Blogs > Burney's Bytes

Burney's Bytes will focus primarily on the local preps sports scene, but will also touch on some college and pro athletics, mostly in regards to athletes who hail and have played high school sports in Oakland County. My goal for the blog is to be conversational and anecdotal, a more relaxed and free formal take on high school athletics than you see in regular game day coverage.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Monday Morning Quarterback

New Oak Park head coach, Mario Evans, made his varsity coaching debut one to remember, by leading the, Knights to a surprising, not to mention convincing opening night win on the road at Romulus. Leading the OP's winning effort were QB Adante Pointexter and WR Jailen Cross, who connected for 3 TD's. Both Pointdexter and Cross are front line replacements for the departed Keith Moore (Cass Tech) and Daryl Flemister (Detroit Allen), who each transfered last spring.  Moore was slated to start at QB for the Knights and Flemister, a jet-fast wide out who made all-oconference last season, has decided to concentrate on basketball at his new school. The departures of talented-players like Moore and Cross has made Evans' job extra-hard. Oh, did I mention that the Knights also lost all-state RB Edwin "Rock" Baker, currently at Michigan State. 
Not letting such factors he can't control deter his hunger for success, Evans appears poised to turn around a program that failed to live up to expectations last season with a new, more-disciplined and harder-working group of players than what was under former head coach Tim Hopkins in '08. While allegations of improper conduct hounded Hopkins in his tenure with the Knights, Evans is a class act through and through and exactly the right person to get that program up to snuff. With Friday's impressive win, he's well on his way.
Speaking of stellar debuts, Farmington Hills Harrison senior QB Vince Salatino made his first varsity career start under center one to remember by tossing a trio of long touchdowns and leading the Hawks to a 24-0 shutout win over BH Lahser. There were some doubters out there that wondered if the inexperienced Salatino could get the job done calling signals for a team that was trying to rebound from an uncharacteristic sub-500 campaign last year. Throwing for 215 yards and scores of 45, 33 and 47 respectively, it looks if Salatino is well on his way to silencing any and all naysayers. Sophomore speedster Aaron Burbridge was on the receiving end of two of those touchdown passes and displayed an "X-Factor" type flair in his five catch, 102 yard performance, that, as of late, has been missing from the Hawks traditionally-loaded offensive arsenal. Burbridge could end up being the next great player to emerge from the almost always-stacked Harrison program. 
Brother Rice's Jimmy Pickens is one of the top safeties in the recruiting class of 2011, but judging by his 150 yard, three touchdown outing against UofD-Jesuit on Friday, he's a definite threat at running back too. Pickens broke off three huge chunk plays for his trio of end zone-jaunts. On defense, he looked sharp as well, collecting four tackles, three pass deflections and a fumble recovery he returned for a TD. Pickens, a starter since his freshman year, calls plays and quarterbacks the Warriors secondary, one of the premiere defensive back units in the state.
Major props go out to Novi Detroit Catholic Central  back-up tailback Jon Savakis, who filled in more than admirably for an injured Anthony Capatina last Friday night, scampering for a game-high 120 yards and a 6-yard touchdown run in the Shamrocks 49-0 throttling of Detroit Cody. Running behind the exquisite blocking of mega-fullback Niko Palazetti, Salvakis hit all the right holes and picked up all the correct blocking/blitz schemes in his first career start in the backfield. Palazetti, the county's best goal-line power back, did significant damage himself, battering his way to a trifecta of red-zone scores, making sure CC didn't miss a beat in "running" its offense without the services of Capatina.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Pack-ed & Ready To Go

Birmingham Seaholm super-stud hoopster Richaud Pack has decided where he will be playing next year. On Wednesday, Pack, who led the Maples to a conference championship last season as a junior, committed to Florida International and its new head coach, Isaiah Thomas. The 6-6 silky-smooth swing-guard is one of the top players in the state of Michigan's highly-vaunted Class of 2010, a crop of talented prepsters that includes Country Day's Ray McCallum, Jr. and Mt. Pleasant's Trey Zeigler, two of the nation's most sought after recruits and both teammates of Pack on his summer AAU team. I ran into Richaud on Thursday night at the Seaholm football game and he told me that he was "excited to go down to Miami and help Isaiah turn FIU into a competitor." Richaud is a great kid with a solid head on his shoulders. There are no ego trips with this kid and you can tell he will be very coachable at the next level. I'm expecting Richaud and his cousin and teammate Shawn Conway, an athletic and wiry forward, to take the Maples back to the promised land again this winter and give the Seaholm nation another season to remember. Look for the Pack-led Maple ballers to once again compete for a district title and possibly a trip into the regionals, a place no Seaholm team has gone since the '97 squad - headlined by standout guards Jon Borovich (Central Michigan), Matt Ishpia (Michigan State), Mark Hayes (Madonna), and David Schaeffer (Michigan State on a Football scholarship) - advanced into the Class A Sweet Sixteen and bowed to a Detroit Central team, which featured NFL all-pro Antonio Gates.

