Prep football preview: Macomb Area Conference
Projected order of finish by consensus of coaches; 2018 records in parentheses.
1. CHIPPEWA VALLEY (14-0, 5-0)
Chippewa Valley returns eight starters from its Division 1 state championship team, including the four starters on an offensive line that will be opening up holes for RB Myren Harris. Josh Kulka will take over at QB with WR/DB Myles Harris as a weapon.
2. MACOMB DAKOTA (8-3, 3-2)
Dakota will attempt to build on its run of 18 straight state playoff appearances with four starters back on the offensive line, opening holes for junior RB/DB De’Javion Stepney and allowing time for junior QB Zach Droski to find WR/DB Eric Reese.
3. ROMEO (6-4, 3-2)
Curt Rienas has the bulk of his starters back from a team that reached its 15th straight postseason appearance, led by OL Jonathon Lafave and Weston Jones, along with DL Ben Weber and RB/S Ryan Czapski.
4. UTICA EISENHOWER (6-4, 3-2)
Chris Smith expects Eisenhower to be paced by its strong defense, led by DE Michael Gardini, LBs Anthony Cardomone and Mario Getaw, and S Steve Nadolski. QB Blake Rastigue returns and will be behind an offensive line led by Dalton Dueweke.
5. STERLING HEIGHTS STEVENSON (4-5, 1-4)
Stevenson will try to earn a playoff spot for the first time since 2015, after dropping two of its final three games last year. Two-way lineman and Michigan commit Giovanni El-Hadi returns, along with DBs Tony Shumate and Hunter Nowak.
6. NEW BALTIMORE ANCHOR BAY (3-6, 0-5)
Anchor Bay had a rough entrance into the Red Division last season. Now, it returns four starters on each side of the ball, led by QB A.J. Ward, RB Tyler Smeltekop, C Sergei Smoger and three-year LT Tristen Lisco.
1. GROSSE POINTE SOUTH (8-2, 5-0)
South enters the season with a White Division 18-game winning streak. It returns the bulk of its defense, led by linemen Owen Chen and Nick Fannon, along with DBs Grant Hart, Owen Bollaert and Will Johnson, but must replace QB Ryan Downey and RB Coner McKenna.
2. WARREN MOTT (7-3, 4-1)
Mott returns 12 starters, including seven on offense, led by RBs Curtis Hamilton and Romeo Jones, along with WR Jerren Hayes. Dylan VanConant and James Chaney are in a battle for the QB job.
3. UTICA FORD (3-6, 2-3)
Coach Anthony Smith believes Ford has a solid shot of winning the division with an impact player in WR/DB Taveon Thompson, along with hard-hitting LB Austin Mayer, DB Evan Plets and QB Josh Byers.
4. UTICA (1-8, 1-4)
Utica hopes to climb up the White Division ladder with the majority of its starters back, including TE/DE Kurt Kessen, QB Zack Keen, RB/LB Gabe Olschefsky and OL Maguire Palicke.
5. L’ANSE CREUSE NORTH (4-5, 2-3)
Patrick Dailey takes over as head coach. He inherits a team that finished 4-5 last season, but returns 15 starters, nine on offense. QB Justin Szumanski, LB/RB Connor Miscovich and LB Logan Simons are among the top players.
6. GROSSE POINTE NORTH (1-8, 1-4)
Joe Drovin returns for Year 2 at North after struggling through a 1-8 season in his first season as head coach. He has seven starters returning, led by RB/DB Ke’shaun Cooper, DE/LB Jon Jon Perkins, QB/FS Brendan Cwiklinski and D.J. Washington.
1. CENTER LINE (6-4, 4-0)
For the first time in more than a decade, Center Line will enter the season with a target on its back. The school last year made its first postseason since 2005 — and the first of fifth-year head coach Ben Torres’ tenure — and will enter 2019 with half of that team coming back. Seven of Center Line’s 11 returning starters are on the defensive side of the ball, though a handful of the expected standouts will play both ways. WR/DE Jayden Davis, WR/S Isaac Pride and OT/DT Jacob Vega will lead the experienced defense, while the two wideouts look to complement a young, explosive attack on offense.
2. CLAWSON (6-4, 3-1)
Like Center Line, Clawson also has four starters returning on offense and seven on defense. That would imply that this year’s race for the division title will be as close as last year’s. The MAC Bronze in 2018 was decided by a 37-19 Center Line win over Clawson in the first week of conference play. On defense, third-year starter Devin Sylvester and senior Nick Oden, who made over 100 tackles as a junior, lead a stout linebacking group that’s expected to make Clawson’s second level its most aggressive. The defensive backfield is highlighted by ball-hawking FS Tristen Perry, who came down with nine interceptions a season ago. Third-year starting OL Luke Crocker and returning TE Nate Vesper anchor a semi-inexperienced group on the offensive side of the ball.
