Teams listed in order of coaches’ poll finish; all
seniors unless noted.
Coaches poll: Livonia Stevenson, Northville, South Lyon, Novi, Plymouth Salem, South Lyon East.
Livonia Stevenson (4-1, 6-4)
Top players: RB Austin Petrie, K Ian Henzi, junior QB Chris Tanderys, OL Kyle Foster, LB Tyler Hudson, DT Matt Brown, OL/DL Tyler Denski, WR/CB Frank Carlin.
Outlook: Coach Randy Micallef said having three-year varsity players Petrie, Denski and Foster, plus returning QB Tanderys, makes the offensive side of the ball strong. Replacing most of the graduated starters, especially CJ Weiss (school record 59 receptions) will be the main task at hand. “After getting a taste of the state playoffs in 2014, the Spartans look to build on that experience in 2015.”
Northville (3-2, 6-3)
Top players: OL Alex Angelas, junior QB/DB/K Jack Burke, junior WR Terrell Cunningham, DL Matt Komorous, RB/DB Zach Prystash, QB Justin Zimbo, RB/LB Alec Coppock, RB/LB Mike Minick.
Outlook: The Mustangs lost three offensive linemen to college football, but return six players on defense. Coach Matt Ladach said he wants to maintain the “Northville brand” as a highly-disciplined program with high-character kids on and off the field. “We’ll probably use more of a two-back set as opposed to a single back, but we’re not changing our offense or defense, just play selection.”
South Lyon (4-1, 8-2)
Strength: Backfield and linebackers
Top players: RB/LB Trevor Tank (4-year starter), WR Nick Pagano, RB Connor McGee, OL Spencer McGee, DL Jeff Gill, DB Braxton Blackwell, OL Brendan McMann.
Outlook: Much of the Lions’ success will reside on the shoulders of Tank as younger players get up to speed. Veteran coach Mark Thomas added: “At South Lyon, we reload. That’s the tradition we have in South Lyon and we talk about tradition a lot. That’s how these kids play; we’re a very physical team. If you play South Lyon it will be rock ’em, sock ’em, all within the rules.”
Novi (3-2, 4-5)
Strength: Skill positions
Top players: RB Emanuel Jackson (2,000-plus yards), junior QB Alec Bageris, junior OL Johnny David, DT Dylan Haggard, junior LB Ian Patterson, DB Nick Sabo, OL/DL Cooper Smith, WR/LB Brent George.
Outlook: The biggest challenge will be offense, having to replace nine starters. Coach Jeff Burnside said: “We are replacing much of our skill positions on offense. The defense will also be young with very little depth. (Staying) healthy will be a concern as the season wears on.”
Plymouth Salem (1-4, 2-7)
Strength: Speed and Athleticism
Top players: Junior LB Trevor Nowaske, LB/RB Deston Langford, Jacob Miller, junior DB Jason Arnold, WR/DB Shaw Lyall, WR/DB Freddie McGee, WR/DB Calin Crawford, TE/DE Christian Pearson.
Outlook: The Rocks return a big senior class with lots of experience and playing time, especially the skill positions. Good expectations hover over the heads of the offensive line as well. Coach Kurt Britnell added: “We’re excited to get it going. The key this year is we’ve got to hold onto the ball. We had 24 turnovers last season, that’s not going to win. We have some really good play-makers; we just have to hold onto the rock.”
South Lyon East (0-5, 0-9)
Top players: OL Jordan Thibodeau, junior OL Joel Trent, WR Garrett Read, junior LB Shane Patterson.
Outlook: New head coach Joe Pesci said this season should be a fresh start for the program, a chance to hit the rest button. “Our first goal is to be competitive in all our games, and to stay competitive we’ll have to stay healthy. And if we do I think we’ll surprise some people.” He added that team depth is an issue and the offense will shift from a spread to a more compact, I-formation most of the time, with a 5-2 attacking defense.
Coaches poll: Walled Lake Western, Walled Lake Central, Walled Lake Northern, Waterford Mott, Waterford Kettering, Lakeland.
Walled Lake Western (4-1, 9-2)
Strength: Speed and Athleticism
Top players: QB Kyle Thomas (920 yards rushing, 1560 passing), TB Jake Prokes, C Dan Barrett, G Alex Gammo, OT/DL Tyler Shreve, junior SE Cody White, LB Darnell Lanier, (112 tackles, 6 sacks), DB Jackson Neracher (74 tackles), DL Ryan Steiner, K John Camilleri (12 field goals).
Outlook: Two all-state selections from last year return to give the Warriors a big head start – Thomas and Camilleri putting points on the board, plus all-KLAA defender Lanier – leading a well-experienced outfit. But Coach Mike Zdebski indicated challenges will include opening the season at traditional-powerhouse Lowell and having only one home game in all of August and September.
Walled Lake Central (4-1, 9-3)
Strength: Size and swagger
Top players: Notre Dame-commit DE Adetokunbo Ogundeji, RB/DB Ethan Rodriguez, TE Ryan Kalis (4th year varsity), OL/DE Nick Tinson, OL/LB Jared leach, CB Josh Leimbach.
