Prep notebook: Shifting schedules, dazzling QBs highlight Week 1 of high school football
High school football is back.
It’s not back to normal, but it’s back.
Well, it’s back for most teams across the state, certainly not all.
So, are you confused?
No doubt, life with the COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t been easy and it sure hasn’t been for football coaches and athletic directors.
For instance, L’Anse Creuse North was set to play its season opener against Utica, but Utica had to put its team on quarantine after a player tested positive for COVID-19.
Then, L’Anse Creuse North found an opponent in Detroit Country Day, but again students tested positive and Country Day told North officials on Thursday it too wouldn’t be able to play.
Finally, North had a pair of would-be opponents in Brighton and Oxford, but Oxford officials called in first to get things finalized for a game the following night at Oxford.
“Thursday night I get home from our JV game and my athletic director called up and said you have to cancel the game for tomorrow since Country Day had some cases," L'Anse Creuse North coach Pat Dailey said, "so I notified my staff and the kids and right after I did all that at about 10:30 he called me back and said we have a game, we’re at Oxford so I had to get back and tell the staff and players. It was great that the kids had the chance to play. Oxford has a nice football team. We didn’t play very well (in a 34-0 loss), but it was great that our kids had a chance to play again.”
So, why was Brighton and Oxford without games? Oxford was set to play rival Lake Orion in the head coaching debut of former NFL player Zach Line, but Lake Orion athletic director Chris Bell tweeted late Thursday night that its game was canceled, “due to a 2nd COVID-19 positive test in the LOHS Varsity Football Program.”
Novi canceled its game with Brighton due to a positive test in the school, not the football program.
Oxford made Line’s debut a successful one with the win over L’Anse Creuse North, while Brighton didn’t play since it was just a little late getting through to North officials to ink a deal.
“There was a number of kids in the school, not football kids, get sick so the county health department shut down all activities for Thursday-through-Sunday," said Novi coach Jeff Burnside, who teaches physics at the high school, "so we’re back to school and practice on Monday.
“Probably the only one bad thing to going back hybrid is that the players can mix with others at school. I think we’re designing some new plans where if this would happen again, as long as the kids in our program are healthy, we’re good to go. We’ve already been back to school two weeks face-to-face. Kids are only in school two days a week.
“We didn’t have any players test positive. It’s now twice I’ve had to tell our kids we can’t play, and it’s none of their fault. We had to tell them in August when the state decided we weren’t going to play, then had to tell them again Wednesday that once again you’ve done everything we’ve asked, you’ve stayed healthy and you still can’t play. My heart and head can’t take this much longer if this happens again. I get it, but it still doesn’t mean it doesn’t suck.”
The Michigan High School Athletic Association first postponed the season to spring on Aug. 14, then after a three-week shutdown decided to bring the season back on Sept. 3, letting teams practice the day after Labor Day.
So, how did things look during the first week of the season?
Well, players wore masks or face coverings, the center brought back the ball to the huddle, fans weren’t allowed at some games, other games had two fans allowed per player.
Line, who replaced his former coach, Bud Rowley, was pleased with his team’s performance. He used a pro-style set to pile up 370 total yards with quarterback Brady Carpenter connecting on 12-of-16 passes for 208 yards and 2 touchdowns while the running attack picked up 162 yards on the ground, with Oxford’s defense allowing just 89 total yards.
“I guess it was between Brighton and us and our (athletic director) called first,” Line said of the opportunity to play North. “I was really happy to see how we played, especially since we didn’t have a four-way scrimmage or training camp. We were able to spread the ball around and that was a big for us.”
Next up for Oxford is a Week 2 meeting with No. 4 Clarkston.
QBs sparkle in debuts
With a new season, there’s also quarterbacks making their debuts and a number of them had special games.
First, there was the debut of highly hyped freshman Isaiah Marshall of Southfield A&T, who already has an offer from Michigan.
Marshall completed 16-of-35 for 335 yards with a TD and interception, helping A&T pile up 500 yards with Ball State-bound running back Rae’quin Lee rushing for 165 yards and a score in a 24-17 loss to Clarkston.
