Prep football preview: Catholic League

Prep football preview: Catholic League

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Prep football preview: Catholic League

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Orchard Lake St. Mary's high school football players go through drills during practice on Tuesday, August 11, 2015 in Orchard Lake Michigan.

Orchard Lake St. Mary’s high school football players go through drills during practice on Tuesday, August 11, 2015 in Orchard Lake Michigan.

CATHOLIC LEAGUE 2015

CENTRAL DIVISION

Coaches’ poll: 1. Orchard Lake St. Mary’s Prep 49; 2. Warren DeLaSalle 45; 3. Novi Detroit Catholic Central 41; 4. Birmingham Brother Rice 36; 5. Detroit University of Detroit-Jesuit 31

St. Mary’s (12-2, 3-1)

Strength: Experience

Top players: QB Brendan Tabone, FB Pierce Bauer, LB Josh Ross, OT Cameron Kolwich, S Tyler Cochran, RB Brandon Adams, junior WR/S Kahlee Hamler

Outlook: After earning a Division 3 state title, St. Mary’s returns a large portion of its lineup intact. “The numbers are good, the kids are working hard, and it’s going to be a fun year in the Catholic League,” Coach George Porritt said. “We know we’ve got our work cut out for us each year, and we want to get off to a good start — to see that we’re not making a lot of mistakes and we’re staying healthy.”

De La Salle (11-3, 2-2)

Strength: Secondary

Top players: OL/DL Jordan Asbury, RB/DB Tru Wilson, TE/DE Drew Beesley, OL/DL Tom Evans, KR Austin Potter, junior RB/DB Allen Stritzinger, DB Reggie Irby

Outlook: DeLaSalle emerged from the middle of the Central pack to claim the Division 2 state championship, and Coach Paul Verska says those extra weeks of practice throughout November can only make the Pilots stronger. “It’s another opportunity for our program to accomplish some great goals and make some great memories,” he said. “Whoever gets healthy at the end of the season can make a run.”

Catholic Central (4-5, 1-3)

Strength: Defense

Top players: RB/DB Alex Bock, OL/DL Tom Kowalkoski, RB/DB Tyler Laurentius, RB/LB Phil Schmitz, RB/LB Austin Darkangelo, junior K Cole Gingell, TE/DE Mike Edwards

Outlook: Last year the Shamrocks missed the playoffs for the first time since 2006, so Coach Tom Mach has reasonable expectations this time around. “The kids have worked very hard; they’re really ready for a new season to begin,” he said. “We have a very good group but we need the reps. We’re going to need games in order to improve. It’s a matter of who can progress and get better.”

Brother Rice (11-1, 4-0)

Strength: Defense

Top players: TE/DE Carter Dunaway, LB Jeff Timko, DE-LB Riley Maher, LB Ryan McWood, DT Sterling McCarrall, OT Michael Birkenhauer, OT Tommy Liesveld

Outlook: After seeing their 33-game winning streak snapped in the regional finals, Brother Rice enters 2015 in an unfamiliar spot – underdogs – while having to replace graduated blue chippers. “We’re an old-school Brother Rice team without a superstar, but we have some talent, we have some depth,” Coach Dave Sofran said. “It’s a matter of re-establishing our tradition with a challenging schedule.”

U-D Jesuit (2-7, 0-4)

Strength: Linemen

Top players: WR/DB Cedric Mutebi, OT Jimmy Pierce, junior MLB Brian McNamara, junior QB/FS Scott Nelson, DT Greg Leatherwood

Outlook: While the Cubs can give most opponents a decent battle, they haven’t won a league game since 2006. Coach Oscar Olejniczak says depth is the main issue that separates the Cubs from the rest of the division. “We compete really strong in the beginning of games; we hope to break through this year and play better in the second half,” he said. “We hope to keep making progress from week to week.”

