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Published: Wednesday, 8/22/2007

SE MICHIGAN: Area teams hope to make better playoff runs

BY STEVE JUNGA
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Bedford hopes to improve on a 4-5 season with key returing players (from left) Tyler Gill, Joe Copciac and Matt Drew.
Bedford hopes to improve on a 4-5 season with key returing players (from left) Tyler Gill, Joe Copciac and Matt Drew.
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It was not exactly a banner year for high school football teams in the southeast corner of Michigan last season, with a low number of playoff qualifiers and no postseason victories.

Even mighty Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central repeat champion of the Huron League after a state runner-up finish in 2005 was upset in its first-round playoff matchup last season.

Blissfield is expected to contend with defending champion Onsted in the Lenawee County Athletic Association, Whiteford is hoping to compete for a title in the Tri-County Conference, and Monroe SMCC, although hit hard by graduation, certainly cannot be counted out of the Huron League race.

In the Southeastern Conference, Adrian looks to challenge Saline and Ann Arbor Pioneer, while Bedford hopes to be part of that race.

Here is a look at area teams:

• Coach: Phil Jacobs, fourth year

• Last season: 6-4, 5-2 Southeastern Conference

• Returning letter winners: 21

• Returning starters: offense 4, defense 1

• Schemes: spread zone/multiple 4-4 and 4-3

• Top players: Seniors Brent Ohrman, 6-0, 170, QB; Marquill Love, 6-1, 170, WR. Juniors Undra Peterson, 6-0, 175, RB; Nick Galvan, 6-0, 180, SS; Adam Barker, 6-3, 250, OT-DT.

• Outlook: With 27 seniors, leadership should not be a problem. Good team speed, especially at the offensive skill positions, should also be a plus for the Maples, who lack experience on defense. Peterson rushed for 985 yards in 2006. Jacobs sees one key being how quickly his offensive and defensive lines can assert themselves.

We don t have a lot of depth at some key positions, Jacobs said. We d like to contend for the SEC championship, make the playoffs again, and go as deep as we can. For that to happen, we must stay healthy.

• Coach: Craig Trychel, seventh year

• Last season: 4-5, 3-4 Southeastern Conference

• Returning letter winners: 10

• Returning starters: offense 3, defense 4

• Schemes: spread/4-3

• Top players: Seniors Tyler Gill, 6-0, 185, FL-SS; Joe Copciac, 6-2, 220, LB; Matt Drew, 6-1, 190, WR-FS; Dan Meade, 6-1, 230, OL-DL; Josh Romanchik, 6-2, 235, OL-DL; Austin Szabo, 6-1, 195, RB; Justin Thompson, 5-9, 230, OL-DL.

• Outlook: The Kicking Mules face a challenge in climbing in the SEC standings this year after significant losses to graduation. Team speed is up from 2006, but the lack of experience may prove to be a burden.

We began to make progress through last season and look to improve with better overall team speed and technique. We should compete well with every team we play, as long as we eliminate turnovers and penalties.

• Coach: Ron Estes, sixth year

• Last season: 5-4, 4-2 LCAA

• Returning letter winners: 20

• Returning starters: offense 6, defense 5

• Schemes: Wing-T/4-3

• Top players: Seniors Dean Schnieder, 5-9, 175, LB; Johnny Estes, 5-11, 165, QB-DB; Jake Isley, 5-10, 200, C; Aaron Hudson, 6-6, 175, DE; Steven Hauss, 6-5, 265, DL.

• Outlook: The Royals hope to return to the playoffs and contend for the LCAA title behind the leadership of their 22 seniors. Speed and experience are strong points, according to coach Estes, who sees developing an effective offensive as pivotal in his team s potential success.

We expect to be a playoff team, coach Estes said. The offensive line has to come around because we have some decent backs. We need to stay healthy and get off to a good start because the early part of our schedule is tough.

• Coach: T.J. Murphy, first year

• Last season: 4-5, 3-3 TCC

• Returning letter winners: 10

• Returning starters: offense 5, defense 4

• Schemes: I-back veer and spread/4-2

• Top players: Seniors Matt Raw, 5-8, 145, TB-SS; R.J. Pickell, 5-11, 250, G-DL; Jared Pirkle, 6-0, 160, WR-CB; Mike Smith, 6-3, 190, G-LB; Andrew Keinath, 6-0, 180, FB-LB.

