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Two-time defending state champ St. Mary's again tops our preseason Top 10 list WITH PHOTOS

  • Orchard Lake St. Mary's
  • Novi Detroit Catholic Central
  • Clarkston
  • Walled Lake Western
  • Southfield A&T
  • Oak Park
  • Birmingham Detroit Country Day
  • Birmingham Brother Rice
  • Farmington Hills Harrison
  • Novi
  • Orchard Lake St. Mary's
  • Novi Detroit Catholic Central
  • Clarkston
  • Walled Lake Western
  • Southfield A&T
  • Oak Park
  • Birmingham Detroit Country Day
  • Birmingham Brother Rice
  • Farmington Hills Harrison
  • Novi
  • Orchard Lake St. Mary's
  • Novi Detroit Catholic Central
  • Clarkston
  • Walled Lake Western
  • Southfield A&T
  • Oak Park
  • Birmingham Detroit Country Day
  • Birmingham Brother Rice
  • Farmington Hills Harrison
  • Novi
  • Orchard Lake St. Mary's
  • Novi Detroit Catholic Central
  • Clarkston
  • Walled Lake Western
  • Southfield A&T
  • Oak Park
  • Birmingham Detroit Country Day
  • Birmingham Brother Rice
  • Farmington Hills Harrison
  • Novi
  • Orchard Lake St. Mary's
  • Novi Detroit Catholic Central
  • Clarkston
  • Walled Lake Western
  • Southfield A&T
  • Oak Park
  • Birmingham Detroit Country Day
  • Birmingham Brother Rice
  • Farmington Hills Harrison
  • Novi
  • Orchard Lake St. Mary's
  • Novi Detroit Catholic Central
  • Clarkston
  • Walled Lake Western
  • Southfield A&T
  • Oak Park
  • Birmingham Detroit Country Day
  • Birmingham Brother Rice
  • Farmington Hills Harrison
  • Novi
  • Orchard Lake St. Mary's
  • Novi Detroit Catholic Central
  • Clarkston
  • Walled Lake Western
  • Southfield A&T
  • Oak Park
  • Birmingham Detroit Country Day
  • Birmingham Brother Rice
  • Farmington Hills Harrison
  • Novi
  • Orchard Lake St. Mary's
  • Novi Detroit Catholic Central
  • Clarkston
  • Walled Lake Western
  • Southfield A&T
  • Oak Park
  • Birmingham Detroit Country Day
  • Birmingham Brother Rice
  • Farmington Hills Harrison
  • Novi
  • Orchard Lake St. Mary's
  • Novi Detroit Catholic Central
  • Clarkston
  • Walled Lake Western
  • Southfield A&T
  • Oak Park
  • Birmingham Detroit Country Day
  • Birmingham Brother Rice
  • Farmington Hills Harrison
  • Novi
  • Orchard Lake St. Mary's
  • Novi Detroit Catholic Central
  • Clarkston
  • Walled Lake Western
  • Southfield A&T
  • Oak Park
  • Birmingham Detroit Country Day
  • Birmingham Brother Rice
  • Farmington Hills Harrison
  • Novi

A lot of familiar teams compose our best of the best heading into 2016 season

We are just under a week away from the start of the 2016 prep football season and plenty of Oakland County programs have high expectations for the next handful of months. Here is a look at our take for the top 10 teams entering the year.

1. Orchard Lake St. Mary’s – The Eaglets are coming off back-to-back Division 3 state championships and looking to complete their first three-peat in the storied program’s history. It certainly is a possibility given all the talent the Eaglets have back. Their defense alone features four of the top 25 players in Oakland County, including the top-overall player in Josh Ross (Michigan) and 13th-ranked Dwayne Chapman (Western Michigan). Despite playing a very competitive schedule, OLSM didn’t allow more than 14 points in its last 10 games from a year ago and it could improve on that this season. The Eaglets have tons of bulk and experience up front and a talented secondary led by Richard Bowens III (Iowa State) and Shermond Dabney (Bowling Green). The offense should also be able to pound the ball behind a solid line and backs like RaShawn Allen and Ky’ren Cunningham. Aside from the state title, the Eaglets will also have their eyes on a Catholic League title, which has eluded them the past few seasons.

(CLICK HERE FOR OAKLAND COUNTY’S TOP 50 PLAYERS)

2. Novi Detroit Catholic Central – The Shamrocks reached the Division 1 regional final last season before losing to eventual champion, Romeo. However, CC gave the Bulldogs their closest game in their playoff run. This year’s team puts their faith in sophomore quarterback Austin Brown, who is already garnering some national recruiting attention. Brown should have plenty of protection up front from a deep line, led by senior Blake Bueter. They also bring back senior running backs Nick Capatina and Tyler Morland. Catholic Central’s physicality should also carry over on defense once again. The Shamrocks held opponents to 14 points or less in nine of their 12 games in 2015, including all four CHSL opponents.

3. Clarkston – It was hard for Clarkston to go anywhere but down after winning back-to-back Division 1 state championships in 2013 and 2014, including an unbeaten season two years ago. The 2015 seasons saw the Wolves go 7-3 and bow out in the first round of the playoffs to eventual state champ, Romeo. This year’s squad can push for a deeper run, as they are deep and not as banged up as they were at this time last year. Nick Stalworth is one of the top linebackers in the county and can also contribute at running back on offense. J.T. King can be a dual-option threat at quarterback for the Wolves, who also have junior Michael Fluegel in the backfield. The Wolves still seem like the team to beat in the OAA Red due to the massive roster losses at West Bloomfield, but Clarkston learned it can’t take anything for granted in 2015.

