Coaches feel secure with an experienced quarterback running the show, but there have been multiple players throughout the state that have been forced to watch and learn while waiting for their turn.
Josh Kulka marveled at how Tommy Schuster prepared and then operated Chippewa Valley’s offense last season in leading his team to a 14-0 record and Division 1 state championship.
Schuster was a three-year starting quarterback, completing 67 percent of his passes for 1,858 yards and 26 TDs with just one interception. He capped off his career in style, completing all 14 of his passes for 209 yards and two TDs in a 31-30 victory over Clarkston at Ford Field last Thanksgiving weekend.
Kulka – the starting quarterback on his freshman team – was the backup quarterback during his junior year, actually catching one of Schuster’s tosses in the state title game.
But Kulka, now a 6-2 senior, definitely paid attention to how Schuster handled himself last season, showing what he learned in Chippewa Valley’s 35-21 season-opening win over Saline Thursday night in the Xenith Prep Kickoff Classic.
In fact, Kulka nearly duplicated Schuster’s performance in the state championship game. He completed 10-of-11 passes for 132 yards in the first half to set the tempo, giving Chippewa Valley a 21-7 lead. He was 2-for-2 during the second half to finish 12-of-13 for 147 yards.
It would be impressive to have those types of numbers against any team, but Saline has one of the elite programs in the state, going 52-8 the last five years, including a state semifinal run last season.
“He (Kulka) would have went 11-for-11 if I didn’t drop one, but he for sure has stepped up,” said Chippewa Valley senior running back Myren Harris, who took over for Andre Chenault at running back, rushing for 166 yards on 24 carries, including second-half TD runs of 15 and 2 yards. “He’s had a lot of pressure and a lot of weight on him, because filling Tommy’s shoes is hard.
“For Josh to come out and play the way he did is very good. It’s a stepping stone, so you should be expecting more out of Josh Kulka.”
Schuster spread the ball around in the state title game, finding eight different receivers. Kulka did the same in his debut, spreading the ball around to six, including a screen pass to junior Quillen Howze for 16 yards to the Chippewa Valley 34 on a third-and-11, then lobbing a perfectly thrown pass to Corey Anderson for 34 yards to the Saline 32 to set up Antwaine Gunter’s 7-yard TD run with 46 seconds left in the second for a 21-7 halftime cushion.
“Tommy was a great example, he had no incompletions in the state championship game, taught me a lot, so I’m just glad I had such a great role model,” Kulka said. “Tommy was just a really smart quarterback. He always knew what to do, where to go. … We just have to get the yards that you know are for sure and your guys will make stuff happen.”
Kulka feels secure operating behind an experienced offensive line, which brings back four starters, including 6-2, 270-pound Charles Wesley and 6-2, 275-pound Donovan McBride.
“I feel so safe back there,” Kulka said. “You saw how well we ran the ball. They were great.
“It’s so nice to have Myren (Harris) back there (at running back). Our run game is amazing. It just opens up the pass game. It gets the guys biting on the run fakes and our guys are open downfield.”
Kulka believes Chippewa Valley has the talent to make another deep postseason run.
“I definitely think we’re hungry,” Kulka said. “We want to prove that we’re not last year’s team, but I feel like we’re just as good. A lot of people doubt us because we lost a lot of seniors. We just want to prove that we’re still good and we’re still here.”
Chippewa Valley is now ranked No. 4 in The Detroit News Super 20.
Another successful debut
Drew Schorfhaar, a senior at DeWitt, made the most of his opportunity as a starter as well, replacing a successful quarterback in Blake Gatfield, who was 40-3 as a starter, including a Division 3 state semifinal loss to Detroit King last year.
Schorfhaar, son of former Western Michigan quarterback Andrew Schorfhaar, showed his ability as a dual-threat quarterback, throwing for 190 yards and 3 TDs and running for 126 yards on 26 carries and scoring a TD in a 31-26 win over Traverse City Central.
Schorfhaar’s primary target was 6-4 sophomore Tommy McIntosh (seven receptions, 107 yards, two TDs). Schorfhaar showed his toughness by picking up a yard on a critical fourth-down play with 2:52 left and his team holding a 24-20 cushion.
Herstein earns first win
With Farmington Hills Harrison closing its doors for good back in June, the majority of its coaching staff moved a few miles to North Farmington.
Jon Herstein, 36, earned his first win as a head coach, guiding North Farmington to a 35-30 win over Waterford Kettering.
Herstein was a long-time assistant to John Herrington at Harrison. Herrington is now on Herstein’s staff, along with Mill Coleman.
