It’s coming down to the final third of the high school football season with some teams in position to earn league titles, and others having work to do to earn postseason spots.
No. 4 Orchard Lake St. Mary’s is one of the surprise teams of the season.
St. Mary’s was a perennial state power, winning three straight Division 3 state championships from 2014-16 before falling to 2-6 in 2017 and 3-6 last season.
St. Mary’s has already surpassed its win total of the last two years, entering Friday’s Catholic League Central Division showdown at Detroit Catholic Central (3-3, 1-1) with a 6-0 record, 2-0 in league play.
“We’re doing some nice things each week,” said George Porritt, who is in his 30th year as St. Mary’s head coach.
After earning a 38-35 comeback win at No. 16 Walled Lake Western Sept. 20, St. Mary’s started Catholic League play with a 16-14 win over two-time defending Division 2 state champion Warren De La Salle, then defeated Birmingham Brother Rice 44-21 on Saturday.
How impressive was the St. Mary’s offense in the win over Brother Rice? St. Mary’s piled up more than 400 yards on the ground and senior quarterback Grant Henson completed 8-of-12 passes for 125 yards, including a TD pass to Anthony Enechukwu. Anthony Anton had 270 yards rushing and Garnett Davis had 127.
“Our offensive line did a great job up front,” said Porritt. “They worked hard during the offseason and we’ve gotten good leadership from Alex Weber and Elijah Harrison, and that’s been a key for us on that offensive line.”
This week’s St. Mary’s-Catholic Central showdown is a high-stakes game for both teams.
“It’s for the Catholic League regular-season championship and if they beat us we’ll be co-champs so it’s a big game for both of us,” Porritt said. “They played such a tough schedule this year.”
Catholic Central started with a 24-22 win over then-No. 2 Detroit King in the season opener, followed by a 14-7 loss to Toledo Whitmer and a 28-6 loss to Toledo Catholic Central.
De La Salle (3-3, 1-2) defeated Catholic Central 14-3 Friday, but still is in a similar situation to Catholic Central, needing to get wins or watch postseason play from the sidelines.
De La Salle will have to pull off an upset this Friday at Wayne State to avoid slipping under .500 when it plays host to No. 9 Davison (6-0), which is averaging 55 points behind the impressive play of three-star junior quarterback Brendan Sullivan.
Davison entered last year’s game against De La Salle with a 6-0 record, but walked away with its first loss, 35-7.
De La Salle will play U-D Jesuit (4-2) in Week 8.
Clarkston’s tough road
Clarkston’s run of 16 straight state playoff appearances is in jeopardy.
Kurt Richardson has enjoyed tremendous success in postseason play, guiding Clarkston to Division 1 state championships in 2013, ’14 and ’17, and to a state title game appearance last year, a 31-30 loss to Chippewa Valley.
Richardson said Clarkston must win the next two games to keep its season alive – and it doesn’t have a Week 9 opponent. He feels Clarkston won’t get in the playoffs at 4-4.
After a 1-3 start, Clarkston has put together a two-game winning streak, defeating Oxford 33-28, followed by a thrilling 22-21 overtime win over Southfield A&T Friday, avenging a 28-14 Week 1 loss to A&T.
What was the difference this time against A&T?
“We stopped the big play,” Richardson said. “We were much better defensively and some of our young pups are growing up and getting better. Our freshman tailback, Ethan Clark, was really good Friday night and he didn’t play the first time we played them.
“(Clark) has great vision. He sees things real well and makes good cuts. He makes a difference for us, scored both of the touchdowns in overtime and a two-point conversion. This was his first start. He’s growing up fast.”
Clarkston plays at Rochester Adams (4-2) Friday before playing host to No. 11 Lake Orion in Week 8.
“We only have two games left, no Week 9 game,” Richardson said. “We couldn’t find anybody, called a ton of schools, but nobody could or wanted to play us. We just have to win the next two to get in. I don’t think we can get in at 4-4.”
Detroit Renaissance climbing
Drake Wilkins put together a four-year plan when he took over as head coach at Detroit Renaissance prior to the 2017 season.
Wilkins knew he would take his lumps during his first year at Renaissance while playing freshmen, but he was confident he would see progress, and that has indeed happened.
Renaissance defeated perennial PSL power Detroit Cass Tech 25-20 on Friday to improve to 4-2 after going 4-5 in 2017 and 5-4 last season. Renaissance’s last state playoff appearance came in 2014.
Renaissance can win the PSL Division 1 title with a win over Mumford (4-2) Friday at Renaissance.
“It was huge because we’ve been wanting to get over the hump,” said Wilkins of Renaissance’s first win over Cass Tech since 2004, ending a seven-game losing streak in the series, including a 40-0 loss last season. “We pretty much got manhandled by everybody that first year, but even in the first year you could see us getting better every week, and the second year where we were very competitive, but we were still losing to the big boys.
“I’ve been telling the kids the last couple of years we were a middle-of-the-pack type of team. It’s obvious King and Cass is on another level and we down here fighting with the other guys deciding who was going to be third, fourth and fifth, and in order to take the next step you have to beat one of them to even be in the same mindset.
“We scrapped real hard, played real hard like we’ve been doing all season long and it paid off. It’s a big win for us because 85 percent of the team is coming back next year. This is kind of the plan when I took over where the first year I was going to bite the bullet and go with the young guys, because I wanted growth, knowing they’d return, and now this team is loaded with juniors.”
One of those seniors is three-star quarterback Raequan Beal, who has multiple MAC offers, including Eastern Michigan and Central Michigan. Beal threw for 260 yards and three TDs against Cass Tech, including two TD tosses to Darnell Adams Jr.
“It was probably Raequan’s best performance since I’ve been at Renaissance,” said Wilkins. “He was steady throughout the whole game and made some big throws, squeezing the ball in there where there wasn’t much room, dead on the money.”
Cass Tech reeling
With the loss to Renaissance, Cass Tech slipped to 2-4 and must win out to have a chance at the state playoffs.
Cass Tech plays 1-5 Detroit Cody Friday and a win would lock down the No. 2 seed from the PSL Division 1, behind Renaissance, more than likely setting up a PSL semifinal game at Detroit King.
Cass Tech would have to beat King for a chance to earn its 12th consecutive state playoff appearance. Cass Tech – which won Division 1 state championships in 2011, ’12 and ’16 – had its run of advancing to the state semifinals or better end at eight straight years last season, losing to Dearborn Fordson in the district finals.
King defeated Cass Tech back on Sept. 20, 47-7.
Goose eggs for Troy
It’s one thing to go 0-6, yet another to go 0-6 without scoring a point, which Troy has done this season.
Troy has been outscored 243-0, 221-0 in OAA Division White play, including a 49-0 setback to No. 13 Groves Friday.
Things don’t get any easier Friday when Troy travels to OAA White leader and No. 8 Oak Park.
Oak Park four-star receiver Maliq Carr will be making his college choice at the school Friday afternoon, picking between Georgia and Purdue.