4. Walled Lake Western – The Warriors had one of their best seasons in program history last year, going 12-1. They reached the Division 2 state semifinals before losing to Lowell and the 12 wins was the most Western had since 1999, when it went 14-0. The Warriors will have to adapt to losing quarterback Kyle Thomas, who was a Second Team All-County player a year ago, but they still have big play-makers at in seniors Cody White (Michigan State) and Jack Dodge. The Warriors also aren’t lacking in size up front, led by senior Robert Hudson (Purdue). Hudson stands 6-foot-9, 295-pounds and will be a load for anyone to deal with up front. The Warriors set a program record with 522 points in 2015. While that number may fall a little, their offense should still be explosive and carry them toward another big year.

5. Southfield A&T – The newly combined program of Southfield and Southfield-Lathrup won’t be lacking in talent in its debut season. Both Southfield and Lathrup each went to the playoffs in 2015 and would be competitive programs on their own. The Warriors feature seven of our top 50 players in Oakland County, led by linemen Andre Carter and Erick Eldridge (Ball State). The Warriors also feature senior linebacker Lorenzo McCaskill, who can fly to the ball. Offensively, the team will be led by sophomore quarterback Sam Johnson. Johnson has plenty of talent around him, including junior receiver Brandon Gray, who stands 6-5. Eric McArn and Lew Nichols will provide some punch in the backfield as well. Southfield A&T will be tested right away, opening with Martin Luther King, Clarkston and Birmingham Groves. Those early games should show us just how strong this team can be.

6. Oak Park – The Knights are another team with loads of talent. The key will be for them to put it all together. After an 0-3 start in 2015, Oak Park still managed to make the playoffs, but a 5-5 record still left a bad taste in the mouth of returning players. This year’s squad should be shooting for much better, as they have a solid amount of size up front in senior Ja’Raymond Hall (Michigan) and junior Marquan McCall. Sophomore quarterback Dwan Mathis already has offers from the likes of Cincinnati and Kentucky and will get his chance to improve his stock this season with skill players like Robert Zanders, Dylan Stackhouse and Robert Daniel around him. Oak Park is tested right away against Cass Tech and Groves, but if the Knights are going to be special, that will be their chance to show it.

7. Birmingham Detroit Country Day – The Yellowjackets are coming off an 11-2 record in 2015 that saw a run to the Division 4 semifinals. DCD had a tenacious defense a year ago, shutting out four opponents while allowing just 96 points for the season, its lowest total allowed since 1988. This year’s team shouldn’t take a step back, as it returns a number of two-way players. The offense will be led by quarterback Steve Mann. Mann threw for 1,477 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2015. He has some familiar faces back on offense in Chris Bergin, Cole Bearden, Nick Niebauer, LaNard Graham, Eric Jackson, Roy McCree and Kolin Demens. Mann also has a veteran offensive line that should allow him to carve up opposing defenses. After coming up short in the semifinals the last two seasons, this may be the season for Country Day to return to Ford Field.

8. Birmingham Brother Rice – The 2015 season was one to forget for the Warriors. The 2-7 record was the worst since 1964, while their 137 points scored was the fewest since 1982. Luckily for Rice, there is nowhere to go but up, and up it should go in 2016. This team still has plenty of talent, like lineman Larry Borom (Missouri), tight end Carter Dunaway (Michigan) and receiver Matthew Jordan. The focus will be on sophomore quarterback Mariano Valenti, who is the fifth-ranked sophomore in Michigan according to Scout.com. While the defense could have been better a year ago, it was mostly on the offense for Rice’s struggles. If they can find their stride early behind Valenti, the Warriors should quickly get back to being one of the best teams in the state.

9. Farmington Hills Harrison – The Hawks ended 2015 on a low note, losing their last two, including a 10-0 shutout to Groves in the first round of the playoffs. That disappointment could carry over into 2016 for Harrison, which should continue to be the competitive program it has been for decades. While the Hawks did lose sack-leader Khalid Kareem, they still bring back a lot of talent on defense. They should really shine at the linebacker position with the likes of junior Ovie Oghoufo (Notre Dame), senior Brendann Brown and senior Guam Lee. The Hawks also have talented sophomore defensive back Roderick Heard. The key for Harrison will be on offense, where they have to replace a number of key positions, including quarterback. However, the 2015 offense produced just 230 points, which was its lowest total since 2008. Look for Harrison to continue to ride its defense early as it hopes to improve on offense as the season moves on.

10. Novi – The Wildcats showed a little bit of what they can be when they upset West Bloomfield in the 2015 playoffs before losing a shootout to Novi Detroit Catholic Central in the district finals. Novi, which lost three games by 10 points or less, is hoping to take the momentum of a strong 2015 finish into the 2016 season. Novi will rely heavily on its offense, which is led by quarterback Alex Bageris, who threw for 2,344 yards and 22 touchdowns in 2015 and is the leading returning passer in Oakland County. Despite losing running back/receiver Emanuel Jackson, Bageris does have Anthony D’Annibale back. D’Annibale caught 55 passes for 882 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2015. Bageris also has a strong line in front of him, anchored by senior Adam Guirey.

Five more to watch (in alphabetical order): Birmingham Groves, Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood, Pontiac Notre Dame Prep, Rochester Adams, West Bloomfield

Last Updated: 8/21/2016 1:15:19 AM EST


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