Monday, November 26, 2012

State Finals Reaction -- Offensive and Defensive MVP's

Offensive MVP: Shon Powell, Brother Rice Running Back
Powell capped off an impressive and relatively unexpected postseason run with a strong performance on Friday afternoon as the junior running back rushed for just under 100 yards on just seven carries for the game, while finding the end zone in the second half as well. In five playoff games, Powell rushed for over 550 yards and seven touchdowns after rushing for less than 400 yards in nine regular season games to help lead the playoff push for the Warriors as they captured their second straight state title for the first time in history.
Defensive/Special Teams MVP: Jason Alessi, Brother Rice DB/KR
This MVP for Alessi goes with an assist from Delano Madison, who received the kickoff after Muskegon tied the game up at 28-28, took a few steps and threw a near perfect pass back across the field to Alessi and the rest was history as Alessi returned the ball 91 yards for the game-winning score. But Alessi also had a big game on defense as he finished with a game-high 12 tackles, including two tackles which might have prevented a long touchdown run by Muskegon quarterback Jalen Smith
Final Word: The true MVP of this game is without a doubt the Brother Rice play-callers. To dial up not one, but two gutsy trick plays late in the fourth quarter was the difference maker for the Warriors as Muskegon just could not stop the Brother Rice trickery. Don't forget about the defense's performance either as the Warriors held Muskegon's star back John King to just 23 yards rushing for the game, something that very few teams have been able to do this year.
A 3-peat is not out of the question for the Warriors next year as Brother Rice will return quite a few players on offense and defense in 2013. Offensively, Brother Rice will return Powell and Brian Walker, who was the lead back all season long, along with sophomore gunslinger Alex Malzone and receivers Josh Flye, Corey Lacanaria and Grant Perry, which should make for one of the most balanced offenses that the state will have to offer. Defensively, the Warriors will be strong once again, especially in the secondary with defensive back Chris Carter joining Alessi in the defensive backfield once again. Defensive lineman Alberto Sandoval and linebacker Shaun Jones, who came up with a key pass breakup and a fumble recovery deep in Muskegon's end to set up the go-ahead touchdown by Powell, will also be key contributors for the Warrior's defense in 2013 as well.
It's also hard to believe that this is the first time in Brother Rice history where the Warriors have won back-to-back state titles, considering all of the success they've had in the past few decades. But if this was in fact the final game for legendary head coach Al Fracassa, there couldn't be a better way to go out after yet another state title.

Offensive MVP: Derek Woltjer, South Christian Quarterback
It's hard to believe that Woltjer was only a backup quarterback. The South Christian signal caller made it look easy on Friday night as he picked apart the Country Day defense in more ways than one. Woltjer finished the D-4 state final game with a game-high 153 yards rushing on just 15 carries, while finding the end zone twice on the ground. Through the air, Woltjer was just as good as he finished with a perfect 8-for-8 passing for 88 yards and two more touchdowns. I don't think it gets much better than that for a quarterback.
Defensive MVP: Derrick Coleman, Country Day Defensive Lineman
Coleman was one of the few Country Day players that were able to disrupt the South Christian offensive rhythm on Friday night as he finished with two sacks, three tackles for loss as well as a forced fumble. There weren't many bright spots to see for the Yellowjackets on Friday night, but Coleman was definitely one of them.
Final Word: It just wasn't meant to be for Country Day. The Yellowjackets had no answer for the South Christian read option on Friday night and whenever it seemed like they found a way to slow down the run, South Christian burned Country Day with a pass. This ugly loss came at the hands of an inexperienced, but very athletic back-up quarterback, who was filling in for Jon Wassink, South Christian's starting quarterback who was hurt near the end of the semifinal win for the Sailors. But Country Day should have been well aware of what Woltjer was capable of, considering he was one of Wassinks top receivers during the season.
This isn't going to be a case for Country Day where they will have to rebuild and shoot for a return to the state finals down the road, because the Yellowjackets will have a number of starters returning for the 2013 season. With quarterback Tyler Wiegers and running back Richie Wilson, who are both considered big time Division 1 college recruits, returning next year, along with receivers Maurice Ways (another D-1 recruit) and Tristin Wiegers coming back next season, the Yellowjackets will have one of the most explosive offenses in the state once again next season.

Offensive MVP: Mike Weber, Cass Tech Running Back
Weber averaged nearly eight yards per carry for the Technicians against a very stout Catholic Central defense and the Shamrocks really didn't have an answer for him from the start. What was the biggest play of the game for Weber was his 57 yard run on 3rd and long deep in Cass Tech's own end, which set up a 30 yard touchdown run by Deon Drake on the very next play to put the Technicians ahead 22-7. And from there, Cass Tech never looked back as the held at least two score lead for the rest of the game.
Defensive MVP: David Widzinski, Catholic Central Linebacker
One of the bright spots for Catholic Central on Saturday was the sophomore linebacker, who was a tackling machine from start to finish for the Shamrocks on Saturday afternoon. Widzinski finished with a game-high 15 tackles on the day, which was nine more than anyone else on the Catholic Central defense and  four more than any player on the Cass Tech defense. Widzinski will be a key returning player for the Shamrock defense in 2013.
Final Word: This game belonged to Cass Tech from the start. The first play from scrimmage for the Technicians was an 89 yard strike from Jayru Campbell to Jourdan Lewis and the game had an immediate feel that was similar to last year's contest. To make matters worse for the Shamrocks, they fumbled just inside the 50 yard line and Kenton Gibbs scooped the ball up and headed 58 yards to give Cass Tech a 12-0 edge early on. Give credit to Catholic Central for battling back and making it a game late in the first half with a score on an 18 yard pass by Garrett Moores to Zach Bock, but the Shamrocks just couldn't match the speed or athleticism of Cass Tech.
There will be plenty to look forward to next season as Catholic Central will try to make it three straight appearances in the state title game, but if that's the case and the Shamrocks do make it back to Ford Field, they should expect Cass Tech to be there as well once again. Look for Widzinski as well as one of the state's top defensive ends in Dylan Roney along with a couple of other players to help lead the Catholic Central defense in 2013. Offensively, Bock will be one of a few players returning for the Shamrocks next season as they will look to fill the void of a number of seniors who helped set the table for Catholic Central over the course of the past two years.

