Prep picks: Franklin's high-powered offense takes on crosstown rival Churchill
Chris Kelbert knows all about the Livonia Franklin-Livonia Churchill rivalry after being head coach at Franklin the last 19 years.
Kelbert has a 10-9 record in the crosstown rivalry, losing the last two regular season games to Churchill, but winning the showdown between the teams in the district final in 2017 when Franklin advanced to the Division 2 championship game, losing to Warren DeLaSalle at Ford Field.
Franklin — 4-0 and ranked No. 6 in The News Super 20 poll — is in a three-way tie with No. 2 Belleville and No. 11 Dearborn Fordson for first place in the KLAA East Division with 3-0 conference records. Churchill, which defeated Franklin 41-35 last year, is 1-3 overall, 1-2 in conference play.
Franklin will play at Churchill on Friday.
Kelbert feels confident with his offense in the hands of his son, Jacob, a three-year starting quarterback.
And for good reason. Kelbert has connected on 70 percent of his passes, throwing for 758 yards and eight touchdowns while rushing for 278 yards and seven more TDs. Running back James Carpenter has rushed for 400 yards and five TDs, averaging 11 yards a carry.
“We have to continue to do what we’ve been doing offensively and possessing the ball and scoring points,” Kelbert said of Franklin’s offense which averages 50 points, including a 47-25 win last week against Livonia Stevenson. “Their defensive scheme is a little bit different than some of the other ones we’ve faced, so we have to do a good job of controlling the game with our offense. They want to take away your outside run game and force you to go inside and their linebackers are free runners so they can get out in space and make plays, so we just have to make sure we can account for them.
“And, defensively we can’t give up big plays. We’ve played pretty good defense, but giving up the big play has been an issue at times.”
Pick: Franklin by 8
Other top games
Macomb Dakota (3-1) at No. 3 Chippewa Valley (4-0), Friday, 7: Chippewa Valley has won four straight in this rivalry and will try to make it five when it hosts Dakota for first place in the MAC Red.
Dakota gave Chippewa Valley all it could handle in the regular season game last season, falling 24-17 in Week 5. Chippewa Valley won the rematch in the district final, 51-10, going on to finish the season 14-0, capped with a 31-30 win over Clarkston in the Division 1 title game.
Chippewa Valley will carry an 18-game winning streak into the showdown, averaging 43 points behind the strong play of quarterback Josh Kulka and running back Myren Harris, who has rushed for more than 600 yards.
Dakota showcases a strong offense, as well, averaging 38 points with its lone loss coming to No. 4 Orchard Lake St. Mary’s in the season opener, 28-14.
“It’s a pretty good rivalry, you can usually throw the records out, but the records are usually good,” Chippewa Valley coach Scott Merchant said. “The place is going to be rocking. We’re expecting six to eight thousand people.
“I think we have a lot of similarities between the two teams. I think they have a really good offensive line and we have a really good offensive line. They’re big and physical and they have a couple of good backs. I think the (running back De’Javion) Stepney kid is one of the top players around, maybe in the state for his junior class. I think whichever team can stop the run better will have a huge advantage.”
Pick: Chippewa Valley by 6.
No. 20 Birmingham Brother Rice (4-0) at Detroit Catholic Central (2-2), Sunday, 1: This is the 75th Boys Bowl with Catholic Central and Brother Rice having played some classic matchups in past years.
The teams have combined to win nine state championships and play in 15 state title games since 2000 with Brother Rice hoisting the trophy five times and Catholic Central, four.
Catholic Central has won four straight in the rivalry, including 21-0 last season, 27-23 in 2017 and 28-21 in 2016.
Brother Rice is unbeaten, allowing just 24 points this season, defeating two-time defending Division 2 champion Warren DeLaSalle, the Catholic League champs, 16-14 on Saturday.
“They’re going to play through the echo of the whistle, especially in this game since they play hard,” Brother Rice coach Adam Korzeniewski said of Catholic Central, which defeated preseason No. 2 Detroit King, 24-22 in the season opener. “They are aggressive on the D line, so for us it will be can we get enough protection to get the ball off because I think we have an advantage with our skilled guys since we do have pretty good receivers.”
Pick: Brother Rice by 2.
Warren De La Salle (2-2) at No. 4 Orchard Lake St. Mary’s (4-0), Friday, 7: It seems like every game has been a test to see if St. Mary’s is back since it won three straight Division 3 championships from 2014-16 before missing the state playoffs the last two years.
St. Mary’s came away with an impressive, 38-35 comeback win at Walled Lake Western Friday, showing its ability to pile up yards on the ground while senior quarterback Grant Henson connected on 6-of-9 passes for 122 yards and a TD.
This one will be really important if St. Mary’s hopes to earn its first Catholic League title since a 38-0 rout of De La Salle in the Prep Bowl at Ford Field in 2015. And, of course, De La Salle doesn’t want to fall to 2-3 at the midway point of the season.
The teams have split the last six meetings with De La Salle winning the last two seasons, 31-7 last year and 26-7 in ’17.
Pick: St. Mary’s by 3.