arper Woods will be looking for some revenge when it hosts River Rouge Friday night in a Michigan Metro Athletic Conference Blue Division showdown.
River Rouge (5-0, 2-0) dominated the conference last year, defeating Harper Woods, 86-0, in Week 6 on its way to a Division 4 semifinal appearance. River Rouge also advanced to the semifinals in 2016 and to the Division 5 championship game at Ford Field in 2015.
River Rouge’s route to another conference title will go through Harper Woods this time around with former Detroit East English coach Rod Oden now leading Harper Woods.
Harper Woods (4-1, 1-0) has surpassed its win total of a year ago (3-6) and is a win from guaranteeing itself its first playoff appearance since 2009. Its lone loss came against Warren Michigan Collegiate, 34-33, when it failed to protect a 27-6 second-half lead, then failed on a two-point conversion on the final play.
Harper Woods has outscored its opponents 233-47 while River Rouge has outscored its opponents by a 233-50 edge.
“We have a few kids that participated in that game last year,” Oden said of River Rouge’s 86-0 win. “It was bad. I don’t know if it was their homecoming at River Rouge, but I know it was the opening game for their new turf and pretty sure that everyone came out. It was a huge deal out there downriver.
“We’re looking forward to this game. It will be a good test for the program, to see where we are right now. Most importantly, it will help us prepare for the state playoffs with seeing a Class A team. We’re in the middle of Class B and it’s one of the few games we get to face a school with a higher enrollment then ours.”
Corey Graham has played well for Harper Woods, throwing for more than 1,200 yards and 12 TDs with Bowling Green-bound defensive back/running back Jordan Anderson making the most of his limited carries, scoring 12 TDs on 21 rushes. Offensive lineman Rashon Gulley and linebacker T.J. Gunter have also played well.
So, what does Harper Woods have to do to pull off the upset?
“They are a very well coached team so we’re looking forward to the opportunity,” Oden said. “The loss to Michigan Collegiate motivated us because it was the first time we trailed this season when they scored with 26 seconds left, then we came back and scored, but dropped a two-point conversion. It was good to see us fight back, and our guys learned a valuable lesson, that it’s not over until it’s over and keep applying the pressure.
“We have to tackle because those guys are big and physical with their backs at 225 pounds. We have to tackle well because they use that power at you and it can be a sledgehammer if you allow it, just have to get them before they get started.”
Pick: River Rouge by 2.
No. 16 Dearborn Fordson (5-0) at No. 8 Belleville (5-0), Friday, 7: This is the showdown for first place in the KLAA East, with the teams both 4-0 in the KLAA, splitting the last six games in the rivalry with Belleville earning a 35-7 win last season while the teams were competing in the Western Wayne Athletic Conference.
Belleville is getting close to 100-percent healthy with Jermain Crowell expected to have standout defensive lineman Jalen Bell (Akron) on the field for the first time this season.
Fordson is led by quarterback Hussein Ajami who hit on 11-of-15 passes for 236 yards and three TDs last week in a 49-28 rout of a Westland John Glenn team that gave Belleville trouble the previous week in a 26-21 loss.
Pick: Belleville by 6.
West Bloomfield (4-1) at Rochester Adams (3-2), Friday, 7: The last time the teams played, West Bloomfield battled back to earn a 17-16 comeback win to push its record to 3-2, using the momentum for a strong run to reach the Division 1 championship game.
It was Tre Mosley’s 99-yard TD reception on a third-and-11 play that gave West Bloomfield a 17-10 lead, then West Bloomfield stopped Adams on a 2-point PAT after scoring with 2:26 left.
West Bloomfield has an explosive offense that averages 47 points, led by sophomore running back Donovan Edwards and MSU-bound Mosley.
West Bloomfield’s defense is led by Penn State-bound linebacker Lance Dixon and junior linebacker Cornell Wheeler, who committed to Michigan this week.
Pick: West Bloomfield by 8.
Dearborn Divine Child (1-4) at Orchard Lake St. Mary’s (1-4), Friday, 7: It wasn’t long ago that Orchard Lake St. Mary’s was winning state championships (Division 3 in 2016) and Divine Child was making long runs in the postseason, reaching the state semifinals in 2016 with a loss to OLSM, and a regional final setback last year.
Now the teams need a win to keep their hopes alive for a playoff spot after each dropped four of their first five games.
OLSM has dropped 10 of its last 13 games dating to last season.
Pick: OLSM by 2.