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SPORTS OAA FOOTBALL PREVIEW

NEXT LEVEL? GROVES KEON COLLIER HAS SOMETHING TO PROVE

BACK-TO-BACK? HARRISON AND LAKE ORION LOOK STRONG AGAIN

UNDERDOGS? WEST BLOOMFIELD READY TO MAKE AN IMPACT


oaa football preview

OAA BLUE

OAA RED

troy athens lake orion royal oak troy west bloomfield rochester

andover avondale seaholm berkley ferndale groves north farmington

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OAA WHITE stoney creek adams farmington harrison 2

patch.com

TABLE OF CONTENTS

contributing writers

brendan mcgaughey michael niziolek contributing photographers

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david lee edward maurer brendan mcgaughey michael niziolek design

michael niziolek edited

nancy hanus

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STAY ‘ED

IN THIS FOOTBALL SEASON berkley.patch.com birmingham.patch.com bloomfield-mi.patch.com farmington-mi.patch.com ferndale.patch.com oaklandtownship.patch.com rochester.patch.com royaloak.patch.com troy.patch.com westbloomfield.patch.com


OAA BLUE DIVISON photo: michael niziolek


photos: michael niziolek

get ready: Andover head coach Jim DeWald (middle) runs drills at a Barons practice in August.

oaa football preview

ANDOVER FIGHTING UPHILL BATTLE low numbers on varsity team not dampening barons enthusiasm for 2011 season. by: michael niziolek Jim DeWald doesn’t have his head in the sand. The head football coach at Andover knows he has an uphill battle. “There’s no question when Andover is on people’s schedule they look at it as a win,” DeWald said. “We understand that, our kids understand that. There aren’t a lot of people that believe in us.” The Barons don’t have the size and speed of their rivals and they also face a numbers disad6

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vantage. They are one of the smallest varsity teams in the area with only 21 players. “Teams are bigger than us, they have more people than us,” DeWald said. “On a piece of paper we can’t win a game, but games aren’t played on paper.” Andover is coming off a 1-8 season with no wins in the Oakland Activities Association Blue division. The school’s football program has fallen a long way from its regional final appearance in 2004. Despite reasons for pessimism, none could BLUE DIVISION - ANDOVER

be found amongst the players at one of their initial practices. DeWald likened his player’s attitudes to the film “300” where 300 Spartan warriors faced an army of thousands. They are taking an ‘us versus them’ approach and using the disadvantage as a rallying cry. “We are 21 strong, it’s just us,” DeWald said. .

GETTING IN GEAR… There aren’t a lot of Andover players


photo: michael niziolek

barons: at a glance coach: Jim DeWald; Third Year (3-15) oaa football preview

last year: 1-8 (0-7 OAA Blue) key players lost: Bryce Henney (RB/DB) returning players: Juarrezz Smith (Sr.;

RB/DB); Winston Urwiller (Sr.; QB); Mark Andonian (Sr.; LB)

heads up: Winston Urwiller (in red) tosses the ball to one of his running backs at an Andover practice. The senior is a two-year starter for the Barons

expecting to rest during games this season. Low numbers on the varsity team means a lot of two-way starters. “With 21 on varsity we have guys that don’t come off the field,” DeWald said. Conditioning was one of the coaching staff ’s bigger focuses from the end of last year into the start of this season. DeWald needs guys to be in great shape so they don’t tire out at the end of games. Seniors helped the coaches by making sure

barons: schedule Aug. 25 at Hazel Park 7:00 p.m. Sept. 1 Seaholm 7:00 p.m. Sept. 9 Avondale 7:00 p.m. Sept. 16 at Berkley 7:00 p.m. Sept. 23 Groves 7:00 p.m. Sept. 30 at Ferndale 7:00 p.m. Oct. 6 Flint Northwestern 7:00 p.m. Oct. 14 North Farmington 7:00 p.m. Oct. 21 at Lahser 7:00 p.m.

younger players participated in the offseason conditioning programs. Offensive and defensive lineman Tony Litzenburg said the Barons were bigger and stronger at the start of fall practice than the previous two years. The senior is one of five returning starters on the offensive line. The intensity of practices amped up as well. Drills are high-tempo and players get very little down time between repetitions. DeWald said he wants practices to be faster than Andover’s actual games. “I don’t think any team in the OAA has worked harder than we have,” senior quarterback Winston Urwiller said.

EXPERIENCE MATTERS… Last year the Barons were one of the youngest teams in the OAA Blue, this year it will be one of the most experienced. The roster features a large group of returning starters, including 10 on offense and five on defense. “We aren’t starting from square one this year,” DeWald said. BLUE DIVISION - ANDOVER

It was also the offense’s first year running a a spread-veer system. DeWald switched to the triple-option (three players may run the ball) that is a more effective ball control offense. Colleges like Army and Navy run it. The inexperience in the system led to a lot of mistakes and quick possessions. That put the defense at a huge disadvantage because they didn’t leave the field and opposing teams started with great field position. Everyone is now a lot more familiar with the offense. “I definitely trust the offense this year to give us some time off and to set us up with better field position,” senior linebacker Mark Andonian said. One of the offense’s goals this season is to have at least four drives with 10 or more plays every game. “It’s been a lot easier,” Urwiller said. “I feel a lot more comfortable, which helps me with everything. Helps me not think as much and just go out there and play. It makes it a lot easier to tell people where to go and what to do.” A group of six running backs, led by Senior Juarrezz Smith, will try to make that happen. DeWald called Smith,who will also start at defensive back, his playmaker. How many more wins it all translates to remains to be seen. The only guarantee anybody would make is that Andover will surprise some teams this season. “We are much better than we were last year,” DeWald said. “The expectation on this team is extremely high.” bloomfield-mi.patch.com

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photo: brendan mcgaughey

oaa football preview

avondale ready to air it out yellow jackets high powered spread offense back for more by: brendan mcgaughey

roll out: A quarterback rolls out to the flat to avoid the pass rush at Avondale High School’s practice this week.

yellow jackets: at a glance coach: Steve Deutsch; 10th Season (45-41) last year: 7-4 (6-2 OAA Blue) key players lost: Ray Tillman (WR/DB),

Tony Harris (RB/DB), Ryan Branchau (WR) returning players: Mitch Robinson (Sr;

QB), Jeff Douglass (Sr.; DB), Chris Wilson (Sr; OL)

yellow jackets: schedule Aug. 26 Warren Fitzgerald 7:00 p.m. Sept. 2 Hazel Park 7:00 p.m. Sept. 9 at Andover 7:00 p.m. Sept. 16 Ferndale 7:00 p.m. Sept. 23 Seaholm 7:00 p.m. Sept. 30 at Groves 7:00 p.m. Oct. 6 at North Farmington 7:00 p.m. Oct. 14 Lahser 7:00 p.m. Oct. 21 at Berkley 7:00 p.m. 8

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The Avondale Yellow Jackets spend as much time together off the practice field — going out to eat and having “Madden parties” — as they spend on the field these days. “A lot of that stuff is usually coach-motivated, but you don’t have to do any of that with these guys. It shows that they understand the importance of working together and being together,” Avondale head coach Steve Deutsch said. Team chemistry is not the only thing Avondale has going for them. The team finished 6-3 last season and then defeated Hazel Park 49-48 in the first round of the playoffs. They lost to Orchard Lake St. Mary’s in the second round of the playoffs. The Yellow Jackets open their season against Fitzgerald at Andover High School at 7 p.m. Friday. The Yellow Jackets will be looking for some revenge on Fitzgerald after losing in the final seconds of the game last season when they missed a two-point conversion going for the win. “It was a typical first game, we made a lot BLUE DIVISION - AVONDALE

of mistakes and they came back to haunt us,” Deutsch said. “We run a no-huddle offense, so we control the tempo that way.” The Yellow Jackets feature a high-scoring offense that passed the ball a lot last year, scoring 46 passing touchdowns. The Jackets are returning their entire offense except their wide receivers. “We’re not going to be as flashy as last year, but we have a chance to be better. Our scoring time was unbelievable, we scored about every 1:30 of game time,” Deutsch said. The Yellow Jackets will start four sophomores this year; two on the offensive line, an inside linebacker and a wideout. Two are returning players that started on the varsity team as freshmen. A new defensive coordinator will give the Jackets a fresh look on defense, which is used to being on the field for the majority of the game. Avondale High School draws students from four communities: Rochester Hills, Auburn Hills, Bloomfield Hills and Troy. photo: michael niziolek

game breaker: Mitch

Robinson


photo: michael niziolek

oaa football preview

pulling together: Seaholm coach Jim Pobursky addresses his team during a practice in August. Pobursky is the team’s third coach in eight months.

