There will be a lot of Big Ten talent on the field Friday night when No. 14 West Bloomfield plays at No. 4 Belleville for a Division 1 regional championship.
Belleville (11-0) earned its first district title in program history last week with a 49-33 win over Monroe.
“It’s a step on the way to where we want to get to,” said fourth-year Belleville head coach Jermain Crowell.
West Bloomfield — which advanced to the Division 1 state championship game last year at Ford Field, a 3-2 loss to OAA rival Clarkston — defeated Detroit Catholic Central, 20-17, in overtime to move on.
Belleville showcases receiver/cornerback Julian Barnett and four-star tackle Devontae Dobbs, a pair of Michigan State commits, along with Michigan-bound defensive end Tyrece Woods and junior cornerback Andre Seldon, another Michigan commit.
West Bloomfield (9-2) is led by Penn State linebacker/running back Lance Dixon and Michigan State-bound receiver Tre Mosley, along with junior linebacker Cornell Wheeler, a Michigan commit.
Dixon and Wheeler will try to help West Bloomfield put some pressure on Belleville sophomore quarterback Christian Dhue-Reid, who has thrown for 37 touchdowns this season and 11 in the last three games.
So, what does Crowell feel Belleville needs to do to take the next step and earn its first regional title?
“We have to protect the football, do well on special teams and try to slow down the Dixon kid, the Mosley kid, stop their explosive plays and somewhat try to do what we do,” Crowell said.
What Belleville does well is have Dhue-Reid get the ball in playmakers’ hands.
“I think he’s been playing at a high level because the offensive line is playing at a better level,” Crowell said of Dhue-Reid. “He’s been given more time to let receivers get open and receivers are doing a good job of getting open and catching the ball.”
West Bloomfield head coach Ron Bellamy is pleased with his junior quarterback, C.J. Harris, as well.
“C.J. has played well, like a senior although he’s a junior,” Bellamy said. “He manages the game well. C.J. is a really good athlete, 6-foot-4 and 190 pounds, and he can beat you with his arm or legs. C.J. takes care of the football and makes good decisions.
“We’ve been the best version of us. That means we have some playmakers on our team and we just try to get the ball in our playmakers hand and try to exploit some of the offense’s and defense’s weakness and just play smart, assignment football. Lance primarily plays on offense now and the thing that I love about Lance and Tre is they are ultimate competitors.”
Pick: Belleville by 2
No. 12 Dearborn Fordson (10-1) at No. 2 Chippewa Valley (11-0), 7 p.m. Friday
Fordson upset No. 1 Cass Tech in a Division 1 district final and No. 2 Clinton Township Chippewa Valley now awaits.
Fordson has an explosive offense, led by quarterback Hussein Ajami and running back Abraham Jaafar, but Chippewa Valley has an athletic defense that can slow them down.
Look for Tommy Schuster’s experience at quarterback to be the difference for Chippewa Valley.
Pick: Chippewa Valley by 6
Livonia Franklin (7-4) at Birmingham Groves (9-2), 7 p.m. Friday
Franklin advanced to the Division 2 state championship game last season, a loss to Warren De La Salle.
Franklin junior quarterback Jacob Kelbert is back and playing at a high level, throwing three TDs in a 27-25 district final win over Temperance Bedford.
Groves has played well defensively this season and can slow down Franklin’s passing game.
Pick: Groves by 6
Chelsea (8-3) at Farmington Hills Harrison (8-3), 1 p.m. Saturday
Yes, this will be Harrison’s final home game … really!
Harrison will be closing its doors for good following the 2018-19 school year and legendary head coach John Herrington didn’t feel his team would get a home playoff game after entering the Division 4 state playoffs with a 6-3 record.
Harrison hosted its first postseason game and then earned the right to host the regional following a dramatic 13-10 overtime win at Detroit Country Day when Rod Heard found Max Martin for a TD pass.
Chelsea has an outstanding passing attack in quarterback Quinn Starkey and receiver Hunter Neff, but Harrison’s secondary is strong, led by Heard, Martin and Ben Williams.
Pick: Harrison by 4