Published August 27, 2014
Return to the gridiron: Troy Times
By Christian Davis and Thomas Franz firstname.lastname@example.org Follow Christian on Twitter.
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 www.candgnews.com and click on the Sports tab.
Last season’s record: 3-6
League: Oakland Activities Association Red Division
Returning Starters: Nine
Opening game: at Sterling Heights Stevenson, 7 p.m. Aug. 28
The Colts return six starters in quarterback Nick Bradley, receiver Devin Alexander, tight end Jon Hornsby, running back Erik Papandrea, and linemen Chris Koumoutsopoulos and Mitchell Hella.
Troy scored 134 points last season, which was its lowest mark since 2005.
To improve on that number, coach Gary Griffith said a lot of it will depend on the underclassmen manning the skill positions.
Hornsby and Papandrea, along with Chris Koumou, return to the defense, which let up nearly 28 points per game last season.
The Colts will again be relying on some young players to step in and solidify the unit.
“I’m hoping that it’s going to be a group that gets after it, that is physical,” Griffith said.
A program that has grown accustom to winning — last year was Troy’s second losing season since 2007 — Griffith is looking back to getting competitive and making a playoff run.
“We’re not happy with where we were last year,” he said.
Last season’s record: 2-7
League: Oakland Activities Association Red Division
Returning Starters: 10
Opening game: vs. Macomb L’Anse Creuse North, 7 p.m. Aug. 28
The Red Hawks return six starters and expect their size up front to be their strength, led by three-year starter Ryan Rockensuess. Coach Josh Heppner said he’s 6 feet 5 inches, 285 pounds and has the ability to dominate on the line.
In the backfield, quarterback Alex Mussat returns and has made gains athletically from a year ago, according to Heppner. His top weapons are expected to be receivers Devin Terry and Nick VandeKerkhoff.
Four starters return to the unit that allowed more than 33 points a game last season.
Heppner called the group “relentless” and is buoyed up front by two-year starter Mitch Schoenbeck. Next to him on the line is Chris Standifer, who Heppner called his strongest player on the team.
Brennan McHugh, Kevin Hazen and Derick Nelson lead at linebacker.
Terry and VandeKerkhoff are also keys in the secondary.
Athens is looking to bounce back to form after back-to-back 2-7 seasons since going 7-3 in 2011.
Heppner said this has been the best offseason he’s had in his 13 years as a head coach.
“From what I’ve seen this summer, I’d say we have that type of never-say-die mentality back in this program,” Heppner noted. “I believe a championship can, and will, be well in our reach. It’s just a matter of these guys asking themselves, ‘When do we want that to happen?’ and ‘How bad do we want it to happen?’
“It won’t be easy, but we’re willing to sacrifice and put in the work.”
Avondale Yellow Jackets
Last season’s record: 5-4
League: Oakland Activities Association Blue Division
Returning starters: nine
Opening game: vs. Redford Union, 7 p.m. Aug. 28
Speed will be the identity of this year’s Avondale offense.
Joshuwa Holloman, a state champion sprinter and University of Cincinnati commit, will start at running back.
He will be joined by junior quarterback Travis James, who broke Avondale’s school record for stolen bases during last spring’s baseball season.
Wide receiver Jalen Saunders and Chase Lalla, another running back, will also be key contributors this year.
Despite having such skill on the perimeter, Avondale coach Steven Deutsch stressed that the development of the offensive line will be key to a successful season.
“They know their success is dependent upon how fast that group gets together. Hopefully, within the first two weeks, if we can get that group of linemen to start figuring it out and start jelling, these skill kids will go because we return everybody,” Deutsch said.
Avondale’s defense will look to improve after surrendering 34 or more points to four opponents in the OAA Blue last fall.
Similar to the offense, the unit returns a lot of speed but is lacking experience in the trenches. All but one starter in the back-seven returns, while three linemen will be new starters.
“If we can get the new linemen to get it quickly, the guys behind them will make them better, but they’re going to have to be the ones who pick it up right now to make them comfortable,” Deutsch said.
Avondale hopes to get back to the postseason after missing out last year for the first time in three seasons.
“We’ve had six winning records in a row. We hope to continue that and make it seven. We’re looking forward to the competition,” Deutsch said.
Deutsch said that the intangibles displayed by the linemen throughout the summer should help them develop quickly.
“I’m so proud of them. There’s no egos, and they’re making it happen together as a group. If they can come together, our success is going to be a lot faster than I anticipate,” Deutsch said.