**Considering this game saw a state finals records of 1,033 total yards between the two teams, 579 total yards by St. Mary's for another state record as well as one or two more state records, I felt it would be neccessary to add in another offensive MVP category, rather than have a defensive MVP.**
Offensive MVP: Drake Harris, Grand Rapids Christian Wide Receiver
What is there to say about the performance from Harris? This was a performance for the ages by the Michigan State-bound junior who hauled in eight catches for 243 yards which is a state finals record. Harris did haul in a touchdown pass, but his biggest influence in the game came on the final drive of regulation for Grand Rapids Christian as he came up with a huge catch on fourth down and hung onto a 15 yard catch after getting drilled and upended by St. Mary's defensive back Tyson Smith. There were too many spectacular catches to sum up Harris' performance on Saturday, but anything thrown in his direction, he caught, which proved to be the difference.
Offensive MVP(s) (Part Two): Grant Niemiec and Parker McInnis, St. Mary's Running backs
If it weren't for Harris, the two headed monster out of the OLSM backfield would have been the ones who stole the show as the dynamic duo combined for over 400 yards rushing on Saturday night. McInnis rushed for over 10 yards per carry on his way to a 269 yard effort on the night, while Niemiec averaged six yards per attempt as he finished with 168 yards to go along with three touchdowns. Give the big assist to the Eaglet's offensive line for their dominant performance for the second straight state finals as they helped pave the way for the OLSM rushing attack finished with 459 total yards rushing and four touchdowns and four touchdowns.
Final Word: There were a countless amount of contributions to this outcome on Saturday, from the performance by Harris, to the St. Mary's rushing attack, to the clutch field goals from Joel Schipper, who kicked the game tying field goal with less four seconds left in regulation and then the game-winner in overtime. But game came down to the decision to go for it on fourth down on the Grand Rapids Christian three yard line, rather than to kick the field goal and hope for a defensive stand.
However, OLSM head coach George Porritt noted after the game that he wasn't sure if three points would have been enough considering just how effective the GRC aerial attack had been behind quarterback Alex VanDeVusse. But we will never know if three points would have been enough to at least send the game to a second overtime, and you can't blame Porritt and the coaching staff for making the decision to go for the touchdown over the field goal.
While this is a big senior class that has accomplished a ton for the St. Mary's program, the Eaglets have been dominant for the past 13 years and there's no sign of them slowing down even with all of the seniors they will lose to graduation. With receivers Jalen Watts-Jackson, Van Jefferson and Tyson Smith all returning next year it should make the transition for the next quarterback fairly easy and it could leave the door open for a pretty explosive offense in 2013. All three also play defensive back, and will be joining junior defensive lineman Julian Jones on what could make for another dominant St. Mary's defense next fall.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Thoughts from the OLSM-Grand Rapids Christian D-3 Title Game

If I would have been told last night that there was going to be a game that had just as much excitement and was just as good as the Brother Rice-Muskegon game, I wouldn't have believed it. But that's exactly how good this game was and once again, I'll try to break it down.

- Drake Harris, Drake Harris, Drake Harris. The junior receiver put together one of the best individual performances in state finals history on Saturday. It was tremendous catch after tremendous catch, including two big grabs in the final drive of the game. There was just nothing thrown in his direction that he didn't catch. A simply sensational performance by the Michigan State bound star.

- Harris set the single season record for receiving yards in a season as he cleared the 2,000 yard mark on Saturday and finished the season with 91 catches and 25 touchdowns, just one shy of the state record for receiving touchdowns.

- Harris also broke the state finals record for receiving yards in a state finals game with 243 yards, smashing the previous record of 204.

- Putting together a performance that nearly matched Harris' performance on Saturday was that of Parker McInnis and Grant Niemiec, who rushed for over 400 yards combined and gashed the Grand Rapids Christian defense over and over and over.

- One thing that will be overlooked going forward is the fact that the St. Mary's offensive line was once again dominant for the second straight state finals. The Eaglet front line, with senior road-grader Austin Johnson had its way with the Grand Rapids Christian defense and helped lead the OLSM offense to a state finals record 579 yards of offense.

- Offense anyone? This game shattered the offensive record book as the two teams combined for over 1,000 total yards for the first time in state finals history (1,033 to be exact).

- Don't overlook the play from quarterback Matt Linehan in the first half to help the Eaglets climb back into the game after facing a 20-7 deficit. Linehan made some big throws to sophomore receiver Van Jefferson, including a 33 yard strike to cut the GRC lead to 20-14 late in the first half.

- The decision of the game came in overtime when the Eaglets passed up the opportunity to kick a chip shot field goal and went for it on fourth down on the three yard line. The pass fell incomplete and the Grand Rapids Christian kicked the field goal for the win on the very first play of its offensive possession.

- You can't blame George Porritt and the Eaglet coaching staff to go for it on fourth down, because there was no sure thing that three points would have been enough to hold off GRC until the next overtime. With no answer for Drake Harris, GRC would have had three opportunities to win the game with a pass to Harris in the end zone.

- The flip side of the argument would have been to kick the field goal and hope that the defense can hold off GRC for four plays and give the offense another opportunity to punch it into the end zone. But ultimately I agree with the decision to go for the touchdown on fourth down and put the pressure back on Grand Rapids Christian.

- Don't overlook what the OLSM senior class was able to accomplish, leading a team to the state title game for four consecutive seasons is no easy task, regardless of what division a team is from.

- While the Eaglets will graduate a large senior class, there is no doubt that the Eaglets will be back to Ford Field in the very near future. Making it to the state title game nine times out of the past 13 years is no fluke, and Porritt will have his team ready for a push for another appearance next season.

