Abdur-Rahmaan Yaseen is making the most of the opportunity to play his senior year at Walled Lake Western. And second-year coach Alex Grignon couldn’t be happier, since Yaseen has the ability to change how defenses play against Western.
Yaseen, a Northwestern commit, originally was ruled ineligible to play his senior year by the Michigan High School Athletic Association in early August, but then was allowed to play when the organization looked deeper into his situation with additional information. He had been homeschooled, and also took courses through an online academy prior to enrolling to Western.
Now, Yaseen has put together back-to-back strong performances to start the season in Lakes Valley Conference play, grabbing seven passes for 203 yards and a touchdown in a 41-16 victory over Lakeland in Week 1.
On Friday, Yaseen had seven receptions for 186 yards and two TDs in a 54-21 win over South Lyon East to climb into The News Super 20 poll at No. 18.
“I’m extremely happy to be able to play. You love football, so it’s hard to go without it,” said Yaseen, who has 4.5 speed and plans to start his college career at Northwestern in January. “I’m just making plays with the opportunities I have. The quarterback (Zach Trainor) is putting it there, so I’m just going to get it.
“He (Trainor) does everything well, he’s really good at extending plays when he rolls out. I know to keep on running my route because he’s going to get it to me. My strength is getting open vertically, getting behind defenders. We’ve been pretty good during 7-on-7 and now we’re just having the line blocking, so it’s like 7-on-7 all over again.”
Grignon talked of what Yaseen brings to the table.
“People are covering him one-on-one throughout the game sometimes and we see that and go after it, that’s in our mind a win,” Grignon said. “We take it when we can get it, and if they play off, hitches I think are one of the hardest routes to stop in high school football. Really, just any short route to a single receiver side, you’re putting that corner on an island and he has a big job to do, and if they commit two to him it’s to your advantage elsewhere.”
Trainor, a junior, has been outstanding in his first year as a starter, replacing Sam Johnson, who moved on to Boston College. Trainor has completed 51 of 64 passes for 745 yards and eight TDs, including 27 of 33 for 408 yards and five TDs against South Lyon East, finding seven different receivers. Not a single ball was dropped all night.
“Zach has come out, he’s poised and is under control,” Grignon said. “He understands the game very well. He does a lot of film study, and we’ve got some athletic receivers for him to get the ball to and he’s doing a good job of doing that.”
Grignon is thrilled with his passing attack.
“It’s like do you want to double Abdur-Rahmaan, if you do that means these guys are single-covered for sure,” Grignon said.
“These guys” include 6-foot-5 senior Sam Ahern, Justin Gabriel and Cam Kinaia, along with C.J. Brown, who is catching the ball out of the backfield and lining up at slot. Ahern had three touchdowns against South Lyon East, including a 70-yard TD interception return. He has 10 receptions.
Western will play host to No. 4 Orchard Lake St. Mary’s in Week 4 on Sept. 20.
Top teams stumble
The high school football season has gotten off to a crazy start, with five of the top 10 teams in The News Super 20 losing in Week 2, including No. 1 West Bloomfield, No. 5 Southfield A&T and No. 8 Detroit King, which opened the season ranked No. 2.
Muskegon has gotten off to an incredible start, defeating defending Division 2 state champion Warren De La Salle, 41-7, in the season opener at Wayne State’s Adams Field, then returning to the Motor City to dominate Detroit King, 41-18, in the rematch of last year’s Division 3 state final at Ford Field.
Birmingham Groves played outstanding defense in its 24-17 upset over West Bloomfield, taking a 17-7 lead into the final two minutes before West Bloomfield’s 32-yard field goal by Jake Ward, then pulled even, recovering a fumbled kickoff in the end zone.
Groves moved up to No. 5 in The News' Super 20.
Groves coach Brendan Flaherty concentrated on slowing down West Bloomfield four-star junior running back Donovan Edwards, who scored on a 60-yard run in the opening quarter.
“It was some common sense for us, but just being aware of where he was at all times, and then trying to have a feel of what they were trying to do with him on that,” he said. “That sounds kind of easy, but it was where was he at all times, and then doing our very best at trying to make him work lateral, didn’t want him to go downhill on us because he had a stud run on us with an inside trap, and it was like we can’t have that. We want to sell out as much as we could for the run and make them beat us passing.