3. CLINTON TOWNSHIP CLINTONDALE (3-6, 0-5)
Clintondale has had somewhat of a strange decade. After going 5-4 in the MAC Gold in 2009, it’s changed conferences six times. And after going 0-5 in the Silver a season ago, Clintondale is back in the Bronze. Though it returns seven starters on each side of the ball, Clintondale’s youth is a major question mark heading into the upcoming season. The success of both units will be predicated on the development of its freshman and sophomore carryovers from a season ago matching the talent of its veteran leaders. RB/LB Darrell Walker, WR/DB Raquan Hudson and OL/DL Henry Mitchell are the marquee names from the team’s small senior class.
4. MADISON HEIGHTS LAMPHERE (1-8, 1-3)
If Lamphere’s linebacking core, led by last year’s team sack-leader Mike Bisbikis, isn’t enough to for other teams in this division to take them seriously after a 1-8 season, perhaps the intrigue of its junior class, which runs 25 deep, will. Seven of those juniors started as sophomores, with the team returning a total of eight offensive and seven defensive starters. OT/DT Billy Collins, TE/DE Joe McNab and WR/S K.J. Whitman are all junior names that, while this season presents a lot of unknowns, should at least give the program some continuity over the next two seasons — though third-year coach Jeff Glynn believes their hunger will translate to wins in the immediate future.
5. WARREN LINCOLN (3-6, 2-2)
Lincoln has athleticism and depth in spades. Experience on the offensive and defensive line? Not so much. The school is looking for its first division title since 2008, and if that’s going to happen, they’ll be banking on a productive summer from newcomers on both sides of the line of scrimmage. Lincoln does return five starters on offense and seven on defense, with junior QB Tommy Thompson and ATHs Devin Riley and Cranston Turner highlighting what looks to be a promising crop of new players outside of the trenches.
6. NEW HAVEN (0-8, 0-4)
New Haven has not had a winning season since 2006. The program hasn’t won a game since October 2017. They were shut out in six games last season and scored just six points in each of the other two. With all that said, does it really seem that crazy they’ll be experimenting with co-head coaches for the upcoming season? Dean Ackerman Shannon and Steve Garilovski Kincaid certainly have their work cut out for them, but they’ll have half of last year’s starters coming back this season to help bridge the gap between players and their new leadership. As New Haven looks to reinvent itself, expect T/DE Xavier Ashcraft, WR/DB Jamme McQueen, WR/LB Sergio Bell and RB/DT Chris Craigmiles to be the standouts from this struggling bunch.
Editor’s note: The Macomb Area Conference Silver Division breakdown was inadvertently left out of the MAC preview originally posted on Aug. 19.
1. MARINE CITY (10-3, 3-2)
A season ago, Marine City finished in third place of the MAC Silver, but came within a game of the Division 5 title game. With eight starters returning on each side of the ball in 2019, head coach Ron Glodich was clear about what he expects from them in the upcoming season: A league title and a deep playoff run.
There will be some obstacles, namely another projected top-heavy Silver conference, but Marine City’s experience and talent makes it deserving of being the coach’s poll preseason No. 1.
OT/LB Josh Headlee, RB/DB Aren Sopfe and WR/DB Angelo Patsalis headline a senior class looking to rid themselves of the bitter taste left by last year’s semifinal loss. Peg sophomore RB Charles Tigert as a potential breakout candidate. He’s on the short list to replace graduated back Jack Kretzschmar, in what was — along with Sopfe — a stellar two-pronged rushing attack last season, with Marine City’s top backs averaging 6.7 yards per carry.
2. ST. CLAIR (9-3, 4-1)
St. Clair and Madison also made deep playoff runs last season.
The difference for St. Clair, of course, being that its trip to the Division 4 regional (a 28-0 loss to Williamston) came on the heels of a 2-7 campaign. Before last season, then-second-year coach James Bishop promised a revamped offensive attack. And while he thought he might have something special in new QB Brady Gleason, even Bishop probably didn’t expect his offense to average nearly 37.75 points in its nine wins.
But either way, the secret is no longer safe: St. Clair intends to put up points at will. A senior tandem of Gleason and WR/FS Austin Schweiger, who racked up 14 touchdowns and 600 yards receiving last season, are the main attractions of an offense that returns eight starters. St. Clair’s defense returns nine, a group of “hitters,” Bishop described them, led by MLB Joe Phillips.