- It's strange, but maybe it's not an East Grand Rapids curse for the Eaglets, but rather a Grand Rapids curse. It is a strange trend, but I'm not one to believe in curses, and one thing is for sure: Grand Rapids based teams have had OLSM's number dating back to 2007. St. Mary's did win a state title game over a Grand Rapids team back in 1999 with a D-4 title coming over Grand Rapids South Christian.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Halftime Thoughts From OLSM-GR Christian

- The Eaglets are sticking with what they do best, and that's running behind the two-headed monster of Grant Niemiec and Parker McInnis on offense. Both players have rushed for over 100 yards in the first half alone.

- Drake Harris has truly set himself apart from the rest of the field as one of the best receivers in state history. Harris set the single season record for receiving yards and now is just one touchdown catch away from the single season record in that category.

- Everyone knows about the prolific Grand Rapids Christian offense, but the Eaglets need to find a way to somehow slow down the passing attack. Whether it's putting pressure on GRC quarterback Alex VanDeVusse or double covering Harris.

- VanDeVusse hurting OLSM in more ways than one, especially after his 47 yard touchdown run to put GRC ahead 20-7.

- Senior quarterback Matt Linehan came up with two very impressive throws in the second scoring drive of the game for the Eaglets. The first to Niemiec for a first down and then a 33 yard catch and run to Van Jefferson to bring the Eaglets back into the game.

- If Linehan can continue to find success through the air for the Eaglets, it would open up the rushing attack even more for Niemiec and McInnis, which might be too much to handle.

- The blocked field goal at the end of the first half could turn out to be a killer for OLSM. Had a chance to cut it down to a three point game, but luckily it's still a one possession game for the Eaglets.

- The Eaglets need to take advantage of the fact that they're getting the ball to start the second half. A score would really change the outlook of this game going forward.

Thoughts From Catholic Central's D-1 state final loss

- Is Cass Tech to Catholic Central becoming what East Grand Rapids was to Orchard Lake St. Mary's from a couple of years ago? I believe that is the case for these two teams. There are quite a few similarities to take between the two, even considering that there are different circumstances.

- The second half started almost exactly like it did in the first half as Cass Tech came up with a big play on its first drive, while Catholic Central started its first drive with a turnover.

- Mike Weber tortured the Catholic Central defense all game long as he broke off big run after big run to seal the win for the Technicians.

- Arguable the biggest play of the second half was the third play of the half when Weber carried the ball for over 50 yards on a 3rd down and 10 from deep inside Cass Tech's own end, which turned into a touchdown on the very next play for the Technicians.

- One of the bright spots on the afternoon for Catholic Central was sophomore linebacker David Widzinski, who led the way on defense for the Shamrocks with 15 tackles on the day.

- Junior receiver Zach Bock made a pair of touchdown grabs on the day for Catholic Central, including one to cut the Cass Tech lead down to just 12-7.

- The first quarter really seemed to take the wind out of Catholic Central. After all of the waiting and wanting revenge on Cass Tech, the Shamrocks started out in a 12-0 hole before the blink of an eye.

- If you're looking for the next team to "dominate" the state of Michigan, look no further than Cass Tech. With sophomore quarterback Jayru Campbell already having two state titles under his belt in two tries, it's not outlandish to think he could lead the Technicians to four straight state titles.

- You really can't help but marvel at all of the speed and athleticism that Cass Tech has, with a grand total of 19 Division 1 college players on the roster, it's not a surprise that people are calling the Technicians a potential dynasty in the PSL as well as D-1 as a whole.

- Don't forget about the type of legacy that the Catholic Central seniors will leave behind. Many of them were with the program for the state championship win in 2009 and helped lead the Shamrocks to three state finals appearances in four years.

Halftime Thoughts from Catholic Central-Cass Tech

My halftime thoughts from the Catholic Central-Cass Tech game. Cass Tech leads Catholic Central 15-7

- Turnovers are already killing the Shamrocks. Two fumbles in the first quarter, one returned 55 yards for a touchdown and another, which stalled out a Catholic Central drive inside the Cass Tech 40. Then a fourth down interception.

- Some big plays be the Catholic Central defense has kept the Shamrocks in the game, but the offense hasn't been able to take advantage so far.

- After a Cass Tech fumble, Catholic Central finally cashed in late after a phenomenal throw from Garrett Moores with three defenders in his face and perfectly laid the ball into Zack Bock's hands for the 18 yard score.

- The big key to the Catholic Central scoring drive was its ability to convert two 3rd and longs. A draw play to Bock for a 20 yard gain picked up a first down on a 3rd and 16 and then Moore's TD pass was on 3rd down.

- That was a big stand by the CC defense to keep Cass Tech out of the end zone after a long pass down inside the CC 20. To hold the Technicians to just three points kept it a one possession game. Big stand right there.

- The offense has been able to move the ball at times against the Cass Tech defense, but the Technicians have been a lot like Brother Rice's defense yesterday, with a bend-but-don't-break mentality.

- David Houle has been picking up big chunks of yards with some consistency today, doing a great job on some third and short runs to keep the CC drives alive.

- Cass Tech will start the second half with the ball and that will be critical for Catholic Central. If the Shamrocks can keep the Technicians out of the end zone, Catholic Central will have every opportunity to tie the game up.

Thoughts on Country Day's D-4 state final loss

- The difference in the game in my opinion seemed to be the second half adjustments by the South Christian coaching staff, finding ways to keep the Yellowjackets out of rhythm for the majority of the second half after finding some success late in the first half.

- The game got out of hand in a hurry as South Christian turned its first drive of the second half into a touchdown that looked relatively easy. Then the defense forced a three and out for the Country Day offense and on the ensuing punt, South Christian returned it for another score. In the blink of an eye, the score went from a manageable 14-7 deficit to far tougher task to overcome at 28-7

- By no means is the cupboard bare for Country Day looking forward to next year as it will return all four starting skill position players on offense with running back Richie Willson, quarterback Tyler Wiegers, as well as receivers Maurice Ways, and Tristin Wiegers.

