Coaches poll: Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett, 59; Sterling Hgts. Parkway Christian, 54; Rochester Hills Lutheran Northwest, 47; Lutheran Westland, 40; Southfield Christian, 39; Auburn Hills Oakland Christian, 31.
Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett (5-0, 8-2)
Strength: athleticism and experience
Top players: RB/S Thomas Jackson (all-state, league MVP), C/DT Sean Fannon, junior QB Connor McCarron (3 year starter, HM all-state), WR/LB Charles Cain, soph WR/CB William Morrison, LT/DE Sam Durno, WR/LB Nick Gawel, WR/S Robert Whitaker, soph WR/CB Noah Miller.
Outlook: Coach Dan Cimini boasted that the Knights’ skill position players could start in almost any division, and will hopefully lead the team to another league title and playoff berth. “We’d like to make a nice run this time,” he said about the postseason. “We are capable of that especially if we stay healthy. We are young but still have a lot of experience coming back.” Liggett lost only one senior and returns nine on offense and 10 on defense.
Sterling Hgts. Parkway Christian (4-2, 6-4)
Top players: QB/RB/CB Montana Essian, OG/DT Jack Hinsley, TE/LB Riley McManus, RB/S Austin Fuller, junior QB/RB/S Jacob Bambrick, OT/DE Dominic DeClare, junior TB/LB Dominic Gallagher, junior TB/WR/CB Jackson Allen (returning team MVP).
Outlook: Coach Rod Sanders said: “Our expectations are pretty lofty, with 13 starters returning, and some of those may not get their starting role back due to a couple transfers. We’ve taken on a saying that attitude is acquired. We have good size, and with the right attitude there’s nothing we can’t achieve.” A large class of 10 incoming freshman can hopefully have an impact as well.
Rochester Hills Lutheran Northwest (1-4, 5-5)
Strength: Unity and coachability
Top players: RB/LB Cameron Krzewski, WR/DB Andrew Houtos, junior QB/DB Michael Justice, soph QB/LB Danny Macks, RB/LB Jack Santine, WR/LB Brendan McDonald, soph OL/DL Henry Dodson, junior OL/DL Evan Bowlds, junior OL/DL Jake Gunn.
Outlook: Northwest will run a dual QB system with underclassmen, supported by seniors at the other remaining skill positions. Coach Don Justice acknowledges their opponents’ lines will be bigger and more experienced, “so we’ll have to deal well with that.” But getting into the playoffs last year and taking a tough loss led to more focused team leadership this year that, “led a great off-season for us.”
Lutheran Westland: (4-1, 5-5)
Top players: NG Andy Cross, DB Garrett Harper, OT/DT Mitchell Klein, FB/TE Michael LaChance, OT/DT Robert Marshall, junior RB/CB D.J. Nykeil, junior RB/S Andy Faith, junior QB Luke Smith.
Outlook: Coach Paul Guse said: “Like everyone, if we stay healthy we think we can be competitive in the league. We’ve always been a power running team but that will be challenge for us this year. In our league we all have limited numbers and limited depth.” Westland lost 11 seniors and just five return to lead a program of 22 kids, the lowest number of the past 14 years.
Southfield Christian (0-5, 1-8)
Top players: WR/LB DeSean Moore, RB/LB Roger Johnson, LB Josh Guerra, WR/LB Cam Springer, OG/NG Charlie Brown, junior WR/DL Ricky Brown, C/DL Gellus Whitfield.
Outlook: Christian’s best opportunity will be to improve as a unit instead of just getting better as individuals. “The kids are taking more ownership this year and have really pushed each other in the off-season,” said coach Larry Weiss. “If our O-line plays well and together, and the defensive line, I think we’ll be in every game that we play and give us the opportunity to win any game we play.”
Auburn Hills Oakland Christian (2-3, 4-5)
Strength: offensive/defensive line
Top players: OT/DT Nick Lowell (all-league), junior OT/DT Elijah Kennedy, junior C Josh Morgan, RB/DB Jacob King, TE/LB Jessie Seckel, junior transfer RB/LB Neill Nabozny, soph OG/NT Reece McConnell, soph QB Josh Siminski.
Outlook: New head coach Rob Novy is taking a cautiously optimistic approach to 2015. The most talent and experience is in the trenches, a great place to build from, whereas the youth is at skill positions. The program is only one season removed from making the playoffs but has just 23 players. Novy said: “If we can slow down the spread offenses in our league we’ll be in games.”