AA DIVISION

Coaches’ poll: 1. Detroit Loyola 38; 2. Dearborn Divine Child 34; 3-tie. Ann Arbor Fr. Gabriel Richard, Pontiac Notre Dame Prep 32

Loyola (14-0, 4-0)

Strength: Togetherness

Top players: RB/DB Blaine Woodland, OL/LB Anthony Fitzpatrick, QB Nick Lee, junior TE/LB Kailen Abrams, soph. LB Keith Johnson

Outlook: After going 40-2 in three seasons and winning the Division 7 state title last year, Loyola is poised to face greater challenges. Coach John Callahan says the Bull Dogs will be up to the task. “There are no breaks on our schedule but it suits us just fine,” he said. “It will be a matter of how well our young kids grow up and mature, but if you can take care of the small things, the wins will happen.”

Divine Child (7-4, 3-1)

Strength: Athleticism

Top players: QB Jimmy Seewald, WR Danny Blade, WR Shane Fugate, OT Matt McNeff, OG Sam Thibault, junior LB Eric Gillis

Outlook: Coach John Filiatraut says the Falcons are aiming to improve on last season’s record – the Falcons’ best in five years. “We’re hoping we can clean up a lot of the little things; we’re a lot further ahead than last year,” he said. Filiatraut said he has intelligent players, which will help as the Falcons continue to operate with a Spread Option offense while adding to their defensive package.

AA Gabriel Richard (7-3, 2-2)

Strength: Offensive line

Top players: OL/DL Jacob Donnellon, WR/DB Nate Schoenle, FB/LB Robbie Kirchoff, junior CB David Hebda, junior CD Henry Hebda, TB Miles McGirt

Outlook: New head coach Mike Girskis has been on the Fighting Irish staff for 12 years, so he’s not about to switch things up. “Why break something that doesn’t need to be broken?” he said. “We’re going to run a similar package to what we’ve done in the past, a combination of Power and Spread. We’re looking forward to a good season in a very tough and competitive league.”

Notre Dame Prep (3-5, 1-3)

Strength: Balance

Top players: QB Matt Durkin, junior TB/LB Luke Adams, RB Pat Anger, junior OL Kyle Sassack, OL Matt Winiarski

Outlook: Following what Coach Pat Fox described as an “off year,” the Fighting Irish expect to battle in a wide-open Double-A division. “We were young and inexperienced last year, but a lot of guys got some playing time and that should pay dividends,” he said. “Most of the kids are doing a great job and the younger kids are coming along. Whoever is the healthiest team will do well in our league.”

INTERSECTIONAL DIVISION

Coaches’ poll: 1. Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes 77; 2. Royal Oak Shrine 68; 3. Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook 62; 4. Riverview Gabriel Richard 54; 5. Macomb Lutheran North 47; 6. Allen Park Cabrini 45; 7. Madison Heights Bishop Foley 39; 8. Clarkston Everest Collegiate 32

Our Lady of the Lakes (9-2, 5-0)

Strength: Senior class

Top players: QB Clay Senerius, WR Devin Senerius, WR-RB Chris Cartier, LB Ryan Kostich, LB Gabe Nickles, OT McLane Burtrum, OG Liam Sutton

Outlook: The defending Prep Bowl champions return six offensive and five defensive starters, highlighted by an all-state backfield featuring Cartier and the Senerius brothers. “It’s very humbling (to be picked to win), but the bottom line is we expect to do well with this team,” Coach Josh Sawicki said. “Hopefully we can run the ball more this year, stay healthy and find a way to win big games.”

Shrine (8-3, 3-2)

Strength: Consistency

Top players: Junior QB Asher Smith, WR/DB Michael Miller, K Andrew Jaeger, RB/LB Joe Romano, WR Jeremy Reece, junior WR Mark Niehaus

Outlook: The upperclassman-dominated Knights are putting a 12-year playoff streak on the line this fall. “It’s an incentive for the kids; they don’t want to be the group that doesn’t get in,” Coach John Goddard said. “We have the ability to win six (games), but the league is much more balanced and tougher. The kids we put on the field will be good, but if we get hurt, we’re in trouble.”