- Give credit to the Country Day senior class, which was filled with unsung heroes, but in a season where not much was expected, they led the Yellowjackets to a memorable season and might have set the table for a big 2013 and possibly beyond next year.

- Junior defensive lineman Derrick Coleman quietly had a strong game for the Yellowjackets, tallying two sacks, three tackles for loss and a forced fumble for the game and proved to be one of the few disrupting forces against the South Christian offense.

- South Christian quarterback Derek Woltjer was outstanding all game long. The guy looked like anything but a backup, as he was filling in for starting signal caller Jon Wassink, who was hurt in the semifinal win.

- Woltjer, directing the South Christian read option offense simply picked apart the Country Day defense, whether he was running, throwing or handing the ball off on his reads. They Yellowjackets just didn't have an answer all game long.

- I'm not making any excuses for Country Day, but it is possible that the fact that there isn't much tape on Woltjer as a quarterback left Country Day unsure of what to expect from the South Christian offense. However, Country Day had to be aware of his play making ability as he is one of the starting receivers for South Christian.

- On the flip side, would the game have been even more out of hand if Wassink had been healthy and ready to play on Friday? Wassink was widely regarded as one of the state's most productive signal callers and is a very accomplished passer as well.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Halftime Thoughts From Country Day-South Christian

Halftime thoughts from Country Day-South Christian in the D-4 state final. South Christian leads 14-7.

- Country Day needs to find a way to stop the South Christian read-option, which is consistently picking up 5-7 yards per play.

- Country Day quarterback Tyler Wiegers has come out to play today and is showing off his arm, especially on the 54 yard touchdown pass to Maurice Ways to cut the South Christian lead down to 14-7.

- It wouldn't hurt to keep allowing Wiegers to air it out, aside from a couple of drops, he's been nearly perfect in the first half

- The Yellowjackets have to find a way to open up some holes in the run game for Richie Wilson and Co. aside from a couple of runs, the South Christian defense has done a good job stopping the rushing attack.

- South Christian backup quarterback Derek Woltjer, filling in for injured quarterback Jon Wassink, is playing like anything but a backup tonight, picking up big chunks of yardage on the ground and has a long touchdown pass to Jason Miller to take a 14-0 lead.

- The Country Day defense did improve in the second quarter, but South Christian came dangerously close to breaking the game wide open with potential long runs.

- The Yellowjackets are very much in this game, but needs to come up with a stop on defense to start the second half and have a chance to tie the game up.

Thoughts on Brother Rice's second straight D-2 State Title

This is a game that is extremely hard to explain in a short amount of time, but I will try my best to do so here:

- This was easily the best game that I've had the chance to see, regardless of what level.

- Without a doubt, this year's D-2 state final game will go down as one of the best MHSAA state title games of all time. Five touchdowns were scored in the fourth quarter, but none were more exciting than the two trick plays pulled off by Brother Rice.

- Brilliant play-calling by Brother Rice simply proved to be the difference. After Muskegon tied the game at 21-21, Brother Rice made the gutsy call to run a flea-flicker on its second play of the ensuing drive, which resulted in a 77 yard touchdown strike from Alex Malzone. Then after a 51 yard score for Muskegon tied the game, the Warrior's coaching staff decided to raise the stakes once again as they called for a play reminiscent of the "Music City Miracle" as sophomore Delano Madison caught the kickoff and threw it back across the field to Jason Alessi, who returned it 91 yards for what turned out to be the winning score.

- The Brother Rice defense wasn't exactly perfect on Friday night, but the Warrior's turned back several Muskegon drives that went inside the Brother Rice 40, almost perfectly summing up the"bend but don't break" theory.

- Junior linebacker Shaun Jones came up big when it mattered most. After Muskegon picked up a first down deep in its own end because of a penalty against Brother Rice, Jones forced the Muskegon rusher to the outside on the next play and recovered the fumble on the Muskegon 12 yard line, which set up a touchdown run by Shon Powell.

- While Muskegon may have been able to limit Brother Rice's Brian Walker, Shon Powell once again came up big in another playoff game for the Warriors as he finished with 97 yards and a rushing score which put Brother Rice ahead 21-14.

- The cupboard will not be bare for the Warriors in 2013 as they will return both Walker and Powell, along with Malzone, Madison (who is considered to be the fastest player in the Brother Rice program) and receivers Josh Flye, Corey Lacanaria and Grant Perry.

- Also, you can't help but wonder if this was the last game legendary head coach Al Fracassa will coach. Fracassa sidestepped some questions afterwards, but there were rumblings throughout the playoffs that this could in fact be his last game.

- Regardless of whether he comes back or not, Fracassa has already achieved legendary status as quite possibly the best coach in Michigan high school history.

Halftime Thoughts from Brother Rice-Muskegon

Halftime thoughts from Brother Rice-Muskegon Division 2 state title game. Brother Rice leads 14-7.

- After the first two plays of the first Muskegon drive, the Warriors have shut down the Muskegon option attack in the first quarter. On those first two plays, the Big Reds totaled over 40 yards, but were limited to less than 30 for the rest of the quarter.

- Muskegon has done a very good job of bottling up Brother Rice junior running back Brian Walker so far, limiting the Warriors star to just 12 yards in the first half.

- On the flip side, junior Shon Powell has once again been a spark plug for the Warriors, rushing for over 80 yards on just a couple of carries so far. Brother Rice should continue to give him the ball until Muskegon can find a way to stop him.

- The Brother Rice defense has been outstanding at limiting Muskegon fullback John King (Over 1,500 yards this season) to minimal yardage, just 13 yards on three carries so far.

- The decision to rotate quarterbacks with senior Cheyne Lacanaria and Alex Malzone seemed to pay off on the first two drives of the game for the Warriors as each had a touchdown pass in the first action they saw in the game. Will be interesting to see if they continue to use the two QB system.

