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Lake Orion, Oakland Township, Pontiac, Rochester, Rochester Hills

August 28, 2013

Rochester Post high school football preview

By Christian Davis and Mike Moore
C & G Sports Writers

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Rochester Adams’ Clarence Broadnax breaks to the outside against Ferndale High in a scrimmage Aug. 22 at home. The Highlanders are looking to bounce back after missing the playoffs last season.
Rochester High
8/29 @ Utica High
9/6 @ Troy High
9/13 vs. Clarkston High
9/20 @ West Bloomfield High
9/27 @ Pontiac High
10/4 vs. Lake Orion High
10/11 @ Troy Athens
10/18 vs. Rochester Hills Stoney Creek
10/25 TBD

Rochester Hills Stoney Creek
8/29 @ Royal Oak High
9/6 vs. Pontiac High
9/13 @ Troy High
9/20 vs. Lake Orion High
9/27 @ Clarkston High
10/4 vs. Troy Athens
10/11 @ West Bloomfield High
10/18 @ Rochester High
10/25 TBD

Rochester Adams
8/31 vs. Clarkston High
9/6 @ Farmington Hills Harrison
9/13 vs. Oak Park High
9/20 @ Southfield-Lathrup
9/27 vs. Oxford High
10/4 vs. Farmington High
10/11 @ Southfield High
10/18 @ Bloomfield Hills High
10/25 TBD

Auburn Hills Avondale
8/29 @ Redford Union
9/6 vs. Birmingham Seaholm
9/13 vs. Royal Oak High
9/20 @ Birmingham Groves
9/27 vs. Berkley High
10/4 @ North Farmington
10/11 @ Hazel Park High
10/18 vs. Ferndale High
10/25 vs. Ypsilanti High

Lake Orion High
8/30 @ Oxford High
9/6 vs. Troy Athens
9/13 vs. West Bloomfield High
9/20 @ Rochester Hills Stoney Creek
9/28 @ Troy High
10/4 @ Rochester High
10/11 vs. Pontiac High
10/18 @ Clarkston High
10/25 TBD

Pontiac Notre Dame Prep
8/29 @ Dearborn Heights Robichaud
9/6 vs. Hamtramck High
9/13 vs. Ortonville-Brandon
9/20 @ Flint Powers Catholic
9/27 vs. Detroit Loyola
10/5 @ Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard
10/11 vs. Macomb Lutheran North
10/18 @ Dearborn Divine Child
10/25 TBD

Auburn Hills Oakland Christian
8/31 @ Clarkston Everest Collegiate
9/6 vs. Mayville
9/13 vs. Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett
9/20 vs. Lutheran Westland
9/27 @ Sterling Heights Parkway Christian
10/4 vs. Rochester Hills Lutheran Northwest
10/11 @ Southfield Christian
10/18 @ Dearborn Heights Star International
10/25  @ Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes

Rochester Hills Lutheran Northwest
8/29 @ Big Rapids CrossroadsAcademy
9/7 @ Royal Oak Shrine
9/13 vs. Southfield Christian
9/20 @ Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett
9/27 vs. Lutheran Westland
10/4 @ Auburn Hills Oakland Christian
10/11 vs. Sterling Heights Parkway Christian
10/18 vs. Hamtramck High
10/25  vs. Southfield Bradford

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.

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

Rochester High Falcons
Last season’s record: 5-4
League: Oakland Activities Association Red Division
Returning starters: 15
Offensive keys:
The Falcons return seven starters, including some size up front. Coach Erik Vernon said the offensive line is bigger than it has been in the past.

“We just have to be physical. If we can, it’ll open up our play-action for us,” he said.

Defensive keys:
Of the eight starters back on defense, seven of them play on the line or linebacker.

“We just have to be able to replace a couple guys in the defensive backfield, not give up big plays, and we’ll be all right,” Vernon said. “Being able to have a group of guys that know what it’s like to play in big games is an advantage. We just have to find some depth. We need some guys to step up.”

Coach’s outlook:
Rochester last made the playoffs in 2010. Last season, a win in either of its final two games would have punched its ticket.

“If we can stay healthy, we have just as good of a shot as anyone of making the playoffs,” Vernon said.

Rochester plays four home games this season, with Lake Orion High, Clarkston High, Rochester Adams and Rochester Hills Stoney Creek paying a visit.

In the last three seasons, the Falcons are 13-3 on their own turf.

“We get the tough teams at home (this season),” Vernon said. “Hopefully, things go our way, and we stay healthy.”

Rochester Adams Highlanders
Last season’s record: 4-5
League: Oakland Activities Association White Division
Returning starters: Eight

Offensive keys:
Last season’s 25 points-per-game average was the lowest point output for the Highlanders since 1996. Coach Tony Patritto sees room for improvement.

“The key is to be balanced and not turn the ball over as much as we did last year,” he said.

A lot of the potential success resides with returning senior quarterback Matt Sokol.

“He’s a big, strong, athletic kid that can run a lot of different things for us,” Patritto said.

Sokol has verbally committed to play tight end for Michigan State University next fall.