SEAHOLM READY FOR FOOTBALL emotional offseason ends on thursday night with season opener at north farmington by: michael niziolek

No football team in Oakland County had a more difficult offseason than Seaholm High School. Maples head coach Chris Fahr resigned at the end of the 2010 season. His replacement, Nick Deane, tragically passed away from a heart attack at the end of May. In June, Jim Pobursky became their third coach in eight months. Pobursky agreed to replace Deane, a long time friend who brought him out of retirement to coach Seaholm’s defense. Now, the emotional rollercoaster has finally come to a stop and the team is ready to play some football. Pobursky said that despite all that has happened, the Maples squad is coming along pretty well. The reason why? Pobursky pointed to plans Deane put in place during his first few months as coach. Coaches focused during the second half of the school year making sure kids were getting into the weight room. “We had a weight program in the evening that the kids came to,” Pobursky said. “Proba-

bly the front seven kids we are going with right now (on the defense), they all paid the price so to speak. They were there two-to-three days a week. They are bigger, faster and stronger.” Defense was a major issue for Seaholm last season. The team started 3-0 in 2010 and then collapsed with a five-game losing streak. The defense allowed more than 37 points per gam in those lossese. Pobursky said his players’ extra size and strength should solve those issues. Neal Page, a 6-foot-4, 215 pound defensive end, and Sterling Johnson, a 6-foot-3 outside linebacker, are a perfect fit for Pobursky’s 4-3 defense. The seniors will be his big playmakers. The offense, however, isn’t as far along as the defense heading into the first week of the season. Quarterback John Glazier is back but the Maples are thin at running backs and are inexperienced on the offensive line. Instead, the Maples will rely on senior tackle Dan Gibbs to set the tempo. He is 6-foot-8 and more than 300 pounds. “We are going to find him and run behind him a little bit,” Pobursky said, smiling. “You sort of notice him (laughing).” Colleges across the country are also taking a good look at Gibbs, but defenses in the Oakland Activities Association will get a look at him first. BLUE DIVISION - SEAHOLM

maples: at a glance coach: Jim Pobursky; 1st Year (0-0) last year: 4-5 (4-4 OAA Blue) key players lost: Zach Washington (LB),

Andrew Fletcher (OL/LB), Chad Bridges (WR/DB) returning players: Dan Gibbs (Sr; OL);

John Glazier (Sr.; QB); Sterling Johnson (Sr.; LB), Chris Barr (Sr.; DB), Neal Page (Sr.; DE), Kramer Schultz (DB Sr.)

maples: schedule Aug. 25 at North Farmington 7:00 p.m. Sept. 1 at Andover 7:00 p.m. Sept. 9 Lahser 7:00 p.m. Sept. 16 at Romulus 7:00 p.m. Sept. 23 at Avondale 7:00 p.m. Sept. 30 Hazel Park 7:00 p.m. Oct. 6 Berkley 7:00 p.m. Oct. 14 at Ferndale 7:00 p.m. Oct. 21 Groves 7:00 p.m. birmingham.patch.com

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photo: crystal evola krauskoff

oaa football preview last run: Terrell Porter (left) walks off the field after Berkley’s playoff loss to Harrison last season.

CHANGING OF THE GUARD FOR BERKLEY team responds enthusiastically to new coach and defensive strategy by: michael niziolek

The Berkley High School varsity football team has a new coach, new defensive strategy and its two-time, all-state running back Terrell Porter has graduated. So, have the Bears lowered their expectations? Not even a little bit. “You don’t hear people saying, ‘What if we make the playoffs?’ We have people saying, ‘What if we make it to Ford Field this year,’ ” running back and linebacker Omar Sitto said.

THE REPLACEMENTS Filling the void left by Porter isn’t going to be 10

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easy. How does a team replace a running back who scored more than 30 touchdowns and ran for 1,500 yards? “You can’t just replace a guy with that kind of talent with one player,” head coach Jeff Burnside said. “It’s just not going to happen.” Porter helped make Berkley one of the topscoring teams in the Oakland Activities Association Blue division. The Bears scored more than 50 points three times and, in two other games, scored more than 40. Coaches and players agreed that replacing Porter wasn’t going to be left to one running back. A group of Bears players will be responsible for trying to generate that kind of production on offense. Burnside is going to rely on a rotation of seniors Markeis Hampton, Sitto and Jason Taylor at the position. BLUE DIVISION - BERKLEY

bears: at a glance coach: Jeff Burnside; First Year (0-0) last year: 9-2 (6-1 OAA Blue) key players lost: Terrell Porter (RB),

Chris Whitehead (RB/LB), Kyle Foreman (OL) returning players: Omar Sitto (Sr.; RB/

LB); Markeis Hampton (Sr.; RB/SS); Jason Taylor (Sr.; RB/FS), Josh Hall (Sr.; WR/DB), Luc Hammerle (Sr.; OL/DL)

“It’s going to take an entire unit to replace a guy that went all-state for two straight years,” Taylor said. “This year is going more of a team effort. People think we have less talent, but I think we have more talent.”


photos: michael niziolek

oaa football preview

lightening fast: Markeis

Hampton

No one questioned how important Porter was to the team’s success over the past two seasons, but there was a sense of excitement that one player wouldn’t be dominating the game this season. “There’s no pressure on one player,” Hampton said. “We have four or five guys that are going to be touching the play throughout the game. We all have a chance to make an impact on the game this year.” Burnside isn’t making sweeping changes to the offense in his first year, while admitting his preference for running the option. There just wasn’t enough time during the offseason to make that kind of drastic switch, especially since the team had an open competition for the starting quarterback job. The Bears will focus on stretching the field

bears: schedule Aug. 26 Ferndale 7:00 p.m. Sept. 1 Flushing 7:00 p.m. Sept. 9 at Groves 7:00 p.m. Sept. 16 Andover 7:00 p.m. Sept. 23 Lahser 7:00 p.m. Sept. 30 at North Farmington 7:00 p.m. Oct. 6 at Seaholm 7:00 p.m. Oct. 14 at Hazel Park 7:00 p.m. Oct. 21 Avondale 7:00 p.m.

bruiser: Omar

Sitto

horizontally and vertically with their team speed. “We know our offensive stuff really well right now,” Burnside said. “We have the stuff really well positioned.”

GETTING INTO THE ZONE Burnside’s background as assistant at Novi was coaching the defense, so he’s a very defensive-minded coach. He came to Berkley with ideas for what scheme he wanted to put in place, but nothing was set in stone. “The coaches came in and didn’t have set formations at first,” Sitto said. “They told us we are running the offense and defense around you guys.” The coaching staff spent a few months in the offseason going over game film from the previous year. They also spent a lot of time getting a feel for the talent level on the team. “I like a very aggressive defense, but it all depends on the players you have,” Burnside said. Berkley’s defense relied almost entirely on man coverage last year. When Burnside saw the amount of team speed the Bears possessed, he was comfortable with moving away from it. A lot of time at offseason practices and camps was dedicated to switching from man coverage to zone. “I’m a guy that believes, it’s easier to defend BLUE DIVISION - BERKLEY

pure athlete: Jason

Taylor

the quarterback with 11 sets of eyes on him,” Burnside said. “You want to see the quarterback cause he’s the only one that can throw interceptions. And also, to me, it’s helpful in the run defense, when you are playing man (coverage) you’re basically blocked all the time.” The zone defense should help the team generate more turnovers. Burnside believes a defense that can score points will be another way Berkley can replace Porter’s production. Players have responded to the changes with a lot of enthusiasm. “It’s so much better than playing man (coverage) on every single down and play,” Hampton said. “You can see the entire field. It’s been great for me cause I can understand the game a lot more. It’s also better for us to make plays, get more interceptions and turnovers this way.” That’s not to say the changes have been easy. A lot of hard work is going into learning the plays and how to read offenses. The most difficult aspect for players who have started on varsity for a couple of years has been abandoning instincts they’ve relied on for multiple seasons. “As a linebacker, I was used to just eyeing the running back or the tight end, you just run right at him,” Sitto said. “Now you have to have a little hesitation and wait for who comes in the zone.” Sitto quickly added the defense will be ready for Berkley’s season opener at home against Ferndale on Aug. 26. berkley.patch.com

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photo: michael niziolek

oaa football preview

BURSTING THROUGH ferndale football giving young faces a shot by: michael niziolek The Ferndale High School football team has its work cut out for it. All-state running back Anthony Garland is up at Central Michigan University, the McTear twins (Jamarius; wide receiver and Jamael; quarterback) graduated and four of the team’s five starting offensive lineman need to be replaced. Not an easy task considering head coach Ryan Dunlap has only 28 kids on the varsity squad. That’s the lowest number he’s had in his six years with the program. The Eagles usually have around 35 to 40 students playing varsity football. Graduating a decent-sized senior class is normal. The problem for Ferndale was losing a group of juniors throughout the offseason. “We had a group of juniors penciled in as starters and we seemed to lose about one a month,” Dunlap said. “One player moved to Troy, one moved to Ohio another just lost interest in football. It was a variety of things.” Dunlap’s not throwing in the towel. He has a lot of confidence in the group of seniors stepping in - including Earl Tillford at running back, Darius Alvis at quarterback and Berkley transfer Ron Hunt at middle linebacker. The Eagles also have some sophomores looking to make an impact. At the tail end of last season the coaching staff brought up a group of freshman to practice and play with the varsity. The unexpected transfers have pushed three

power back: Sophomore Shaquan McGriff (52) is going to be a major part of Ferndale’s backfield this season.