- After the first two scoring drives for Brother Rice, it seems like Muskegon has found a way to slow down the Brother Rice offense, forcing a three-and-out, while also using up plenty of the clock with a nine and a ten play drive to end the half.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Oakland County Football Picks -- State Finals

Last Week's Record: 4-1     Season Record: 113-43

Division 1
Detroit Catholic Central vs. Detroit Cass Tech
There is no question that Catholic Central will be out for some revenge after suffering one of the worst losses in team history to the Technicians in last years state title game. But these two teams are both different from what they were last season, so there is a chance that you can expect a very different outcome. The Shamrocks have thrown records out the window since the playoffs started as they entered with a record of 5-4, but have beaten four teams with a combined record of 35-7. In those four playoff games, the Shamrocks have outscored opponents by a combined 128-45, behind its old school brand of offense and some smash mouth defense.
X-Factor: Catholic Central defensive back Jon Malone. Malone had one of, if not the best postseason performance in the state last week with big plays on defense, offense and the return game. But the senior defensive back will be tested quite a bit on Saturday afternoon, facing quarterback Jayru Campbell and a very high-powered Cass Tech offense.
Catholic Central Will Win If: The Shamrocks will win the Division 1 state title if they are able to play their brand of offense and use several time consuming scoring drives to keep the ball away from the Cass Tech offense, while the defense can keep frustrating quarterbacks, like it has throughout the playoffs.
PREDICTION: Catholic Central 21, Cass Tech 17

Division 2
Birmingham Brother Rice vs. Muskegon
This was the match-up that just about everybody expected to see when the playoffs started as both teams cruised through the regular season aside from a minor bump along the way. The Warriors have slowly become one of the most diverse offensive teams around with the two-headed rushing attack of Brian Walker and Shon Powell along with quarterback Cheyne Lacanaria, who has given Brother Rice a legitimate threat through the air. Defensively, Brother Rice has been dominant in every way possible since the playoffs began, allowing just 19 points in the past three games, but will face what might be the best offense they will have seen all year long.
X-Factor(s): Brother Rice quarterback Cheyne Lacanaria and wide receiver Corey Lacanaria. If Muskegon can find a way to slow down the rushing attack, it could come down to the brotherly QB-WR connection to help the offense find a way to keep moving the ball down the field.
Brother Rice Will Win If: The Warriors will win its second straight Division 2 state championship if they are able to slow down a very dangerous Muskegon rushing attack, which features fullback John King, who has rushed for over 1,500 yards on the year to go along with 20 touchdowns. If they can slow him down, then there is a good chance for a repeat on Friday.
PREDICTION: Brother Rice 24, Muskegon 14

Orchard Lake St. Mary's vs. Grand Rapids Christian
There really haven't been many teams that have been able to keep St. Mary's out of the state game over the course of the past 13 years, the Eaglets have simply been dominant in the four games prior to Ford Field and that was the case once again in 2012. The Eaglets will look to slow down a Grand Rapids Christian team that has scored over 50 points three times this season, including a 68 point effort in a win over Zeeland West in the district finals. Look for the St. Mary's run game, behind Grant Niemiec and Parker McInnis to help set up a very underrated passing game to find holes in the Grand Rapids Christian defense.
X-Factor(s): St. Mary's quarterback Matt Linehan and wide receiver Jalen Watts-Jackson. Just like with Brother Rice, if the running game gets shut down, then the offense will look to find another way to move the ball, and could turn to Linehan and the Eaglet passing attack. With receivers like Watts-Jackson along with Van Jefferson, Tyson Smith and Co. it's unlikely that any team would be able to stop both the rushing attack and the passing game.
St. Mary's Will Win If: The Eaglets will win their second consecutive D-3 title if the defense can continue its dominant ways, as St. Mary's has held eight of its opponents this season to 10 points or less. The key to slowing down the Grand Rapids Christian will be to slow down quarterback Alex Van De Vusse, who has thrown for over 3,000 yards this year, nearly half of which has gone to receiver Drake Harris. If the Eaglets can stop that duo, they'll be hoisting another D-3 trophy.
PREDICTION: St. Mary's 35, Grand Rapids Christian 28

Division 4
Birmingham Detroit Country Day vs. Grand Rapids South Christian
This will be a match-up of two of the most potent offenses that Division 4 had to offer in 2012 as both teams have scored 30 or more points seven times this season, including blowout wins on their way to Ford Field in the postseason. Country Day's offense has proven to be too much to handle for most of the team's it's played during its postseason run, with running back Richie Wilson, who has rushed for over 1,200 yards and 30 touchdowns on the season along with quarterback Tyler Wiegers, who is another top college prospect (along with Wilson) for the class of 2014. Look for the defensive line, anchored by coveted lineman Poet Thomas to put plenty of pressure on the high-powered South Christian passing attack.
X-Factor: Country Day wide receiver Maurice Ways. While the Country Day rushing attack behind Wilson and fullback Gianmarco Rea has been dominant all season long, the Yellowjacket offense has used the run game to set up big plays in the passing game with Wiegers and Ways throughout the season, and you should expect to see more of that at Ford Field on Friday night.
Country Day Will Win If: The Yellowjackets will be holding a state title for the first time since 1999, if they are able to continue to pick up big chunks of yard in the run game behind Wilson and Rea, while putting pressure on the South Christian passing attack behind sophomore quarterback John Wassink, who has totaled over 3,000 yards on the second this year.
PREDICTION: Country Day 42, South Christian 28

Four More Non-Oakland County Predictions:

Division 5
Grand Rapids West Catholic vs. Portland
The Portland offense has been as good as it gets since the playoffs started, averaging over 40 points per game in the postseason, while West Catholic has found a way to sneak out wins since entering the postseason with a 6-3 record. But the Portland rushing attack should prove to be too much for West Catholic on Saturday.
PREDICTION: Portland 31, West Catholic 21

Ithaca vs. Constantine 
Ithaca will look to make it two straight state wins over Constantine, while also staying perfect on the season and should do just that behind quarterback Travis Smith, who has thrown for over 2,000 yards, while rushing for just under 1,000 on the season as well.
PREDICTION: Ithaca 49, Constantine 28