3. MADISON HEIGHTS MADISON (13-1, 5-0)
Out of the Silver’s three tops dogs, Madison has had the most sustained success over the last decade, making the playoffs every season since 2005. Under fourth-year coach James Rogers, the program’s only gotten stronger. The only two losses it suffered in 2017-18 were in the state semifinals (14-7 to Saugatuck) and title game (50-44 to Lothrop), respectively.
With two heartbreaking defeats freshly in the rear-view mirror, one could make the argument for Madison being the most motivated team in the Silver. Which is why it would be no surprise to see a team returning five starters on each side of the ball to scoff at the team’s preseason No. 3 ranking in the coaches poll, and make another push for an undefeated regular season. That’s why they play the games, right?
LB Adam Long and OL Cam Corso, both all-state a season ago, lead their respective sides of the field. RB/SS Anthony Fuller and WR/FS Makai Johnson add serious big-play potential on both offense and defense.
It’s going to be a fun race.
4. MARYSVILLE (4-5, 1-4)
Marysville in 2018 fell a game under .500 for the second consecutive season. Its quest to return to early-decade form, when Marysville made six consecutive postseasons, lies in its ability to mesh an ultra-experienced defense with very inexperienced offense.
Marysville graduated 16 seniors, nine of them leaving open starting positions on offense. On the opposite side of the ball, Marysville will have nine starters returning to a defense that struggled mightily within the division (37.4 points against per game), but was dominant outside of it (9.25).
5. HAZEL PARK (4-5, 1-5 OAA Blue)
Hazel Park joined the MAC Silver after a 24-year stay in the Oakland Athletics Association. Obviously, that’s going to come with a lot of unknown.
What is known, however, is that Hazel Park returns nine starters return to each side of the ball from a team that was one game below .500 from a season ago. A majority of those guys will be playing both ways, with RB/LB Jayshun White, TE/LB Anthony Smith, WR/DB Nate Hardeman and RB/DB Ralph Bush leading the charge.
6. ST. CLAIR SHORES SOUTH LAKE (3-6, 2-3)
South Lake went a combined 5-13 in 2017-18 after consecutive playoff appearances the two years prior. Steve Senters was hired in for his third stint at the school, hoping to turn things around.
South Lake will have half of its starters from a season ago coming back — six on offense, five on defense — and a shiny new weight room to supplement their hopes of getting back in the playoff picture of a stacked division. Its senior class is led by Tre’Bion Wolf, Bryce Sammons, Kevin Clark and Dorian Stevens.
1. PORT HURON NORTHERN (10-2, 5-0)
Seventeen starters from Northern's 2018 MAC Blue and district champion team return for another season to this ultra-talented group as it looks to move past the regional round, where it fell to eventual Division 2 champion Warren De La Salle, 21-3. Ten of those returning starters are on Northern’s defense, a unit that allowed an average of only 12.4 points last season and is led by DE Braiden McGregor (Michigan) and MLB Luke O’Hare. QB Seth Klink and McGregor, who also plays tight end, are four-year starters and the main attractions of an offense that outscored its opponents 289-149.
2. ROSEVILLE (6-4, 4-1)
Roseville struggled outside the MAC Blue a season ago but took care of its business within the league, falling only to Northern, en route to its second consecutive playoff appearance. Roseville’s offense was all over the place in 2018 — it was shut out by Chippewa Valley in Week 2 and put up 76 on Eastpointe in Week 9 — but returns six starters, including senior QB Javon Osterhout and All-MAC senior RB Daivon Lowman. Sophomore WR/DB Tyrell Henry is Roseville head coach Vernard Snowden’s pick for breakout player of the year. Just two starters return to a defense that gave up 26.3 points per game last year.
3. ST. CLAIR SHORES LAKEVIEW (7-4, 3-2)
With seven players on each side of the ball returning to a team that reached last year’s district final, Lakeview plans to rely heavily on its senior class as it looks to make consecutive playoff appearances for the first time in school history. Two four-year starters, All-MAC RB Evan Rochon and DL/TE Herald Irby, along with three-year starting G Brian Hannan, will be the captains of a squad out for vengeance. Lakeview lost twice a season ago to MAC Blue champion Port Huron Northern, with one of those defeats coming in the district final, 14-7.