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BLUE DIVISION - FERNDALE


eagles: at a glance last year: 5-4 ( 5-3 OAA Blue) key players lost: Anthony Garland (RB),

Jamarius McTear (WR), Jamael McTear (QB), returning players: Earl Tillford (Sr.;

RB); Brandon Davis (Sr.; OL/DL); Darius Alvis (QB)

of those young players into the starting lineup. “I would like to think it was my foresight, but it was just coincidence,” Dunlap said, joking. “We moved them up last year in the last two weeks of practice drills and all of them were impressive. It’s one thing for them to stand out against junior varsity opponents, we want to make sure they can stand in up here.” It was decided in January that the then freshman would be brought up to participate in the offseason conditioning program. Their work ethic was good enough to keep them there. “We were just waiting for our junior and senior year (to play on varsity)” sophomore Shaquan McGriff said. “When they called us up we were like we have to step it up a notch to play on the same level as everyone else.” McGriff will remind Eagles fans of the running back he’s trying help replace. “He’s more of a power back and I’m more of a finesse back,” Tillford said of McGriff. “But I think we got another Anthony Garland right there.” The 6’0”, 215-pound back can bench-press 320 pounds and he’s quite athletic. His talent has already made an impression on his older teammates. “I think we got a pair of pretty good backs,” senior guard Brandon Davis said. “Earl is more shifty, the sophomore is more of a power back who can hit the hole and run people over.” McGriff will also start at linebacker with fellow sophomore Tyree Bell. Bell will play linebacker and fullback for Ferndale.

“I understand people aren’t going to give us much of a thought.” Dunlap said. “We lost Anthony (Garland), we lost the McTear brothers, we lost a giant offensive line, but we always graduate a good group of seniors. We’re not Clarkston or Lake Orion, where we have 2,500 kids in school and 100 kids on varsity. But we can reload.”

oaa football preview

coach: Ryan Dunlap; Sixth Year (28-20)

“He’s going to be outstanding,” Dunlap said. “He’s got great instincts and he’s definitely not afraid of the older guys.” The other sophomore starter is hard to miss. Delante Dorris will start on the defensive line where coaches hope he can help anchor the defense. “He’s a big body,” Dunlap said, laughing. “We’ll be generous and say he’s only 330 pounds. In our defense we need someone to take up a double team and he fits the bill.” Dorris has been working hard to get his weight down to under 300. The coaches want him to have a little more mobility and be a little healthier. He’s down 50 pounds from last year just with the extra conditioning. For Ferndale to make the playoffs for the first time since 2008 the young guns will have to contribute. The coaching staff and players believe that the team will take a step forward this year.

eagles: schedule Aug. 26 at Berkley 7:00 p.m. Sept. 2 Lahser 7:00 p.m. Sept. 9 University of Detroit Jesuit 7:00 p.m. Sept. 16 at Avondale 7:00 p.m. Sept. 23 North Farmington 7:00 p.m. Sept. 30 Andover 7:00 p.m. Oct. 6 at Groves 7:00 p.m. Oct. 14 Seaholm 7:00 p.m. Oct. 21 at Hazel Park 7:00 p.m. photo: michael niziolek

man in the middle: Delante Dorris (71) will be a key part of the Eagles defensive line.

BLUE DIVISION - FERNDALE

ferndale.patch.com

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photo: michael niziolek

oaa football preview

running free keon collier ready to help groves knock down the competition by: michael niziolek

ready for launch: Keon Collier is itching to start the season. The senior running back is the Falcons impact player on offesne.

If a team is only as good as its best player, than the Groves High School football team should be pretty solid. The Falcons top playmaker is Keon Collier. “He’s our best guy,” head coach Brendan Flaherty said. “There’s certainly no secret about that.” Opposing teams can expect to see the senior all over the field this season. He’ll start in every phase of the game: he’ll return kicks on special teams, he’s the starting running back on offense and he’s a starting linebacker on defense. Don’t be surprised to see him at wide receiver or defensive back either. “We are going to move him around,” Flaherty said. “We will put him at different spots on the field and make teams find him. (On offense) we are just going to keep getting him the 14

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ball until they stop him.” That’s not an easy task even though Collier is a little undersized for a running back and wide receiver. He said he’s 5-foot-9 “on a good day,” Athletically he’s tremendously gifted. It might not seem like he has game-breaking speed, but he’s quick and moves laterally effortlessly. He’s also a very physical runner for a running back his size. Collier has been getting a lot of interest from colleges in the Mid-American Conference, Flaherty said, noting that he’s certain Collier will be playing on Saturdays somewhere next year, even though he doesn’t have an offer yet. Though the Falcons’ playoff chances this season largely rest on Collier’s shoulders, his teammates believe that won’t be a problem. “Keon is a natural leader,” senior quarterBLUE DIVISION - GROVES

falcons: at a glance coach: Brendan Flaherty; 11th Year (0-0) last year: 3-6 (2-6 OAA Blue) key players lost: Jalan Spicer (RB/DB),

Donovan Ginwright (TE/LB), Zack Migdal (OL) returning players: Keon Collier (Sr.; RB/

LB); Joe Mayone (Sr; QB), Mark Corliss (Sr.; TE/LB)

back Joe Mayone said. “Everyone knows him, he has a great attitude. It’s the best thing I could wish for having him. He takes a lot of pressure off me and a lot of focus on him leaves a lot of other people open.” Collier was happy to talk about his expectations for the season during a break at practice in the run up to the fall season. He had just as much praise for his teammates as they did for him. Patch: The offense only averaged only 12 points in the Falcons’ six losses last season. Are your expectations higher for the offense this season? Keon Collier: Yes sir. We have a couple of new tricks that we’ve thrown in there and we are ready to go. P: What’s the relationship between you and quarterback Joe Mayone like? KC: I’ve known Joey since third grade from playing flag football, all those kind of things. Our synergy is pretty much there. In the offseason we worked really hard together and we are just ready to take over in the league. P: So the timing between the two of you is going to be better this year?


photos: michael niziolek

Aug. 26 at Lahser 7:00 p.m. Sept. 2 North Farmington 7:00 p.m. Sept. 9 Berkley 7:00 p.m. Sept. 16 at Hazel Park 7:00 p.m. Sept. 23 at Andover 7:00 p.m. Sept. 30 Avondale 7:00 p.m. Oct. 6 Ferndale 7:00 p.m. Oct. 14 Owosso 7:00 p.m. Oct. 21 at Seaholm 7:00 p.m.

KC: One of our main mottos is “family, fight, finish.” That last one is as important as the first one. We just have to do everything right. Finish, start as a family and fight. Everything will come together if we can do all three.

KC: It’s fantastic. He knows what I’m thinking now. It’s like he’s in my brain. He feels where I’m going; he knows my moves and everything. P: Coach said he’s going to put you all over the field. You’ll play running back, wide receiver, some defensive back and linebacker. What position are you most comfortable at?

relax guy: Senior quarterback Joe Mayone feels way more comfortable in his second year starting under center.

KC: Honestly, I’m comfortable at every position I play cause I feel I can just do it. But I really love playing running back. That’s my thing, that’s my forte. I feel that I can get the ball and do something with it since it’s in my hands already.

oaa football preview

falcons: schedule

P: The problem for the offense last year was finishing drives. How do you improve that?

P: You played a little defense last year. Are you going to see more time on the defensive side of the ball this season? KC: This year I’m going to play both ways. I’m playing dog, which is kind of our outside linebacker. (I) got my man (Mark) Corliss on the other side, (and) we’re going to contain the run this year.. P: How is the recruiting process going for you? KC: I’ve had visits to Bowling Green, Central Michigan, Western Michigan, Ball State and a couple others. I also went to Grand Valley, a Division II school. It’s been a little tough — I didn’t get as much exposure as I should’ve last year. I have friends at Harrison and they have offers. They know where they’re going. I don’t have any offers yet. P: This early part of the year will be even more important knowing some of those colleges will be watching. How much does that drive you? KC: It’s like that Tim Tebow stuff baby. People doubt me. People think I can’t do certain stuff cause of my size and my 40 (yard dash). I run somewhat of a bad 40 (time) — like a 4.5 (seconds) — but I run a great 100-yard dash. To me the field is 100 yards long and that’s what I’ve got to go after. I just have to prove people wrong.

taking the reigns: Seniors Joe Mayone and Keon Collier are the leaders on the offense this season.

BLUE DIVISION - GROVES

P: How confidant are you that Groves is going to be a playoff team this year? KC: We’re ready to do it big this year (smiling). birmingham.patch.com

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photos: michael niziolek

oaa football preview play action: Kevin Penny (right) hands off to Chauncey Bridges (left, 4) out of the I-Formation. The more traditional system is what the Raiders are running this season.

