Farmington Harrison’s football team received bad news Tuesday when it was learned senior quarterback Jevon Shaw had suffered a season-ending knee injury and will not play Friday.
The Hawks will try to win a Division 2 district championship without their star player when they travel to Walled Lake Western for a 7 p.m. kickoff.
Shaw was injured Saturday night in the playoff opener at Fenton while returning a third-quarter punt. He had scored the go-ahead touchdown several minutes earlier on a 59-yard run.
“He said it’s the first game he’s missed since Little League,” Harrison coach John Herrington said. “He’s had a great career, and he’ll be there to support us.
“It’s tough and we’ll just have to step and be ready to play hard to make up for it.”
Shaw ends the season with 991 rushing yards, a 10.4 average and 16 touchdowns. He also passed for 914 yards and nine scores with one interception in 114 attempts.
Junior David Vinsky, who replaced Shaw in the Fenton game and led Harrison to a 42-10 victory, will get the start at quarterback Friday.
“I think he grew up a lot in that game,” Herrington said. “It was only 14-10, so he was the quarterback the rest of the way except for the last few plays.
“Like so many kids at Harrison, he stepped up when he was asked to. I saw some maturity right on the field, and he handled the offense well.”
Herrington added Vinsky, a three-sport athlete who also plays basketball and baseball, is working hard and will be ready for the challenge.
Old foes meet again
Once bitter rivals, and Walled Lake Western haven’t played an actual football game in 13 years.
The perennial powers had some terrific battles in the 1990s as members of the old Western Lakes Activities Association.
The teams will meet for the first time in real competition since 2001 in a Division 2 district championship game Friday night at Western.
Though they haven’t kept score in a long time, Harrison and Western are no strangers to each other.
Since the Hawks left for the Oakland Activities Association in 2002, they have included the Warriors in their preseason scrimmage and have crossed paths in the summer passing league.
“It seems very familiar going over there,” Harrison coach John Herrington said. “We were in their four-way scrimmage before we had it at our place.
“It’s always been a good rivalry back to the days of coach (Chuck) Apap in the old Western Six (Conference). It’s a playoff game and that’s the main thing. We’re looking forward to it.”
A tough foursome
Warriors coach Mike Zdebski cited the strength of competition in this year’s scrimmage, adding it was quite possibly the best in the state.
All four teams are still alive in the playoffs, including three-time defending Division 2 champion Brother Rice (10-0) and West Bloomfield (9-1) in Division 1.
Herrington observed the fact Harrison (8-2) has the worst record of the four. Western (9-1) is a tri-champion of the KLAA North Division and the Lakes Conference champ based on its 31-14 win over Hartland.
In its playoff opener last week, the Warriors defeated South Lyon, the KLAA Kensington Conference winner, 14-13.
“We’re not too far away from each other, so a lot of the kids know each other through other sports,” Zdebski said of the Hawks and Warriors. “It’s nice that we’ll to play in a district championship game and play such a quality opponent.”
He knows defense
Zdebski, who was the defensive coordinator under Apap, is greatly impressed by the Harrison defense.
“Those two tackles are very good,” he said of junior Khalid Kareem (6-4, 235) and senior Dorian Williams (6-4, 240). “Those are two of the best defensive linemen we’ve watched on film this year.
“They always have great skill kids on offense. They do great things offensively. They’ll be the best team we’ve seen all year.”
Senior Markeith Hunt (6-3, 220) and junior Demond Young (5-10, 230) also rotate into the game at defensive tackle.
Always noted for defense, the Warriors have been good in that regard again, and both teams are solid in the kicking game.
Western kicker John Camilleri is 12-for-13 in field goals and 44-for-47 on extra points and the team’s leading scorer with 77 points.
“As far as I know, no one comes close to him in the state (on field goals made),” Zdebski said. “His accuracy has been great.
“He helped in a few games just by himself. Making two extra points last week in that (rainy, windy) weather was pretty incredible.”
Harrison junior Alex Bolstrum is 4-of-5 on field goals with the longest being 43 yards and has scored 57 points. He hasn’t missed an extra point since the first game and is 45-of-47.
Western quarterback Kyle Thomas set a school record with 435 total yards against Hartland, breaking the one set last season by three-year starter Kyle Bambard.
“That’s where we’ve gotten better, as he’s developed,” Zdebski said. “It’s tough coming in as a junior. The game is faster; kids are bigger. Coaches are showing one coverage and going to another. There’s a lot of thinking to do out there.
“He’s really developing into a very good quarterback. He’s making much better decisions. It was because of him that we had no turnovers last week.”
Once a wing-T team, the Warriors run the spread offense from a shotgun formation, but they do a lot of things in that system.
“(Thomas) is a good runner; he escapes well,” Herrington said. “We’ve got to contain him. They do a lot with deception and jet sweeps. They’ve got an effective offense. They can put points on the board.”
Senior Quinton Dowdy (6-3, 197) is Western’s primary running back and a physical, downhill runner, according to Zdebski.
Senior wideout Marcus Bailey (6-2, 190) is the leading pass catcher, and senior James LaLonde (5-11, 190) is a three-year starter at slot receiver.
Senior leaders on defense are end Adam Stasinski (6-2, 199), linebackers Cooper Dayton (6-0, 194) and John Daniel (6-0, 178) and three-year starter John Witkowski in the secondary.
“Everybody out there used to be a defensive back,” Zdebski said. “We’re not especially big, but we think our kids are athletic.
“Our kids are all 4.0s when it comes to football IQ. They’re super smart, which really helps because they understand what other teams are trying to do and why we do what we do.”
The Hawks hope to control the ball again with a good rushing attack and be strong on defense, according to Herrington.
“Our defense has been playing well all year,” he said. “The competition has been outstanding. We’ve played some of the best teams in the state, and we hope to continue the play we had in the second half against Fenton.”