the time when Barnes started preseason summer camp with nine players a little more than a year ago. He said his players are stronger after a year in the weight room and expects big efforts from running back/linebacker Kendel Taylor, two-way lineman Jerry Thayer and junior receiver/defensive back Klayton Cornell.
WATERFORD LAKES (6-3, 3-1)
Jason Albrecht was promoted to head coach after working as defensive coordinator the last five years. He has six seniors to work with, including receiver/cornerback Noah Robak and linebacker Vince Oliver. Junior quarterback Grant Ross will run the offense and have Oliver working out of the slot.
ROYAL OAK SHRINE (3-6, 1-3)
Oscar Olejniczak takes over as head coach at Shrine and replaces John Goddard, who was fired after guiding Shrine to 16 state playoff appearances in 18 years before last season’s sub-.500 record. Olejniczak, who was head man at U-D Jesuit the past several years, has five seniors to work with, including running back/linebacker and three-year starter Dan Romano, guard/linebacker Luke Jones and lineman Matt Griffin. He also expects a strong season from junior quarterback Anthony Massucci.
CLARKSTON EVEREST COLLEGIATE (9-3, 4-0)
Everest Collegiate’s program is only five years old and it has earned state playoff appearances every season. Coach Michael Pruchnicki noted that Collegiate lost a large number of seniors from last year’s division title team. He looks for seniors running back/defensive end Josh Legg, offensive lineman/linebacker Max Engle and receiver/cornerback Nino Mastromatteo to step up to keep the streak alive.
MARINE CITY CARDINAL MOONEY (1-8, 0-4)
Joe Quesnelle begins his 39th year in coaching and his first season as head coach at Cardinal Mooney. He was encouraged by his team’s offseason workouts and expects big contributions from running back/defensive back Quicny Greenia, junior running back/linebacker Richard Marshall and two-way lineman Richard Goulette.