ON AN UPSWING?

depth and new offense puts north farmington in a good position for fall season by: michael niziolek

Head coach Todd Schultz knows the highs and lows of high school football. The North Farmington High School graduate has been on the school’s coaching staff for over two decades. Recently, the Raiders have 16

farmington-mi.patch.com

been through one of those low periods. They haven’t made the playoffs since 2005 or managed to win more than three games in a season. That could change this year. “We can be competitive in every game,” Schultz said. “We’ve got the numbers. We are close to 50 guys and with that depth, you get competition (at the positions). That really drives players.” Lower numbers in recent years meant more kids playing on both offense and defense. BLUE DIVISION - NORTH FARMINGTON

raiders: at a glance coach: Todd Schultz; Eighth Year (16-48) last year: 3-6 (6-1 OAA Blue) key players lost: Zach Washington (LB),

Andrew Fletcher (OL/LB), Chad Bridges (WR/DB) returning players: Kevin Miller (Sr; RB/

LB); Kevin Penny (Sr.; QB); Jacques Woods (Sr.; RB)


photos: michael niziolek

raiders: schedule

North Farmington had eight two-way starters last year. With the highest numbers at the varsity level in four years, Schultz will only have four twoway players when the 2011 season starts on Thursday. A bigger squad will also protect the team from injuries. In a game against Hazel Park last season, six players were injured, and coaches had to fill gaps at 10 positions. “What really hurt us last year was injuries,” Schultz said. “We had two-way players and when they go down, you don’t just lose one guy. You lose two positions. We played Hazel Park and all those injuries decimated the team.” Another reason that Schultz is encouraged about North Farmington’s chances is the installation of a “new,” or rather old, offensive system. Senior quarterback Kevin Penny is running the offense out of the I-formation. “It’s traditional North Farmington football,” Schultz said. “I went to school here back when I was a kid, and it’s pretty neat coming back to the tradition to running that. It’s old school. I think we have the kids to run it this year.” The Raiders were a spread offense team for the past three seasons. Their quarterback Zach Washington was only 5’9” and 180 pounds. He was more comfortable in the wildcat formation and quickly getting rid of the ball. North Farmington’s offensive personnel aren’t suited to a spread system this year, with a bigger offensive line and more accurate quarterback. “We’ll be doing a lot more play action pass-

oaa football preview

Aug. 25 Seaholm 7:00 p.m. Sept. 2 at Groves 7:00 p.m. Sept. 9 Hazel Park 7:00 p.m. Sept. 16 at Lahser 7:00 p.m. Sept. 23 at Ferndale 7:00 p.m. Sept. 30 Berkley 7:00 p.m. Oct. 6 Avondale 7:00 p.m. Oct. 14 at Andover 7:00 p.m. Oct. 21 Waterford Kettering 7:00 p.m.

listen up: Kevin Penny (left) gets some pointers from his coach Todd Schultz (right) during practice.

ing,” Schultz said. “We have a stable of running backs that I think are going to help, so we can rotate guys and keep them fresh. It’s also key to have a big line and this is the biggest line we’ve had in three years.” Penny already has a good feel for the offense. He worked with Schultz during the off-season to learn the system. The coach gave Penny’s performance in the Raiders’ four-way scrimmage against Woodhaven, Dearborn Divine Child and Dearborn Edsel Ford positive reviews. The core group of talented backs – Kevin Miller, Chauncey Bridges and Jacquis Woods – should help his transition from backup to starter. Schutlz admits the favorites in the Oakland Activities Association are probably Hazel Park and Avondale, but he’s confident that North Farmington will impact the standings more than in previous years. BLUE DIVISION - NORTH FARMINGTON

listen up: Kevin Penny (middle, 10) gives the offense a play to run during practice. The senior was the backup quarterback last year on varsity.

farmington-mi.patch.com 17


OAA RED DIVISON photo: michael niziolek


photo: michael niziolek

oaa football preview

CULTURE CHANGE head coach trying to build athens into a winner by: michael niziolek Troy Athens High School is done being a footnote. The biggest challenge head coach Josh Heppner has faced entering his third season is changing the culture of the Red Hawks program. “I’m tired, and I think everybody else associated with Athens football is tired of just showing up,” Heppner said. “These guys have just showed up for years. It’s time for us to get the mental mindset when we go into a game against Lake Orion or Clarkston and beat them. The thought of losing shouldn’t enter your mind.” Heppner, who inherited a program in 2009, has taken a team that hasn’t had back-to-back winning seasons in 20 years. He said the excitement around the team, even on the field at times, wasn’t there. And his first group of seniors, he said, didn’t buy into the changes his coaching staff wanted to make. “I think I was battling a lot,” Heppner said. “The seniors were just like, ‘I’m completely done right now.’” Heppner put some blame on himself for focusing too much on integrating changes to the offense and defense and not enough time shaping his players attitudes. “When you take over a program, you want the instant wins, but I think if I had to do it over again I would have made sure I had a great 20 troy.patch.com

hard to miss: Defensive lineman are going to struggle to get past 6-foot-4, 290 pound offensive tackle Andrew Aurand.

team that played together my first year and taken my lumps,” Heppner said. “What could’ve I done worse? We went 2-7 my first year.” The negative attitudes he faced are now gone. He has a team this season that practices hard 100 percent of the time with a focus and tempo that he believes will help build a winner. “I’m most comfortable with the program as a whole,” Heppner said. “It’s taken me a long time to get to this point.” Players feel the same way. Andrew Aurand was called up to varsity in Heppner’s first season. The senior lineman said the bond between players this year is completely different than when he was a sophomore. RED DIVISION - ATHENS

red hawks: at a glance coach: Josh Heppner; Third Year (5-13) last year: 3-6 (1-6 OAA Red) key players lost: Jake Duzey (WR), Joe

Kemp (RB) returning players: Andrew Aurand (Sr.;

OL/DL), Corey Thai (Sr; OL), Ben Bartnowak (Sr.; QB), Jake Spinek (Sr.; WR), Matt Fitzpatrick (Sr.; LB), Ivan Kharchenko (Jr.; RB/LB), Lonnie Bolden (Sr.; RB/DB)


back and three running backs in the backfield. The formation is very popular at the collegiate level. “It’s going to get more athletes involved in the offense and able to touch the ball,” senior wide receiver Jake Spinek said. ”I think it’s going to work out real well cause they will have more chances to make plays.” It was part of the Red Hawks goal line package last season. Heppner liked how they executed it and decided to make the switch. “We’ve had it in our package, we’ve just never made it our focus,” Heppner said. “It will help us keep defenses guessing.” Athens is keeping things pretty simple on defense running a 4-3 like it did last year. The group is young with two second-year varsity players in the secondary. Heppner’s biggest concern is making sure they have enough linemen up front. “We just need to find our three or four interior guys,” Heppner said. “The defensive line controls the game, they control the offensive

red hawks: schedule Aug. 25 at Warren Mott 7:00 p.m. Sept. 2 Pontiac 7:00 p.m. Sept. 9 at Clarkston 7:00 p.m. Sept. 16 Royal Oak 7:00 p.m. Sept. 23 at Rochester 7:00 p.m. Sept. 30 West Bloomfield 7:00 p.m. Oct. 7 at Lake Orion 7:00 p.m. Oct. 14 Crossover 7:00 p.m. Oct. 21 Troy 7:00 p.m.

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“Coach came out and really challenged us this offseason,” Aurand said. “We’re like a brotherhood now.” Teamwork won’t be the only thing that helps the Red Hawks have a resurgent year. They are going to need to be able to run the ball and Aurand will be a big part of that. He is a 6-foot-4, 290 pound beast on the offensive line. He’s the starter at left tackle next to senior guard Corey Thai. The two have been playing together for three seasons and developed excellent chemistry. “It’s second nature with him and I,” Aurand said. “We don’t even need to talk on the field anymore.” They’ll be blocking for starting quarter Ben Bartnowak and a rotating group of six running backs including Lonnie Bolden, Lonnie Jaynes and Kris Gervin. Bartnowak will be running Athens base offense out of a new formation this year. It will line up in the diamond. Heppner said it’s basically an inverted wishbone with the quarter-

line and move them to help let the linebackers make plays.” Aurand could be one of those interior guys. He has played on the defensive line, but he certainly hasn’t made any kind of impact on that side of the ball. It’s something he’d like to change this season. “I have one career tackle,” he said, laughing. “I’ve been in there working with the guys. I’m looking forward to making some big plays.” photo: michael niziolek brotherhood: The bond that Troy Athens players have this year is greater than in years past.

RED DIVISION - ATHENS

troy.patch.com

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photo: jeff williams; lake orion football great one: Sean Charette (middle) is already one of the best quarterbacks in Lake Orion history and he’ll be even better in 2011.

oaa football preview

LOOKING FORWARD... lake orion not satisfied with one title by: michael niziolek

Lake Orion High School’s appearance at Ford Field last season is definitely in the rear view mirror. The Dragons first championship in school history isn’t something the coaches or players are talking much about this season. “The defending champion piece, that’s part of our tradition, part of our program,” head coach Chris Bell said. “It’s something we’re very proud of, but that’s last year. Everybody is 0-0, we have to earn everything we get.” How will Bell’s team earn back-to-back titles 22 oaklandtownship.patch.com

when he graduated 18 starters? With the same core group of players that helped lead his team last season. It might only be four guys, but those four are some of the best in the state. Jon Gall and Andrew Shefkalis are back on defense. Gall is a three-year starter at linebacker who was the Dragons’ defensive MVP last season. Shefkalis is a 6-foot-2, 215 pound lineman that led the team in sacks last year. His lack of size doesn’t stop him from being a top playmaker in the Oakland Activities Association. RED DIVISION - LAKE ORION

dragons: at a glance coach: Chris Bell; 14th Year (112-35) last year: 13-1 (7-1 OAA Red) key players lost: Marques Stevenson

(RB); Danny Ney (RB); Zack Zott (WR); returning players: Sean Charette (Sr.;

