It would be safe to say that Frank Black has grown up the last few weeks as Oak Park’s quarterback following a season-opening loss to preseason No. 1 West Bloomfield.
It was following that 20-14 loss that veteran Oak Park head coach Greg Carter said: “We had a new quarterback, a senior, and we tell him all the time he has to watch the official in the back and has to get the ball snapped, and I think at one point we had four or five penalties in a row, so it was bad and we have a lot of work to do.”
It’s obvious that Oak Park quarterbacks coach Kevin Glenn, Carter and volunteer coach Devin Gardner have put the work in to help Black turn the negatives into positives, resulting in a three-game winning streak, starting with a 53-0 rout of Rochester, followed by a 64-41 comeback win over perennial state power Clarkston and Friday’s 26-14 win over No. 5 Birmingham Groves.
Carter has a pair of his former quarterbacks, Glenn (Detroit DePorres/Illinois State) and Gardner (Inkster/Michigan) helping him out. Glenn played for every Canadian Football League (CFL) team during his 18-year career before retiring last year.
There has to be a certain amount of pressure in replacing a highly-recruited quarterback like Black has in taking over for Dwan Mathis, who is now at Georgia. But Black has the chance to do something Mathis came up short on – leading Oak Park to its first regional title in school history.
During the past few weeks, Black is looking more and more like the quarterback to lead Oak Park – ranked No. 8 in The Detroit News Super 20 – to a long playoff run.
“He always had the potential and we knew he was a really good athlete,” said Carter of Black. “He’s learned a lot from that first game and we helped him out by not huddling, so he’s getting up to the ball and getting the chance to communicate with his teammates.
“We’ve done some things on the sidelines to make sure we get the right personnel in, get the right information to the quarterback, so he’s doing well now.”
Black helped Oak Park score 24 unanswered points in the final six minutes against Clarkston, finding Dayvon Young for a 75-yard TD to start the rally. He finished the night 14-of-17 for 280 yards and four TDs.
On Friday, Black ran for two TDs and found 6-foot-6 Maliq Carr for a 36-yard TD pass in the showdown victory over Groves. It was Oak Park’s home opener after three straight road games.
“He’s great at buying time in the pocket when things break down a little bit, and he’s throwing the deep ball really well,” said Carter of Black. “He’s making good plays at the right time.”
Carter has also been impressed with senior running back Devonta Twymon, who has rushed for more than 600 yards this season, including 185 yards on 12 carries and two TDs against Clarkston, an 86-yard TD run in the fourth-quarter comeback, and 193 yards against Groves.
“In that Clarkston game, we were trailing 41-40 with just about six minutes left and we just got a couple of breaks, a couple of turnovers and had a couple of big plays, including a big run from our tailback,” said Carter of the 5-9, 180-pound Twymon, who has 4.5 speed in the 40. “Devonta has been playing well. He’s been in our program a long time but didn’t play a lot last year because of the seniors we had at running back. He’s getting a chance to get some carries now and is taken advantage of his opportunities.
“Devonta really worked hard during the offseason, ran track and had a great summer. We knew he was a really good football player, was a great JV running back two years ago. He’s really quick and he’s tough. I think the area where he’s really improved in is his pass catching ability so he’s a threat out of the backfield as well.”
Carter is thrilled to have Glenn and Gardner helping out.
“He brings a lot of valuable experience here,” said Carter of Glenn. “This is really the first time where our quarterbacks have gotten daily coaching and being held accountable.
“Devin (Gardner) also helps out, observes us and gives pointers. I’ve been lucky in the past to have some super quarterbacks that have played for me, and then to have them come back and contribute to our program has been great and I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
St. Mary’s is back
Not many conferences can say it has had one or more teams playing in the state championship game every year this decade, but the Catholic League can make that claim.
And don’t be surprised if another Catholic League team finds its way to Ford Field on Thanksgiving weekend this season.
After winning three straight Division 3 state championships from 2014-16, Orchard Lake St. Mary’s suffered losing seasons the last two years.
But St. Mary’s is now 4-0 and ranked No. 4 following its impressive 38-35 comeback win at Walled Lake Western Friday, when senior running back Anthony Anton scored on a 6-yard TD run with 1:26 left for the difference.
“I just think what you saw there was St. Mary’s football on that last drive against a great football team, just took it about three or four yards a crack and got it into the end zone and I’m very pleased,” said George Porritt, who is in his 30th year as St. Mary’s head coach.
After being limited to 31 rushing yards on 15 carries through the first 18 minutes, sophomore Tommy Bauss broke loose for a 44-yard TD run to pull St. Mary’s within 14-10 midway through the second quarter.
St. Mary’s piled up 216 yards on the ground on 46 carries with senior Garnett Davis picking up 83 yards on 19 carries, Anton 56 yards on 18 chances, and Bauss 46 on two carries.
Porritt feels fortunate to have an experienced quarterback in Grant Henson, who led the game-winning 61-yard drive, first finding senior receiver Anthony Enechukwu for a 19-yard gain, then picking up a first down on a 12-yard keeper on a third-and-8 play from the 26 to set up the TD.
“Grant’s getting better, he’s a great leader and made a couple of great runs too, especially when we needed to have them,” said Porritt of Henson, who hit on 6-of-9 passes for 122 yards, including a 56-yard TD to Raid Zerki.
Next up for St. Mary’s is a showdown against two-time defending state champion Warren De La Salle.
Brother Rice also climbing
Brother Rice won three consecutive Division 2 state championships from 2011-13 but has failed to win a regional title since.
Brother Rice, which finished 7-4 last season, is off to a 4-0 start, cracking The News’ Super 20 following Saturday’s 16-14 upset over De La Salle.
Adam Korzeniewski wanted senior quarterback Greg Piscopink to spread the ball around more than in previous games, and Piscopink did just that against De La Salle.
“He did exactly what we needed him to do,” said Korzeniewski of Piscopink, who was 10-of-17 passing for 203 yards, including a TD pass to Rocco Milia. “He was outstanding, was able to avoid a ton of pressure with his legs, made some really good decisions and got the ball to a lot of guys. He still got the ball to Cole Lacanaria, and Rocco Milia had a fantastic game as a receiver and Gianni Dalimonte had a couple of big catches that helped us keep drives going.”
Now Brother Rice has to get past rival Detroit Catholic Central to remain unbeaten. Catholic Central has won the last four games in the series, 21-0 last year.
Chippewa Valley vs. Dakota showdown
Defending Division 1 state champion Chippewa Valley has continued right where it left off last season, displaying a balanced attack for a 4-0 start and No. 3 state ranking.
Josh Kulka is playing well as a first-year starting quarterback and Myren Harris has rushed for more than 600 yards to help push Chippewa Valley’s winning streak to 18 games heading into Friday’s rivalry game against Macomb Dakota (3-1) at Chippewa Valley in a MAC Red showdown.
“Josh has played well, still learning the position, but he played real well this past week, threw three touchdown passes in the first half,” said Chippewa Valley coach Scott Merchant of Kulka, who was sharp in a 49-13 rout of New Baltimore Anchor Bay. “He has seven touchdown passes without an interception, so he’s done everything we’ve asked him to do.
“Myren’s rushed for more than 600 yards and took a screen pass for a 65-yard touchdown, so he’s playing really well.”
Chippewa Valley has won four straight against Dakota, sweeping the season’s series the last two years.