Michigan high school football: Ranking state's top-25 teams

Top 25 high school football teams in Michigan

We continue our 2017 preview of Michigan high school football by ranking the state's top-25 teams.

25. Davison

Coach: Kyle Zimmerman (fifth year, 23-16 record).

2016 Record: 10-1, 6-0 Saginaw Valley League-Red (reached Division 1 district final).

Returning starters: Not reported by the team.

Going long: The Cardinals want to make their fourth state semifinal appearance in school history and first since 2008. They'll rely on senior RB Tariq Reid, who is ranked No. 28 in the state by 247Sports. They also return key starters in 2018 LB Gabe Ellis and CB Anthony Fordham on defense and 2018 TE Garrett Goyette on offense.

Key games: Vs. Southfield A&T on Aug. 24 in Xenith Prep Kickoff Classic at Wayne St.; at Flint Powers Catholic on Oct. 20.

24. Ottawa Lake Whiteford

Coach: Jason Mensing (sixth year, 47-13 record). 

2016 record: 13-1, 7-0 Tri-County Conference (Division 8 runner-up)

Returning starters: 7 offense; 7 defense. 

Going long: The Bobcats eye their first state championship and third straight appearance in the final four. They'll do so behind all-state seniors Thomas Eitniear (third-year starting QB) and Lucas Tesznar (6-foot-5, 285-pound OT). 

Key Games: At Blissfield on Aug. 25; vs. Petersburg-Summerfield on Sept. 8.

23. Maple City Glen Lake

Coach: Jerry Angers (ninth year, 49-33).

2016 Record: 11-3. 4-1 Northern Michigan Football League-Leaders (Division 6 runner-up).

Conference: 2nd in Northern Michigan Football League-Leaders, 4-1.

Returning Starters: 6 offense; 3 defense. 

Going long: The Lakers hope to return to the state final for the second year in a row and win their first championship since 1994. They're led by senior QB Cade Peterson, who is committed to Grand Valley State

Key Games: vs. Traverse City St. Francis on Sept. 1; vs. Frankfort on Sept. 29.

22. Dearborn Divine Child 

Coach: John Filiatraut (fourth year, 21-12).

2016 Record: 10-3, 1-1 Catholic High School League-AA (Division 3 semifinalist)

Returning starters: 6 offense; 6 defense.

Going long: The Falcons chase their third postseason appearance in four seasons and first state final appearance since 1985. They're led by seniors DE Aiden Hutchinson and QB Theo Day.

Key games: at Warren DeLaSalle on Sept. 29; at Detroit Loyola on Oct. 13.

21. Clinton Twp. Chippewa Valley

Coach: Scott Merchant (ninth year, 45-36).

2016 record: 6-4, 2-3 Macomb Area Conference-Red (Division 1 pre-district)

Returning starters: 8 offense; 11 defense.

Going long: Big Reds in pursuit of sixth straight playoff appearance and and hoping to get past the regional round for the first time since 2003. It's one of Merchant's best rosters, including ILB Marcel Lewis, who has offers from Central Michigan and Kent State. 

Key games: vs. Romeo on Aug. 31; vs. Utica Eisenhower on Sept. 15; at Macomb Dakota on Oct. 6. 

20. River Rouge

Coach: Corey Parker, (ninth year, 61-24).

2016 record: 11-2, 3-0 Michigan Metro Conference-Blue (Division 4 semifinalist).

Returning starters: 6 offense; 6 defense. 

Going long: The Panthers hope to make their second state final appearance in school history and first since 2015. They also want to claim their seventh straight conference title. River Rouge returns senior LB Baron Sholar, who has an offer from Buffalo, and junior TE Lee Payton, who's committed to Western Michigan. 

Key games: vs. Detroit East English Village on Saturday; vs. Warren Central (Ind.) on Oct. 13.  

19. Birmingham Detroit Country Day

Coach: Dan Mac Lean (20th year, 148-71).

2016 record: 13-1 (D4 state finalist). 

Returning starters: 3 offense; 3 defense. 

Going long: The Yellowjackets have made eight appearances in the state finals but haven't won a title since 1999. Senior LB Kolin Demens is a team leader and among the top players in the state. 

Key games:  At Grand Rapids Catholic Central on Friday; vs. Detroit Loyola on Sept 23. 

18. Grand Rapids West Catholic

Coach: Joe Hyland (second year, 12-2).

2016 record: 12-2, 5-1 Ottawa-Kent Conference-Blue (Division 5 state champion)

Returning starters: 5 offense; 5 defense. 

Going long: The Falcons are chasing for their fifth straight state title and sixth in school history. Senior QB Connor Bolthouse, who has an offer from Butler, leads the team. 

Key games: vs. Jackson Lumen Christi on Friday; at Zeeland West on Sept. 9; vs. Grand Rapids Catholic Central on Oct. 13. 

17. Chelsea

Coach: Brad Bush (21st year, 167-60 record). 

2016 record: 11-1, 5-0 Southeastern Conference-White (D3 regional finalist).\

Returning starters: 4 offense; four defense.