4. PORT HURON (3-6, 2-3)
Port Huron has missed the playoffs in four consecutive seasons after making seven appearances — and winning a district title in the process — from 2007-14. Port Huron’s pass rush is shaping up to be its strongest unit, with junior edge rushers Caleb Collier and Noah Kindle backing up senior TE/DT Blake Bland to form a menacing front seven. Senior RB Luke Van Der Feyst will be the playmaker of Port Huron’s backfield.
5. WARREN COUSINO (2-7, 1-4)
Taking over as the head coach of a 2-7 football team is tough. But taking over a football team that went 2-7 and graduated 26 seniors? Well, let’s just say Tony Wright has a tall order ahead of him. He will benefit from four-year starting QB/LB Wyatt Hudson returning as a team cornerstone as he looks to usher in a new regime, though, and Cousino has plenty of depth to boot. This year’s squad features 14 seniors, with TE/SS Andre Wynes, OL/LB Michael Hasse and junior FB/DT Louis Carter rounding out the rest of its team captains.
6. FRASER (1-8, 0-5)
Fraser will have just six seniors on its roster this season, and with such a young squad, this season very well could be chalked up as another rebuilding year. It’ll return five starters from last year and have a new starting QB in sophomore Brady Berezowsky, whose development catches a break in the sense that half of Fraser’s seniors are weapons at his disposal: WRs Khalil Roy and Kain Golemba, and RB/MLB Tyler Bednarhik. Fraser’s defense, which averaged 36.1 points against, returns four starters. OG/DT Jalen Richardson rounds out the notable playmakers from the small class.
T1. ST. CLAIR SHORES LAKE SHORE (6-4, 4-1)
Lake Shore in 2018 made its first playoff appearance since 2009. It’ll need to develop a large crop of sophomores in a hurry if it hopes to make two in a row. Just three starters return on Lake Shore’s offense and four on its defense — not to mention, there will be a new man under center, junior Kyle Celli. Lake Shore will look to make its money in the trenches, with OL/DL Joe Calania and tight end junior Brenden Colby anchoring the offensive line in front of first-year starting running back Terrence Walker.
T1. WARREN WOODS TOWER (TIE) (9-2, 5-0)
Will this finally be the team that gets fifth-year Tower head coach Al Gulick past the district final? Tower has fallen in the second round of playoffs two consecutive seasons, and with just four starters returning on offense and three on defense, it’ll be a steep climb to its third straight appearance. It does have one of the conference’s most dangerous offensive weapons, though, as 2,000-yard rusher Henry Brown will be back for his senior year after earning All-League and All-County honors in 2018. Sophomore WR/FS Omari Embree and senior OT/DT Kellin Morrison are the other names to watch from this group.
3. FITZGERALD (3-6, 2-3)
Fitzgerald snapped a four-year playoff streak in 2018. It was just a step behind its Gold Division opponents in three high-scoring conference losses, getting outscored 159-108 in defeats to Lake Shore, Tower and Eastpointe. Like both teams at the top of this list, Fitzgerald doesn’t have many experienced players returning. It brings back just two offensive and three defensive starters — though one of them is 1,200-yard RB Jalen Crawford, who, along with WR/DB Trey West, should help lighten the load of QB Thomas Lewis.
4. EASTPOINTE (4-5, 3-2)
With the exception of two six-point outings, Eastpointe’s offense in 2018 was firing on all cylinders, averaging 37.4 points per game over its seven other contests. While Eastpointe lost QB Dezmond Ambrose to graduation, it’ll still have its top four receivers from a season ago, a group highlighted by the senior duo of Davion Watkins and Anthony Williams. In the backfield, expect senior RB John Cannon to have an elevated role with Emanuel Robins and Jacolby Jackson graduating this past spring.
5. L’ANSE CREUSE (1-8, 0-5)
First-year head coach Orandre Roy Sr. has his work cut out for him at L’Anse Creuse, a program that hasn’t had a record better than 1-8 since 2012. The team’s senior class is small, but its junior class is bountiful, bringing a youthful element to L’Anse Creuse that could help push the team forward into a couple wins. If nothing else, this season will mainly be a stepping stone toward developing that young crop of players as they become upperclassmen. Sophomore offensive weapons Keyone Nixon and Jaivoin Mason are two newcomers pegged by Roy to make an immediate impact, while senior WR/DB Tyrese Smith Jr. and junior C/DL Jackson Saleh highlight the team’s veterans.
6. STERLING HEIGHTS (1-8, 1-4)
In Week 8 of the 2018 season, Sterling Heights defeated L’Anse Creuse for its first conference win since Week 8 of 2016. Sterling Heights was held to single-digit points on four occasions last year, and only twice did it score more than 20. The team’s defense struggled mightily all season, allowing 40.3 points per game.