Coaches’ poll: 1. Pioneer 49; 2. Saline 45; 3. Bedford 38; 4. Monroe 37; 5. Skyline 31; 6. Huron 25
Pioneer (7-4, 4-1)
Top players: LB/RB Antjuan Simmons; DL/TE Derrick Hubbard; DL/TE Jordan Nwogu; WR/DB Jordan Harris; DB/WR Cedrick Benton; FB/LB Christian Reid; DL/FB Justin Collier
Outlook: Pioneer brings back eight returning starters on defense and will look to lean on that unit through the first few weeks of the season. Simmons, an Ohio State commit, is one of the best players in the state and was an All-State performer both ways last season. Hubbard, a Western Michigan commit, is another versatile player who will have a big impact on both sides of the ball.
Saline (10-1, 5-0)
Top players: TE Bryce Wolma; RB Connor Hibbard; OL Caleb Ruefner; DB Robbie Felton; DL Sean O’Keefe; junior LB CJ Gildersleeve; LB Tyler Plocki; DT Nathan Powers
Outlook: The top team in the division last year, Saline enters this season with just seven returning starters — three on offense and four on defense. Wolma — an Arizona commit — and Hibbard will look to provide a smooth transition on offense. But despite a relative lack of experience, don’t count the Hornets out — this is a team that will only get better as the season progresses.
Bedford (4-4, 3-2)
Strength: Offensive and defensive skill positions
Top players: QB/FS Joe Wiemer; RB/DB Jared Nanney; OL Trevor Carr; junior DT Shane Yoder; DB David Jeffers; DB Joe Shepherd; DL Zach Putman; OL Jake Curtis; FB Joe Oehlers
Outlook: Bedford has a tough schedule but could make some noise with its strong class. The Kicking Mules return most of their starters from last year and will look to continue improving as a team throughout fall camp. According to coach Jeff Wood, both the offensive and defensive lines are getting more experience as camp progresses.
Monroe (5-5, 2-3)
Strength: Offensive skill positions.
Top players: RB Carson Clark; RB/LB Jovan Johnson Jr.; WR/S Danny Rickle; WR/CB Donovan Isaac; DB Sam Kinsey
Outlook: Monroe fell to Saline last season in the first round of the playoffs and is looking to make it back to the postseason under a new coaching staff. The Trojans have to replace their entire offensive line but will do so with Clark, owner of the school’s single-season rushing record, and Johnson, who carried the ball in addition to playing linebacker.
Skyline (4-5, 1-4)
Top players: WR/LB Hunter Rison; RB/LB Chuck Jones; RB/LB Treshaun Heyward; QB Darryn Davis; OL/DL Brandon Cole; DB Sam Welling; OL/DL Robert Turner; WR/DB Dominic Franklin
Outlook: The Eagles have several standouts at their skill positions. Rison, a Michigan State commit, is a big play waiting to happen at receiver, while Jones — a Central Michigan commit — and Heyward will anchor the running game. The three also form Skyline’s linebacking corps. The Eagles continue to look for their first playoff appearance in school history.
Huron (0-9, 0-5)
Top players: QB/SS Broderick Smith; OL/DL Ahmad Samaha; WR/DB Miles Smith; WR/DB Miles Young; OL/DL Chase Robinson; WR/DB Marquise Johnson
Outlook: Huron is onto its third football coach in four years after the school and former head coach Andre Parker parted ways after a winless season in 2015. Huron has posted just one winning season since 2002, and new coach Daniel Novak will look to turn around the program by changing the culture and team atmosphere. The River Rats will look to their class to lead the way.
- Detroit PSL preview
- Kensington Lakes preview
- Catholic League preview
- OAA preview
- MAC preview
- Downriver preview
Coaches’ poll: 1. Chelsea 47; 2. Ypsilanti Lincoln 44; 3. Ypsilanti 43; 4. Tecumseh 33; 5. Adrian 32; 6. Dexter 26
Chelsea (12-2, 4-1)
Strength: Offensive line
Top players: RB Cam Cooper; QB Jack Bush; TE Alex Vasquez; DL Cash Shegan; WR Chris Roush; OL Andrew Klink.
Outlook: The Bulldogs finished the runner-up after losing to Orchard Lake St. Mary’s in the Division 3 state final game last season and will be replacing most of their defense. But Chelsea, a perennial playoff team under coach Brad Bush, returns several key contributors on offense and will be able to rely on its offensive line to provide a consistent running game.
Ypsilanti Lincoln (4-5, 3-2)
Top players: Junior QB Cam Thompson; junior QB Undral Pritchett; junior WR Matt Moorer; junior LB Will Lynn; TE Myles Beverly; junior RB/DB Derek Thomason; junior DL Avery Kenyon; junior LB Josh Verges; sophomore RB/LB Jordan Roberson
Outlook: The Railsplitters are in the enviable position of returning most of their standout players from last season and are in position to battle for a conference championship and playoff spot. Thompson — the returning starter — and Pritchett will split time to start the season. Moorer and Beverly will be experienced targets for whomever is under center.
Ypsilanti (4-5, 4-1)
Top players: LB/QB Amari Jenson; junior WR Jalen Allen; RB Emerson Wilson; DL/OL Markus Bevier; LB/RB Chris Willis
Outlook: There’s a new sheriff in town for the Grizzlies — former Michigan running backs coach Fred Jackson has taken over. Ypsilanti stumbled to a poor start last season but ended strong, beating Chelsea in week seven to win the White division. Jenson is a talented linebacker who finished third on the team in tackles in 2015 with 80, while Bevier was named honorable mention for his efforts on the defensive line. Jackson expects his defense to anchor the team with its aggressive, free-flowing style, and he thinks his team has a shot to make it back to the postseason.
Tecumseh (4-5, 3-2)
Top players: RB/DB Jordan Patterson; junior QB Alex Foss; WR/DB Jakob Shadley; RB/LB Gabe Bechtol; LB Will Sparrow; TE/DL Lucas Coker; LB Kevin Jeffery; OL/DL Josh Treadway.
Outlook: The Indians enter the season lacking depth on the offensive and defensive lines, but have explosive edge players, according to coach Greg Dolson. Look for Tecumseh to lean on its quarterback Boss — who Dolson says is like an extension of the coaching staff. Patterson is an explosive player on both sides of the ball.
Adrian (2-7, 1-4)
Top players: WR/DB Dre Buie; OL/DL Logan Davis; QB/LB Andrew Hribar; OL/DL Hunter Krueger; OL/LB Matt Padilla; WR/DB Ty Peck; OL/LB Blake Thompson; RB Caiden Welter
Outlook: Adrian returns more experience on defense. According to coach Scott Cripe, the Maples have decent team speed this season. With several returning starters who play both ways, the Maples will look to develop more depth in hopes of allowing some of their two-way players concentrate on one side of the football.
Dexter (0-9, 0-5)
Top players: QB/WR/FS Joey Hiser; RB/DB Seamus McCurren; WR/DB Ryan Flattery; OL/DL Parker Goetz; LB/RB Truman Stovall; OL/DL Travon Reid.
Outlook: Coming off a winless season, the Dreadnaughts will look to make some noise within the White division this fall. Dexter is lacking in depth, but the offense will be anchored by a strong offensive line that should create running room for McCurren and Stodall.