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FOOTBALL: Taking stock as 2013 midpoint draws near (PHOTOS)
Kyle Matejko and the Roosevelt Bears have left tacklers and opponents in their wake this season en route to a 4-0 start. The Bears will put that record on the line Friday when 4-0 Melvindale comes to call in the first major showdown of the Downriver League season. Photo by Larry Caruso
Jason Doyle's Melvindale Cardinals beat Anderson last Friday ti omprove to 4-0 and set up this week's big first-place showdown with Roosevelt. Photo by Dave Chapman
Jacob Mackie and the Cabrin i Monarchs got into the win column for the first time in three tries by beating Gabriel Richard in their Catholic League Inter-Sectional opener. Photo by Dave Chapman
And there is no better time for taking stock of the area’s teams than at a season’s midpoint.
Let’s start at the top. There are three unbeaten teams in the area, all members of the Downriver League, which is in the midst of a race that looks remarkably like last year’s when the conference ended up with a three-way tie at the top.
With the exception of a couple of flip-flopped schools, it the same story: The league has three top teams, two bottom teams and five that seem capable of winning – or losing – on any given night.
The slight change from last year is that Melvindale and Woodhaven have swapped placed. The unbeaten Cards are now one of the top three and the Warriors – who were one of the tri-champs last season – have slipped back in the middle five.
The Cards going 4-0 thus far has set up the league’s first “game of the year,” which will be Friday when Melvindale travels to Wyandotte to face the unbeaten Roosevelt Bears.
This has all the makings of a great battle, just like the Woodhaven-Wyandotte and Wyandotte-Truman games last year.
Because of their background and long history of success since the Downriver League was formed, casual observers may want to give this game to the Bears. That would be a mistake; reputations don’t win games and these Cards come in fully loaded.
Like the Bears, the Cards are a balanced team that can run and throw on offense and rally quickly to the ball on defense.
One thing the Cards have that the Bears don’t is a veteran quarterback.
Melvindale’s Jason Doyle is the area’s top passer. The three-year starter has an amazing 652 passing yards and 14 touchdowns through the first four games – that’s a 1,300-yard, 31-touchdown pace.
Doyle has shown he likes to get the ball to Kle’Sean Clark and the Melvindale coaches and fans like when he does it, too.
Clark may be Downriver’s most exciting runner. His darting, spinning style draws ooh-and-ahs from spectators and he is a running and receiving threat.
Each team also has a solid running game with D’Aries Davis carrying the load for Roosevelt and Quincy Gibbs acting as Melvindale’s bell cow.
And fans at Friday’s game in Wyandotte are in for a treat when two of the area’s top offensive talents step onto the field.
Roosevelt’s Brandon Sowards and Melvindale’s Malik Boynton are two of the most acrobatic receivers in the area, maybe the state. Both of them have turned in eye-popping catches this year and last.
With Sowards and Boynton on the field, each team is capable of scoring from anywhere.
The Bears are currently running a two-man quarterback system, and while we have all seen that blow up in coaches’ faces in the past, Roosevelt’s Ron Adams has it working smoothly.
Each signal-caller – senior Austin Pertravicius and junior Donovan Stewart ¬– has played well and their starts are amazingly equal. Stewart has passed for a few more yards, but Petravicius had a better completion percentage. Stewart has five TD passes, Petravicius four.
Combined, the Roosevelt quarterback position has accounted for 772 passing yards and nine scores.
With offensive weapons like that up and down both sidelines Friday night, the game is going to come down to which defense can stand up the best.
Roosevelt has always played good defense and this year’s team – led by senior linebacker Kyle Matejko – is no different. The Bears have allowed just 37 points in four games and they have five takeaways.
Melvindale’s defense is not as widely hailed as Wyandotte’s, but the Cards get after it like a pack of dogs. It is a gang-tackling bunch and that can really, really run.
Like Wyandotte, Melvindale’s defense has two shutouts and has allowed even fewer points, just 27 in four games.
With two teams this close, it could come down to the kicking game and the Bears have a seasoned kicker in Jacob Simpson, who leads the team in scoring. This year alone, Simpson is 25-for-25 on extra points and 4-for-4 on field goal tries.
If you’ve got five bucks and a Friday evening to kill, you could do a lot worse than to head down to Wyandotte and watch these teams collide.
While the Cards and Bears get after it Friday night, the league’s other top team, Truman, will take a leisurely trip over to Lincoln Park where the struggling Railsplitters are still laboring under the weight of a losing streak that has reached 65 games.
If any team has been unchallenged so far this season, it is Coach Eric Stiegel’s Cougars. In its first four games, Truman has led at the end of the first quarter by scores of 30-0, 22-0, 22-0 and 32-0. The Cougars have outscored four opponents 224-42 and have scored 50 or more points in three of their four games. Last week they hung 66 on Trenton.