Defensive keys:
The Highlanders held opponents to seven points or fewer in three games, but gave up more than 28 points in four others.

Patritto said that he’ll need players without a lot of varsity experience to step up and be leaders right away.

“We have a lot of new guys and have to get better playing good, sound defense,” the coach said.

Coach’s outlook:
Last season ended a streak of 15 straight years of making the playoffs.

“We’re trying not to talk about it. We know the mistakes we made and why we weren’t successful,” Patritto said. “We’re trying to fix those things, but at this point, you can only focus on the future, specifically the first game.”

Adams opens with Clarkston High, which 11-1 last season.

“We had a good summer, especially our younger guys, so I’m hoping it pays off,” Patritto added. “We have a difficult schedule and it starts with Clarkston, which very well may be the best team in the state.”

Lake Orion High Dragons
Last season’s record: 11-2
League: Oakland Activities Association Red Division
Returning starters: Nine

Offensive keys:
The Dragons averaged 36 points per game last season — the record in school history.

Lake Orion returns five starters, but mostly at the skill positions, as it’s bringing in four new offensive linemen.

Another position in flux is quarterback, where coach Chris Bell hasn’t ruled out using a two-back system with Kyle Bell and Conner Grant.

Most of the experience comes from the slot and running back positions. The Dragons have four players who had more than 50 carries last season. 

Defensive keys:
Defense has been a staple for Lake Orion. The Dragons haven’t let up more than 200 points in a season since 2000. Last year, the unit allowed 13 points per game.

Lake Orion returns four starters with Trenton Elkins on the line, Brennan Rourke and Grant at linebacker, and Charlie Highland at cornerback.

Coach’s outlook:
“We return a very solid football team.  On paper, we may not return a ton of starters, but the kids that are coming back are impact players, and the new starters this year saw a lot of game time last season, so it should be a ‘next men up’ situation,” Bell said. “Our schedule is tougher this year with many of the teams in our league much improved, so we have our work cut out for us, but we expect to be in the thick of things challenging for the league title and another playoff berth.”

Rochester Hills Stoney Creek Cougars
Last season’s record: 5-4
League: Oakland Activities Association Red Division
Returning starters: 13

Offensive keys:
“We play an exciting brand of football, and if the boys can execute and continue to play fast, we’ll be in good shape,” coach Brad Zube said.

The Cougars return seven starters to an offense that scored more than 34 points in five games last season.

Justin Allor is back at quarterback, and Sean Scullen is in the backfield. Scullen rushed for more than 1,000 yards and had 20 touchdowns last season.

Joe Cox also sees plenty of touches; he had more than 700 total yards and 10 touchdowns last year.

Defensive keys:
The squad has six starters back with Scullen at free safety, Cox at strong safety, Jack Van Almen and Joe Platz returning to their linebacker spots, and Ben Kast and Ryan Andrusz holding down the defensive line.

“We have some kids who love to hit, which is always a great recipe for success on defense,” Zube said. “We will need to be very physical to compete with the larger schools in our division.”

Coach’s outlook:
“We’re excited to continue building off of last year’s success. I really like this year,” Zube said. “This is a close-knit group that really knows how to play as a team. They had a great summer and can’t wait to get the season started.”

Rochester Hills Lutheran Northwest Crusaders
Last season’s record: 5-4
League: Michigan Independent Athletic Association
Returning starters: 4

Offensive keys:
The Crusaders have plenty of potential when it comes to the offensive side of the ball, but experience is something that is lacking.

All three returning starters are along the offensive line, but the skill positions feature a collection of varsity rookies.

“The offensive line has to lead us,” coach Don Justice said. “We have three returning starters there and another two who saw significant time, so they have to be the group that we depend on.”

Junior Brian Miseovich will start the year under center, but the running game will be the primary method of attack.

“Fortunately, to have a junior varsity program, these kids have played a lot the past few years,” Justice said. “It’s just a new speed they have to adjust to. We’re going to work a lot at practice, but with numbers down a bit, we have to make the most of our scrimmages and then dive right into the season.”

“We’re going to try and run the ball,” Justice added. “Brian does a great job and has at our passing camps, but we’re going to rely on the offensive line to create some space for the running game.”

Defensive keys:
A lot of the same facts that apply to the offense will apply to the defense, as well. The returning starters are along the line, while the linebackers and the secondary players are very young.

“They have to grow up fast,” Justice said with a laugh. “They have to be willing to jump in and take on some bigger, older kids.”

The Crusaders allowed just 204 points last season, and that included a 33-14 loss to Grosse Pointe University Liggett in the final regular-season game and a 39-33 loss to Flint Beecher in a playoff opener.

“I think, potentially, we can be just as strong and not allow as many points,” Justice said. “Again, it’s going to be tough to run the ball on us, but if teams are able to pass on us, then we could be in some trouble.”

Coach’s outlook
“I believe we have a team that can get back to the playoffs,” Justice said. “I also think we can be in the hunt for a league title. … My thought is we will be in every game, and they will all be close, which is all you can ask for. But this is a team that can compete in the league and should be in the playoffs.”