Outlook: “We have a lot of experience coming back and the kids know what they’re doing,” said coach Bob Meyer, adding that the winning culture at Central helps keep the kids focused on the details. “I think we’re a playoff football team, and once you get into the dance you see how the chips fall. Everyone has a chance at having a good experience.”
Walled Lake Northern (1-4, 4-5)
Strength: Positive attitude Coach Brett Moore
Top players: RB AJ Chuchla, SB Ray Abbott, DB Adam Rabaut, DB Duval Green, DE Joe Long, QB Mikey Towns, WR Mike Nelson, LB Ian Shelby.
Outlook: A good portion of the Knights offense (7 players) and defense (6 players) return for 2015, and head coach Brett Moore said, “Our junior class has stepped up the first week of camp and have alleviated some of the remaining depth concerns.” It remains a situation to watch, as it was last year with multiple injury situations.
Waterford Mott (4-1, 6-4)
Top players: RB Corbin Moorer (985 yards rushing, 10 TDs), WR/S Avery Carter (5 TDs, 65 tackles), LB Trey Christian (88 tackles), LB Jimmy McFadden (76 tackles), OL Eric Bilvkosky, OL Jimmy Shadwell, OL Brendan Kennedy.
Outlook: Coach Chris Fahr indicated that 10 three-year starters graduated, including QB Dakota Kupp now at Central Michigan, so this year’s team needs to mature quickly and “catch some breaks early on in the season until we catch our stride.” He fully expects this team to challenge for the KLAA North title once again with upper-class leadership and a few talented transfers joining.
Waterford Kettering (2-3, 5-4)
Strength: Offensive line
Top players: QB Henry Mitzerak, OL Chandler Johnson, RB Evan King, LB Jacob Mortimore, DB Jacob Netscke, NG Matt Hall, C Max Dowdy.
Outlook: New head coach Shaun Warner said the loss of two running backs from last year that scored a combined 52 TDs have left big shoes to fill and that public confidence may have waned. “I think we’ll be really competitive. We lost a couple key, high-quality kids who scored a ton. But we’re going to spread the ball around a lot and I think we’re going to shock some people. Don’t count us out.”
Lakeland (0-5, 3-6)
Strength: Work ethic
Top players: Third-year starters WR/DB Adam Kleckner and RB/DB Jason Wooster; OL/DL Kyle Welling, TE/DE Ruban Ayer, LB Bryant Thickstun, RB Brandon Walker, CB Zack Belknap.
Outlook: New head coach Joe Woodruff, recently from North Carolina, is impressed with the team’s off-season efforts despite a disappointing 2014. “The program is far from broken,” he said. “There are many aspects of it that are in great shape. Our job will be to mesh the philosophies of the new head coach into the existing structure. Lakeland has enjoyed success in the past and we will be trying to rekindle some of the past glories.”
Coaches Poll: Canton, Livonia Churchill, Plymouth, Westland John Glenn, Livonia Franklin, Wayne Memorial.
Canton (5-0, 9-3)
Strength: Quickness, football savvy
Top players: Junior FB Marcus Sanders, RB/LB Jake Wickens, OT Devin Obrec, LB Jalen Cochran, S Jared Stephens, LB Jake Stephan, C Ben Phillips, DT Tommy Evely.
Outlook: Coach Tim Baechler said expectations are high but the Chiefs need to sort out the QB position between three candidates to replace multi-school-record holder Greg Williams. “I like the kids we have on the offensive line and we have two starting running backs returning, so offensively I feel real good. On defense we have a lot of smart, quick kids on the front seven. If we stay healthy I feel really good about where we’re at.”
Livonia Churchill (4-1, 8-3)
Top players: C Zack Reschke, WR Antonio Alexander, DT Austin Simpson, LB DeMarco McKinney, junior DB Jamal Allen, OT/DE Dylan Clark, WR/DB Jake Mushinski.
Outlook: The Chargers lost eight players to college football, one of the highest next-level rates in metro Detroit. Coach Bill DeFillippo said: “We have a lot of starters to replace but we have a lot of talent and I like our outlook as we gain experience every day and every week. This year’s a totally different team. I have a lot of confidence in the group that we have this year.”
Plymouth (3-2, 7-3)
Strength: Strength and power
Top players: WR/QB Chris Walls, OL Michael Jordon (Ohio State), OL Elie Atallah, RB Cam Stella, S Victor Abraham, junior DT Austin Sheffer, junior LB Darius Timmons, QB Jonah Peterson, QB/S Matt Barno, OT/DT Matt Wayne.
Outlook: Coach Mike Sawchuk is most impressed with this year’s squad being high character kids with all-in commitment and focus. “And up front we’ll be better than ever before – bigger, faster stronger. We have 8-to-9 kids we can rotate into the trenches, and most all can lift a lot of weight. If we can keep coaching up and developing the perimeter kids we can be pretty dangerous.” First three weeks on the road, with first game vs. Utica Eisenhower.