Cranbrook (6-4, 2-3)

Strength: Speed

Top players: Junior RB/LB Jalen Allen, junior QB Tyler Santangelo, soph. OG/DE Christopher Smith, junior TE/LB Konrad Dixon, soph. OT/DT Tim Hauxwell, soph. RB Aaron Wiggins, WR/FS Nate Lowmiller

Outlook: Not only did Cranbrook win its Catholic League game in three seasons, the Cranes reached the playoffs for the first time in nine. Now, they will try and repeat those feats despite only having one returning senior. “We made a big step last year, but we’ve still got a long way to go,” Coach Joe D’Angelo said. “You’ve got to change the culture; now we’re starting to get excited about football.”

Riverview Richard (5-5, 2-3)

Strength: Leadership

Top players: QB/S Jake Lipetzky, WR/CB Josh Blaszczak, WR Nick Nelson, C Ryan Champagne, OT/DE Jared Machnacki, soph. OL Devin Slaughter, OL Jacob Cosgrove

Outlook: There’s a lot of reasons for the Pioneers to be upbeat: new burgundy-colored artificial turf, back-to-back winning seasons and their first playoff appearance in 11 years. “It’s real exciting for the student body,” Coach Tom Michaelsen said. “There are a few more kids out – we went from 28 last year to 40, and we have a big freshman class. We want to be in contention for the Prep Bowl.”

Lutheran North (2-7, 0-4 AA Division)

Strength: Intelligence

Top players: Junior WR/CB Derrick Craig, WR Mitch Visbara, junior QB Charles Kruse, RB/LB Jack Pyle, TE/DE Michael Barno, junior C/DT Ryan Pini

Outlook: Coach Ryan Wesley hopes his Mustangs – who last won a league game in 2010 — will catch some relief now that they’ve moved from the AA into the Catholic League’s smallest division. “We were simply out-manned in the Double-A, but we have a lot more depth than many of the other Intersectional teams,” he said. “We’ve played a strong schedule for several years and we hope that carries over.”

Cabrini (3-6, 3-2)

Strength: Enthusiasm

Top players: RB Steven Sowa, junior RB Kyle Kessler, OL Andy Orr, DL Jeff Files

Outlook: Allen Park native Ken Briere – most recently at Warren Fitzgerald – takes over the Cabrini program and hopes to get the Monarchs back into the playoffs. “We’re a throwback squad in terms of work ethic and general demeanor,” he said. “The Catholic League is always tough. We’ve got to be nasty and physical, and we absolutely must run the football to win. Our plan, offensively, is to score fast.”

Bishop Foley (1-8, 0-5)

Strength: Offensive linemen

Top players: Junior WR/DB Joe Schmidt, junior OL/DL Trevor Shankin, WR/DB Michael Potter, junior FB Cooper Smith, junior QB Alex Dixon, RB/LB Nolan Gerds

Outlook: Primarily a sophomore-heavy team in 2014, the Ventures are coming back with more experience. “The core of our kids are back,” Coach Sean Cobb said. “The younger ones got a little bigger. We’re another year older and we should show it. Hopefully, we will surprise a couple teams.” Meanwhile, Cobb laments that he has lost a couple of players who opted to specialize in other sports.

Everest Collegiate (6-3 as independent)

Strength: Experience

Top players: OL/LB Xavier Engle, TE/DE Andrew Hayosh, junior RB/LB Alex Legg, OL/DL Danny DeWitt, OL Jorge Dominguez, soph. QB Grant Burgess, WR Luke Allen

Outlook: After playing an independent schedule through the first two years of the program’s existence – and reaching the playoffs each time — the Mountaineers get to test their mettle in the Catholic League. “Overall, everyone’s pretty excited,” Coach Michael Pruchnicki said. “It gives our kids an opportunity to play for something, to develop the program and define our success.”

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