Projected order of finish by consensus of coaches; 2018 records in parentheses.
1. CANTON (6-4, 6-1)
Andrew LaFata begins his second year as head coach. He returns six starters on offense, led by QB/S Ben Stesiak, 6-4, 235-pound TD Jake Vickers, and RBs Marco Johnson and Aran Patrick, who will be running behind Josh Martin, Kazy Putnum and Luke Nader.
2. BRIGHTON (7-3, 7-0)
DE Luke Stanton and LBs Zach Pardonnet and Cole Riddle will lead Brighton’s defense, with DB Matt Jontz making an impact in the secondary. RB Nick Nemecek will be running behind OL Nate Hoffman (Air Force) and Brad Luketic. Colby Newburg takes over at QB and has WRs A.J. Lin and Marker Pecaj as top targets.
3. PLYMOUTH (6-4, 5-2)
Brian Lewis feels more comfortable in his second year as head coach. He guided Plymouth to a state playoff appearance and has 10 returners back on defense, including DE/TEs Ivan Davis (Northern Illinois) and Caleb Sadler, DB/WRs Mike Mathias and Alec Beshears, along with LB Logan Walkley.
4. NORTHVILLE (3-6, 2-5)
Northville had its second straight 3-6 season last year after nine straight winning seasons. Things don’t look optimistic with 12th year coach Matt Ladach pointing out that he has fewer than 50 players this season with only three returning starters. DL/C Demir Tagani and LB/RB Rob Husband are among the top players.
5. NOVI (2-7, 1-6)
Novi is in a similar position to Northville, coming off its second straight season with three or fewer wins. But veteran coach Jeff Burnside has 12 returners back and expects to put the ball in the air more with returning QB Josh Erno, WR Ein Mack and RB Alex Vargas. The defense is led by LBs Matt Wright, Gavin Parenti and Malik McGhee.
6. HARTLAND (3-6, 3-4)
Holden D’Arcy gained a year of valuable experience at QB last year as a sophomore, and coach Brian Savage hopes that will turn into more wins his junior year. The entire OL returns, including Tino Mendez, to help give D’Arcy time to find WR Logan Tobel and other playmakers.
7. HOWELL (4-5, 4-3)
Howell had its once promising season come to a halt last season with three straight losses to prevent it from a state playoff appearance. Three-year, two-way starting lineman Mason Nelson will be blocking for QBs Ben Althouse and Zach Metz while opening holes for Jonah Schrock and Philip Pietila.
8. SALEM (2-7, 0-7)
Second-year head coach Justin Reed will look for big things from an experienced OL, anchored by 6-3, 295-pound Josh Williams, Evan Kirkpatrick and Jackson King. Dante Doute and Tyler Overaitis are among the skilled players.
1. BELLEVILLE (12-1, 7-0)
Belleville won its first regional title in program history last year, and now will try to build off that with third-year QB Christian Dhue-Reid back. He is 22-2 as a starter and threw for 2,759 yards and 39 TDs last season. He will work behind an OL anchored by four-star junior Damon Payne, Indiana-bound Coleon Smith and 6-7, 330-pound junior Ramier Lewis. CB Andre Seldon (Michigan) and junior LB Jamari Buddin lead the defense.
2. LIVONIA FRANKLIN (7-5, 4-3)
Chris Kelbert, now in his 19th year as head coach, has the luxury of having a third-year starting QB in Jacob Kelbert, his son, running the offense. He will be working behind a talented OL, anchored by Jake Swriple, Aaron Mass, Kyle Fugedi and Chad Reeves. WR Connor McIntosh, RB Jame Carpenter and DT Erik Reaves are also key players.
3. DEARBORN FORDSON (10-2, 6-1)
Fordson will be entering the season with a little more swagger after upsetting Detroit Cass Tech to win its first district title since 2008. Veteran coach Walker Zaban has talented skilled players in RBs Hassan Mansour and James Wheeler, along with WR/CBs Brandon Thomas and Antonio Gates to work with QB Ali Beydoun. Ali Baiz and Malek Alshawabkeh will anchor the line.
4. LIVONIA CHURCHILL (7-3, 5-2)
Bill DeFillippo has big holes to fill at QB and WR. Junior Gavin Brooks will take over at QB and look for WRs in Shane Morelli and Brendan Lowry. C Josh Barr is the lone returning starter on the OL. Mitch Regan, Dylan Curran and Bryce Dix are also key players.
5. LIVONIA STEVENSON (1-8, 1-6)
Stevenson fell near the bottom of the standings at 1-8 last year after four straight state playoff appearances. Coach Randy Micallef will be looking on skilled players in RB Caden Woodall and TE Nick Broome to help Stevenson climb back up the East Division ladder. OL Dylan Johnson and Michael Brady are key players up front.
6. DEARBORN (5-5, 3-4)
Dearborn should challenge for an upper division finish and state playoff spot with a strong defense, led by LB/WR Tommy Guajardo (Michigan State), DL Ali Saad (Minnesota), LB Ronnie Puczkowski and CB Ryan Timani. QBs Ali Albadair and Ali Murray will have a punishing RB to work with in 6-0, 225-pound Jake Tafelski.
7. WESTLAND JOHN GLENN (4-5, 2-5)
John Glenn will try to end its run of four straight losing seasons. It showed how competitive it was at the end of last year, losing close games to Livonia Franklin (21-7) and Dearborn (21-14) before earning lopsided wins over Wayne Memorial (57-14) and Northville (41-16). Three-year starter Kayleb Parker will anchor the O-line. Other key players include RB Justin Morrison and LBs Jordan Mitchell and Justin Hart.
8. WAYNE MEMORIAL (0-9, 0-7)
Former Ann Arbor Pioneer coach Jari Brown takes over at Wayne, trying to build a foundation and team chemistry to end a stretch of 12 straight losing seasons. QB/LB Quincy Davis and RB/LB Mitez Williams will try to help Wayne end a 26-game losing streak.