Clarkston's Nick Matich, an all-state defensive tackle and Western Michigan-signee, was one of 13 Oakland County football stars tabbed to represent the state in the first-annual Michigan-Ohio Border Classic this June. (Oakland Press photo file)
FOOTBALL: Rosters announced, Oakland County well-represented in inaugural Border Classic
EAST LANSING – The look of Michigan’s roster for the first-annual Michigan-Ohio Border Classic will have a distinct local flair to it.
More than a dozen college-bound prep football standouts from Oakland County were named to the state’s roster Saturday morning at a press conference held in East Lansing at the Spartans Hall of Fame Café, thirteen in all.
There were only 40 players selected all together to go at it with the best-of-the-best in the Buckeye State for bragging rights on June 14 at Donnell Stadium on the campus of the University of Findlay (Ohio).
At the helm of the team is another familiar face, longtime Walled Lake Western head coach, Mike Zdebski.
Area players chosen were (in alphabetical order): defensive back Jason Alessi (Birmingham Brother Rice), kicker Kyle Bambard (Walled Lake Western), defensive back Curtis Brunson (Farmington), running back Ian Eriksen (Clarkston), defensive back Jalen Watts-Jackson (Orchard Lake St. Mary’s), offensive lineman Alex Joss (Walled Lake Western), wide receiver Marquian Johnson (Clawson), offensive lineman Brandon Keen (Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes), wide receiver Corey Lacanaria (Birmingham Brother Rice), defensive end Lawrence Marshall (Southfield), defensive tackle Nick Matich (Clarkston), defensive lineman Malik McDowell (Southfield), offensive lineman Chukes Okorafor (Southfield) and defensive end Dylan Roney (Novi Detroit Catholic Central).
Zdebski and his staff sure picked a homegrown group with a championship pedigree, as Alessi, Lacanaria, Eriksen, Matich and Watts-Jackson each have at least one state-title ring apiece.
If you count lacrosse, Alessi, inked with Yale for his college pigskin, has a whopping six.
“It’s definitely a big honor,” said Matich of being pegged to play in the game. “Being a part of something like this is kind of like the last leg of our high school careers before starting on our new journeys and going to play in college.”
Matich and Okorafor both signed with Western Michigan back on Wednesday during National Signing Day festivities at their respective high schools.
Watts-Jackson, who signed with Michigan State Wednesday, is amped for the opportunity.
“It sounds like it’s going to be a great time,” he said. “I already know a lot of the guys and I’m really looking forward to meeting the other ones, too.”
The Southfield pass-rush duo of Marshall and McDowell were two of the most heavily-recruited defensive lineman in the entire country this past year, with Marshall landing at Michigan and McDowell at Michigan State (committed, not signed).
Johnson, signed with Saginaw Valley State, was the county’s most prolific pass-catcher the past two seasons and Eriksen, signed with Eastern Michigan, was the area’s No. 1 rusher.
Lacanaria and Joss will be teammates after the Border Classic as well, set to reteam in college at Ball State.
The steel-footed Bambard is destined for the ACC and inked with N.C. State on Signing Day. Roney will be playing college football and serving his country for Navy. Brunson and Keen will be playing their Saturday's in college in the Mid-American Conference, as Brunson is signed with Ohio University and Keen with Central Michigan.