Oak Park is just two wins away from owning its first unbeaten regular season in program history.
Oak Park certainly will have to earn it, playing West Bloomfield and Clarkston, the teams that battled last season for the Division 1 state championship.
Oak Park — 7-0 and ranked No. 2 in The News Super 20 poll — already has clinched the Oakland Activities Association White Division title. It will host West Bloomfield (5-2), which needs a victory to punch its state playoff ticket, 6 p.m. Friday before playing at defending state champion Clarkston (6-1) Oct. 19.
Oak Park coach Greg Carter has been pleased by the play of Ohio State-bound quarterback Dwan Mathis and 6-foot-6 junior receiver Maliq Carr, along with running backs Phillip Stewart and Torriano Richardson, who has an offer from Syracuse. Junior cornerback Enzo Jennings, who has offers from Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, Clemson, Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State, has been an impact player on defense.
Carter also can’t wait to get five-star junior tackle/linebacker Justin Rogers back in the lineup after he missed the last three games because of a groin injury.
“Our quarterback (Mathis) is playing really good, and our running backs Phillip Stewart and Torriano Richardson are running the ball well and Maliq (Carr) is playing outstanding, really going up to get the ball,” Carter said. “Our offensive line is playing okay. We’ve been a little banged up there. Justin (Rogers) hasn’t played in three weeks, but we’re hoping to get him back Friday. He’s been practicing so we’ll see how it holds up this week.”
West Bloomfield has a strong defense, led by linebackers in Penn State-bound Lance Dixon and three-star junior Cornell Wheeler, a Michigan commit.
Pick: Oak Park by 6.
Farmington Hills Harrison (5-2, 4-1) at Birmingham Groves (5-2, 4-1), Friday, 7: The OAA White Division rivals will be looking to clinch a state playoff spot with a win.
Groves owns the upper hand in the rivalry of late, winning three straight games, including 32-31 last season when Harrison went on to reach the Division 3 state championship game.
Groves has played great defense the last three weeks, allowing just 13 points and outscoring its opponents by an average of more than 38 points.
Running back/defensive back Damonte McCurdy and Harvard-bound cornerback Khalil Dawsey have played well all season for Groves. They will be tested by quarterback Keel Watson who has made one start for Harrison, transferring in after Detroit Delta Preparatory closed its doors last month.
Pick: Harrison by 2
Livonia Franklin (4-3, 4-2) at Belleville (7-0, 6-0), Friday, 7: Belleville can clinch the KLAA East Division title with a win and set up a rematch with Brighton in next week’s league championship game. Belleville defeated Brighton in the season opener, 40-35, with a last-minute TD pass.
Franklin, which advanced to the Division 2 state championship game last season, needs a couple of wins to assure itself of a postseason spot.
Pick: Belleville by 10.
Walled Lake Western (5-2, 5-1) at South Lyon (7-0, 6-0), Friday, 7: Who saw this coming, Western playing South Lyon for the Lakes Valley championship?
It certainly was improbable since South Lyon was coming off a 1-8 season.
South Lyon has been one of the state’s surprise teams and is in search of its first 8-0 start since 1996, looking for another strong game from quarterback Connor Fracassi and running back Ian Goins.
And, South Lyon’s defense will have to slow down Western’s aerial attack led by Boston College-bound Sam Johnson and junior receiver Abdur-Rahmaan Yaseen to get the job done.
Pick: South Lyon by 2.
Warren De La Salle (6-1, 2-0) at Detroit Catholic Central (5-2, 1-1), Sunday, 1: De La Salle is looking to repeat as Catholic League Central Division champs, looking to earn its third straight win in the rivalry with Catholic Central.
De La Salle has been winning with defense, posting a pair of shutouts this season and dominating previously unbeaten Davison last week, 35-7. Catholic Central will try to bounce back from a 31-29 upset loss to Orchard Lake St. Mary’s.
Look for De La Salle’s dominance to continue.
Pick: De La Salle by 8.