If they keep up this pace – which seems impossible considering that they still have to face the top two defenses in the league – the Cougars will score more than 500 points this year. That would be almost 100 more than last year’s team, which itself was an offensive juggernaut.
Like they have since Stiegel arrived in Taylor, the Cougars share the ball like none others.
Using their funky and unconventional offensive formation with its full house-tee backfield, they run right and they run left and then they bust it up the middle, giving everyone in the backfield and even a few guys on the sidelines a crack at the ball.
Devonte McGregor is a bulldozing workhorse in the Truman backfield, but he is hardly alone. McGregor has 400 rushing yards this year, but Leon Contreras had 326, D’Ante Barrow has 316, quarterback Devontae McCuien has 220, Joe Dudley had 174 and Clarence Massey has 150.
In all, 12 players have carried the ball this year for the Cougars and they team already 1,692 rushing yards.
Defensively the team is equally imposing, led by McGregor, Donovin Rubens and Tyler Matchko.
In an interesting quirk of the schedule this year, Truman will not see either Melvindale or Roosevelt until the eighth week of the regular season and then play them back-to-back when the Cougars go to Wyandotte and then host Melvindale.
After the league’s top three teams, there is an interesting battle between the next five to see who can secure a playoff berth this season. All five teams have at least two losses, so a league title is likely out of reach but the playoffs are a clear and present goal for several of them.
The teams with the best chances are Carlson, Anderson and Allen Park, each with 2-2 records.
Each of those three teams has already seen two of the three top clubs in the league, so it’s going to come down to who plays the best against each other and the teams below them.
Anderson gets its march started this week at home against Trenton, Carlson is at Woodhaven and Allen Park is at winless Kennedy.
If things work out, rivals Anderson and Allen Park could be meeting on the final week of the season with a playoff berth on the line. The flames of that old rivalry have dimmed a bit in recent years, but a regular-season-ending game with the playoffs at stake would be like a shot of lighter fluid on a hot barbeque grill.
Woodhaven and Trenton each have three losses and are on the brink of being eliminated from playoff contention, but each of these teams could have a big say in who goes and who stays home.
Finally, there are Lincoln Park and Kennedy.
The best chance for each of these two teams to win comes in two weeks when they square off against each other at Kennedy. LP is lugging around its long losing skid and Kennedy is just 4-18 in its last 22 games. Neither team has really come close to winning this year.
Lincoln Park nearly ended its losing streak at 58 games against Kennedy last year, but the Eagles scored late to break the Railsplitters’ hearts.
Elsewhere, despite losing a close decision to bitter rival Cabrini last week, the Gabriel Richard Pioneers are halfway to reaching their first playoff berth in 10 years, which would be just the third in school history.
After playing less than great teams in their first three games, the Pioneers proved their mettle even in defeat last week.
After falling behind 12-0 early the Pioneers battled back and played even with the Monarchs.
It was kind of a win-win night for each school as the Monarchs got their first will and the Pioneers got even more respect than they did with their first three wins.
After watching these two go at it last Friday, you’d have to believe that they are each two of the top contenders in the Catholic League Tri-Sectional Division this season.
Richard is a heavy favorite against league opponent Cranbrook this week, but Cabrini has no time to celebrate last week’s win as they welcome in unbeaten Royal Oak Shine for homecoming this Friday.
In the Huron League, Grosse Ile got knocked off its unbeaten perch in Monroe last Friday when St. Mary Catholic Central beat the Devils 29-8.
Unbeaten SMCC is tied for the league lead, but Grosse Ile has little time to lick its wounds as the Huron’s other co-leader, Milan, comes to the island Friday.
It’s a bit of bad luck to have to face these powerhouses back-to- back, but the schedule is what it is.
It was even more bad luck for the Devils to have star quarterback Andrew Mitroka go down with a leg injury against SMCC.
Although he is just a junior, Mitroka is among the area’s passing and rushing leaders and if he is out of the line-up for any length of time it is a real blow to Coach John Bodner’s team.
Also Friday, Riverview travels to New Boston to take on Coach Dan Kalbfleisch’s Huron Chiefs.
Since beating Summit Academy on opening night, it has been a tough go for the Chiefs, who have scored just 10 points in their last three games.
Of course, those games have come against Grosse Ile, SMCC and Milan, three teams with a combined 11-1 record far this season.
The Chiefs will look to get it restarted against Riverview, but the Bucs seem to have regained the footing defensively after a poor season a year ago.
Riverview’s only loss has come against Milan and its wins have been mostly big ones. If you take away the loss to Milan, Riverview is giving up just about a touchdown per game.
Offensively, with speedsters Marcus Samuels and Josh Smith running wild, Riverview has scored 41, 28, 27 and 50 points in its games this year.
Last Updated: 9/24/2013 2:50:56 PM EST