Going long: The Bulldogs' only state championship appearance came in 2015. They'll try to win their fourth consecutive district title this season and have two seniors with Division I offers:  DE Ronnie Buford, who is committed to Western Michigan, and DL Rafael Reyes, who has been offered by Butler. 

Key games: At Milan on Aug. 25.

16. Grand Rapids Catholic Central

Coach: Todd Kolster* (fourth year, 28-7).

2016 Record: 13-1, 5-1 Ottawa Kent Conference-Blue (D4 state champion).

Returning starters: Not reported by the team.

Going long: The Cougars want to repeat as champions, make their sixth appearance in a state final and capture their third title under Kolster. They return one of the state's top seniors in OT Jalen Mayfield (6-6, 273), who is committed to Michigan. 

Key games: vs. Detroit Country Day on Friday; vs. Detroit Loyola on Aug. 31; at Grand Rapids West Catholic on Oct. 13. 
*second stint with Catholic Central after resigning in 2012. 

15. Clarkston

Coach: Kurt Richardson (31st year, 241-85).

2016 record: 9-3, 5-1 OAA-Red (D1 regional). 

Returning starters: Not reported by the team.

Going long: The Wolves are shooting for their third state title in school history and first since winning back-to-back championships in 2013 and 2014. They haven't missed the playoffs or had a losing season since 2002. They return starting seniors OL Noah Nicklin, WR Maxx Brennan, WR Spencer Lenardson, LB Zach Scott and DB Max Nicklin. 

Key games: vs. Lapeer on Friday; vs. Southfield A&T on Sept. 1; at West Bloomfield on Sept. 15. 

14. Muskegon Catholic Central

Coach: Steve Czerwon (fifth year, 51-4). 

2016 record: 14-0, 4-0 Lakes 8 Activities Conference (D8 state champion). 

Returning starters: 4 offense; 3 defense. 

Going long: Led by sophomore QB Cameron Martinez, the Crusaders will pursue their fifth consecutive state championship.  

Key game: at Frankfort on Sept. 1. 

13. Saline

Coach: Joe Palka (sixth year, 53-8).

2016 record: 11-1, 5-0 Southeastern Conference-Red (D1 regional). 

Returning starters: 2 offense; 2 defense.

Going long: The Hornets' only state final appearance came in 2015, but they've made the playoffs 10 of the past 14 seasons. They're led by senior OT Dimitri Douglas, a Michigan State commitment who's among the top offensive tackle prospects in the state. 

Key games: vs. Rockford on Thurday; at Temperance Bedford on Sept. 8. 

12. Romeo

Co-coaches: Curt Rienas and Jason Couch (15th year, 111-51).

2016 record: 9-4, 3-2 MAC-Red (D1 semifinals).

Returning starters: 3 offense; 4 defense.

Going long: The Bulldogs' only state final appearance came in 20. They compete in a tough conference and face three programs that will be highly-ranked when the first AP poll is released. They're led by seniors QB Brandon Hicks, WR Nathan Goralski, WR Ronnie Wood and DB Bailey Kamego. 

Key games: vs. Oxford on Friday; at Clinton Twp. Chippewa Valley on Sept. 1; vs. Utica Eisenhower on Sept. 22. 

11. Utica Eisenhower

Coach: Chris Smith (sixth year, 37-17 record).

2016 record: 12-1, 5-0 MAC-Red (D1 semifinals).

Returning starters: 4 offense; 4 defense. 

Going long: The Eagles haven't reached a state title game since 2003. TE/DE Henry Janeway is committed to Army. 

Key games: vs. Oak Park on Saturday; at Clinton Twp. Chippewa Valley on Sept. 15. 

10. Lowell

Coach: Noel Dean (22nd year, 217-44).

2016 record: 12-1, 6-0 Ottawa-Kent Conference-White (D2 semifinals).

Returning starters: Not reported by the team.

Going long: Red Arrows are shooting for their second state final appearance in three seasons and seventh overall. They've won three championships, all under Dean, including 2002, 2004 and 2009. They return a well of talent, including seniors QB David Kruse, WR Addison Buckius, OL Andrew LeFebre and OL Caleb Devereaux. 

Key games: vs. Warren De La Salle on Friday; at Rockford on Sept. 1.

9. Oak Park

Coach: Greg Carter (seventh year, 38-23).

2016 record: 7-4, 5-1 OAA-White (D2 district final).

Returning starters: 6 defense; 6 offense. 

Going long: Knights only have made one appearance in the regional round but are chasing their sixth straight postseason berth.  They boast two of the top senior recruits in the state in guard Marquan McCall (Kentucky commit) and cornerback Robert Daniel.

Key games: Vs. Utica Eisenhower on Saturday; at Birmingham Groves on Sept. 15. 

8. Belleville

Coach: Jermain Crowell (fourth year, 18-11).

2016 record: 7-3, 4-1 Western Wayne Athletic Conference (D1 pre-district).

