Center Line Panthers
Last season’s record: 0-9, 0-5
League: MAC Bronze
First game: at Dearborn Heights Crestwood,
7 p.m. Aug. 28
Center Line coach Jim Carlisle said he sees the team’s skill players and schemes as a strength. Carlisle said the wide receivers have size on the outside and that the team’s offensive lineman provide size up front. He added that the offense will be led by senior wide receiver Jacob Brooklier, senior lineman Hussein Safoui, senior lineman Dominic Tatangelo, senior fullback/guard Vontez Dean and senior quarterback Brian Walker.
Carlisle, in his third year at Center Line, said the team must overcome a lack of depth on the defensive line. He said he will have to work with what they have in that area and battle each week. Defensive leaders are Safoui (linebacker), Tatangelo (defensive line) and Brooklier (defensive back).
“We want to be better than 0-9. Who wouldn’t want to be? You can’t go anywhere but up at that point. We want to fight and compete, and be in every game. Last year, in six of nine games, we were tied or in the lead at halftime. It’s all about halftime adjustments. We want to finish the deal.”
Warren Cousino Patriots
Last season’s record: 1-8, 1-4 MAC White
League: MAC Blue
Returning starters: Nine
First game: vs. Warren Woods Tower, 7 p.m. Aug. 28
First-year Patriots coach Brad Nettles said work ethic, attitude and effort are key for Cousino. He said continuity will be a strength, as offseason programs have led to Cousino football having a family atmosphere.
The coach said youth could be a weakness, as the roster features 20 sophomores and juniors. Nettles, who has been with the Patriots program for 15 years, called on senior quarterback Nick Palmer, senior wide receiver Joey Maleszyk and senior offensive lineman Brendan Wojtas to lead a group that averaged 20.1 points per game last season.
Nettles, a graduate of Clinton Township Clintondale and Central Michigan University, said physicality will be key for a Patriots defense that let up 33.2 points per game in 2013. Palmer (defensive back), Maleszyk (defensive back) and Wojtas (linebacker) will key the defense, Nettles said.
“Cousino has a long tradition of success we need to get back to. Our motto this year is, ‘One team, one fight’. We need to learn how to compete every day. We need to learn how to win, and we need to expect to win.”
Warren De La Salle Pilots
Last season’s record: 6-4, 2-2
League: Catholic League Central
Returning starters: 12
First game: at Toledo Central Catholic, 7 p.m. Aug. 29
Longtime Pilots coach Paul Verska said taking care of the ball on offense will be key to De La Salle’s success. He said the team is replacing four All-County players who are all now on collegiate rosters. Verska said he’s confident the unit will improve as the season moves along. He’s expecting solid play from senior offensive lineman Ryan Smith, senior running back Michael Ostrowski, senior offensive lineman Michael Danna, senior running back Cooper Gammon, senior tight end Austin Ballard, senior offensive lineman Khary Harris, senior wide receiver Damon King and senior offensive lineman Gus VanderDonck. De La Salle averaged 24.4 points per game last season.
The return of nine starters will make experience a strength on the defensive side of the ball, Verska said, adding that the group must limit big plays if it is to have a strong season. Verska is looking for strong performances from junior linebacker Eric Rogers, junior defensive lineman Drew Beesley, junior defensive lineman Jordan Asbury, junior linebacker Austin Potter and junior defensive back Tru Wilson. The Pilots allowed just 12.7 points per game in 2013.
“This is the biggest and strongest team we’ve had in a while, which speaks to the dedication and effort displayed by the kids during the offseason.”
Warren Fitzgerald Spartans
Last season’s record: 2-7, 1-4
League: MAC Silver
Returning starters: Seven
First Game: at Hazel Park High, 7 p.m. Aug. 28
Fitzgerald coach Juwan Shakespear said the Spartans’ strength will be its youth, in that the team only lost five players to graduation. Shakespear hopes that continuity shows on the field. Senior center Nolen Brice anchors the offense. The Spartans put up 21.0 points per game last season.
The Spartans are young on the defensive side of the ball, as well, but return a number of players from last season’s team, Shakespear said. Senior linebacker Louis Harris and junior defensive back Delano Bolar lead a unit that hopes to improve on the 43.7 points per game it allowed in 2013.