Pontiac Notre Dame Prep Fighting Irish
Last season’s record: 9-2
League: Catholic League AA Division 
Returning starters: 12

Offensive keys:
The weapons are there.

Now, it’s a matter of protecting them and giving them time to operate.

That’s, more or less, what Prep coach Kyle Zimmerman said before camp started when speaking about his 2013 offense and the potential it holds.

“We’re going to be young up front, but all the guys in the skill spots are back,” Zimmerman said.

Prep scored 320 points last year, down from 409 in 2011, but still the second-most in program history for a single season.

Running back Jermaih Johnston returns after rushing for more than 1,500 yards and 23 touchdowns last fall.

Quarterback Brendan Newvine is also back after taking over before the playoffs started last year.

So it comes down to the guys up front.

“Truthfully, this is one of the biggest offensive lines we’ve had,” Zimmerman said. “They are just young and need to get some experience.”

Defensive keys:
While younger in the corner spots, the Fighting Irish have plenty of veterans up front, which is where the team’s strength likely will reside.

“Getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks has to happen,” Zimmerman explained. “The front seven is real solid with a group of guys that has a lot of experience. If we can stop the run and avoid the big play over the top, we’re going to be in good shape.”

Prep allowed just 12.8 points per game a year ago and should be just as strong this fall.

Coach’s outlook
Following an 8-1 regular season, Prep cruised past Livonia Clarenceville 41-20 in a Division 4 playoff opener before falling to Country Day 14-12 in a game that came down to the final plays.

“That left a sour taste in our mouth,” Zimmerman said. “We came up shorter than we felt we could have, and should have, but we had a great offseason, and now we’re at a level where we feel we can get back to where we were and then make a run at a D-4 title.”

Auburn Hills Avondale Yellow Jackets
Last season’s record: 9-2
League: Oakland Activities Association Blue Division
Returning starters: Eight

Offensive keys:
Scoring points has never been a problem for the Yellow Jackets. Last season, they averaged 33 points per game, scoring more than 40 in five games.

This time around, they have plenty of help in the backfield with running backs Chase Lalla and Josh Holloman.

Lalla is a two-year starter and averaged 9.7 yards a carry last season. Holloman rushed for more than 800 yards and had 12 touchdowns. He was timed at a 4.23 seconds in the 40-yard dash at a camp over the summer.

Up front, Kanwal Bal is in his third year starting on the line.

Defensive keys:
Avondale allowed more than 22 points in only three games last season, in large part due to its defensive line, which is once again stacked with size and experience.

Seniors Paul Czartorski and Mitch Williams are both going into their fourth year of starting and are joined by three-year starter Tiroca Battle. The trio also brings bulk, averaging 273 pounds between them.

Coach’s outlook:
Coach Steve Deutsch believes his team has what it takes to win the division, but it has to stay healthy.

“We can’t afford an injury. Numbers are up in the program, but we have a small varsity,” he said. “How fast we fill holes and leadership left by an outstanding senior class will determine our success.”

Auburn Hills Oakland Christian Lancers
Last season’s record: 2-7
League: Michigan Interscholastic Athletic Conference
Returning starters: 12

Offensive keys
The Lancers scored 162 points a year ago — the most in program history.

But with seven offensive starters back in the mix, the potential for this year’s group is sky high.

“We expect to score some points,” coach William Schafer said simply.

Junior Javarian Smith returns to the quarterback spot, starting under center for the third straight season. As a sophomore, he tossed 18 touchdowns and rushed for another six.

“He knows our offense and has three years to fall back on,” Schafer said. “The guys look to him, and they believe in him.”

Stephen Nichols, a 6-feet-4-inch, 220-pound receiver, will serve as Smith’s main target.

“He’s the go-to guy,” Schafer said of Nichols, who had eight touchdown catches in 2012.

Sophomore Ryan Kostich will work from the slot, while Bobby Roose, a three-year starter, is set to anchor the offensive line.

Defensive keys:
Five starters are back for the defensive unit, and improving on a 36 point-per-game average allowed is where everything starts.

“With the offensive power we have, and the size of the guys we have on both sides of the ball, we feel we can hold teams to 21 points or less,” Schafer said. “If we can do that as a defense, the offense is going to find ways to score enough to get us some wins.”

Schafer said the speed and athleticism of his defense is key.

“The guys in the backfield, especially, they are fast, they are big, and they can fly around and hit. They are hungry to be better.”

Coach’s outlook:
The 2013 season marks the sixth for Oakland Christian, but nine wins are all the program has to show for it.

Schafer thinks that’s all about to change.

“This is the sixth year of the football program, and this is the first time, in my opinion, we’ve had a true, varsity football team,” he said. “We used to be the team everyone wanted to schedule for their homecoming, but we have the skill, the experience and the talent this year to greatly turn things around.”

You can reach C & G Sports Writer Christian Davis at cdavis@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1062. Twitter Follow Christian on Twitter.

You can reach C & G Sports Writer Mike Moore at mmoore@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1038. Twitter Follow Mike on Twitter.