Ishpeming vs. Detroit Loyola
Loyola's season has been as close to perfect as you will find this season, as the Bull Dogs have outscored their opponents 571-88. Loyola has rushed for nearly 5,000 yards as a team this season and really hasn't had much of a challenge presented to them so far, and I don't think that will change on Saturday.
PREDICTION: Loyola 49, Ishpeming 21

Beal City vs. Harbor Beach
Both teams have two of the best offenses that you will find in Division 8, as both have scored over 50 points multiple times this season, but it will be Harbor Beach who will win its first ever state championship on Friday.
PREDICTION: Harbor Beach 38, Beal City 35

Monday, November 19, 2012

Unsung Heroes leading the way to Ford Field

Garrett Moores - Novi Detroit Catholic Central QB
Most are well aware of the 1-2 combo of Anthony Darkangelo and David Houle in the Shamrock backfield, but Moores has had just as much success in the Catholic Central backfield as anyone. Moores had a long touchdown run in the district and regional final wins for the Shamrocks and has been one of the better passers in the state since the playoffs started.

The Catholic Central Offensive Line
The Shamrocks have been arguably the hottest team in the state since the playoffs got underway and a big reason for that has been because of their massive offensive line. With the powerful run game of Houle and Darkangelo finding plenty of holes to run through and the line keeping Moores upright, the Shamrocks have gone back to their old school style, which is a big reason as to why they are back at Ford Field for the second straight year.

Grant Niemiec - Orchard Lake St. Mary's LB 
Everyone knows just how good of a running back Niemiec has been in 2012, but very few know just how good he's been from his linebacker position this year. The Miami (OH) University bound senior has picked up right where the Eaglet linebacking trio from 2011 left off and is a big reason as to why St. Mary's is one win from back-to-back state titles.

The OLSM Offensive Line
This might sound like a recording from what I just said about the Shamrock's offensive line, but the same holds true for the road graters for the Eaglets. With the St. Mary's rushing attack going over 300 yards in a game on several occasions this year, a lot of credit goes to the offensive line for busting open holes for Niemiec and Parker McInnis.

Tyler Wiegers - Birmingham Detroit Country Day QB
While junior running back Richie Wilson has had a sensational season, totaling over 30 touchdowns and well over 1,200 yards rushing on the season, Wiegers has kept defenses honest all year with his arm. The junior signal caller tossed three touchdown passes in the regional final for the Yellowjackets and threw for just under 200 yards in last week's blowout win over Saginaw Swan Valley.

Gianmarco Rea - Birmingham Detroit Country Day LB/FB
If you're looking for someone who can take care of the dirty work, Rea does just that on both sides of the ball for the Yellowjackets. One of the best fullbacks in the area when it comes to busting open holes for Wilson, while also proving to be one of the most consistent producers on the defensive side of the ball. What he does might not be pretty, but it gets the job done on both sides for Country Day.

Lucas Cherocci - Birmingham Brother Rice LB
Playing next to Michigan State-bound Jon Reschke has taken some of the spotlight away from Cherocci, but the senior linebacker has been another key impact player on the Warrior's defense all season long. Cherocci finished the regular season with 81 tackles and has been just as good in the playoffs for a Brother Rice defense that has allowed just 10 points in its last two playoff games.

Sergio Perkovic/Kevin Henry/Alberto Sandoval/Peter DePorre - Birmingham Brother Rice DL
This might be the best defensive line in the state, most teams have one or two dominant forces on the defensive line, but the Warriors have four who can dominate at any time. With Perkovic, Henry and DePorre able to get to the quarterback at will, and Sandoval proving to be one of the state's best run-stoppers, the Brother Rice defensive line has been key in shutting down opposing offenses.

Elite Eight - Ford Field Bound

8. The Birmingham Detroit Country Day Defense
The Country Day defense put together as impressive of a performance as you will find, shutting out a Swan Valley offense, which had scored 30 points or more nine different times this season. The shutout performance followed strong efforts in the district and regional finals, where the Yellowjackets limited opponents to just 26 points in the two games. The Country Day defense seems to be playing its best football at the right time.

7. Brian Walker/Shon Powell - Birmingham Brother Rice 
The two-headed backfield monster was at it again for the second straight week as the two backs combined for nearly 250 yards as Walker rushed for over 130 yards, while Powell rushed for over 100 yards as well in the semifinal win over Wyandotte Roosevelt. Both scored a touchdown each, as Powell helped increase the Brother Rice lead to 14-0, while Walker's score iced the game away in the fourth quarter.

6. The Novi Detroit Catholic Central Defense
Led by defensive back Jon Malone (See Below), the Shamrock's defense was dominant in every way imaginable as they held Rockford to just six points in the Division 1 semifinal on Saturday. On top of allowing just six point to Rockford, Catholic Central limited the Ram's offense to less than 80 yards rushing on the afternoon to advance to Ford Field for the second straight year.

5. Chris Carter - Birmingham Brother Rice
Carter was a one man wrecking crew for the Brother Rice defense in Saturday's blowout win over Wyandotte Roosevelt as the junior defensive back tallied 13 tackles from his safety position to help lead the Warriors back to Ford Field. Carter also picked up a sack in the Division 2 semifinal as well to help keep Brother Rice's repeat hopes alive.

4. Parker McInnis - Orchard Lake St. Mary's
McInnis did a little bit of everything on offense for the Eaglets as he picked up a touchdown on the ground and through the air as he totaled nearly 180 yards rushing and receiving as he paired with Grant Niemiec (See Below) to account for over 350 yards of total offense. McInnis first got St. Mary's on the scoreboard with a one yard run at the end of the first quarter and later scored on a 19 yard pass from Matt Linehan in the second half to increase the OLSM lead to 21-0.

