Shelby Township,UticaAugust 28, 2013
Shelby-Utica News: The journey begins
Prep football season set to begin as teams set out on weekly quest toward Ford Field
Utica Eisenhower’s defense stops a run by Dearborn Fordson at a recent scrimmage. Coach Chris Smith would like to see his defense help the Eagles’ cause via creating turnovers.
The 2013 Michigan High School Athletic Association football season officially kicks off Aug. 29. Here’s a look at the local teams’ schedules. Listed are home and away games. Neutral site games will be marked with an asterisk. For game information, along with site information for the neutral site contests, call the host school prior to game time.
Ford II plays home games at Runkel Field, located at 39701 Dodge Park in Sterling Heights.
8-31 vs. Rockford
9-6 @ Utica Ford
9-13 vs. Clinton Township Chippewa Valley
9-20 @ Grosse Pointe South
9-27 vs. Macomb Dakota
10-5 @ Roseville
10-11 vs. Romeo
10-18 @ Sterling Heights Stevenson
10-25 @ Warren Cousino*
Utica Eisenhower plays its home games at Swinehart Field.Eisenhower’s game against Warren Cousino is also scheduled to take place at Swinehart Field.
C & G Sports Staff
Prep football teams will be back on the gridiron beginning Aug. 29. Here’s a rundown of each local team, including returning starters, offensive and defensive keys, and what each coach is expecting from their squad.
Last season’s record: 3-6
League: Macomb Area Conference White Division
Returning starters: 14
Coach Tony Smith thinks Utica could be just fine when it comes to catching, running and throwing the ball. And while all those things can go a long way toward making an offense go, it could all be a mute point if the Chieftains can’t effectively control the line of scrimmage.
“It’s going to have to be the offensive line,” Smith said. “I think the skill kids are all back. Our running game looks like it’s going to be OK, I hope. Our passing game should be OK — our quarterback’s (Jack Flater) a second-year player. If we can pass block and run block, I think we’re going to be OK.”
Many coaches hold to the theory that a strong defense is the key to winning football games. If that theory holds true, Utica has the potential to be in for a good season, as Smith expressed confidence in his team’s defensive abilities.
“I think we’re going to be stout up front,” he said. “We return two starting ends, plus we have a kid coming in that played a lot on the line. We’re returning one of our linebackers — the other one played some time last year. I think we’re going to be OK.”
While Smith can’t know for sure how things will play out on the scoreboard, he thinks his Chieftains will be competitive. Whatever the results may be, Utica is likely to have a different look this season.
“We have a new offensive coordinator (Matt Marulli),” Smith said. “We’re going to look a little different; we’re going to look a lot the same. See how things go.”
Utica Eisenhower Eagles
Last season’s record: 8-3
League: Macomb Area Conference Red Division
Returning starters: Approximately nine
As is the case with Utica High, Eisenhower coach Chris Smith also thinks his team has the potential to have a solid passing, receiving and running attack. And with an offensive unit he hopes is mostly solidified, Smith would like to see his offensive line help do its part by providing the kind of protection that may be required to achieve success.
“The whole offensive line is new, so it’s how those kids come together and play together,” Smith said. “We have a good quarterback (Dan Chmielewski), and we got a good, strong running back — good possession receivers. So, the main thing for us is the offensive line.”
Charlie Hayes and Adam Figlan are a couple of the receivers Smith would like to see contribute to the Eagles’ offense.
Speed makes a lot of coaches happy, and Smith thinks he has just that on the defensive unit. He is hoping to take advantage of that strength via putting the ball back in the hands of his offense.
“We got a lot of team speed,” Smith said. “We’re pretty young up front. We got four returning starters at defensive back. We’re going to have a lot of quickness, a lot of speed. We’re going to be very aggressive. I think the key for us is trying to create turnovers.”
Given that Eisenhower competes in a tough MAC Red Division, wins won’t be easy to come by. With the kind of competition his team is likely to see within the division, and the unpredictability of how games will play out on a week-to-week basis, Smith prefers to focus on what his team can control — being properly prepared once the whistle blows.
“We could be 0-5 in our league, we could be 5-0,” he said. “The key is to keep the kids focused, and work to get better every day — getting them prepared to play in every game. If they’re prepared, you’re at least giving them a chance.”
Macomb Lutheran North Mustangs
Last season’s record: 5-4
Returning starters: 12
Coach Ryan Wesley cited getting the ball downfield as an offensive key for the Mustangs. Wesley is hoping that plan of attack will open up more room for running back Trevor Mason, who Wesley said had more than 1,300 total yards last season and was selected to the All-Catholic team.
“We’ve got a great group of skill position players, who, hopefully, will remove people out of the box and give us room to run,” he said. “We’ve got a tremendous running back; we’ve got a tremendous quarterback (Will Kruse). This will be his fourth year on varsity, so we’re expecting big things out of him. Big, strong kid with a 4.2 GPA — he’s really smart in his decision-making.”
Wide receiver Vince Petitta, tight end Travis McConnell, and the offensive line, including tackle Austin Bass, could also play a big role in the offense.
Defensively, Wesley wants his squad to be aggressive and “get after people.” He offered some ideas as to how his defense can go about doing that.
“Be strong up front,” Wesley said. “We’re going to run a 3-4 and try to move a lot of people around — not just be a typical sit-back defense.”
Wesley said he is “cautiously optimistic” about the upcoming season. If North is able to make a postseason appearance, the path to get there isn’t likely to be an easy one.
“We’ve got our toughest schedule in school history,” Wesley said. “I think somewhere around seven or eight of our nine opponents were in the playoffs last year. Two of them — (Detroit) Loyola and (Ann Arbor) Father Gabriel Richard — made it to, at least, the final four.”
Warren De La Salle Pilots
Last season’s record: 5-4
League: Catholic High School League Central
Returning starters: Six
De La Salle coach Paul Verska said taking care of the football and developing the offensive line will be vital to De La Salle’s offensive success this season. Verska is looking for contributions from senior quarterback Giovanni Rescigno, senior running back Sam Badalamenti, senior offensive lineman Stephen Garrity, senior wide receiver Brent Morris, and senior wide receiver Carter Wilson. Last season was the first time De La Salle missed the Michigan High School Athletic Association state playoffs since 2005.
Verska said stopping the opposition’s ground game and limiting big plays are musts if the Pilots hope to have a strong season. Verska said he expects strong play from senior linebacker Jared Wangler and senior defensive back Mario Agosta.
“We will be young, but look forward to developing our youth throughout the season. We have one of the most difficult schedules in the state, which really minimizes our room for error but creates a great opportunity for our program.
“We had a tremendous commitment to the off-season workout program. We hope that the effort and enthusiasm showed in the off-season will carry into the fall.”