Westland Glenn (2-3, 6-4)
Strength: Speed and Athleticism
Top players: C Will Owens, RB Jaylen Smith, LB Andrew Wicker, QB Nate Szymaski, WR/S Courtney Cochran.
Outlook: New head coach Steve Waller is working with a clean slate as 19 of the 22 starting positions graduated. “I think we have a lot of athleticism, a lot of tough kids. We have to show up and do the work, nothing is handed to you, it takes time,” but he sees a real chance at being competitive in the South Division.
Livonia Franklin (1-4, 2-7)
Top players: QB Denzel Adams, OG Joe Fortin, C Josh Retting, DT Ryan Tracy, junior LB KeMauri Heard, junior DB Chris Nehasil, junior OL/DL Bobby Madley, LB Rob Erwin, S Jared Bowers.
Outlook: Coach Chris Kelbert said he is very optimistic about the season, with a ton of experienced players returning, compared to more lean years prior. “These kids know our system well with all their playing time from last year. Our league is a tough, physical battle every game. Adams may be one of the best athletes in our league, a very special player.”
Wayne Memorial (0-6, 2-7)
Strength: Team speed
Top players: RB/DB Malik Bryant, WR/DB Bruce Lewis, LB/TE Kyle Brooks, LB/K Austin Cross, RB Jarvis Martin, junior C Eric Massey.
Outlook: New head coach Donald Anderson said the main focus for 2015 is revamping the program and improving the overall football IQ. “We need to play one down at a time and learn to bounce back from adversity. We want to improve in every area, from the classroom to the football field, putting these kids in position to be productive citizens and be able to go off to college.”
Coaches poll: Grand Blanc, Hartland, Brighton, Howell, Pinckney, Milford.
Grand Blanc (4-1, 5-4)
Strength: Speed and athleticism
Top players: QB Zach Leedom, LB Chandler Tucker (51 tackles), WR Blake Bogan (30 receptions), LB Ryon Honea, S Robert Mora.
Outlook: Coach Joe Delaney, in his 36th year at the helm, said this year’s team is “very young and inexperienced (after losing two all-state players and returning only two starters on offense and three on defense). But many of these players were very successful at the lower levels so they know how to win. We will just have to have kids step into their roles faster.”
Hartland (4-1, 7-3)
Top players: DL Andy Maschke, LB Alex Vydick, LB Aaron Laird, QB Noah Marshall, TE Nathan Skene, junior OL Hayden Hutalla.
Outlook: The Eagles have very few returning starters, but all five seniors received All-KLAA honors last season for a solid 2015 foundation. “We want to continue building on the program that’s had a few successes; take steps to create a winning environment,” said head coach Brian Savage. “Making the playoffs was great, but we came up a little short. We’d like to make a run with a little luck on our side.”
Brighton: (2-3, 5-4)
Top players: QB Grant Dunatchik, RB Joey Clifford (1121 yardfs, 15 TDs), OL Brendan Klaus, OL Nicoll Burger, DB Jerad Dokey.
Outlook: New head coach Brian Lemons indicated at KLAA Media Day that the team’s toughest challenge will be installing a new system on both offense and defense. “How the kids respond to the transition will be critical to our success. The senior leadership is outstanding. I think we’re going to bounce back pretty well.”
Howell (3-2, 4-5)
Top players: QB Brett Chaperon (1290 yards, 10 TDs), OL Dan Collins, junior OL Wil Manson, K Greg Kearns, DB Thomas Lassitter (54 tackles), DB Trevor Wetzel (4 INTs), LB Joe Senecal.
Outlook: Head coach Aaron Metz praised his 2015 players for the team’s very high GPA and the fact two players are already young business entrepreneurs. “Howell is a blue-collar community and they will come after it every game.” The Highlanders return more starters than any other team in the division – seven on offense and six on D.
Pinckney (2-3, 3-6)
Strength: Offensive line
Top players: RT Nate Houghtelling (3 year starter), LT Bryce Heatwole, RG Jarrett Bohn, LB Rory Poszywak (72 tackles), WR/LB Joey Bachmeier (56 tackles).
Outlook: Coach Jakob Gailitis said at KLAA Media Day the team’s skill positions will need a big year for the Pirates to contend and he is looking for talent to replace huge losses on the defensive line. The WR position is unique in particular as it returns four players with experience, but as a unit last year recorded only four receptions.
Milford (0-5, 1-8)
Strength: Only one two-way player
Top players: DL Jackson Hale, WR/DB Joe Larson, OL Jacob Jones, LB Adam Stebbins (53 tackles), DL Blake Peterson, junior QB Zack Jones, junior TB Joe Bravo.
Outlook: Second-year coach Tim Gough indicated the program has overcome the transition period of a new coaching staff and the new schemes and terminology it comes with, so expectations are higher for all-game consistency this season. A major goal is to eliminate two-way players to have a fresher team on the field. Without meaning to look ahead to next year, the junior class alone has more than 30 players.