“We graduated five seniors, so we’re pretty much bringing back our whole team. We’re hoping to build on that the next couple of years. We’re just looking to show up. The more we show up, the more we play, the better we’ll get.
Warren Lincoln Abes
Last season’s record: 4-5, 2-3
League: MAC Bronze
Returning starters: Seven
First game: vs. Clinton Township Clintondale, 7 p.m. Aug. 28
Second-year coach Darius Alexander said discipline, attention to detail and linemen understanding their assignments are key for an offense that put up 21.6 points per game in 2013. Alexander tapped junior running back Daniel Stewart and senior center Andrew Finegan as leaders of Lincoln’s offense.
Alexander said the same principles that will lead to success for the offense apply to the defense.
He said defenders can’t miss assignments and must be disciplined, as to keep penalties down. Senior cornerback Niguel Watkins will key the unit, Alexander said. Lincoln allowed 29.3 points per game last season.
“Right now, we have a young team. We expect to compete, and we expect to win each game.”
Warren Michigan Collegiate Cougars
Last season’s record: 6-4, 4-2
League: Charter School League
Returning starters: 14
First game: vs. Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes, 7 p.m. Aug. 29
Cougars coach John Guth said his team must control the pace of the game offensively if it is to return to the state playoffs for a sixth straight year. He said his squad has to limit its turnovers and outplay the opposition in terms of physicality and athleticism, and use its experience as an advantage. Guth said he’s looking at senior linemen Lawrence King and Christian Dawkins, junior lineman Lazarus Tennessee, sophomore lineman Jordan Davis, senior running backs Kenneth Butler and Myrick El, senior wide receivers Malcolm Cohen, Alden Roberson and Marlon Hicks, and senior quarterback Brendon Roberts to lead the attack.
Guth said the Cougars must be relentless in their pursuit of the football and grind teams down with their physicality, experience and mental toughness. Defensive leaders are senior linebackers Jayvon Green, Elisha Loston and Butler, and sophomore linebacker Ervin Butler, senior lineman Jordan Harris and junior lineman Justin Johnson, senior defensive backs Jake Sami and Roberson, and sophomore defensive back Jordan Marks.
“We’re going to take it one game at a time, build off of our mistakes and never give up. Our motto this season is, ‘One team, one goal.’”
Warren Mott Marauders
Last season’s record: 10-1, 5-0 MAC White
League: MAC Red
Returning starters: Eight
First game: vs. Detroit Cody, 1 p.m. Aug. 29 at Wayne State University
Mott coach Tom Milanov, in his 15th year leading the Marauders, said the experience of the offensive line is a plus. He said that team speed is strong, as well, and that the players have great continuity.
Though still young at some of the skill positions, Milanov said he’s excited to watch those players grow and progress. The Mott coach tapped junior wide receiver/defensive back Tylen Redding, senior quarterback Connor Madigan and senior wide receiver Colin Arnot as offensive leaders.
Milanov said the experience of the line will serve the team well. He added that there is plenty of speed on that side of the ball, as well. Arnot (LB) and Redding (defensive back) will key the defense.
“We’re excited for the challenge of being back up in the MAC Red. Our schedule is probably the most rigorous, demanding slate we’ve had at least since I’ve been here, but we’re looking at it as a great measuring stick to test ourselves.”
Warren Woods Tower Titans
Last season’s record: 6-4, 4-1 MAC Silver
League: MAC Gold
Returning starters: 12
First game: at Warren Cousino, 7 p.m. Aug. 28
Third-year Titans coach Mike Mahar called the return of quarterback Darius Jordan (senior) and wide receiver Jimmy Schindler (senior) a plus.
He said any time you have a tandem like that returning, it has to be a good thing. The Titans started 0-5 in Mahar’s first season and have gone 10-4 since. Mahar is also looking for strong play from senior tight end Andrew Zannetti. The Titans broke the school record for scoring last season, putting up 34.8 points per game on their way to the state playoffs.
Tower will look to decrease the 22.9 points per game it allowed in 2013. Zannetti (defensive line) will lead the defense, Mahar said, and is the team’s only two-way player.
“These kids work hard on a daily basis. We talk about how this season is bigger than football. We want to make the people in the city of Warren proud. We have a decent-sized senior class. We talked about how last year’s senior class led us to our first state playoff appearance in seven years. That’s the legacy they left. This group has a lot to live up to.”
— Jason Carmel Davis