3. Richie Wilson - Birmingham Detroit Country Day
Wilson found the end zone on four separate occasions on Saturday afternoon as he helped lead Country Day to a convincing 38-0 win over Saginaw Swan Valley in the Division 4 semifinals. Wilson also made the most out of the few touches he had on the day as he rushed for 80 yards and his four scores on just eight carries to lead the Yellowjackets to the state title game on Friday.

2. Grant Niemiec - Orchard Lake St. Mary's
Niemiec was a force on the ground on Saturday as the senior running back and recent Miami (OH) commit rushed for over 180 yards and a pair of touchdowns, including a 56 yard score late in St. Mary's win over Battle Creek Haper Creek to seal the win. Niemiec also had a first half interception on defense to set up the Eaglet offense inside the Harper Creek 45 to help St. Mary's to return to Ford Field for the fourth straight year.

1. Jon Malone - Novi Detroit Catholic Central
What didn't Malone do on Saturday? Touchdown catch? Check. Interception return for touchdown? Check. Kickoff return for touchdown? Check. Malone literally did it all for the Shamrocks as Catholic Central hammered Rockford in the Division 1 state semifnals and advanced to the finals where it will face Cass Tech for the state title for the second straight year.

Friday, November 16, 2012

State Semifinals Oakland County Football Picks

Novi Detroit Catholic Central vs. Rockford
The Shamrocks have been arguably the hottest team in the state since the start of the playoffs, and don't expect that to change after this week. The Catholic Central defense, behind ends Wyatt Shallman and Dylan Roney and linebacker Brandon Malinowski has been punishing, while holding teams to just over 10 points per game in the postseason. Look for the defense to continue its dominating ways and the offense, behind running backs Anthony Darkangelo and David Houle, to drain the clock and keep the ball away from the Rams.
Catholic Central 17, Rockford 10

Lake Orion vs. Cass Tech
I've been saying throughout the playoffs that the Dragons have more speed than most can handle, but if anyone can keep up with the high powered Lake Orion offense, it's Cass Tech. The game plan for the Dragons will be simple, slow down quarterback Jayru Campbell and a name that should help get the job done will be defensive back Nick Booker, who has helped shut down several aerial attacks this year. The Lake Orion offense should do its fair share of scoring on Saturday with Jacob Miller, Zak Arnold and Co., but can the defense, behind Derric Williams and Booker slow down the Technicians just enough?
Lake Orion 38, Cass Tech 35

Birmingham Brother Rice vs. Wyandotte Roosevelt 
This might be the most lopsided semifinal in the state, plain and simple. If Roosevelt can only score 10 points this week, like they did against Oak Park, there's a chance that Brother Rice wins by 40. There's a good chance that the Brother Rice defense holds Roosevelt to 10 points or less behind the dominating defense and the simply punishing run game behind Brian Walker and Shon Powell should continue to wear down the Roosevelt defense as the game goes on.
Brother Rice 31, Roosevelt 10

Orchard Lake St. Mary's vs. Battle Creek Harper Creek
Another rematch from a thrilling semifinal game from 2011 where the Eaglets barely topped Harper Creek last season en route to winning a state title. This year, the game may not be as close, but Harper Creek could be the best challenge for St. Mary's in its search for a back-to-back state titles. Look for the dominating defense, and the offense, behind the two-headed monster of Grant Niemiec and Parker McInnis as well as the punishing offensive line to send the Eaglets back to Ford Field.
OLSM 35, Harper Creek 28

Birmingham Detroit Country Day vs. Saginaw Swan Valley
The Yellowjackets will look to slow down a high-powered offense for the second straight week. Last week Country Day limited a Grosse Ile team, which scored 70 points in a district final to just 14 and now will try to slow down Swan Valley, who has averaged 40 points per contest so far in the playoffs. Look for another strong showing from the Country Day defense and defensive tackle Poet Thomas as Richie Wilson and Tyler Weigers and the Yellowjacket offense looks to continue to score at will for the second straight week.
Country Day 42, Swan Valley 28

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Round 3 Oakland County Football Playoff Picks

Last Week's Record: 6-3   Season Record: 103-39

Birmingham Brother Rice at Walled Lake Western
This could have been the state title game in Division 2 last year if Western had topped Lowell in the semifinals, but these two teams will face a year later in a battle to see who advances to the state semis. Western's Josh Jones had a sensational performance last week in a win over Fenton, but the Western offense won't have as much luck against the stiff Brother Rice defense.
Brother Rice 28, Western 21

Novi Detroit Catholic Central at Plymouth
The Shamrocks are turning it on at the right time this year, specifically, their defense. Catholic Central has shut down a pair of offenses in Hartland and Walled Lake Northern, who can score 50 points in just about any game, holding them to 32 points total. Plymouth just happens to be playing the Shamrocks at the wrong time.
Catholic Central 21, Plymouth 14

Rockford at Clarkston
Many are skeptical of the Wolves because of their postseason struggles and the fact that they've struggled to take that last step to get to Ford Field. But I think that all changes this year and Clarkston will make it to the state finals behind what has been an underrated defense that should be able to bottle up Rockford on Clarkston.
Clarkston 24, Rockford 21

Macomb Dakota at Lake Orion
It'll be great to see a playoff rivalry finally be renewed, and this time it will be at Lake Orion. Much like last week, I think the number of playmakers that the Dragons have will be able to show through late in the game and expect Lake Orion to take another step towards Ford Field.
Lake Orion 28, Dakota 21

Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes at Harbor Beach
This will be the Laker's toughest test to get to Ford Field, facing a Harbor Beach team that scores points early and often and has several shutouts on the year defensively. But I picked Lakes to make it to the state finals at the start and I wont be changing my mind any time soon. Look for Laker defense, which has forced seven turnovers in two playoff games to once again be opportunistic and lead the way to the semifinals.
WOLL 27, Harbor Beach 24 in OT

Grosse Ile at Birmingham Detroit Country Day
Grosse Ile can flat out score, the Red Devils put up 70 points in a win last week, but they haven't played a defense quite like Country Day's. Look for the Yellowjacket defense to shut down the Grosse Ile offense, while still putting up some good offensive numbers in the quarterfinals.
Country Day 35, Grosse Ile 21