If Herstein stays on board for the next 40 years he could threaten Herrington’s state all-time records for wins (443) and state championships (13). But for now, Herstein is happy to get that first win under his belt with the job of cleaning up some mistakes before North Farmington plays host to Berkley Friday.
“It feels real good, especially with how the kids played, showed some poise in battling back since we were down 7-0, then having to make the big conversion on the fourth down to run the game clock out,” Herstein said. “Myles Greshem had three touchdowns. I felt Jacob Bousamra threw the ball well, and Eddie Lenton had some good catches and so did Jon Brunette.”
Herstein wasn’t happy how North Farmington gave up two fourth-quarter TDs to let Kettering get back into the game, one coming off an interception, the other on an onside kick.
Greshem rushed for more than 100 yards and had more than 100 receiving yards, including a 91-yard TD catch. Bousamra threw for 295 yards and three TDs, the long toss to Greshem and an 80-yard scoring strike to Justus Clark.
Rollercoaster debut for Moore
Freshman quarterback Dante “D.J.” Moore made his debut for Detroit King in Saturday’s 24-22 loss to Detroit Catholic Central in the Prep Kickoff Classic, and things didn’t start well or end well for Moore.
But Moore certainly was impressive during a 24-minute stretch in between, showing his poise, arm strength and accuracy to rally defending Division 3 King back from a 24-0 second-quarter deficit to put it in position to pull out the win.
Moore – offered a scholarship by Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh as a seventh grader – completed 20 of his first 25 passes for 200 yards, including a 9-yard TD pass to Kenny Merrieweather to pull within 24-14 at halftime. He then connected on 7-of-9 for 80 yards, capped off by a 20-yard scoring strike to Indiana-bound receiver Rashawn Williams, to cut the deficit to 24-20 with 8:48 left.
On King’s first two possessions of the game, Moore’s passes to Maryland-bound running back Peny Boone resulted in a lateral fumble – which Catholic Central turned into a TD – and a screen pass over the middle that Boone bobbled and Catholic Central intercepted, leading to another TD.
Then, after just failing to connect with Williams on a fade pattern in the left corner of the end zone with three minutes left, Moore was sacked and fumbled on the following play to end the drive at the Catholic Central 11.
King had one more chance, but Moore’s pass from the Catholic Central 47 was intercepted with less than a minute remaining.
Moore will have another big-stage game Friday night when King plays host to No. 3 Muskegon and Ohio State-bound quarterback Cameron Martinez. It will be the rematch of last year’s state title game won by King, 41-25.
Special teams difference
West Bloomfield coach Ron Bellamy thought the season opener between his top-ranked team and No. 3 Oak Park would be decided by special teams.
That proved to be right with West Bloomfield 5-7 junior Jake Ward kicking a pair of 39-yard field goals and junior punter Samuel Lafata pinning Oak Park deep at the 2 with 9:44 left in the 20-14 win.
Lafata also got off a punt that an Oak Park returner had to go back and retrieve, then fumbled, giving the ball to West Bloomfield at the Oak Park 25. West Bloomfield took advantage with four-star junior running back Donovan Edwards breaking loose for 14 yards to set up a 2-yard TD run by quarterback C.J. Harris for a 20-14 lead with 3:58 remaining in the third, the final points of the game.
“Honestly, all things considered we thought it was even across the board, our offense against their defense, and their offensive against our defense,” Bellamy said. “We thought the difference would be special teams and it was tonight.”
Dellinger misses opener
Clarkston coach Kurt Richardson was somewhat shocked that four-star two-way junior lineman Garrett Dellinger was unable to play in the season opener against Southfield A&T Friday night.
Dellinger had surgery on his left shoulder last November, then surgery on his right shoulder during the winter. He said Aug. 15 he would be ready to go, but then told Richardson last Tuesday he wasn’t able to play in the opener.
Clarkston still had four-star junior two-way lineman Rocco Spindler in the lineup, but A&T took advantage of Dellinger’s absence and piled up 460 total yards, 343 rushing, in the 28-14 win.
When asked to talk about facing Clarkston without Dellinger in the lineup, A&T dual-threat quarterback Anthony Romphf replied: “I don’t even know who Garrett is, all I know is Rocco. Everybody in the OAA has respect for Clarkston. They have a great coaching staff, they have Rocco, but we played better than them, so give a shout out to my team.”
Romphf completed 8-of-21 passes for 118 yards and rushed for 110 yards on 15 carries.
Richardson doesn’t know when Dellinger will return.