QB); Andrew Shefkalis (Sr; DL); Kevin Cronin (Sr; OL); Jon Gall (Sr; LB); Robert Aiello (Sr; WR)


photo: jeff williams; lake orion football

oaa football preview

Kevin Cronin is the only offensive lineman that’s back from last year. He will anchor a young group up front for one of the top quarterbacks in the state. That quarterback is senior Sean Charette. He earned the starting job halfway through his freshman year and has led the Dragons to the finals twice. Last year, he had to watch his team from the sidelines after fracturing his left ankle in the semifinals. To say he’s ready to get back on the field would be an understatement. “He’s back, 100 percent and better than ever,” Bell said. “He’s the best one we’ve ever had and we’ve had some great ones here. He’s a special player that only comes around once

laser focus: Sean Charette (left) and coach Chris Bell (right) are dialed in for the fall season.

dragons: schedule Aug. 26 at Oxford 7:00 p.m. Sept. 1 Rochester 7:00 p.m. Sept. 9 Pontiac 7:00 p.m. Sept. 16 at West Bloomfield 7:00 p.m. Sept. 23 Royal Oak 7:00 p.m. Sept. 30 at Troy 7:00 p.m. Oct. 7 Troy Athens 7:00 p.m. Oct. 14 Crossover 7:00 p.m. Oct. 21 at Clarkston 7:00 p.m.

get ready: Sean Charette is going to give defenses in the OAA Red all they can handle this year. photo: michael niziolek

in a while, he’s going to have a monster year.” Charette completed more than 60 percent of his passes last season for more than 1,500 yards and 20 touchdowns. If the numbers don’t seem overly impressive, it’s because Lake Orion wasn’t involved in a close game until the second-to-last week of the season. RED DIVISION - LAKE ORION

Its average margin of victory during the regular season was 35 points. Charette was either running the clock out or sitting on the bench from the third quarter on. The Dragons quarterback is drawing interest from Miami of Florida, North Carolina and Northwestern. He went to camps over the summer at a half dozen colleges and is ready to finish off his senior year in a big way. “This is the last year for me,” Charette said. “So I’m not going to leave anything behind.” If the senior is worried about how all the new faces will gel, he sure doesn’t show it. He thinks the group is ready to hit the field. “Last year it was a brand new team, it was brand new faces,” senior quarterback Sean Charette said. “That’s high school football. There’s always going to be new faces. That’s the fun of it. You’re going to get everybody together and see what kind of team you have.” oaklandtownship.patch.com

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photo: milford football

SMALL STEPS FOR RAVENS

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new coach jeff hill ready to rebuild royal oak football program, stop winless streak. by: michael niziolek Winning football games isn’t easy. No one knows that better than the Royal Oak High School football program. It hasn’t won a single game since 2007. The Ravens have had three straight 0-9 seasons. Only four times in those 27 games has their opponent’s margin of victory been fewer than 20 points. Jeff Hill was named Royal Oak’s new head coach back in January. The former Dondero graduate takes over the team after coaching Milford to a 15-12 record in three seasons. He is throwing out all that recent history at his new school. It won’t be quick and it won’t be easy, but Hill is trying to turn the page and move the team forward. Just days before his debut on the sideline for the Ravens he talked to Royal Oak Patch about the first few weeks of practice, the changes he’s making and his expectations for the program. new look: Royal Oak head coach Jeff Hill has installed a new offense and defense this season for the Ravens.

ravens: at a glance coach: Jeff Hill; First Year (0-0) last year: 0-9 (0-7 OAA Red) key players lost: Sean Kavanaugh (OL) returning players: Brandon Freder-

ickson (Sr.; QB); Nolan Jones (Sr.; RB/LB); Robert Gibson (Sr.; RB/LB), David McPherson (Sr.; OL)

24 royaloak.patch.com

Patch: How have these first few weeks of practice been going for you? Jeff Hill: Things have been going real good. We have a lot of kids coming back to the program and giving us some good numbers. We’re at around 105 kids (for freshman, JV and varsity). Up a little bit, not exactly where we want to be, but a good first step. Kids are very enthusiastic about stuff, very upbeat. We have a lot of stuff installed offensively, defensively and on special teams. Kids are now at the point were it’s becoming muscle memory. P: Are you changing the offense system from what coach Potter had the Ravens running last season? RED DIVISION - ROYAL OAK

JH: We are going to be a spread, Wing-T team. Last year, they were in the (shot) gun a lot. We will probably not be in the gun at all this year. We are trying to focus on ball control and teach fundamentals on the offensive side. P: And defensively? JH: We are going to be a 4-4 defense. Bring a little bit of pressure once in awhile. We are trying to get our kids to run fast and get a 11 hats to the ball. We’re not trying to dig deep into schemes and stuff. Just trying to have our kids play hard and get to the ball. P: With a new offense and defense, how much did you rely on watching game film from last season to familiarize yourself with your roster? JH: They were a 4-3 defense and shotgun offense, we didn’t spend a lot of time watching film of last year just because we were going to switch anyways. We spent most of the summer in our seven-on-sevens and couple of our camps, trying to figure out where kids fit into our stuff. P: So you really started from scratch… JH: We told every kid - every position is open regardless of how many years you started here before. Truth be told, once we got into pads and making contact we really started moving kids around the field. P: How did the quarterback situation shake out? JH: Brandon Frederickson played most of the


the season as the starting quarterback last season. He’s back with us this year as the starter.

JH: Nolan Jones and Robert Gibson are both going to be playing running back. They’ll also play at linebacker. David McPherson and three other lineman are back on the offensive line. It’s a new system so it’s all new terminology and practice tempo for them. We’ve been very pleased with how they have played. P: Moving away from the X’s and O’s a little bit. It’s no secret you’re inheriting a program that has really struggled. How much of a battle has it been to overcome the negativity that’s been associated with Royal Oak football?

P: It’s not an easy road in the Oakland Activities Association Red division with teams like Clarkston and Lake Orion. Wins aren’t necessarily going to come quickly here. If you lose your first four or five games, do you worry that negative attitude will pop back up?

JH: Oh, it’s the biggest battle. We are trying to sell the kids on hopes, dreams and the possibilities of things. For teenagers that’s a little bit of a difficult thing. Hey, you do these following things and down the road you’re going to get some sort of reward for it. That’s where we are

JH: If you’re are selling a kid on wins and losses, some years you have good morale, some years you don’t. We are trying to sell the kids on our program and what it can do for them. The real world is going to ask you do work, it’s going to ask you to pay attention, be consistent

ravens: schedule Aug. 25 St. Clair Shores Lake Shore 7:00 p.m. Sept. 1 Troy 7:00 p.m. Sept. 9 West Bloomfield 7:00 p.m. Sept. 16 at Troy Athens 7:00 p.m. Sept. 23 at Lake Orion 7:00 p.m. Oct. 1 at Pontiac 2:00 p.m. Oct. 7 Clarkston 7:00 p.m. Oct. 14 Crossover 7:00 p.m. Oct. 21 at Rochester 7:00 p.m.

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P: What about the skill positions and offensive line?

struggling right now. With any program, from the professional level down, that’s struggled getting wins – it’s changing the mindset, changing the culture. We talk about it all the time, we want consistency in everything we do. We can’t get to the point where we want to win games until we get consistent showing up to practice, giving good effort in practice and having maximum effort with every rep. Once we start getting those things, the wins will come for us.

in your effort. We try to tie in big messages and how it relates to football. At the end of the day only eight teams are going to win a state title every year, the other 600 programs aren’t failures as programs. Regardless of how many wins and losses you have, the goal for us is to make this experience a memorable one. P: Coach I really appreciate you taking the time, good luck on Thursday. JH: No problem, thank you.

photo: mark h. stowers

be ready: Jeff Hill leds his offensive line during an offseason minicamp. Hill’s first game as Royal Oak’s new football coach will be on Thursday against St. Clair Shore Lake Shore at home.

RED DIVISION - ROYAL OAK

royaloak.patch.com

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photo: troy colts

oaa football preview

ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT

young gun: Justin Losey runs the ball against West Bloomfield last season. He started for Troy as a sophomore last season.

troy trying to come together on defense and find the right combination in backfield. by: michael niziolek

The Troy High School football team has some strengths this season, but head coach Gary Griffith is more concerned with his team’s weaknesses. A scrimmage against Warren Cousino, Utica Eisenhower, Southfield and Dearborn Fordson the week before the Colts opener revealed they still have some work to do on both sides of the ball. “We are not where we need to be,” Griffith said. Griffith expected some struggles from his inexperienced defense. The group only brings back three starters from last year and only two of them will be playing the same position. Senior Jarrett Bochniak is moving from defensive end to linebacker. Senior Davion Rice is back in the secondary and senior Matt Oppenlander is the only returning starter on the defensive line. Asked to assess if the defense’s problem at the scrimmage was struggling with technique or missing assignments, Griffith’s reply was to the point. “Yes,” he said. The Colts had a lengthy film session the day after the scrimmage where they went through all the mistakes. Video is one of the most helpful tools a coaching staff has. It helps players get a visual of exactly what they are doing wrong. “We have a starting point,” Griffith said. “We have to start narrowing in because we are getting ready for an opponent, not just in general. 26 troy.patch.com

