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Clinton Township, Fraser

August 27, 2013

Fraser-Clinton Chronicle high school football preview

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Fraser-Clinton Chronicle high school football preview
Chippewa Valley football players take part in a recent practice. Coach Scott Merchant thinks the kind of success the Big Reds have this season could depend on how many “close” games they can win in the Macomb Area Conference Red Division.

Game on

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 information of the location and times for those game, contact the host team. For a complete list of all the schedules, visit www.mhsaa.com

Clinton Township Chippewa Valley
8-29 @ Dearborn*
9-6 vs. Romeo
9-13 @ Utica Eisenhower*
9-20 @ Grosse Pointe North
9-27 vs. Utica Ford
10-4 vs. New Baltimore Anchor Bay
10-11 @ Sterling Heights Stevenson
10-18 @ Macomb Dakota
10-25 vs. Port Huron

* Eisenhower plays home games at Swinehart Field

Fraser
8-29 vs. Marysville
9-5 @ Port Huron Northern
9-13 vs. Grosse Pointe South
9-20 vs. Utica Ford
9-27 @ Warren Mott
10-4 @ Grosse Pointe North
10-11 vs. Harrison Township L’Anse Creuse
10-18 @ Macomb L’Anse Creuse  North
10-25 vs. Sterling Heights

Prep football teams will be back on the gridiron beginning Aug. 29. Here’s a rundown of each local team, along with a couple of the neighboring private school squads.

For all the previews from our local teams, visit our website at www.candgnews.com and click on the Sports link.

Chippewa Valley Big Reds
Last season’s record: 5-5
League: Macomb Area Conference Red Division
Returning starters: 11

Offensive keys:

According to coach Scott Merchant, Chippewa will have approximately seven returning starters in the mix on the offensive side of the ball.  One of those returning starters is senior quarterback Brendan Rohlfs, who Merchant said threw for approximately 1,400 yards, with 11 touchdowns and just one interception last season. Merchant will be looking for him to help lead the way for the Big Reds.

“He had a really good year last year,” he said. “We expect him to have a great year; your quarterback’s (the) leader of your offense. He’s a captain, a good kid and a good player. When you have two years experience, that’s a nice luxury to have.”

Defensive keys:

Defensively, Merchant said Chippewa has three linebackers and two defensive linemen who have to be replaced. And while he can’t be all over the field, Merchant is hoping defensive lineman Sicelo Robinson can help anchor Chippewa’s defensive unit.

“He was a second-team All-County player last year as a junior,” he said. “He’s a really good player. He’s really a key guy for us on defense. Our secondary should be a strength, but we’ve got to replace most of our front. He was a very good player last year, but he’s going to have to play an even bigger role this year with the losses we had. We lost some really good seniors from our defense last year.”

Coach’s outlook:

According to Merchant, every year, there are a lot of close games played in the MAC Red. He thinks winning the majority of those kind of games will be a key in determining the kind of season the Big Reds have.

“There’s a lot of good teams in our conference,” he said. “A lot of games come down to the final minutes. I think we’re going to have a good team. How good is going to depend on how many of those close, tough games we can win. I have a good group of seniors. They’re providing good leadership for our team, and we’re excited about the season.”

Fraser Ramblers
Last season’s record: 1-8
League: Macomb Area Conference Blue Division
Returning starters: Nine

Offensive keys:

Fraser coach Patrick Threet cited having a solid running game as a key for how the Ramblers go on offense this upcoming season.  To help accomplish that, he has turned to senior running back Nate Heyward.

“He kind of rotated last year and showed some flashes,” he said. “We’re looking for him to step up and take that role as the every-down running back. That’s a big key.”

Threet would like to see Heyward get some help from players such as quarterback Dean Snider, Brad Ouimet (receiver), Ryan Regner (receiver), and offensive linemen Matt Rowan and Nick Rowan.

Defensive keys:

According to Threet, on the defensive side of the ball, “it starts up front” with the  defensive line. Threet will be looking for a couple of his returning players to help make the defensive line an area of strength.

“Right now, Matt Rowan’s a returning starter, and Jim Shock is a returning starter on the defensive line,” he said. “Those two guys are big kids, and it’s their second year, so they should, hopefully, lead the way for us.”

Threet would also like to see defensive contributions from Marcus Bowers, Orande Roy, Diallo Bellamy, Andy Mach, Matt Keys and Joe Lamb.

Coach’s outlook:

Despite a rough 2012 season, Threet has been impressed with the work ethic and attitude he has seen from his team. Sometimes, a season of struggles can result in future rewards, and Threet is hoping that will be the case this season.

“It’s a new year,” he said. “Some of our weaknesses were starting a lot of juniors and sophomores, but I think that’ll be our strength, because we got a lot of guys that did get a chance to play last year. They’re working hard, the kids like each other and I think we have an athletic team. I’m looking forward to it. I think having success early is very important for us. Get out of the gate at home with a win will be the right way to start the season.”

Warren De La Salle Pilots
Last season’s record: 5-4
League: Catholic High School League Central
Returning starters: Six

Offensive keys:

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.

Defensive keys:
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.

Coach’s outlook:

“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.” 

Macomb Lutheran North
Last season’s record: 5-4
League: Catholic-AA
Returning starters: 12

Offensive keys:

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 over 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.

Defensive keys:

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.”

Coach’s outlook:

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.”