 - on a side note, I also ran into Southfield's tantalizing tandem of a backcourt in Carlton "Check'in My Stats" Brundidge and Desmond "Pee Wee" Barnes, at the game. This guard duo is so cold, any icey-breeze follows them wherever they go. Brundidge, a sweet scoring combo guard is being coveted by a number of DI hoop powers, including Michigan, Michigan State, Xavier, Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ohio State, and Butler. Although CB wouldn't tip his hand to what school he's going to select, he did say, "I'm leaning towards staying at home. I like coach Belien and Michigan a lot" 

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Burney Says! - Saturday's Forecast

Riverview Gabriel Richard v. Southfield Christian - The Eagles, led into battle by DI players Taylor Calero and Devon Bailey, are surrounded by a lot of hype and some hefty expectations coming into the '09 season. Will they live up to their press clippings and make this a season to remember? Burney Says: a resounding YES!!! SC shows big in the opener in front of the home crowd, running away with a exhilarating win behind 150 yds and 2 tds on the ground by Bailey and a pair of tds through the air by new qb Conner Michaels. Calero wrecks havoc in the GRichard backfield all game, recording three sacks and a dozen tackles.

SC 31 R. Gabriel Richard 21

Royal Oak Shrine v. Detroit Douglas - The Knights Phil Galloway breaks out from Anthony Cade's enormous shadow and leads coach Goddard's Shriners to a "eek out" win on the road. Galloway stomps his way for 175 on the ground and new starting qb, Branch Kampe, looks sharp in throwing for three td's in his debut for the blue and gold.

Shrine 28 Douglas 27

Suttons Bay v. Waterford Our Lady of The Lakes - Junior field general Mike Sullivan brings a slingers mentality to legendary coach Mike Boyd's traditionally run-happy offense and I predict the results will be kind over the next two seasons. Entering his second year under center, Sullivan kicks off the campaign in style, tossing for a trifecta of scores in a Lakers victory.

WOLL 24 Suttons Bay 17 

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Burney Says! - Friday's Forecast

'09 Prep Football Season - Opening Day Pt. 2
Friday's Top Gridiron Match-Ups in The OC:
Bloomfield Hills Andover v. AH Avondale - Francois Matthews goes buck wild on the Barons inexperienced 'D', D.J. Lynch (Bowling Green) corrals himself double-digits in tackles, and emerging star Tony Harris finds his way into the end zone in aYellowjackets route
Avondale 34 Andover 14
UofD-Jesuit v. Birmingham Brother Rice - The Warriors bust out big in the home opener against hated-rival U-of-D. Frankie Popp goes for 3 TD's - all to Kevonte Martin-Manley, proving why the Rice duo are the best pitch and catch pair in the state. Lockdown corner Michael Brown takes a pick to the house and Jumbo Hamilton introduces himself to the OC by picking up six tackles and a sack.
Rice 31 UofD-Jesuit 21
Clarkston v. Rochester Hills Adams - Clarkston gets the monkey off its back and spoils the Highlanders home opener. Dakota Bender and Tyler Scarlett get a pair of scores each in the Wolves' win. Junior Andrew Hammett's debut under center for Tony Partrito's Adams squad is solid, producing two TD's for the sure-to-be overflowing Brown and Gold mass of a home crowd.
Clarkston 28 Adams 24
Lake Orion v. Hudsonville - Dragons open in style and show why they are the cream of the crop in the metro Detroit area. The dynamic tailback duo of Kym Bruce and Marques Stevenson ploys their way to a combined 200-plus and 3 scores.
Lake Orion 24 Hudsonville 17
Detroit Denby v. Novi Detroit Catholic Central - Shamrocks roll big behind their "fire and ice" pair of running backs in bulldozing Niko Palazetti and fleet-footed Anthony Capatina. CC offensive line stalwart Jeff Sherman gets himself a hand full of pancake blocks and impresses the college scouts
CC 42 Denby 7 
Troy v. Rochester - Chris Wheeler and Damon Brown shine in the backfield for the Colts, displaying another vicious running tandem in the ever talent-laden OC. Rising star Nick Bradley, the Falcons' second year starting QB, gives the team and the home field something to cheer about by showing them there's hope on the horizon. Bradley and speedster Charles Holmes connect on a trio of scores, but its not enough.
Troy 28 Rocheser 21
Troy Athens v. Rochester Stoney Creek - Senior field general Kevin Bolhuis bowls over the competition and gets the home crowd a "W"
Stoney Creek 21 Athens 17
Walled Lake Western v. Flint Carmen-Ainsworth - Western squeaks it out behind Sam Welch and Co. and come back south down I-75 with big smiles across their faces
WL Western 34 Flint CA 28