“The most impressive thing about him is his demeanor; he’s so level-headed,” A&T coach Tim Conley said. “In a big game like that he got sacked once, maybe had two errant passes, but he wasn’t rattled at all. I’m trying to figure out if he didn’t realize what a big stage that was, and even though the fans didn’t come there was about 5,000 people watching it on YouTube.
“The main thing I took away from it was how calm he is in the pocket and he’s a great leader; just doesn’t get emotional out there. In the red zone we scored a couple of times that were called back because of holding calls and had a couple of drops in the end zone. It was a good game though, a close game.”
Clarkston coach Kurt Richardson earned his 260th career win while starting his 34th year. He walked away impressed with Marshall.
“He’s pretty damn good,” said Richardson, who had a pair of four-star linemen trying to rattle Marshall in Rocco Spindler (Notre Dame) and Garrett Dellinger (LSU). “He has a lot of composure. You certainly wouldn’t have known he was a freshman. They threw a lot of RPOs, hurt us with short stuff, putting their athletes out in space and we didn’t tackle very well in space, but he has some zip on the ball. He gets it there.”
West Bloomfield, ranked No. 2 in The News Super 20, is next up for Marshall and A&T.
While fans were well aware of Marshall, the same can’t be said for 5-foot-7, 160-pound sophomore southpaw Leeshaun Mumpfield, who was making his debut at quarterback for No. 3 Detroit Cass Tech in the PSL showdown with No. 5 Detroit King.
The Cass Tech-King game had the normal feel of a big rivalry with hard-hitting tackles, intensity and a great atmosphere with fans allowed — again, two fans per player — along with dozens of fans peeking through the fence in Cass Tech's 34-26 victory.
Mumpfield put on an outstanding performance in hitting on 15-of-26 for 317 yards and three TDs, all scoring tosses going to Penn State-bound receiver/cornerback Kalen King.
Mumpfield went over the top on his final two TD throws, bringing Cass Tech back from a 26-20 fourth-quarter deficit, his first going to King near the left sideline for a 45-yard score, the second again to King over the middle for a 57-yard TD with 2:34 left.
King showed his great speed in space all game, as did King receiver Lynn Wyche-El who had three TD catches (17, 86, 50) from sophomore sensation Dante Moore, who also has an offer from Michigan.
Don’t be surprised to see Cass Tech (Division 1) and King (Division 2) playing for state championships in early December.
Livonia Franklin coach Chris Kelbert had a big hole to fill at quarterback after his son, Jake graduated as a three-year starter, helping his team reach the Division 2 state title game his sophomore year.
Well, it seems Kelbert had nothing to worry about, junior Zac Olesuk made sure of that, rallying Franklin back from a 27-13 deficit to defeat Dearborn Fordson 28-27 on Friday night.
“Zac Olesuk had an unbelievable day, threw for 155 yards and ran for 100, had one passing touchdown and one running,” Kelbert said. “We were down six, and then made a fourth down stop on our red zone, and then took the ball back and Zac hit 4-of-5 passes on the final drive and he was the one who scrambled on the fourth-down conversion, then had another big pass to the 1, setting up the TD.
“Zac was our JV quarterback last year, wanted to get him as many reps as we could give him. It also helps when he’s playing an offensive line with five returning starters.”
Oak Park without 8 starters in opener
Oak Park coach Greg Carter said his team was without eight starters for various reasons in a 39-0 loss to West Bloomfield on Friday.
When the season was shut down, four-star two-way lineman Rayshaun Benny decided to have knee surgery. Junior three-star safety Glen Cross was also out with an injury.
“Rayshaun had surgery about three weeks ago, might be out another week or so,” Carter said. “He had a little meniscus tear. I think he was going to try to suck it up when we were originally going to play, but when they canceled the season we decided to go ahead and get it done so he could be ready for the spring, but it backfired on us.
“Glen Cross, our best secondary guy, didn’t get a chance to play because he’s injured also. He fell on the track jumping hurdles this summer and cracked his collarbone. He’s cleared on (Sept. 23), so hopefully he’ll play this week, depending on how he reacts to contact.
“It’s been a bad couple of weeks for us. We had eight starters out, two in the secondary, two linebackers.”