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Prep notebook: Teams look to keep COVID at bay with playoffs on the way

David Goricki
The Detroit News

West Bloomfield coach Ron Bellamy has stressed the importance of having his players stay out of potential trouble in the COVID-19 world all season and that message continues every day with the state playoffs getting underway this week.

“I’m telling the kids that this next five or six weeks you have to sacrifice and stay out of harm's way because the cases are now increasing," Bellamy said. "They are going back up, so stay safe."

A positive COVID test ends the season for teams from here on out and no coach wants his team to go out that way since they want to leave it all on the field.

Bellamy has to be happy after No. 4 West Bloomfield (5-1) regrouped from its lone loss — an overtime defeat to No. 3 Clarkston in Week 3 — by outscoring its last three opponents by a 110-0 margin, with consecutive shutouts over Oxford, Rochester Adams and Lake Orion.

West Bloomfield’s defense is led by linebacker Jordan Hoskins and cornerbacks Maxwell Hairston (Kentucky) and Dillon Tatum, a four-star junior who doubles as a running back.

Four-star running back Donovan Edwards rushed for 141 yards and two touchdowns against Lake Orion on Friday while also taking some snaps at quarterback. Alex Short threw a TD pass to Hairston and Tatum ran for a score after Hoskins recovered a fumble.

Expect Edwards’ workload to increase each and every week. He recently narrowed his field of college choices to Alabama, LSU, Georgia, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Michigan and Penn State.

More: Michigan high school football playoffs schedule: First round

When asked how Edwards, Tatum and Short were playing heading into the postseason, Bellamy replied: “They are playing at a high level after that tough loss to Clarkston, which Edwards and Tatum played extremely well, and Short is coming into his own.

“He (Short) is a first-year starting quarterback and every week he continues to get better. He’s going to be a kid that we’re going to rely on in the playoffs to do some big things for us, but you want to make sure you take the pressure off the quarterback. When you have players like Tatum and Edwards and some of the other guys, you want to make sure that those guys pick up the slack for the quarterback.”

West Bloomfield will play host to Utica Ford (1-5) on Friday.

Healthy St. Mary's ready to go

This shortened season during the pandemic has been like no other in George Porritt’s 30-plus years as head coach of Orchard Lake St. Mary’s.

The six-game regular season was shortened even more for St. Mary’s (1-3), which was sidelined the last two weeks due to a positive case.

While the MHSAA allowed all teams to compete in postseason play this season, a handful of teams (including Utica, Wyoming Lee, Allegan, Mattawan and Concord) will be opting out due to COVID-19 issues.

“It feels good to be back,” Porritt said. “We got out of quarantine on Wednesday, missed 10 practices and two games, but everybody is healthy and we’re getting them back in shape."

Subscription:Final Detroit News high school football rankings

St. Mary’s has won just one game and that came in the season opener against Walled Lake Western back in mid-September.

St. Mary’s setbacks have come against Warren De La Salle, No. 17 Birmingham Brother Rice and No. 14 Detroit Catholic Central.

Detroit Country Day running back Jacob Yarberry, right, runs for short yardage and is tackled by Birmingham Brother Rice defensive lineman Aristotle Taylor (95) in the first quarter on Friday.

Country Day close to normal

Detroit Country Day coach Dan MacLean didn’t know if his team would get the needed four games played to qualify for postseason play.

MacLean can now concentrate on the playoffs as Country Day hopes to play six more games to reach the Division 4 state championship game. Country Day lost to Grand Rapids Catholic Central in last year’s state title game at Ford Field.

“We have them all back, so Friday everybody was back, had guys come off of quarantine and actually play and do a good job,” MacLean said of his team, which lost to Brother Rice, 23-13, on Friday. “We also had three or four that didn’t get in the game. One of our needs was to get in one of our cornerbacks who played running back, too. It was critical since he hadn’t played all year.

“Kalen Cooper had been quarantined two different times and he played and played well. I was happy for him. He’s a great kid and it’s really been hard on him. He wants to play in college and is a really good student, so it was devastating. It was really tough the second time around, a case where his position group was one of the ones affected by the contact tracing.”

More: Detroit News high school football scoreboard: Week 6

Country Day (3-2) only played two of its first four games and had the running backs quarantined when it defeated Paw Paw on Oct. 16, forcing MacLean to bring up freshman Gabe Winowich from the JV team. Winowich ran for two touchdowns against Paw Paw, including a 62-yard scoring run.

“He went back down on JV against Brother Rice,” MacLean said. “He’ll give us depth for the playoffs. He’s going to be a good one.”

Country Day will play host to Detroit Henry Ford (3-3) on Friday.

Oak Park gets Benny back

Oak Park coach Greg Carter was happy to get four-star two-way lineman Rayshaun Benny back on the field.

Benny missed the first five games after having knee surgery in late August.

“He played (Friday) for the first time for about three quarters. He looked rusty but he played hard,” Carter said. “He wanted to play games his senior year, wants to help his team play better so it was really important to get him back since he’s our best player.

"We’ve also been without (linebacker/defensive end) Marlon Dawson (Miami of Ohio) since Week 1, so we’ve been kind of decimated, look like an AA PAL team, but we’re getting there though. With Rayshaun, we have one offensive starter returning on offense.”

Benny is expected to make his college choice Nov. 9 with his field narrowed down to Michigan, Penn State, Michigan State and Kentucky.

Oak Park had struggled since its opening game, a 39-0 loss to West Bloomfield. It went 0-6 during the regular season, including a 47-0 loss to Clarkston on Friday.

Oak Park has scored at least 20 points in a game just once, a 38-20 loss to Birmingham Groves in Week 5.

Oak Park must pull off a major upset in its first-round district game at Grosse Pointe South (4-2) this week to avoid its first winless season since 1985. Oak Park went 33-11 over the previous four seasons and sent multiple players to Power Five schools, including quarterback D'Wan Mathis (Georgia), receiver Maliq Carr (Purdue), cornerback Enzo Jennings (Penn State) and two-way lineman Justin Rogers (Kentucky).

“We’re trying to get the mindset that this is a new season,” Carter said. “We’re 0-6 against ourselves so it’s doesn’t matter who we play. We have to stop making mistakes because it should have been 13-7 at the half (against Clarkston). We blew a lot of coverages and dropped a touchdown pass, too.”

Not again

Westland John Glenn’s defense wants nothing to do with Livonia Stevenson standout running back Caden Woodall after the Harvard-bound back rushed for a school-record 354 yards and six TDs in a 42-21 win Friday night.

Well, John Glenn (2-4) must travel to Livonia this week to face Woodall and Stevenson (3-3) in a Division 1 first-round district game.

david.goricki@detroitnews.com