Returning starters: Not reported by the team.

Going long: The Tigers have one of the most talented rosters in the state but haven't reached the second round of the playoffs since 2002.  They return top senior prospects in DBs Davion Williams, Patrick Lupro and Kmare Carey and boast the top two players in Michigan in the 2019 class: offensive tackle Devontae Dobbs and cornerback Julian Barnett.

Key games: vs. Brighton on Thursday; vs. Dearborn on Sept. 22; at Dearborn Fordson on Sept. 29. 

7. Muskegon

Coach: Shane Fairfield (eighth year, 73-18).

2016 record: 12-2, 6-0 Ottawa-Kent Conference-Black (D3 runner-up)

Returning starters: 5 offense; 6 defense. 

Going long: Big Reds have been a fixture in state title games, appearing in four of the past five, but they haven't won a championship since 2008. They're led by senior QB Ladarius Jefferson (6-2, 209), who is committed to Central Florida.

Key games: vs. Lincolnshire Stevenson (Ill.) on Sept. 2; at Muskegon Mona Shores on Oct. 13. 

6. Novi Detroit Catholic Central

Coach: Dan Anderson (first year, 0-0).

2016 record: 13-1, 3-0 Catholic High School League-Central (D1 runner-up)

Returning starters: Not reported by the team.

Going long: Shamrocks look to make their second straight state final appearance, 18th in school history and capture their first championship since 2009. They'll be doing so without former coach Tom Mach, who retired after last season. Mach had a 370-94 career record (third most wins in MHSAA history), won 10 state titles and coached the Shamrocks for 41 seasons. They're led by senior OT Nick Carey.

Key games: vs. Birmingham Brother Rice on Sept. 24; vs. Orchard Lake St. Marys on Oct. 6.

5. Walled Lake Western

Coach: Mike Zdebski (20th year, 152-57). 

2016 record: 12-2, 5-0 Kensington Lakes AA-North (D2 runner-up).

Returning starters: 3 offense; 2 defense. 

Going deep: The Warriors hope to return to the state final for the second straight year and win its first championship since 1998. They leave the KLAA-North after nine seasons and join the Lakes Valleys Conference. Keep an eye on WR Justin Thomas and junior OT Spencer Brown, who's committed to Michigan State. 

Key games: Vs. West Bloomfield on Thursday; vs. White Lake Lakeland on Sept. 28.

4. West Bloomfield 

Coach: Ron Bellamy (eighth year, 36-32).

2016 record: 6-4, 4-2 OAA-Red (D1 district final)

Returning starters: 6 offense; 6 defense. 

Going long: The Lakers never have made it past the district championship round, but they return their best roster under Bellamy since 2015, includes seniors WR Taj Mustapha, QB Bryce Veasley, WR AJ Abbott and OT Javon Foster.

Key games: vs. Walled Lake Western on Thursday; vs. Clarkston on Sept. 15; at Southfield A&T on Oct. 13.

3. Orchard Lake St. Mary's 

Coach: George Porritt (29th year, 267-71).

2016 record: 10-4, 3-1 Catholic High School League-Central (D3 state champion)

Returning starters: 4 offense; 2 defense.

Going long: The Eaglets are shooting for their seventh state championship in school history and fourth in a row – all under Porritt. They've played in a state championship in eight of the last 10 seasons. They're led by seniors RB RaShawn Allen and OLB Ky'ren Cunningham and QB Caden Prieskorn. 

Key games: vs. Macomb Dakota on Thursday; vs. East Kentwood on Sept. 1; at Novi Detroit Catholic Central on Oct. 6.

2. Detroit King

Coach: Ty Spencer (second year, 12-2). 

2016 record: 12-2, 3-2 Detroit Public Schools League (D2 state champion).

Returning starters: 7 offense; 5 defense. 

Going long: The Crusaders chase their third straight state title and second under Spencer. In the new PSL-Black, they won't face Cass Tech, which beat them twice in 2016, unless the two teams get paired in the PSL playoffs. King returns seven players who have Division I offers, including seniors WR Erik Gibson, CB Jaeveyon Morton, RB Brandon Cooper and DE Maurice White.

Key games: vs. Indianapolis Cathedral (Ind.) on Saturday; at Toledo Central Catholic (Ohio) on Sept. 1.

1. Detroit Cass Tech

Coach: Thomas Wilcher (21st year, 161-64 record).

2016 Record: 14-0, 6-0 Detroit PSL-East (D1 state champion). 

Returning starters: 2 offense; 4 defense.

Going long: The Technicians are chasing their fourth title under Wilcher and their fifth appearance at Ford Field in the last six years. They return a bevy of players with Division I offers, including seniors CB Kalon Gervin, S DeAndre Square, DE Andre Carter, WR Brandon Gray, QB Aaron Jackson and LB Dyontae Johnson. 

Key games: vs. Pickerington (Ohio) on Thursday in Toledo; vs. Chicago Simeon (Ill.) on Sept. 1.

© 2017 Detroit Free Press


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