Oak Park at Wyandotte Roosevelt
Both teams have had big seasons that they won't soon forget, but Oak Park has without question played the tougher schedule this season. Oak Park's defense has been as good as it gets in the playoffs, while the offense has been one of the best at picking up yards on the ground and simply draining the clock with is something lethal to have in the postseason.
Oak Park 31, Roosevelt 17

Detroit East English at Orchard Lake St. Mary's
It's pretty simple in my opinion, teams are just in St. Mary's way in the division 3 playoffs. With one of the more diverse offenses and physical defenses that you will find, the Eaglets shouldn't have much trouble advancing to the semifinals on Saturday.
OLSM 42, East English 21

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

They'll Be Back

Quite a few teams from Oakland County saw their seasons end in the second round of the playoffs, but there's no doubt that these team's will be back in contention in 2013.

Pontiac Notre Dame Prep
While it may be way too early to tell, the Fighting Irish just might be the favorite to win the state title in division 4 in 2013. With juniors Jermaih Johnson and Brenden Newvine leading the way next year while receivers like Anthony Gunn and defensive tackle Alex Stuart, the Irish will have one of the most complete teams in the state next year.

Many (Myself included) believed that this would be a bit of a down year for the Wildcats after losing several key seniors from last year's team, but behind sophomore quarterback Glacier Wallington, Oxford was once again a strong team in 2012. Expect that to once again be the case in 2013 with Wallington and junior running back Ben Line leading the way for Bud Rowley's squad.

It seems like it really doesn't matter who the Blue Jays lose each year or how many, but they're always going to be just as strong each year. Look for names like Jordan Cry and Lawrence Marshall to help lead what should be a dominant Southfield defense in 2013 that could lead the Blue Jays to a long playoff run.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Round 2 Oakland County Football Playoff Picks

Last Week's Record: 8-4   Season Record: 97-36

Novi Detroit Catholic Central at Walled Lake Northern
Without a doubt the best matchup of round two, and there may not be a more intriguing game as the playoffs go on. It's power vs. speed. It's a traditional power vs. a team in the playoffs for the first time ever. There are so many intriguing match-ups in this game that there just isn't enough room to mention them all. This is a game that I have changed my mind on several occasions already (and might do so a few more times) but speed kills and the Knights have plenty of it.
WL Northern 34, ND Catholic Central 31 in OT

Melvindale ABT at Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes
While it was a win, last week's first round game against Pittsford wasn't exactly pretty. While the defense played a near perfect game aside from the first drive of the second half, the offense never really got going. Expect that to change against ABT this weekend as quarterback Sal Mastromatteo should have plenty of success through the air.
WOLL 31, ABT 14

Birmingham Detroit Country Day at Pontiac Notre Dame Prep
This is easily the most interesting game of the week. Both teams have electric running backs (Richie Wilson, DCD/ Jermaih Johnson, NDP). Both have playmakers everywhere on a dominant defense. In terms of college prospects, the edge would go to Country Day, but something tells me that the Irish will find a way to pull out a win at home under the lights in a classic.
NDP 41, BDCD 35 in 3 OT

Walled Lake Western at Fenton
This probably isn't the type of reward Fenton was expecting for finishing the season with a nearly perfect 8-1 record. First Fenton topped perennial state power Farmington Hills Harrison and now Western, who was incredibly close to playing for the D-2 state title last year. It was a great round one win for the Tigers, but you have to wonder if they'll have enough left in the tank to pull of another upset. Too much firepower on offense for the Warriors for Fenton to overcome.
WL Western 35, Fenton 24

Utica Eisenhower at Lake Orion
Like I said before, speed kills and Lake Orion has it just about everywhere on the field. From Jacob Miller to Corey Ester to Chaz Miller to Zach Arnold, the Dragons have more playmakers than most teams in the state can handle. Look for Eisenhower to keep the game close for the first half, but the speed and athleticism will start to wear down the power game of Eisenhower.
Lake Orion 42, Eisenhower 28

Grand Blanc at Clarkston
This game has all of the looks of a trap game for Clarkston. The No. 1 ranked Wolves have been dominant all season long, while Grand Blanc has just as much firepower, but has slipped up a time or two this season. But look for the Clarkston defense, behind cornerback Tim Cason and linebacker Chris Calvano, as well as two of the more underrated pass rushers around in Adam Johns and David Beedle to slow down a very capable Grand Blanc offense just enough to pull out the narrow win to move on.
Clarkston 24, Grand Blanc 21

Oxford at Birmingham Brother Rice
With a convincing win over Birmingham Seaholm in the playoff opener, Oxford sent a bit of a message, that they are for real. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, they have to face arguably the most complete team in the state in Brother Rice. Expect a close, low scoring defense behind a strong defensive battle in the first half, but with running back Brian Walker and quarterback Cheyne Lacanaria, the Warriors should pull away in the second half.
Brother Rice 42, Oxford 24

Southfield at Oak Park
Earlier in the season, Oak Park edged out the Blue Jays with an overtime win. This time around, Southfield may return the favor, with the Blue Jays finally back to full strength after dealing with injury problems throughout the season. Look for quarterback Tre Walton and receiver Brandon Bean to once again find the rhythm that they had working early on in the season to help lead Southfield to a district title and keep an eye on Gerald Gates who had a breakout performance in the playoff opener.
Southfield 33, Oak Park 27 in OT

Auburn Hills Avondale at Orchard Lake St Mary's
Avondale's high powered offense should keep the Yellow Jackets in the game in the early stages, but the Eaglets will have too much balance and power for Avondale to handle. With the St. Mary's offense starting to open things up in the passing game with quarterback Matt Linehan to pair with one of the most dominant rushing attacks in the state, St. Mary's should handle an early push from Avondale and then turn to its balanced offense and overpowering defense to lead the way to round three.
OLSM 42, Avondale 24