A one-year hiatus from the football state playoffs has Novi Detroit Catholic Central chomping at the bit to get the 2015 season underway.
Coach Tom Mach, who has a 348-93 record entering his 40th season with the Shamrocks, believes there is a heightened sense of urgency after going 4-5 and missing the MHSAA Division 1 postseason for only the third time since 1999.
“They’re hungry,” said Mach, who has guided CC to 25 playoff appearances and 10 state crowns during his long tenure. “They’ve been working hard this year, very much in the weight room. We had a good spring program. We lift four days a week from January to August, so they’ve been doing a great job in that workout. They’re in very good shape at this point of the season and ready to go.”
The Shamrocks return 12 players who started last year, led by the senior captain quartet of Alex Bock, Tom Kowalkoski, Tyler Laurentius, Phil Schmitz and Austin Darkangelo.
“We always put our emphasis on defense, that’s our number one concern,” Mach said. “This year, we probably have about six or seven guys that have put a good amount of time last year that are coming back on defense, but not too many on offense. The offense is going to be a little bit new. But of course, we’re used to that going against the schools we go up against in our league. We can’t afford to have too many new guys out there if you’re going to do well.”
All five senior captains are two-way players.
“All of our captains play defense,” Mach said. “I’d say overall the captains are good leaders for us.
Kowalkoski (6-5, 280), a tackle, will anchor both offensive and defensive lines, while Schmitz (6-2, 190) takes over at tight end and linebacker.
Darkangelo (5-11, 175) is slated at both linebacker and running back, while Bock (5-11, 185) and Laurentius (5-11, 185) will get time in both the backfield and secondary.
“Bock can do a lot of things,” Mach said. “He runs a 4.5 (40-yard dash) and is a good athlete with a lot of versatility. And Tyler can do a lot of things. He can run and he can catch. He’s an athletic guy and he has a good head on his shoulders.”
As usual, a grind-it-out running game will prove essential to CC’s success in the Catholic League’s perennially strong Central Division, which includes Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, the defending Division 3 state champ and preseason favorite, along with defending Division 2 state champion Warren DeLaSalle and Birmingham Brother Rice.
“We need the backs to hit the holes with speed,” Mach said. ‘We want to get three or four yards a crack. We don’t have to break them, but we need some guys that can break them. Our running backs have always been traditionally tough people. They get an extra yard, don’t get stopped by one tackler. We’re three downs and a cloud of dust, keep it going most of the time. We’re looking for a tough back that’s got some speed and can actually be moved around as a receiver when we go spread and so forth.”
Other key returnees for CC include senior defensive back Tarek Dalou (5-8, 160), senior defensive end Michael Edwards (6-4, 220), senior safety Chyle Johnson (5-8, 165) and junior tight end Jackson Ross (6-3, 230).
During the preseason, Mach said he will be looking at as many as five different quarterbacks before deciding who will start in the season opener Friday, Aug. 28, at home against Muskegon.
“We’re going to determine our quarterback in the next two weeks,” Mach said. “We don’t know what they’ll be like because we’ve never seen them in a varsity situation.”
And Mach has a specific type of QB in mind to call the signals.
“We want a quarterback this year that can run our team, make big plays when we need them, be able to throw the football when necessary,” Mach said. ‘We want a guy that’s a good leader first, a guy who can take control … put us in the right position, so if we’re not in the right position to make a play selection or whatever it has to be.”