Coaches’ poll: 1. Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central 70, 2. Milan 69, 3. Riverview 66, 4. New Boston Huron 51, 5. Grosse Ile 50, 6. Carleton Airport 46, 7. (tie) Flat Rock and Monroe Jefferson 32.
St. Mary Catholic Central (8-2, 7-0)
Top players: TE/LB Justin LaPlante, RB/LB Kevin LaPrad, OT Hunter Lizyness, junior S Collin Woolford and junior LB Wyatt O’Brien.
Outlook: The Falcons are looking to capture a state championship for the second time in three years, after being bounced in the first round of last year’s playoffs. Key in accomplishing that will be the play of linebackers Justin LaPlante, Kevin LaPrad and Wyatt O’Brien, who collectively form the Falcons’ strongest position group. If they play as strongly as they can, look for the Falcons to at least advance past the first round, which is something they did each year from 2012-14.
Milan (9-3, 6-1)
Top players: QB/DB Demetrius Barnes, RB/LB Trace Lindeman and DL/LT Mike Furtney.
Outlook: After reaching the regional final last year for the first time since 2007, the Big Reds look to build upon their 2015 success via what should once again be a potent offensive attack. The dynamic duo of quarterback Demetrius Barnes and running back Trace Lindeman helped the Big Reds score at least 27 points in all six of their ’15 Huron League victories. With Barnes and Lindeman leading the way, the Big Reds should be electric offensively once again, and should be able to make another deep playoff run.
Riverview (6-4, 5-2)
Strength: Offensive linemen.
Top players: C/DL Charles Chevillet, OL/DL Evan Begeman, LB/DE/TE Austin Boike, RB Kaylon Paynes-Brown and junior LB/TE Nick Walsh.
Outlook: Labeled “young and inexperienced” by head man Derek McLaughlin, the Pirates certainly are with only five returning players from last year’s team that finished 6-4 and 5-2 in the Huron. With that being said, it might be more of an uphill battle for the Pirates to get into the playoffs in 2016 than it has been in recent memory. Led by seniors Charles Chevillet and Evan Begeman on the offensive line, the Pirates are seeking a fourth straight appearance in the state playoffs.
Huron (5-5, 3-4)
Strength: Wide receivers.
Top players: Junior DB/WR Drew Leininger, C/LB Nick Becker, DL/OL Brent Kosikowski, OL/DL Tyler Floyd, WR/DB Andrew Miller, junior OG/LB Mike Mitchell and junior RB/OLB Reed Smith.
Outlook: After recording a school-best 11-2 mark and reaching the semifinals of the state tournament for the first time in school history in 2014, the Chiefs slumped to 5-5 in 2015. The Chiefs still qualified for the playoffs, but got bounced in the first round by Trenton, 34-21. First-year coach Jim Kalbfleisch will aim to get the Chiefs to the postseason for a third consecutive campaign, and will be aided by senior wideouts Drew Leininger and Andrew Miller.
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Grosse Ile (4-5, 3-4)
Strength: Senior leadership.
Top players – RB/LB Andrew Vollmerhausen, WR/DB Justin Moores, OL/DL Dom Trombley, OL/DL Owen Wiewiura, RB/DB Josh Moskall, OL/LB Mike Simone and WR/DB Joey Kelly.
Outlook: The Red Devils missed the state playoffs last year for the first time since 2013 by finishing 4-5. They lost three games by six points or less last season, so this could easily be a playoff team in 2016 with a strong senior class. Their senior class is led by running backs Andrew Vollmerhausen and Josh Moskall plus offensive linemen Dom Trombley, Owen Wiewiura and Mike Simone.
Airport (1-8, 1-6)
Strength: Leadership and experience.
Top players: RB/LB Justin Goretski, TE/LB Brent Mossburg, junior RB/DB Mike Foor, junior OL Tommy Shinevarre, junior OL/DL Logan Mays, WR/DB Aaron Smith and OL/DL Hunter Cleland.
Outlook: Carleton Airport looks to improve upon its 1-8 mark from last season with strong leadership and experience. After losing three games by eight points or less last season, expect Airport to get to four wins in 2016, which would be a repeat of the squad’s finish in 2014.
Flat Rock (3-6, 1-6)
Top players: Junior OL/LB Sameer Tayeb, sophomore OL/LB Michael Simons, FB/LB Eric Thomas, RB/S Cameron Stitt, WR/S Anthony Higginbotham, junior RB/S Sage Daniels, junior OL/DL Mason Hamilton and TE/DE Noah Zarbaugh.
Outlook: After two straight 0-9 finishes in 2013 and 2014, the Rams captured three victories last season. The Rams are seeking their first over .500 campaign since 2007 when they finished 5-4, and their first playoff appearance since 1990. If they do reach the playoffs, it’ll be because of their increased depth. After opening the season last year with 23 players, they come into 2016 with 33 players. “We can get guys off the field for a break this year,” Flat Rock coach Brandon Reaume said.
Jefferson (3-6, 2-5)
Strength: Good attitude and character.
Top players: RB/LB Nick Humphrey, QB/LB Brandon Sovey, RB/LB Cam Smith, OG Joey Flaherty, C Steven Hintz, OG Jordan Mowrer, junior OT/DT Thomas Eads, WR Trent Sandifer, RB/C Zach Hill, T Nolan Willard, RB Cameron Jones, junior C Mitchell Payment, junior LB Devon Rozmiarek, junior C Blasé Gennoe, junior LB Jacob Chavis, junior DE Vaughn Gardner and sophomore FS Noah Achinger.
Outlook: With three wins in 2015, Jefferson captured its most victories in a single season since 2011 when it recorded four victories. Getting to four victories would be the next step in Jefferson returning to relevance within the Huron. And if the Bears take a few steps forward, they could potentially put themselves in contention for their first playoff appearance since 2006.