Prep picks: Livonia Franklin girds for dangerous Detroit King offense

David Goricki
The Detroit News
Dante Moore

District titles will be on the line across the state this weekend, including a showdown in Division 2, where No. 16 Livonia Franklin plays at No. 12 Detroit King Friday at 6 p.m.

King, 8-2 and the PSL champion, has been one of the elite teams in the state, winning Division 2 state titles in 2015 and 2016 and a Division 3 state championship last year.

King is led by freshman quarterback Dante Moore, who already received an offer from Michigan, along with Maryland-bound running back Peny Boone and standout receivers in Indiana-bound Rashawn Williams and Marshawn Lee.

King fourth-year head coach Tyrone Spencer challenged his players after the 27-6 PSL title game win over Detroit Denby, feeling they could have played better, and they responded with a 45-7 predistrict rout of Temperance Bedford with Moore connecting on 8-of-10 passes for 153 yards and two TDs, including six passes to Lee for 116 yards and a TD.

More: Detroit News high school football picks: District finals

More: Michigan high school football playoff matchups: District finals

King’s defense, led by four-star junior safety Jaylen Reed, has given up just 43 points the last eight games since opening the season with consecutive losses to No. 1 Muskegon and Detroit Catholic Central.

Don’t expect Franklin (8-2) to be intimidated by King since it has made long postseason runs in the past and has played a competitive schedule, falling to No. 6 Dearborn Fordson, 33-21 in Week 7, then carrying a lead into the fourth quarter of its KLAA showdown with No. 2 Belleville the following week before suffering a 39-29 loss.

Peny Boone

Senior quarterback Jacob Kelbert helped Franklin reach the Division 2 state championship game two years ago before losing to Warren De La Salle in a regional final last season.

“We have to limit our mistakes because they’re going to be a tough team to shut down,” said Franklin coach Chris Kelbert, also Jacob’s father. “We have a pretty veteran group of kids and we’ve played some tough teams already this season, so I don’t think the moment will be too big for us.

“I feel they’ve (King) made a conscious effort the last three weeks that we’ve seen on film to run the football. Early in the season they were throwing it quite a bit more than they were running it. Now it’s a little more run heavy, so we will definitely have to tackle well in the open field because if he (Boone) makes you miss in the open field, that’s when he becomes dangerous.”

Boone has rushed for 379 yards (35 carries) the last three weeks, including 165 yards on 11 carries and two TDs in the win over Bedford.

Pick: King by 6

Other top games

► No. 2 Belleville (10-0) at No. 15 Woodhaven (10-0), 7 p.m. Friday

Belleville is coming off its most impressive win of the season, dominating No. 11 Saline in a Division 1 predistrict game, 49-10, with three-year starting quarterback Christian Dhue-Reid throwing for 320 yards and three TDs, two of the scoring tosses going to Deion Burks.

Now, Belleville hits the road for a district championship game at Woodhaven, which beefed up its non-conference schedule, playing Birmingham Groves in the regular-season finale, scoring 21 unanswered points during the fourth quarter to pull out a 49-28 win.

Then, Woodhaven put up some big numbers again in the predistricts, defeating Ann Arbor Pioneer, 50-21.

Woodhaven, which is averaging 38.5 points, is led by its 6-foot, 260-pound running back Clarence Corbett, who has surpassed 1,000 yards. Quarterback Josh Waters has also played well.

“Josh Waters and Clarence Corbett have been very good the last couple of weeks,” said Woodhaven coach Keith Christnagel. “Clarence has scored six TDs the last two games and Josh five.”

So, what does Woodhaven have to do to be successful against Belleville?

“We have to control the ball and keep their offense off the field, and we can’t give up big plays on defense,” Christnagel said. “They are a very good football team.”

Pick: Belleville by 2

► Detroit Cass Tech (6-4) at No. 6 Dearborn Fordson (9-1), 7 p.m. Friday

Cass Tech is on a roll and playing with confidence after having a 2-4 record a month ago and in danger of missing the playoffs.

Cass Tech coach Thomas Wilcher is happy with the play of senior quarterback Sebastian Brown, who has found a weapon in three-star junior Kalen King.

Still, Cass Tech will be facing its biggest test in the last couple of months when it plays a Fordson team that ended Cass Tech's run of eight consecutive years of advancing to at least the state semifinals, defeating Cass Tech in last year’s Division 1 district final, 41-14.

Fordson has an explosive offense, led by junior quarterback Ali Beydoun, running backs James Wheeler and Hassan Mansour, and sophomore receiver Antonio Gates.

Pick: Fordson by 8

► U-D Jesuit (7-3) at Farmington (8-1), 7 p.m. Friday

U-D Jesuit won its first state playoff game since 2013 by spoiling a North Farmington-Farmington rematch with a 34-21 win over previously unbeaten North Farmington.

Farmington’s lone loss came in Week 8 against North Farmington, 13-9.

Farmington’s strength is its defense, allowing 10 points a game, playing its best in a 12-6 Division 2 predistrict upset win over No. 5 Oak Park, the OAA White champion.

Farmington shut out Oak Park in the second half of the Division 2 predistrict game with Julian Ama blocking a punt to set up the winning TD and Jireh Alexander picking off a pass to end an Oak Park drive in the red zone in the final minutes.

Look for Farmington’s defense, led by Wisconsin-bound linebacker Jordan Turner, to be the difference-maker in this one.

Pick: Farmington by 4