Historically, you make more progress – improvement wise – between your scrimmage and your first game of the year. We have to get better in a hurry.” Troy’s offense is further along than the defense. Six starters are back from last season including three on the offensive line. Starting quarterback Justin Losey is also back. Losey started as a sophomore last season. He looks a lot more comfortable in the pocket and admittedly has a much better understanding of the offense. “It’s a lot easier this year,” Losey said. “Coming in as a sophomore, not knowing what to expect the first couple of weeks was tough. You know what’s going to happen now. You know to handle different situations, it’s a lot easier.” Griffith said he has seen a tremendous improvement in Losey’s overall game. “He’s improved his passing a great deal,” Griffith said. “His throwing motion, his reads, his progressions – he’s just more comfortable with what’s going on. He’s also being pushed RED DIVISION - TROY

by sophomore quarterback Jay Darish and competition always make you better.” He will have some time to throw behind a line that returns three starters. Bochniak returns at tackle with junior guards Greg Webber and Tommy Richardson. “The line is the strength on the offense and I hope that gets us going,” Griffith said. The hole in the offense is at running back.

colts: at a glance coach: Gary Griffith; 21st Year (128-72) last year: 6-4 (5-2 OAA Red) key players lost: John Matter (LB), Lucas

Blakenship (K) returning players: Jarrett Bochniak (Sr.;

OL/LB); Davion Rice (Sr.; WR/DB); Justin Losey (Sr.; QB)


photos: troy colts

colts: schedule

Troy doesn’t really have a player fully suited to the position. Griffith has been rotating people at practice trying to find a standout. He hasn’t found an answer yet. “We are a little weak at running back,”

oaa football preview

Aug. 25 at Romeo 7:00 p.m. Sept. 1 at Royal Oak 7:00 p.m. Sept. 9 Rochester 7:00 p.m. Sept. 16 Clarkston 7:00 p.m. Sept. 23 at West Bloomfield 7:00 p.m. Sept. 30 Lake Orion 7:00 p.m. Oct. 7 Pontiac 7:00 p.m. Oct. 14 Crossover 7:00 p.m. Oct. 21 at Athens 7:00 p.m.

Griffith said. “We are rotating linebackers and ends trying to find somebody. We just don’t have a dominant guy so we are going to do it by committee.” Despite the weak spots, there is still a lot of enthusiasm about the squad. They have a lot of young starters that will have room to improve. The Colts were just one win away last season from being a playoff team. They finished 5-4 in 2010 and two of their losses were very close games. Rochester beat them in week three 177, followed by a 21-7 loss to Clarkston the following week. “We were so close (to the playoffs),” Losey said. “That Rochester game -- even against Clarkston we held them to 14 points in the first half. Hopefully this year we’ll pick up a game like that Rochester game. Just one big win to push us into the playoffs.”

out of gas: Justin Losey can handle the passing game, but he’ll need some backs to help run the ball.

starting point: Jarrett Bochniak (white jersey, 52) is only one of three starters back on the defense this season for the Colts.

RED DIVISION - TROY

troy.patch.com

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photo: michael niziolek

oaa football preview big boys: West Bloomfield’s offensive line is going to be much improved with Kyle Croskey (far left) and Chauncey Briggs (far right).

REVAMPED OFFENSIVE LINE COULD MAKE WEST BLOOMFIELD A FORCE IN OAA RED two 300-pound transfers give lakers boost up front by: michael niziolek

Touchdowns didn’t come easy for West Bloomfield High School’s varsity football team in head coach Ron Bellamy’s first season coaching last year. The Lakers scored seven points or less four times and in six losses, averaged less than 10 points. West Bloomfield wasn’t lacking talent at the skill positions, with Phil Brown at quarterback and Aaron Curtis at wide receiver. Cortez Hardrick, who is currently being recruited by teams from the Mid-American Conference, was actually the team’s fourth-best receiver. Why they couldn’t score was simple — the 28 westbloomfield.patch.com

Lakers’ undersized offensive line couldn’t protect those talented skill position players. Bellamy didn’t have a player on the offensive line over 185 pounds. “(Phil) was surrounded by an offensive line that struggled a little bit,” Bellamy said. “I had kids playing out of their natural position especially on the offensive line. I had a tight end playing tackle, battling kids double his size,” Bellamy said. “I wanted to be a power team last season, but it was tough.” Defenses in the Oakland Activities Associations Red division expecting the same thing this year are in for a surprise. The offensive line will feature not one, but two 300-plus pound tackles. Senior transfers Kyle Croskey and Chauncey Briggs will cover the far right and left side of the offensive line, respectively. Croskey is 6-foot-8 and 350 pounds while RED DIVISION - WEST BLOOMFIELD

lakers: at a glance coach: Ron Bellamy; Second Year (3-6) last year: 3-6 (2-5 OAA Red) key players lost: Phil Brown (QB);

Aaron Curtis (WR/FS); Savon King (CB) returning players: Cortez Hardrick

(Sr.; WR/SS); C.J. Brathwaite (Sr., RB); Mike Okorn (Sr., MLB)

Briggs is just a tad smaller weighing in at 330 pounds on his 6-foot-6 frame. Briggs is an out-of-state transfer from Atlanta and both of them are seniors. Their presence completely changes the team’s offensive dynamic. “Basically this year, it gives us good pass protection so we can throw and we can also run the ball more,” Hardrick said.


photos: michael niziolek

lakers: schedule

Hardrick said. “We can be more versatile and it will give people more opportuand more chances to touch the ball.” Zack Root, a returning starter on the offensive line at center, said the tackles should help give running backs like Terry Stuckey and C.J. Brathwaite a lot more confidence. “It’s a good feeling to know you have a big line in front of you,” Root said. Hardrick jokingly pointed out one possible negative to adding them on the line. “We’ll have more time to throw time now, but the quarterbacks will just have to be able to look over them (Croskey and Briggs),” Hardrick said, laughing. “They are big boys.” Bellamy also has plans to work both players onto the defensive side of the ball at tackle. The Lakers graduated nine starters on defense and having them in the middle of the defense could help ease the transition to a younger team. They won’t necessarily have instant impact, as Bellamy said they are inexperienced on defense despite their senior standing. “They’re raw,” Bellamy said. “They are relatively new to football, but they are making the right adjustments. It’s just teach, teach, teach with them.” They will get thrown into the fire pretty quickly. West Bloomfield opens the season with three of its first four games against playoff teams. First up is Farmington High School on Aug. 26, then they welcome Clarkston High School on Sept. 2 and two weeks later host the defend-

oaa football preview

Aug. 25 at Farmington 7:00 p.m. Sept. 1 Clarkston 7:00 p.m. Sept. 9 at Royal Oak 7:00 p.m. Sept. 16 Lake Orion 7:00 p.m. Sept. 23 Troy 7:00 p.m. Sept. 30 at Troy Athens 7:00 p.m. Oct. 6 Rochester 7:00 p.m. Oct. 14 Crossover 7:00 p.m. Oct. 21 at Pontiac 7:00 p.m.

ing state champions Lake Orion High School on Sept. 16. The Lakers’ 56-14 loss to Lake Orion last year was its worst of the season. “We haven’t been too successful against the two bigger programs in our division — Clarkston and Lake Orion — but we’re closing that gap,” Bellamy said. “With the continuity in our staff and the development of our players we’re going to continue to close the gap.” Bellamy has his kids expecting playoffs and nothing less. “We lost three games by seven points or less last year,” Bellamy said. “We’re bigger up front than we were last year, our kids are overall better athletes than last year and this is the second year in the system. It’s going to be easier to shoot for the excellence we want to.”

tough guy: Senior linebacker Mike Okorn waits for the snap during practice.

pushing forward: Size isn’t an issue for Kyle Croskey. The 6-foot-8, 350 pound tackle will present problems for opposing defenses.

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photos: michael niziolek

oaa football preview teaching moment: Ron Bellamy coaches the offense at West Bloomfield in August.

RON BELLAMY PUTTING STAMP ON PROGRAM second year coach hoping to build west bloomfield football into powerhouse. by: michael niziolek

The West Bloomfield High School varsity football team hasn’t made the playoffs in back-to-back years since the early 1980’s. Head coach Ron Bellamy is hoping to change that. He is going into his second year with playoff expectations, but his vision and goals for the Lakers go beyond that. Bellamy wants to do for West Bloomfield what coach John Herrington did for Harrison. “That’s the blueprint,” Bellamy said. Contending every year doesn’t just happen overnight, especially when some of the most talented football players living in West Bloomfield don’t go to the sole public high school in the township, instead, choosing to play for more-established teams at nearby private schools. “We are in the center of a bowl, surrounded by 30 westbloomfield.patch.com

Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, (Birmingham) Brother Rice, (Birmingham Detroit) Country Day, (Novi) Detroit Catholic Central and we’re in the middle,” Bellamy said. “If you are talented in middle school you are pushed towards Catholic schools. I understand the appeal, but my goal is to build a fence around our school.” Not literally of course, but Bellamy’s goal is to bring the number of kids living in West Bloomfield playing football at other schools down to zero. Some of the biggest changes he’s making to the football program are aimed at reaching that goal. Bellamy helped start the West Bloomfield Panthers, a youth football program, for kids seven to 14. He’s also making sure the younger players get to see the high school players working at practice. The start time of middle school practice was moved to coincide with the end of the Lakers practice. Bellamy wants those younger players to get a feel for how the older students work and changing the practice time was a simple way for them to get that exposure. In his first year he lost 13 kids to Catholic schools. That number was down to two this past year. He