• Outlook: With just 22 players on its combined roster (Britton-Macon and Deerfield high schools), B-D s fortunes may depend on avoiding injuries almost entirely. Murphy, who takes over as head coach after two years as an assistant, likes the talent his team possesses despite the low numbers, especially the speed at the offensive skilled spots. The lack of depth may prove most troublesome on the offensive line.

We have a good group of juniors who have gained a lot of game experience, Murphy said. I think we re going to have a winning season and make a push for the playoffs. But we have to be well disciplined and execute well both on offense and defense. We also have to be in good condition with our low numbers.

From left, Dundee s Joe Lake, Jim Rowe and Chris Eggert hope to help the Vikings contend in the LCAA.
From left, Dundee s Joe Lake, Jim Rowe and Chris Eggert hope to help the Vikings contend in the LCAA.
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• Coach: Ryan Irwin, fourth year

• Last season: 4-5, 2-4 LCAA

• Returning letter winners: 10

• Returning starters: offense 7, defense 7

• Schemes: Wing-T/multiple 4-4

• Top players: Seniors Joe Lake, 5-9, 182, RB-LB; Jim Rowe, 6-3, 235, OT-DT; Chris Eggert, 6-0, 185, WB-LB; Josh Chambers, 6-2, 205, G-DE; Jesse Williams, 5-10, 202, G-LB.

• Outlook: The Vikings look to turn a corner toward success with a large returning contingent. The entire offensive backfield returns, led by Lake (833 rushing yards, 12 TDs in six games), and the inside eight on the defensive side are also back. One area that may need work is an inexperienced secondary.

It s going to be a crazy year in the conference, Irwin said. There is a lot of parity, so there will be no surprises when any team wins. Our key will be taking care of the football better, and not giving up big plays on defense. We also have to find a way to win the close games.

• Coach: Brent Orr, first year

• Last season: 2-7, 0-6 LCAA

• Returning letter winners: 11

• Returning starters: offense 3, defense 4

• Schemes: Multiple sets/5-2 and 5-3

• Top players: Seniors Mike Marshall, 6-3, 230, FB-LB; Travis Dusseau, 5-9, 175, TB-DB; Jaymee Lado, 6-6, 250, OT-DT. Juniors Steve Jozefowicz, 6-1, 200, FB-LB; Clay Canalas, 6-3, 205, TE-LB.

• Outlook: In his first season as a head coach, Orr, a 1988 Monroe SMCC grad, inherits some pretty good size on his squad, which may have to endure a rebuilding process. Orr likes his team s quickness and the toughness he has seen at linebacker and in both backfields.

If we can put it all together, we should be fine, Orr said. But we haven t had a lot of time with the kids yet. We should get better as the season goes along.

• Coach: Tom Walentowski, 16th year

• Last season: 2-7, 1-5 LCAA

• Returning letter winners: 13

• Returning starters: offense 6, defense 5

• Schemes: Wing-T/5-0

• Top players: Seniors Zach VanderVlucht, 5-7, 155, G-LB; Lyle Pavuk, 6-1, 205, FB-DE. Juniors Nic Jobe, 6-4, 205, QB-DB; Brett Clymer, 5-10, 195, HB-LB; Tyler Donahoe, 6-1, 175, HB-FS.

• Outlook: The Bluestreaks have decent experience returning in their starting personnel but only 26 players. The backfield and secondary should be ahead of the game, but inexperience on the defensive line may prove difficult to offset.

Pavuk rushed for 500-plus yards in just four games last season.

We re going to be competitive, Walentowski said. How well we start the season could dictate how we play overall. We need to stay healthy and start out well so that the kids realize they re not really a 2-7 team, and expect to play better.

• Coach: Greg Hudkins, fourth year

• Last season: 6-4, 4-2 Michigan Mega Conference

• Returning letter winners: 12

• Returning starters: offense 6, defense 5

• Schemes: Jet wing-T/4-4

• Top players: Seniors Jessie Johnson, 5-11, 210, FB-LB; Brandyn Harris, 6-0, 205, RB-DB; Roger Gillenkirk, 5-11, 240, OT-DT. Junior Jake Duffey, 5-7, 188, G-LB.

