If the football is going to start in anybody’s hands, then the guy the Northville will turn to once again this season is quarterback Justin Zimbo.
The 5-foot-11, 191-pound senior is the Mustangs’ Allstate insurance policy after accounting for over 2,000 yards passing and rushing a year ago
Zimbo threw for 1,068 yards (80-of-162) and 12 touchdowns, while running for 980 yards and 10 TDs as the Mustangs finished 6-4 and earned their fifth MHSAA Division 1 playoff berth in six years, including their 11th in school history.
“He was very productive as a junior,” Northville seventh-year coach Matt Ladach said of his signal caller. “He’s a guy that we can rely on and depend on. He’s a gamer. If you watched him play over the last couple of years he knows when to show up.”
Northville’s offensive line took a big hit with the graduation of all-state tackle David Moorman (Wisconsin) and Zach Graham (Northwood University), along with tight end Ryan Roberts (Northern Illinois).
But the cupboard is far from bare as three-year starter Alex Angeles (6-2, 315), returns along with senior left guard Max Steilen (6-0, 301).
Meanwhile, junior Zach Marks (5-8, 204) will take the reigns at center.
“Obviously losing two Division I guys is going to be very difficult to replace, but we do have big, strong guys coming back and we anticipate we’re really going to be good up front,” Ladach said.
Angeles, who recently set a team bench press record of 350 pounds, will be the anchor.
“He’s played every position on the offensive line,” Ladach said. ‘He’ll likely play right tackle, but can play anywhere. I’m really surprised that he hasn’t gotten a handful of Division I offers already, but he’s going to play in college next year.”
The team’s leading rusher, P.J. Schepp (Grand Valley State), graduated, but expecting to get the bulk of the carries are seniors Zach Prystash (5-6, 150) and senior Adam Ghabra (5-10, 168).
Senior Alec Coppock (6-0, 218), a third-year varsity player, also returns at fullback.
“I think we have two dynamic kids, Ghabra and Prystash, who are a little bit different, but they’re going to be very productive for us,” Ladach said. “Our play selection may be a little bit different. We might use a fullback a little more than we have in the past, but our system is still intact.”
Northville’s receiving corps includes junior returnees Terrell Cunningham (5-10, 155 and Jack Peterson (6-1, 164).
Prystash will also play the slot-back position and catch passes out of the backfield in Northville’s spread attack as well.
“We’ve got good work at receiver,” Ladach said. “Our guys are competing hard. We’ve had a good summer in terms of our camps and our seven-on-sevens, so we’ll be fine.”
On the defensive line, seniors Matt Komorous (6-2, 295), who power cleans 325 pounds, and George Metrusias (5-8, 237), who parallel squats 585, both return.
The linebacking group includes senior Mike Minick (6-2, 230), senior Mason Pitt (6-0, 224) and Coppock.
“Mason Pitt is a good vocal leader, he’s a tough-nosed kid,” Ladach said. “He’s a guy that really brings out the best in his teammates. Komorous and Metrusias are both returners on the D-line. Those guys always lead by example.”
Junior safety Jack Burke (6-0, 184), who got considerable playing time as a sophomore, will start at start at safety flanked by Prystash.
“In the secondary we have some young kids, but with Prystash and Burke coming back, that’s a solid group coming back there as well,” the Northville coach said.
Another good sign for the Mustangs heading into their Friday, Aug. 28 season opener at White Lake Lakeland is the return of sophomore kicker Jake Moody (5-10, 152) and senior punter Christian Field (5-9, 189).
“I wouldn’t say anything surprised me, but one thing that I think is important to point out is just our players’ work ethic,” Ladach said. ‘They’ve really been working hard. They always do everything we ask, but they’re really going above and beyond. They’re pushing each other and we’ve a good first few days of camp.”
And while South Lyon and Livonia Stevenson shared the KLAA Central Division title last season with 4-1 records – a game ahead of both 3-2 Northville and Novi – all signs are pointing to another highly competitive race in 2015.
“Our division is tough,” Ladach said. “Anybody could win our division. I’ll say this – there’s not a team on our schedule that we cannot beat. We expect to go into every game with a chance to win, and we expect to win. But if we don’t play well, any team in our division could beat us.”