ORCHARD LAKE, Mich. – Big brother may know best, but when all is said and done, Josh Ross may prove to be the best football player in the Ross household.
Growing up five years younger than his older brother James, one of the leaders of the University of Michigan’s vaunted defense, Josh Ross has learned to deal with the comparisons to James — one of the best football players to ever grace the field at Orchard Lake St. Mary’s.
How does he deal with it? He just goes out and plays — and has fun doing it.
“Josh is so easygoing. It’s one of the greatest qualities he has,” St. Mary’s head coach George Porritt said of his standout junior linebacker. “He loves his brother and he does go to him for a lot of things, but he’s his own man. He’s going to make his own decisions, whether it’s with schooling, or playing football.”
James was offered scholarships by a number of elite college programs. Josh has already received nine, including those from Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Notre Dame and Oklahoma. He has not made a commitment, as he’s focused on leading his Eaglets to a second straight Division 3 state championship.
Through 12 games, Ross leads his team with 110 solo and 173 total tackles — including 22 for a loss — to go with nine caused fumbles, eight sacks and three interceptions from his linebacker position. For his efforts, Ross was voted Division 3-4 Player of the Year by a panel of Associated Press sportswriters from around the state.
“What separates Josh from a lot of players is his love for the game,” said Porritt, whose team beat East Grand Rapids Saturday to advance to the Division 3 title game. “And he reads the game so quick, and that makes him a faster player. Yes he’s got the size and strength, he’s 6-foot-1, 225 pounds, but you add that to his ability to make those quick reads and adjustments during the play and that’s what makes him the tremendous player he is.”
Ross was one of four St. Mary’s players named first team all-state. K.J. Hamler earned the honor as a specialist, John Kwiecinski as a kicker and Cameron Kolwich as a lineman.
The rest of the all-state linemen included Johnathan Berghorst of Zeeland East, Ty McTaggert of Chelsea, Kyle Sassack of Pontiac Notre Dame Prep, Jeremiah Tyler of Detroit Country Day, Zach Vanvalkenburg of Zeeland West and Heath Williams of East Lansing.
Defensively, linebackers Luke Adams of Notre Dame Prep, Hunter Buczkowski of Mount Pleasant and Loren Sauve of Trenton, along with defensive backs Chris Bergin of Detroit Country Day, Alonzo McCoy of Redford Thurston and John Wixson of Remus Chippewa Hills all made the All-State cut.
Senior Omar Salih of Detroit Cesar Chavez was one of two quarterbacks named to the team after throwing for 4,173 yards and 45 touchdowns this season. Comstock Park’s Pat Naughton was the other quarterback honored.
At running back, Forrest Jackson of Marshall, Mitch Meger of Tecumseh, Isaiah Miller of Edwardsburg and Darius Perisec of Zeeland West all rushed for more than 1,400 yards each and were selected to the team.
Khylin Barton of Zeeland East, Jalen Martin of Harper Woods Chandler Park, Nick Turowski of Comstock Park and Nick Vondra of Mason were the All-State wide receivers.
Flint Powers senior Noah Sargent was an All-State specialist — along with Hamler — and Will Nagel of DeWitt was the first-team punter.
Benton Harbor’s Elliot Uzelac earned the Coach of the Year honor after leading the Tigers to their first-ever state playoff appearance. The school had won just four games over the previous eight seasons.
Voting was by a panel of AP member sportswriters from around the state.