• Outlook: The Trojans have good team speed, especially in the backfield, but lack size and are inexperienced on both lines. Johnson had over 1,200 combined yards rushing and receiving, Harris scored 13 TDs and Duffey was the top tackler a year ago. Competing with leading title contenders Allen Park and Dearborn in the MMC s Red Division may be a stretch this season, but a playoff berth is not out of the question.

We better be fast because we re not big, Hudkins said. This is the smallest team at Monroe in recent years. But the system is established, they know what s expected on and off the field and they re a hard-working group. We ll see if we can be smart enough to use our speed.

• Coach: Marc Cisco, 42nd year

• Last season: 8-2, 6-1 Huron League

• Returning letter winners: 14

• Returning starters: offense 4, defense 6

• Schemes: T-formation/50

• Top players: Seniors Rick Gedelian, 6-1, 280, OL-DL; Erik Gromacki, 6-4, 225, TE-DE; Gilbert DuBois, 5-10, 180, RB-DB; Craig Miller, 6-3, 300, OL-DL; Josh Myers, 5-8, 200, OL-DE.

• Outlook: The Bears were seven points from a Huron League title last year (28-21 loss to champion Monroe SMCC) and look to contend once again. The offensive line should be a strength, but graduation took a productive all-league quarterback-fullback duo and the secondary is inexperienced.

I don t know if we can duplicate what we did last year, said Cisco, by far the area s dean of coaches. But, if we can find a backfield and stay injury free, we ll have a decent season. We had a real good offseason in the weight room and that s usually a pretty good indicator of your success.

• Coach: Jack Giarmo, 10th year

• Last season: 8-2, 7-0 Huron League

• Returning letter winners: 11

• Returning starters: offense 3, defense 3

• Schemes: Straight-T/multiple 4-3

• Top players: Seniors Todd Walters, 6-0, 162, RB-CB; Kurt Lehman, 6-1, 165, QB-LB; Tayo Moss, 6-1, 195, G-LB; Alex Kinsey, 5-11, 196, C-DE; David Way, 6-1, 173, TE-DE.

• Outlook: With just 11 returning letter winners and three starters back on each side, the Falcons success of recent years will be hard to match. But Giarmo will keep pounding away at foes with SMCC s straight-T offense.

With only 29 players we have to stay injury free, Giarmo said. Hopefully the newer kids can catch up to the speed of the varsity game quickly. We have enough talent to compete for the league title.

• Coach: Mike Williams, 15th year

• Last season: 2-7, 1-5 TCC

• Returning letter winners: 10

• Returning starters: offense 6, defense 4

• Schemes: Wing-T/4-2

• Top players: Seniors Tom Wilder, 5-7, 160, HB-S; Brian VanKainen, 5-6, 140, WR-DB. Juniors Tyler Glass, 5-11, 180, QB; Josh Walters, 5-9, 150, FB-LB.

• Outlook: The Bulldogs will rely on speed and athleticism to offset a lack of overall size and enthusiasm. The air game should be effective with Glass (1,253 passing yards, 14 TDs in 2006) back in the pocket, and Wilder (78 carries, 431 yards) adds balance to the offense. Walters (97 tackles) and Van Kainen (77) should be the defensive leaders.

We have some athletes who can really run and we will be exciting to watch, Williams said. How well we play defense will determine what kind of season we have.

• Coach: Jack Luettke, 27th year

• Last season: 6-4, 4-2 TCC

• Returning letter winners: 13

• Returning starters: offense 6, defense 6

• Schemes: Veer option/3-5

• Top players: Seniors Josh DuPree, 5-10, 150, WR-DB; Dave Gust, 6-2, 175, QB; Aaron Flanner, 5-7, 155, RB-DB; Joel Bunge, 5-11, 155, RB-LB; Kiel Lievens, 6-1, 170, OT-LB; Ross Miller, 5-10, 190, G-DE; Greg Keeling, 6-0, 165, TE-DB.

• Outlook: Luettke has a fair amount of returning talent, but his squad walks a tightrope each week with just 19 players. They will rely on speed and experience at the skill positions to overcome a lack of depth on the offensive line and on the defense in general.

We lost a great senior class, Luettke said, but we have a great senior class again this year. If we work hard and play hard on game nights, we can have an outstanding season.



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