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August 27, 2014

Return to the gridiron: Grosse Pointe Times

A look at the local squads as prep season kicks off
» click to enlarge «
Players from Grosse Pointe South are pictured during a scrimmage against Troy Athens. After winning a Macomb Area Conference Blue title four of the last five seasons, South has been moved to the MAC White.
Pictured at a recent practice is Liggett running back/receiver Trey Cain. The Knights have made the playoffs in each of the last four seasons.
Grosse Pointe North football coach Frank Sumbera, left, is pictured speaking with quarterback Dan Robinson at a recent practice. Sumbera said that Robinson, along with running back Lawrence Bryant, give North “a really good option” in the backfield.
 

By C & G Sports Staff

The prep football season kicks off Aug. 28 on fields across the state.

Here’s a look at your local squads, along with some thoughts from the coaches regarding what they hope will make this a season to remember.

The opening game for each squad is also listed.

Grosse Pointe South
Last season’s record: 6-4
League: Macomb Area Conference White Division
Returning starters: Approximately 13
Opening game: at Detroit Mumford, 7 p.m. Aug. 29.

Offensive keys: Coach Tim Brandon said South will be returning “a lot” of offensive linemen, and he would like that to equate to an effective running game, led by running back Sam Hunter. Aside from helping to put points on the board, a solid running attack could also go a long way toward keeping some of the “high-flying” offenses of South’s opponents on the bench for a while. Although some modern offenses may try to primarily put points on the board via an air attack, Brandon likes the old-fashioned way of doing things, as he said South’s goal is going to be “ball control, run the ball successfully, move the chains, hold on to the football, and then put it in the end zone.”

Defensive keys: Brandon said South’s defense will be a young one, as there may be as many as four sophomores on the defensive unit. While he said “we really like our defense,” he might like it even more if South can effectively replace some of the players lost from last season.

“We lost a couple of really good defensive linemen, a couple of really good linebackers,” he said. “If we can replace those kids with good young talent and they figure it out early, they’ll be OK.”

Coach’s outlook: Although South has moved to the MAC White after winning a MAC Blue title four of the last five seasons, Brandon’s ambitions haven’t changed much.

“Expectations are high, like they always are,” he said. “Our goals are, basically, what they always are — beat North, win the division, not only make the playoffs but make a run in the playoffs.”


Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett
Last season’s record: 5-5
League: Michigan Independent Athletic Conference
Returning starters: Approximately seven
Opening game: vs. Detroit Edison Public School, 4:30 p.m. Aug. 28, which is scheduled to be played at Memorial Park in Eastpointe due to waiting for a turf field to be completed. Call Liggett for more information on field locations.

Offensive keys: Although Liggett lost four offensive linemen to graduation, running back Tommy Jackson, quarterback Connor McCarron, wide receivers Charles (Tre) Caine and Nick Gawel, and linemen Caleb Stokes and Matt Gushee are back and ready to make an impact. Coach Dan Cimini said Liggett has some “really good skill guys,” and there are ways those kind of players are typically best utilized.

“Get the ball in their hands,” he said. “Give them some space, and they make plays. We got some really good talent.”

Liggett could also receive contributions from first-year players Sean Fannon and William Morrison, who are expected to play center and wide receiver, respectively.

Defensive keys: As with the offensive line, Cimini said Liggett will also be “young” on the line. Cimini said he feels “really good,” in regards to the positions of linebacker, defensive back and safety.

“We got really good, athletic kids on D,” he said.

Coach’s outlook:
Although the Knights are young, Cimini said they are “very capable.”

The Knights are looking for their fifth straight playoff appearance.

“We’d like to keep that streak going,” Cimini said. “We’ve made the playoffs and won the league championship two out of the last three years. We’re looking to win the league and make the playoffs again.”


Grosse Pointe North
Last season’s record: 6-4
League: Macomb Area
Conference Blue Division
Returning starters: approximately 10.
Opening game: at Hartland, 7 p.m., Aug. 28

Offensive keys: Coach Frank Sumbera expressed confidence that North is going to be able to put points on the board. His confidence is likely aided by the players North is expected to have in its backfield. Sumbera said quarterback Daniel Robinson threw for over 1,100 yards last season, and in his opinion, running back Lawrence Bryant is capable of rushing for 1,500 yards. While Sumbera cited the importance of the offensive line providing protection, the offense may go as the backfield goes.

“Dan’s very talented, very athletic,” Sumbera said. “He’s got size, speed. He’s got a great arm. In the backfield with him is Lawrence Bryant. He’s a strong, fast, hard-running back. Those two in the backfield together give us a really good option.”

Defensive keys: “Our strength is really in our linebacking core and our secondary,” Sumbera said of the defense. 

Corner back Odell Snyder could go a long way toward helping North’s cause on defense.

“In the secondary, got one of the best D-backs we’ve had,” he said of Snyder. “We’ve had good ones for a lot of years, but this kid is outstanding.”

Coach’s outlook: Although the Norsemen didn’t win the Blue Division last season, they did make the playoffs, and Sumbera would like more of the same.

“We look for a very good year,” he said. “We’re looking to win our division, we’re looking to beat South and we’re looking to make a run in the playoffs this year.”