Wow!  Can it be?  Is it really the end of summer and time to pull out the helmets and cleats?  You better believe it!  One of the greatest things about high school football is parity.  With the exceptions of a few traditional powerhouses, any team can go from worst to first in one year.  While some teams are still basking in the glory of last season, other squads are working harder than ever so they don’t repeat last season.  The first week is always tough; you don’t have film on your opponents or know what they will tend to do in certain situations.  Conversely, they don’t know about you either.  I know my team has been working hard and getting ready to play this week.  Let’s take a peek at Week One and the games that will be profiled.

 

Detroit

Detroit Cass Tech vs. Farmington Hills Harrison (At Eastern Michigan) (Saturday August 27, 8pm)

If you follow high school football, you probably know that Cass Tech is one of, if not the best team in Detroit proper, virtually every year.  In a preseason coach’s poll, they ranked #1 above King, Crockett, and Southeastern.  The team has three Big Ten recruits; Terry Richardson and Royce Jenkins-Stone to Michigan and Leron Taylor to Iowa.  Cass Tech is always a very fast team.  They will be able to utilize that again this season.  Defense will be the cornerstone of the squad while they develop their quarterback after losing Keith Moore to graduation.  Last year, Richardson pulled in 12 interceptions for a defensive backfield that will be loaded again this season.  If things go as expected for Cass Tech, they will go deep into the playoffs and hope to be at Ford Field Thanksgiving weekend.

The Hawks of Farmington Hills Harrison had a fantastic season last year.  They went 14-0 and won the Division 2 state title with a win over Lowell.  It was their 13th in school history.  There aren’t many schools with a resume like FHH has.  Not only that, but returning wide receiver and Michigan State recruit Aaron Burbridge is playing for the Hawks this season.  He was recently named the #1 player in the state by the Detroit Free Press.  Tommy Vento has graduated, but his wide receiver Jake Vento is going to be under center this season after narrowly losing the job last season.  Even Coach John Herrington acknowledges that the school has won many back to back titles and there are a lot of returning players.  Although it won’t be easy, Herrington is a heck of a coach and knows how to get the most from his teams.

 

Mid-Michigan

Midland at Mount Pleasant (Thursday August 25, 7pm)

One of the powerhouses in high school football in the region I call Mid-Michigan is Midland High.  The Chemics have not suffered a losing season since 1976 and having three trips to the finals in that span (winning none of them).  One of the best players on the team is offensive tackle Steve Elmer.  He has been getting looks from a lot of schools.  Midland has a lot of team speed and with solid running backs and a good offensive line; they should be able to run the ball with authority.  Unfortunately, (or for us Michigan State fans, fortunately) Alex Rapanos will not play this season after an injury.  He will sit this season so he’s ready to play for Jake Boss and the Michigan State baseball team.  They return seven offensive starters and five on defense. 

Ever since Mount Pleasant joined the Saginaw Valley League, they have been tough.  After one season of “figuring out the league” they have turned into one of the top programs.  The Oilers have won back to back SVL titles and been in contention for another two.  Jason McIntyre has a fantastic program going on in the middle of the state.  Dustin Lee had a nice season last year as a wide receiver and is returning.  Jordan Wilson (DB), Spencer Moran (LB), and Mitch Baxter (DL) are all returning on defense and were at least honorable mentions for the All Saginaw Valley League team.  Coach McIntyre says that his defense is fast.  There is a ton of returning talent for the Oilers.  They will need to play big roles while the younger players get acclimated to the speed and ability of the varsity level.

 

West Coast

Rockford at Lowell (Thursday August 25, 7pm)

Great football teams have consistency at the top of the program.  Rockford is no different.  Coach Ralph Munger has been at the helm for 20 years now.  The Rams will lean on senior quarterback Mark LaPrarieie.  He completed 62% of his passes last season for 2,099 yards and 22 touchdowns.  There are many seniors on the team.  They will need to develop the depth behind those seniors though.  Brady Gent and Connor Darby combined for more than 700 yards rushing last season.  They will return as a tough backfield combo.  One of the things I’ve noticed about Rockford and Coach Munger is the emphasis on special teams.  Steven Mette averaged 35 yards per punt last year and made 11 of his 15 field goals.  They are a year removed from a semifinal appearance and have some of the pieces in place to make another run this season.  Unfortunately, Rockford plays in the toughest conference in the state, the Ottawa-Kent Red Division.  Muskegon, Grand Haven, and Rockford are always tough and there are always another couple of tough teams…even though the record doesn’t show it.

Lowell is no slouch by any means.  They also have a coach who has been around the block more than once.  Noel Dean is in his 16th year at the helm of the Red Arrows and those 16 years have been pretty sweet.  Four times has he guided his squad to the state finals, winning it all twice.  This year, they don’t have a ton of people returning.  Fortunately, one of the most important positions has quite a bit of experience in third year starter at quarterback, Gabe Dean.  As a junior, he ran for 2,004 yards and 34 touchdowns while passing for 1,750 yards and 23 more scores.  Also returning is three year starter at strong safety Renn Osborne.  Jacob Staley is returning to his inside linebacker position while Jordan Drake returns on the outside.  This team will probably struggle early, but with a very experienced coach and his nephew/quarterback Gabe Dean, the Red Arrows will probably make the playoffs for a 13th consecutive time.

 

Capital Area

Perry at East Jackson (Friday August 26, 7pm)

The Ramblers of Perry haven’t been good in a while.  Since 2000, they have won a total of 17 games.  Last year’s two wins came after two winless seasons.  Coach Rob Porritt has some work to do, but can build from the season finale win over Durand.  Coincidentally, they have not won a league game since a win over Durand back in 2004.  It won’t get any easier though with teams like Lansing Catholic and Portland to deal with in league play.

East Jackson, although they are coming off a winless season, can make some moves.  Their squad is small in numbers with only about 16 players, but some do have decent size.  Coach Cory Hunt is going to want to get his players going in the right direction and win that first game.  An early win can set the tone for the entire season.  The chance of either of these teams making the playoffs is slim, but like I stated earlier, the greatest thing about high school football is parity.  Someone is going to win this game and start out with a 1-0 record.  My question is, who wants it more?

 

North

Iron Mountain at Ishpeming (Friday August 26, 7:30pm)

For Iron Mountain, there is an unknown factor for this season.  Robin Marttila is the new head coach for the Mountaineers.  It was a very good 2010 campaign for IM.  They played into mid-November and lost to eventual state champions Ithaca in the semifinals.  Coach Marttila is keeping it close to the vest before the season starts.  There isn’t much information about the squad out there.  We will know if they are going to be good or not following Friday night’s game against a very tough Ishpeming team.

The Hematites had a fantastic 2010 campaign.  Although they fell in the state title game to Hudson, it was still a great year.  Coach Jeff Olson has a lot of holes to fill though after losing many players to graduation.  He points to the offensive line as a strong unit that will lead the way early.  Senior Mike Hill will now be directing the offense from the quarterback position.  Hill says playing QB is “mainly about focus and how well you work under composure, but you can almost be as good as you want to be.” Ishpeming will get into the tough part of their schedule as soon as they walk out to the field for the first game.  History is on their side though; the Hematites have made 10 straight playoffs.