Hazel Park, Madison HeightsAugust 22, 2014
Return to the gridiron: Madison-Park News
By Christian Davis and Mike Moore
C & G Sports Writers
Madison Heights Bishop Foley Ventures
Last season’s record: 7-4
League: Catholic League Intersectional Division
Returning starters: Three
Opening game: vs. Detroit Douglass, 7 p.m.
The approach will be simple for Bishop Foley when it comes to the offensive side of things.
“Run the ball,” coach Sean Cobb said. “If we can’t run it, we won’t be able to pass it. If we are able to run it, we’ll be just fine.”
Sophomore Cooper Smith is one of just three returning starters and is expected to shoulder the load in the running game.
“We’re going to ride that kid like a horse,” Cobb said with a laugh. “He’s a big kid who does a lot for us.”
Anthony Capaldi, a starter at receiver last fall, will start this year at quarterback.
Like the offense, the defense has just three starters back.
What’s more, it’s a group that will start with eight sophomores.
“They are going to be something special the next few years, but we’re going to have to work at it this year,” Cobb said. “These kids are gamers, with good speed and who like contact. But they look like eight sophomores at times. But that’s fine with me. They like to work at it.”
Gary Perry, a 6-foot-8-inch senior, will anchor the defense at nose tackle. Joe Schmidt started at corner a year ago and returns, and senior Joe Swenda is back to start on the defensive line.
Foley was 7-4 a year ago and reached the Division 7 district final before falling to Southfield Christian 28-24. This year’s team has plenty of potential, but plenty of youth to overcome.
“Still, we’re looking to compete every single time out,” Cobb said. “We have a team that should be very competitive and should be right in the middle of the pack. It’s one game at a time. That’s how this team will have to operate.”
Madison Heights Lamphere Rams
Last season’s record: 1-8
League: Macomb Area Conference Bronze
Returning starters: 12
Opening game: at Bloomfield Hills
Cranbrook-Kingswood, 4 p.m. Aug. 28
Coach Jason Charron wasn’t mincing words when he spoke of his offense and the upcoming season.
“We expect to score more,” he said.
The Rams have to.
One of the biggest contributors to a 1-8 record in 2013 was a young, inexperienced offense that totaled 130 points for the season, a little more than 14 points per game.
“We’re going to finish more,” Charron added. “We’re going to score more.”
His confidence comes from the flip side of that inexperience last fall — experience now.
Seven starters are back for the Rams, including three along the offensive live.
Austin Frederick is a second-year starter at quarterback.
“Having so many guys with varsity experience is huge,” Charron said. “I think that’s a big advantage for us.”
While the offense struggled to move the ball and find the end zone, the defense found itself in tough predicaments more often than not.
By the time the year ended, the Rams were giving up more than 41 points per game.
“We can’t think on the field like we did — we have to react. We have to play football,” Charron said of his defense. “Tackling will be huge for us.”
Experience will help here, as well. The Rams have five starters back, including a strong contingent of returners along the defensive line.
“A year ago, we couldn’t stop anybody,” Charron said. “I think a lot of that had to do with a lack of experience. We won’t have that problem this year.”
“My expectation is to get this program back in the state playoffs and compete for a Bronze championship,” Charron said of the season. “I believe this is a very committed senior class. It starts there, and these guys are hungry.”
Lamphere hasn’t reached the state playoffs since 2010 and has an 8-19 record in that span.
“We have to finish plays,” he added. “We have to establish field position and create more turnovers. We’re excited. We expect to be a good team. We’re going to give it a run and see what happens.”
Hazel Park High
Last season’s record: 0-9
League: Oakland Activities Association
Returning Starters: Seven
Opening game: vs. Warren Fitzgerald, 7 p.m.
New coach Kyle Rowley is bringing what he knows best to Hazel Park High — hard-nosed football.
Rowley, the son of Oxford High coach Bud Rowley, who is the 25th all-time winningest coach in the Michigan High School Athletic Association and former assistant coach to his dad, said his scheme looks much like it does in Oxford with power-I formations.
“The key will be, can we establish the run game and then we can develop other stuff off it?” Rowley said.
The Vikings return four starters to a unit that averaged just fewer than two touchdowns a game last season.
Rowley has even fewer returning starters on defense with three players back, but he likes what he sees so far.
“We’re not huge, but we’re not small. Most everyone can run pretty well,” Rowley said.
The Vikings will play a 3-4, using the outside backers to give different looks.
“That gives us a variety of things we can do,” Rowley said.
Rowley said since he took over the program, there’s been little talk about last season’s record.
Instead, he sees it and wants his players to see it as a new start.
“We have to win football games. That’s the bottom line; that’s why you play varsity sports,” he said. “I think a lot of people are looking past us, which I like. The kids have something to prove, and I like what I see.”
Madison Heights Madison Eagles
Last season’s record: 11-1
League: Macomb Area Conference
Returning starters: 16
Opening game: vs. Pewamo-Westphalia 7 p.m. Aug. 28
Finding contributors at the skilled positions never seems to be a problem for Madison or coach Drake Wilkins.
The same should hold true in 2014, where some key contributors are back in the fold.
That puts the onus, according to Wilkins, on the guys up front.
“The offensive line is key for us,” Wilkins said. “There is a lot of truth to the cliché that games are won in the trenches. We have some of the best skilled players around, and if the big boys up front do their job, we will be all right.”
Junior Trevor Barndollar returns for a third season at center and will anchor the line.
Juan Johnson is the go-to guy at running back, while Matthew Crews is back to start at quarterback.
“We expect to score some points again this year,” Wilkins said of an offense that averaged 40.3 points in the team’s 11 wins a year ago. “Our main concern, I think, is numbers. If we stay healthy, we stand a chance.”
Not much will be different on the defensive side of the ball, according to Wilkins. In a Silver Division where very few teams will pass with significant success, wins and losses will be earned, or taken away, up front.
“Line play is the key,” he said. “If we shut down the run, we are going to stop a lot of teams in this league. Not too many are going to throw a lot.”
Defensive ends Daviyon Jones and Randon Bacon will anchor the line, while Emil Warda returns at the middle linebacker spot.
“I think it all comes down to injuries and health,” Wilkins said of the season. “At the same time, some of the teams that struggled last year have gotten much better. We aren’t going to have an easy game on our schedule.”
Madison’s only loss of 2013 came in the Division 6 regional round.
The Eagles haven’t missed the playoffs since 2004, and in that span, they have put together an 85-19 record.
“Really, our only goal, or our main goal, is to get to Ford Field,” Wilkins said. “Winning divisions and things like that are down the list. We want Ford Field, and this is a team, with a few breaks, that has a good chance at getting there.”
— Mike Moore and Christian Davis