“Really, the biggest thing was getting a lead on them, because the past few years we played them and they’re a different team, as is everybody, when you’re playing from behind, so that helped us a lot.
“And, I felt Darryl Allen played exceptionally well at strong safety for us, set the coverage for us, got us in the right coverages and had a big interception.”
Groves pulled it out when it recovered a fumble by Kyle Coleman on a punt at the West Bloomfield 21, setting up senior quarterback Markis Alexander’s touchdown TD pass to Eli Turner with 36 seconds left for the difference.
Alexander completed 18 of 28 for 226 yards, including an 18-yard TD pass to Clayton Fox in the first quarter.
“Markis did a good job early, converted on a couple of third downs to keep the drive alive and then we got in there, so that helped us, having that offensive firepower to control that first quarter,” Flaherty said. “It’s great to have that type of experience at quarterback.”
No. 7 Detroit Catholic Central and No. 10 DeWitt also went down to defeat with Catholic Central, falling to Toledo Whitmer, 14-7, whilw Portland defeated DeWitt, 29-27.
Lake Orion rolling
Lake Orion played a big part of the upsets, earning a 30-point win over a No. 5 A&T team which piled up 460 total yards, 343 coming on the ground, in a 28-14 win over Clarkston in the opener.
Lake Orion, now No. 14, also had an impressive Week 1 win (17-7) over an 11-1 Lapeer team from a year ago.
Lake Orion’s best record has been 5-5 during the previous five years, and this season could well end with a winning record since it is off to its first 2-0 start since 2013 when it finished 7-3.
Lake Orion’s defense — led by inside linebacker Casey Colton and nose guard Joe Cady — played well against an explosive A&T offense which is led by Florida Atlantic-bound quarterback Anthony Romphf, Washington State-bound receiver Christian Fitzpatrick, junior three-star receiver Robert Army and running back Rae’Quan Lee, who rushed for nearly 200 yards against Clarkston.
No doubt, bringing in new defensive coordinator Rick Powell from Anchor Bay has made a big difference with Lake Orion giving up just 14 points in two games. A&T was limited to 160 yards rushing and a big chunk of that came on Lee’s 73-yard touchdown to pull within 14-7.
Lake Orion showed it had some stars of its own with quarterback Blaze Lauer running for three TDs and throwing for one. Lauer got things going by scoring on a 39-yard run on an option read, then scoring on a 28-yard run after A&T gambled on a fake punt in its own territory which gave Lauer a short field to work with for the 14-0 cushion.
Kobe Manzo had his second consecutive 100-yard rushing game and Drew Van Heck had multiple explosive plays, including a 14-yard TD reception for a 24-7 halftime lead.
King, Cass Tech 0-2
Detroit Cass Tech and Detroit King have been two of the top state powers the past decade with Cass Tech advancing to the Division 1 state semifinals or further for eight straight years, including Division 1 state championships in 2011, ’12 and ’16, before getting beat by Dearborn Fordson in last year’s district final. King has won three state championships in the last four years, winning consecutive Division 2 titles in 2015 and ’16, then the Division 3 championship last season.
Cass Tech and King are both off to 0-2 starts for the first time in the same season since 1967.
King was ranked No. 2 in The News Super 20 and No. 21 in the USA Today’s Top 25 before getting upset in the season opener by Detroit Catholic Central, 24-22. King was dominated by Muskegon, 41-18, on Friday in the rematch of last year’s state title game.
After a 26-9 loss to Chicago Phillips in Week 1, Cass Tech traveled to Ohio and lost to Lakewood St. Edward, 41-20, on Saturday.
Cass Tech coach Thomas Wilcher pointed out that this team is one of his youngest this decade, with a roster loaded with juniors and sophomores.
King coach Tyrone Spencer started four freshmen in the opener, including quarterback Dante “D.J.” Moore.
With that in mind, expect Cass Tech and King to still make some noise in the state playoffs as the teams will improve each week — including the much anticipated showdown between the teams Sept. 20 at King.