RED DIVISION - WEST BLOOMFIELD

called the drop an encouraging sign. Another asset he’s counting on to help him keep promising athletes in the area is his own background. Bellamy played wide receiver at the University of Michigan and was an undrafted free agent signee in the NFL. He knows what the journey is like from being a student athlete in high school to playing football on Saturdays for a major Division 1 program. He’s made it clear to his players that they should use him as a resource. Cortez Hardrick is one of the players benefiting from his coach’s experience this season. The wide receiver is being recruited by schools from the MidAmerican Conference and Division 2 schools like Grand Valley and relying on his coach to help him navigate the difficult process. “Bellamy has talked to a lot of coaches for me, he’s really helped me with that and he’s really talked me through the recruiting process,” Hardrick said. “He helped me walk through the steps and understand everything.” The West Bloomfield coach certainly has a passion for his new profession. And that can only mean good things for Lakers fans hoping the school can become a perennial contender.

guiding hand: Ron Bellamy is helping Cortez Hardrick through the recruiting process.


photo: brendan mcgaughey rough and tough: Rochester has spent a lot of time in the run up to the season focusing on building toughness.

oaa football preview

falcons raising the bar toughness gives rochester an edge by: brendan mcgaughey You probably saw the Falcons drilling on their field while you were stuck in traffic during the Walton construction. The skeleton of Walton remains, but it has a fresh look to it. This is a perfect analogy for the 2011 Rochester High School Falcons. “We’ve been working on overall toughness at the line of scrimmage, and we have a lot of good skill guys coming back,” Rochester head coach Erik Vernon said. The Falcons open their season at home against L’Anse Creuse North on Thursday at 7 p.m. Rochester finished 6-3 last season in the OAA Red division, good enough for the Falcons to make the playoffs where they lost to Utica Eisenhower 24-14 in the first round. Some key returning seniors include Jack Glancy, Cody DeVoe and Kurt Apostol. Glancy is a quarterback and linebacker who impressed the Rochester coaching staff during his performance at camp with an aggressive attitude and toughness between the tackles.

“There’s a lot of different throws he (Glancy) can make, so we’re tailoring the offense to fit his strengths to get him in the position to make plays,” Vernon said. DeVoe is the Falcons all-league running back. “He’s going to get a lot of carries and do a good job for us again,” Vernon said. Apostol will play linbacker with Glancy. “Kurt might help out on offensive line this year,” Vernon said. Vernon has done a good job revitalizing Falcons football and has no intentions of stopping now. Vernon is entering his third season as head coach, and he is all too familiar with the local rivalries around Rochester. Former Adams head coach Jim DeJager is Rochester’s defensive coordinator and has been a welcomed addition to the staff. The Falcons will play a rivalry game in Week 8 against Adams or Stoney Creek, depending on the OAA White league standings. “Adams sets the bar in the community, but Stoney (Creek) has some good players, too. Hopefully it’s first place versus first place,” Vernon said. RED DIVISION - ROCHESTER

falcons: schedule Aug. 25 L’Anse Creuse North 7:00 p.m. Sept. 1 at Lake Orion 7:00 p.m. Sept. 9 at Troy 7:00 p.m. Sept. 16 at Pontiac 7:00 p.m. Sept. 23 Athens 7:00 p.m. Sept. 30 Clarkston 7:00 p.m. Oct. 6 at West Bloomfield 7:00 p.m. Oct. 14 Crossover 7:00 p.m. Oct. 21 Royal Oak 7:00 p.m.

falcons: at a glance coach: Erik Vernon; 3rd Year (7-12) last year: 6-4 (5-2 OAA Red) key players lost: Nick Bradley (QB),

Billy Klotz (WR) returning players: Cody DeVoe (Sr.;

RB); Jack Glancy (Sr.; QB, LB); Kurt Apostle (Sr.; LB),

rochester.patch.com

31


OAA WHITE DIVISON photo: david lee


photo: brendan mcgaughey

cougars: schedule

oaa football preview

cougars hopeful

Aug. 25 Port Huron Northern 7:00 p.m. Sept. 1 Oak Park 7:00 p.m. Sept. 9 at Harrison 7:00 p.m. Sept. 16 Southfield 7:00 p.m. Sept. 23 at Oxford 7:00 p.m. Sept. 30 Lathrup 7:00 p.m. Oct. 6 at Farmington 7:00 p.m. Oct. 14 at Crossover 7:00 p.m. Oct. 21 Adams 7:00 p.m.

shoulders down: Kyle Bricknell tackles a teammate in a linebacker drill during the Blue and Gold Scrimmage early this season.

talent and leadership on line gives stoney creek chance to improve by: brendan mcgaughey

The Stoney Creek High School Cougars are poised to strike this season with their large squad that combines size, strength, and jungle cat-like quickness. “I am looking forward to coaching them and taking them into battle on Friday nights,” said Calvin Gross, who is going into his 10th season as head coach of the Cougars. Stoney Creek kicks off its regular season at home at 7 p.m. Thursday against Port Huron Northern. “We have had a good off-season with our weightlifting and speed training. The team is focused on being better than last season and building the foundation for our program to be successful in future seasons,” Gross said. The Cougars finished last season with a 2-7 record, falling short of the playoffs in a tough 34 rochester.patch.com

Oakland Activities Associaiton White division. Again this season, the OAA White division is expected to have an unprecedented level of talent. There is hope for the Cougars, though.

cougars: at a glance coach: Calvin Gross; 10th Year (39-42) last year: 2-7 (2-5 OAA White) key players lost: Jason Wilson (WR),

Neno Jones (RB), Matthew Craven (QB), Kyle Humphrey (WR), Dae’von Scarber returning players: Serge Andreou (Sr.;

OL/DL); Nick Gajdzik (Sr.; OL/DL); Paul Ziemba (Sr.; FB/LB), Zach Northrup (Sr.; RB)

WHITE DIVISION - STONEY CREEK

“We are one or two seasons away from competing in our league for a championship,” Gross said. The Cougars’ young talent will be competing for starting positions across the field, with only two returning starters on offense and defense combined. “We have no returning starters on defense from last year. Our strength should be with the defensive line and inside linebacker play,” Gross said. The Cougar defense will run a 3-4 scheme on the other side of the ball; it includes three linemen and four linebackers on the defensive front. Gross predicts Serge Andreou, Nick Gajdzik and Paul Ziemba will give the Cougars senior leadership and defensive toughness at the line of scrimmage. Andreou and Gajdzik lead the Cougars in experience and will play both ways in their third season on the varsity squad. Ziemba sat last season out because of a school transfer but plans to start on both sides of the ball as a linebacker and running back. Gross has implemented a gun option offensive scheme where the quarterback starts in shotgun position instead of under the center, and from there he has the option to pass or run the ball. “We are very young offensively with only two returning starters,” Gross said. “Our young players need to pick up the speed quickly for us to be effective with our option-style offense.”


photo: edward maurer

TURNOVER FOR ADAMS

focused: Tony Patritto patrols the sideline during the playoffs last season.

highlanders: at a glance coach: Tony Patritto; Ninth Year (77-18) last year: 8-3 (5-2 OAA White) key players lost: Andrew Hammet (QB),

Tony Annese (RB), Edward Williams (WR) returning players: Mike Fisher (SR; LB/

OG), Dave Jagow (Sr.; RB), Kyle Pelayo (SR; WR/DB)

highlanders: schedule Aug. 26 Clarkston 7:00 p.m. Sept. 2 at Farmington 7:00 p.m. Sept. 9 Lathrup 7:00 p.m. Sept. 16 at Oak Park 7:00 p.m. Sept. 23 at Southfield 7:00 p.m. Sept. 30 Oxford 7:00 p.m. Oct. 6 Harrison 7:00 p.m. Oct. 14 at Crossover 7:00 p.m. Oct. 21 at Stoney Creek 7:00 p.m.

At Adams High School, the football program is not just a team, it’s a family. The Highlanders advanced to the playoffs last season with a 7-2 league record where they defeated Walled Lake Western 24-6 in the first round. Walled Lake Central then beat the Highlanders by one point to eliminate the team. “The strength of the OAA White is unprecedented this year. Whoever wins our conference will be well-seasoned and ready to go in the playoffs,” Adams head coach Tony Patritto said. “Our primary goal is to be as good as we can be for Clarkston and continue to improve from there,” Patritto said. The Highlanders open the season at home against Clarkston at 7 p.m. Friday. “We have to decide who our playmakers are going to be and who’s going to play against Clarkston,” Patritto said. The Highlanders roster includes 35 players with only four returning starters — one on offense and three on defense. They’ve had as many as 77 players in the past. “Our numbers are down in football which is different, but they will be just as competitive as they always are,” Adams athletic director Jason Rapp said. “They’re well-coached so the kids that are here will be excited, prepared and ready to play,” Rapp said. Key offensive losses this year: Andrew Hammet at quarterback, Tony Annese at running back and Edward Williams at wide receiver. “We have a lot of question marks at positions with a lot of competition, so it’s a great opportunity for the kids,” Patritto said. WHITE DIVISION - ADAMS

can.” Adams has a chance of playing longtime rival Rochester in Week 8. In the past few years, the rivalry got taken off the schedule due to Rochester moving into the OAA Red Division. “My focus is on Clarkston, and if I do anything other than that we’ll get beat,” Patritto said. “Wherever the cards lie in Week 8, we’ll show up to play and go from there.” Rapp said all of Adams’ sports will be competitive. “That’s kind of our hallmark,” Rapp said. “When you play Adams you know you’ll face off against well-coached competition, that’s not going to be any different this year than it has been in the past, whether it’s football or any other sport,” Rapp said.

