Return to the gridiron: Sterling Heights Sentry

By: Jason Carmel Davis | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published August 26, 2014

 Sterling Heights Stevenson junior signal-caller Frankie D’Ascenzo will be charged with leading the Titans offense this season. D’Ascenzo is pictured during an Aug. 13 practice.

Sterling Heights Stevenson junior signal-caller Frankie D’Ascenzo will be charged with leading the Titans offense this season. D’Ascenzo is pictured during an Aug. 13 practice.

Photo by Patricia O'Blenes

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. For a look at every local team and their complete schedule, visit and click on the Sports tab.

Sterling Heights Stevenson Titans
Last season’s record: 4-5, 2-3
League: MAC Red
Returning starters: Eight
First game: vs. Troy High, 7 p.m. Aug. 28

Offensive keys: First-year coach Kevin Frederick, who comes to Stevenson after spending seven years at Whittemore-Prescott, said he wants his team to play intelligently and aggressively. Frederick said he believes the skill positions will be a strength, and he wants to play an up-tempo, balanced style on offense. Frederick is hopeful the team can limit mistakes and turnovers, as well. He’s looking at senior wide receiver Greg McDade, senior offensive lineman Zach Manolios and junior quarterback Frankie D’Ascenzo to lead the unit.

Defensive keys: Like the offensive side of the ball, Frederick said he wants the Titans defense to play aggressively, but smart. He’s looking at the defensive secondary to be a strength. Frederick said the development of Stevenson’s front seven is vital. The first-year Stevenson coach tapped his secondary — junior Levi Jackson, junior Braye Sonnenberg, junior Jared Cutlip and senior Terry Sanders, as the leaders of the defense.

Coach’s outlook: “Coming in late, we have a lot of kids who are ready to play and who are looking to get Stevenson back on track. There’s a lot of competition at a lot of positions right now. Learning a system late in the summer has been a little difficult, but the kids are doing a good job of picking it up, and I still expect big things at this point.”

Utica Ford II Falcons
Last season’s record: 1-8, 0-5 MAC Red
League: MAC White
Returning starters: Eight
First game: at Royal Oak, 7 p.m. Aug. 29

Offensive keys: Ford II coach Todd Winters, in his sixth year with the Falcons, said the depth of the team is vital. The Falcons have about 80 players, and that will lend itself to strong competition every day in practice. He said the team is three or four players deep at running back, and the team itself has solid size and speed. The coach said he’s  expecting strong play from junior running back Michael DeRoy, senior quarterback Sammy Shkreli, senior offensive lineman David Uher, senior wide receiver Jie Hemphill II, senior offensive lineman Mack Ely, senior wide receiver Eric Bielecki and senior offensive lineman Kurvani Gladney to lead the group. The Falcons averaged just 8.9 points per game last season.

Defensive keys: Winters continued to tout Ford II’s depth, speed and size when talking about its defense. He’s optimistic the team can see a drop in the 33.2 points per game the Falcons allowed in 2013. Winters said he expects senior defensive lineman Michael Ciechorski, junior defensive back Pierce Banks, senior defensive back Dante D’Andrea, senior defensive lineman John Zefi, and senior linebackers Brandon Kengel and Ryan Long to head up the defense.

Coach’s outlook: “We’re very optimistic this year. Our program numbers are at an all-time high. We have 80 varsity (players) signed up. That’s the most we’ve ever had. Our summer workouts have been well attended. Players are excited and ready to begin (the season). The main key is how well these guys jell together. If they do that and compete every day, we’ll have a successful season.”

Sterling Heights High Stallions
Last season’s record: 1-8, 0-5
League: MAC Gold
Returning starters: 13
First game: at Dearborn Edsel Ford, 7 p.m. Aug. 28

Offensive keys: Head coach Brent Widdows, in his fifth year leading Sterling Heights High, said he thinks his team, which he said was really young last season, will now be able to grasp and run more advanced schemes. Widdows is looking to senior running back Derrow Sanders, senior center Austin Hauer, junior running back Decari Walden, junior quarterback Jacob Cyccone and junior fullback Devin Cleghorn to lead the offense and improve on the 13.1 points per game scored by the Sterling Heights High offense in 2013.

Defensive keys: Widdows at the start of last season said his defense was full of youth. That youth now has a full season of varsity experience, and the Stallions’ coach is hopeful, similar to his offense, that the defensive players will be able to grasp and stick with some more advanced schemes. Widdows said he expects strong play from senior linebacker Andrew Niedbala, junior defensive lineman Joshua Hunley and Sanders, who will play defensive end.

Coach’s outlook: “We’re returning 22 players. That’s really good for us. Our roster will hold about 38 players. Last year was a rough year. We started a lot of sophomores. The good news is those guys are all coming back with a year of experience under their belts.”

Sterling Heights Parkway Christian Eagles
Last season’s record: 5-5, 2-3
League: Michigan Independent Athletic Conference
Returning starters: 14
First game: vs. Hamtramck, 7 p.m. Aug. 29

Offensive keys: First-year Parkway Christian head coach Roderic Sanders, who served as special teams coordinator, and offensive and defensive line coach for the Eagles in 2006, said staying healthy will play a huge role in how the team performs on offense this season. Parkway Christian averaged 27.8 points per game in 2013 on its way to the state playoffs. Sanders is looking for solid play from sophomore quarterback Ricardo Marble, senior wide receiver Michael Ostlund and senior offensive lineman Noah Ouellette.

Defensive keys: Sanders, again, said health will be vital to Parkway Christian’s fortunes on defense. The Eagles allowed 23 points per game last season on the way to the program’s fifth postseason appearance. Sanders, who also coached at St. Clair Shores South Lake, Grosse Pointe University Liggett and Zoe Christian High School in Warren, is looking for contributions from junior defensive lineman Matt Couture, junior linebacker Eric Dalen and junior defensive back Josiah McLain.

Coach’s outlook: “We’re going to hit the field hoping to get better as a football team each week.”