The 2015 Associated Press Division 3-4 All-State football team, which is selected by a statewide panel of Michigan sports writers:
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Josh Ross, Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, Junior
Omar Salih, Detroit Cesar Chavez, Senior
Pat Naughton, Comstock Park, Senior
Isaiah Miller, Edwardsburg, Senior
Mitch Meger, Tecumseh, Senior
Forrest Jackson, Marshall, Senior
Darius Perisee, Zeeland West, Senior
Nick Turowski, Comstock Park, Senior
Nick Vondra, Mason, Senior
Khylin Barton, Zeeland East, Senior
Jalen Martin, Harper Woods Chandler Park, Senior
Zach VanValkenburg, Zeeland West, Senior
Cameron Kolwich, Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, Senior
Johnathan Berghorst, Zeeland East, Junior
Ty McTaggert, Chelsea, Senior
Heath Williams, East Lansing, Senior
Kyle Sassack, Pontiac Notre Dame Prep, Junior
Jeremiah Tyler, Detroit Country Day, Senior
Josh Ross, Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, Junior
Hunter Buczkowski, Mount Pleasant, Senior
Luke Adams, Pontiac Notre Dame Prep, Junior
Loren Sauve, Trenton, Senior
Alonzo McCoy, Redford Thurston, Senior
Chris Bergin, Detroit Country Day, Junior
John Wixson, Remus Chippewa Hills, Senior
John Kwiecinski, Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, Senior
Will Nagel, DeWitt, Junior
Noah Sargent, Flint Powers, Senior
KJ Hamler, Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, Junior
COACH OF THE YEAR
Elliot Uzelac, Benton Harbor
Special Mention (nominees receiving two or more votes from the voting panel)
CJ Otteman, Zeeland East; Brent Murray, Petoskey; Dominic Forbes, Grand Rapids Catholic Central; Monterio Smith, Comstock Park; Tre Gray, Niles; Drew Couturier, Allendale; Rob Boughton, Haslett; Nate Umler, Allendale; Trent Hillger, Lake Fenton; Keegan Golder, Grand Rapids Forest Hills Eastern; Brendan Oosse, East Grand Rapids; Cortez Gray, Milan; Jared Mika, Grand Rapids Catholic Central; JD Ross, DeWitt; Austen Cooper, Parma Western; Jake Bushu, Stevensville-Lakeshore; Sean Akins, St. Joseph; Austin Taggert, Dowagiac.
John Kocher and Jim Bishop, Richmond
Honorable Mention (nominees receiving one or no votes from the voting panel)
Justin Doyle, Alma; Jarrett VanHavel, Mason; Jake Tahaney, Haslett; Michael Lynn III, Lansing Sexton; Tristain Stewart, Sturgis; Steve Mann, Detroit Country Day; Tyler Santangelo, Cranbrook-Kingswood; Shamond Halbert, Flint Northwestern; Patrick Czarnecki, Trenton; Joe Ens, Grand Rapids Catholic Central; Jack Clark, Grand Rapids Forest Hills Eastern; Kristen Valliere, Bay City John Glenn; Steven Linton, St. Johns; Ryan Ellul, Marysville; Marcus Matiere-Bey, Flint Southwestern Academy; Ryan Young, Linden; Christopher Dennis, Detroit Northwestern Collegiate Prep; DJ Griffin, Harper Woods Chandler Park; Obie Ricumstrict, Mt. Pleasant; Evan Conn, DeWitt; Liam Adams, Sturgis; Patrick Burmeister, Marquette; Jordan Brewer, St. Joseph; Eric Hildebrand, Goodrich; Landin Mitchell, Goodrich; Spencer Mort, Corunna; Blake Roe, Haslett; Kyle Augustine, Gaylord; Sean Fitzgerald, Mount Pleasant; Brandon Martinez, DeWitt; Deron Irving-Bey, Flint Southwestern Academy; Dalton Adams, Goodrich; Anderson Muenzer, Lake Fenton; Daurel Tolbert, Flint Powers; Logan Poll, Lake Odessa Lakewood; George Gillespie, Romulus; Case Overweg, Hudsonville Unity Christian; Ryan Cornejo, Alma; Levi Six, Fruitport; Taylor Jackson, Corunna; Landon Pelham, Tecumseh; Tanner Motz, St. Johns; Chris Upright, Marshall; Sam DeMeester, Coldwater; Hunter Viau, Escanaba; Andrew Hamel, Richmond; Mike MacLean, Detroit Country Day; Jayson O’Mara, Lake Odessa Lakewood; Nate Berrelez, Allen Park; Kingsley Enchukew, Romulus; David Williams, Holland Christian; BJ Powell, East Lansing; Dante Razzano, Edwardsburg; Michael Clifford, East Grand Rapids; Luke Beckhusen, Coldwater; Kalebb Perry, Mount Pleasant; Steele Fortress, Parma Western; Brevan Bender, Alma; Matthew Meagher, DeWitt.
Kyle Robinson, Corunna; Nick Boucher, Lake Odessa Lakewood.
Voting panel: Bill Broderick, Battle Creek Enquirer; James Cook, Traverse City Record-Eagle; Dave Goricki, The Detroit News; Brian Calloway, Lansing State Journal; Steve Kaminski, MLive.com-The Grand Rapids Press; Mark Opfermann, MLive.com-The Muskegon Chronicle; George Pohly, The Macomb Daily (Mount Clemens); Eric Woodyard, MLive.com-The Flint Journal; Dan Chalk, Midland Daily News; Jason Schmitt, The Oakland Press.