photo: brendan mcgaughey

family affair: An Adams running back runs during the Brown and Gold scrimmage.

rochester.patch.com 35

oaa football preview

smaller team and loss of starters not shaking highlanders confidence “You coach the guys you have to be comby: brendan mcgaughey petitive while trying to have as much fun as you


photos: michael niziolek wide out: Josh

Curtis

gunslinger: Chris

Morgan

leader: Connor

Mohr

oaa football preview

LOCKED AND LOADED speed and size make farmington a contender Scarber and quarterback Matthew Craven. by: michael niziolek Football fans watching Farmington High School won’t have to look hard to find a spectacular athlete or player over 6 feet tall. The Falcons are loaded with them. “We have an awful lot of talent,” head coach John Bechtel said. “We got size, we got speed. I think we’ll be able to run the ball real well. We’re kind of excited about this team.” Bechtel has to replace an almost ridiculous amount of talent, including wide receiver Jason Wilson, running back Neno Jones, wide receiver Kyle Humphrey, defensive back Dae’von 36 farmington-mi..patch.com

But despite losing seven seniors with three years of starting experience, there’s nothing but optimism coming from the coaching staff and players. Bechtel is all smiles talking about his roster this year. At quarterback, he has Chris Morgan taking over the offense. The senior has picked up the system quickly this offseason. He has a smooth throwing motion and puts good velocity on his throws. “Our goal is to have him firing week one,” Bechtel said. “The whole offense is in, and he has a pretty good handle on it.” WHITE DIVISION - FARMINGTON

falcons: at a glance coach: John Bechtel; 14th Year (68-60) last year: 7-3 (7-1 OAA White) key players lost: Jason Wilson (WR),

Neno Jones (RB), Matthew Craven (QB), Kyle Humphrey (WR), Dae’von Scarber (DB), Tom Norris (OL) returning players: Connor Mohr (Sr.;

RB/LB); Bryan Green (Sr.; RB/SS); Matt Marx (Sr.; OL), Ryan Caprathe (Jr.; OL)


photos: michael niziolek

falcons: schedule Aug. 25 West Bloomfield 7:00 p.m. Sept. 2 Adams 7:00 p.m. Sept. 9 at Oxford 7:00 p.m. Sept. 16 at Lathrup 7:00 p.m. Sept. 23 Oak Park 7:00 p.m. Oct. 1 at Southfield 7:00 p.m. Oct. 6 Stoney Creek 7:00 p.m. Oct. 14 at Crossover 7:00 p.m. Oct. 21 at Harrison 7:00 p.m. Morgan’s arm will definitely give Farmington the option to go deep. And he’ll have a pretty big target. Josh Curtis, a 6’1” wide receiver, transferred to Farmington from Las Vegas. He was one of the highest ranked receivers in Nevada and an all-state receiver last year. “I think we could be dangerous,” senior running back and linebacker Connor Mohr said. “Chris has looked good at quarterback. If our offensive line can block well, we’ll be able to run the ball.” Mohr was one of the top running backs in the Oakland Activities Association last season. He’s started for the Falcons since his sophomore season. Four of the players he ran behind last year graduated, but he likes what he sees from his new offensive line. It’s easy to see why. He’ll be running behind right tackle Ryan Caprathe, left tackle Matt Marx and guard Keenan White. Caprathe is a 6’5” junior who weighs in at 295 pounds. Marx is 6’3” senior who tops 300. White is almost tiny in comparison, at 260 pounds. “It’s fun to know that I can get some big yards with these huge guys in front of me,” Mohr said. Fellow running back Bryan Green said the defense could be just as talented. Green is starting at strong safety and said the unit has just as much size and speed as the offense. The Falcons held opponents to under 13 points per game last season. First-year starters will need to know their assignments to match

those kinds of numbers. “We run a real sophisticated system where you can’t afford to make a lot of mistakes,” Bechtel said. Farmington’s seniors are pushing the younger players at practice to get it right. The varsity squad has lost in the first round of the playoffs for three straight seasons. All the losses were very close games. The group doesn’t want to graduate without a playoff win. Mohr was injured at the end of last season and had to watch his team drop a close game to the Bears 25-14. “It was terrible,” Mohr said. “I wanted to play so bad,” Mohr said. “We came so close to Berkley, this year we really want to make a big run.” WHITE DIVISION - FARMINGTON

oaa football preview

on target: Transfer student Josh Curtis gives Farmington a big play wide receiver for quarterback Chris Morgan.

room to run: The offensive line’s size will give it a big advantage for the Falcons.

farmington-mi..patch.com

37


photos: david lee

oaa football preview

TAKE TWO? aaron burbridge and mario ojemudia make hawks top contenders again. by: michael niziolek

Not many football teams have as much talent this season as defending state champion Harrison High School. The Hawks are returning a good portion of the roster that led them to the school’s 13th state championship, including senior wide receiver and defensive back Aaron Burbridge and senior lineman Mario Ojemudia. They are two of Michigan’s top rated players. Burbridge is ranked among the top 20 receivers in the country. At the end of July, Burbridge announced on his Facebook page that he is committing to play football at Michigan State. Ojemudia will be taking his talents to the University of Michigan. He verbally committed to the school over the summer. “The expectations are very high, and they know that,” head coach John Herrington said. Both have worked hard to improve this offseason. Herrington said both are a little bigger and stronger than they were last season. Ojemudia led the team in 2010 with 112 tackles and nine sacks. “He’s relentless, he’s very difficult to block, and we think he’ll be dominating,” Herrington said of the 6’3”, 230-pound tackle. “A lot of people will double team him, we’re sure of that. So Jake Slobin and our nose guard Jordan Head will be open to make plays.” Herrington said that even if Ojemudia’s numbers didn’t improve this season, he’d be thrilled if the lineman just repeated the kind of season he had last year. 38 farmington-mi.patch.com

take over: Jake Vento won’t just be running the ball this year, he’ll be running the offense for Harrison. The senior takes over for his older borther Tommy Vento, who graduated.

As good as Ojemudia is, Burbridge might be better. Herrington called the receiver a “college ready” player. Herrington’s only worry is that Burbridge will get too much attention from his own quarterback in the passing game. “I’m sure we will have a little Burbridge vision,” Herrington said. Two other players back at the skill positions are tight end Devin Funchess and receiver Gairus Coleman. Both of them should have big seasons playing opposite Burbridge. Tommy Vento was the one throwing the passes to the trio last year. This year, it will be his younger brother, Jake Vento. The senior is moving under center, taking over for his brother. WHITE DIVISION - HARRISON

hawks: at a glance coach: John Herrington; 42nd Year (376-

86-1) last year: 14-0 (7-0 OAA White) key players lost: Tommy Vento (QB),

Derek Head (RB/LB), Steve Slobin (RB), returning players: Jake Vento (Sr.;

QB); Aaron Burbridge (Sr.; WR/DB); Mario Ojemudia (Sr.; OL/DL), Gairus Coleman (Jr.; WR/DB), Devon Funchess (Sr.; WR/DL), Jake Slobin (Jr.; OL/DL)


photo: edward maurer

hawks: schedule oaa football preview

Aug. 27 Cass Tech 8:00 p.m. (at EMU) Sept. 1 at Southfield 7:00 p.m. Sept. 9 Stoney Creek 7:00 p.m. Sept. 16 Oxford 7:00 p.m. Sept. 23 at Lathrup 7:00 p.m. Sept. 30 Oak Park 7:00 p.m. Oct. 6 at Adams 7:00 p.m. Oct. 14 at Crossover 7:00 p.m. Oct. 21 Farmington 7:00 p.m. And those will be big shoes to fill. Tommy led the Hawks to a state title by throwing for over 2,200 yards and 26 touchdowns . Herrington thinks the younger Vento brother is up to the task. “I think he’s going to do a great job, he’s a multi-threat quarterback he can run and pass,” Herrington said. “He really was an outstanding receiver. He knows the offense, and he’s very not so fast: With an athlete like Aaron Burbridge in the secondary, opposing quarterbacks are never safe.

take two: Aaron Burbridge is one of the reasons Harrison is a favorite to win the state title again. photo: david lee

WHITE DIVISION - HARRISON

smart, he was picked as one of our captains as well.” Two question marks for the Hawks are at the running back and linebacker positions. They were very uneven running the ball on offense last season, and two of the team’s top backs graduated. The inexperienced group will have a good line to run behind, but how much they can produce remains to be seen. Defensively, Harrison brings back seven starters. Only one of them is a linebacker. Both of the team’s inside linebackers graduated, and Herrington is relying on some sophomores to play big minutes. The team’s experience is something that Herrington thinks will give the Hawks a big time edge in overcoming those weaknesses. “Our big advantage is that we have guys that have played in the state championship, that’s a big deal,” Herrington said. farmington-mi.patch.com 39


OAA Football Preview  

A preview of 17 schools from the Oakland Activities Association Red, White and Blue brought to you by Patch.com sites in Oakland County.

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