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Burney Says! - Thursday's Forecast

Thursday's Top Match-Ups - Opening Week of Prep Football Season '09
1. Birmingham Detroit Country Day v. Birmingham Seaholm - Don't underestimate the Maples - with a major chip on their shoulders after '08's 1-8 debacle - and their raucous home field advantage. Watch for a big game from Seaholm's Shawn Conway, a wiry and wicked speedy wide out that tore up a scrimmage against Divine Child last week, against the Yellowjackets secondary. In the end, DCD's experience and edge at the QB spot proves the difference.
DCD 24 Seaholm 20
2. West Bloomfield v. Birmingham Groves - It could be a shoot out in the making when D-I recruit and Hawks QB Chad Davis meets up with the Lakers lethal receiving corps led by Cameron Fields and Aaron White. However, I dare to say when its all over, WB's 'D' comes up big, especially, "The Wolfpack", the nickname for the Lakers sticky secondary unit. Senior safety Aaron Foster picks Davis late, letting the WB prevail and spoil Groves' home opener.
THA WB 28 Groves 21
3. Farmington v.Southfield - Revenge is on the Falcons minds as they head back to Blue Jays Stadium in Southfield, the location of the team's ouster in the first round of last year's playoffs. Matt Craven and Dae'Von Scarber connect for a pair of TD's through the air, but Southfield's tenacious ground attack, anchored by the bruising duo of Maurice Davenport and Daevon Robinson, is too much for the Farmington 'D' to handle. Look for transfer Kevin Harmon to collect a sack or two at least - Harmon had 23 last season playing at Detroit Henry Ford - in his debut for head coach Tim Conley's Blue Jays and lead the Southfield effort in the pass rush department.
Southfield 20 Farmington 17
4. Clawson v. St. Clair Shores Lake Shore - Rob Feeman throws for 300 in his first game as a senior and Howard Crippen breaks off a 125 yd rushing performance with a Td both through the air and on the ground.
Clawson 42 Lake Shore 28
5. Orchard Lake St. Mary's v. East Grand Rapids - The Eaglets score some good 'ole fashioned 'get back' as they go on the road and find redemption for last season's opening game wallop. Robert Bolden opens the campaign in style, throwing for 250 and a couple of scores, showing why he's one of the best in the state chucking the pigskin.
OLSM 31 E.Grand Rapids 23
6. Southfield-Lathrup v. Royal Oak - The Chargers offensive arsenal of WR Montrell Robinson, QB Brandon Petty and RB Justin Davis go wild on the Ravens.
S. Lathrup 24 Royal Oak 14

Monday, August 24, 2009

2009 Power Rankings - OC Pre-Season Position Breakdown

1. Robert Bolden  - OLSM
2. Frankie Popp  - Brother Rice
3. Josh Harris  - DCD
4. Tyler Scarlett  - Clarkston
5. A. Sam Welch  - WL Western B. Rob Feeman - Clawson C. Chad Davis - Groves
1. Devon Bailey- Southfield Christian
2. Dakota Bender - Clarkston
3. Francois Matthews - Avondale
4. Kym Bruce - Lake Orion
5. Niko Palazetti - Catholic Central/Daevon Robinson - Southfield
1. Kevonte Martin-Manley - Brother Rice
2. Montrell Robinson - Southfield-Lathrup
3. Cameron Fields - West Bloomfield
4. Brandon Pittman - Ferndale
5. Shawn Conway - Birmingham Seaholm
1. Jake Duzey - Troy Athens
2. Mitch Sanders - Farmington
3. Connor Hart - Brother Rice
4. Steve Bills - N. Farmington
5. Mike Padula - OLSM
1. Jordan Sanders - Rochester Hills Adams
2. Jeff Sherman - Catholic Central
3. Pat Fehlberg - Lake Orion
4. Ben Walker - Lake Orion
5. Effrem Owens - Clawson
1. Taylor Calero - Southfield Christian
2. Kevin Harmon - Southfield
3. Chris Eddins - DCD
4. Phil Serzo - Lake Orion
5. Marc Sanchez - WL Western/Nick De Miro - Rochester Hills Adams
1. Justin Cherocci - Brother Rice
2. Jason Ray - DCD
3. D.J. Lynch - Avondale
4. Maurice Davenport - Southfield
5. A. Drew Stokas - Lahser B. Matt Judan - West Bloomfield C. Justin D'Agostino - CC
1. Michael Brown - Brother Rice
2. Daevon Scarber - Farmington
3. Chris Wheeler - Troy
4. Lee Bailey - DCD
5. Gary Hunter - OLSM/Tony Harris - Avondale
1. Ernest Thomas - OLSM
2. Jimmy Pickens - Brother Rice 
3. Aaron Foster - West Bloomfield
4. Vinnie Booker - Lake Orion
5. Martez Shelton - Pontiac
Head Coaches
1. Al Fracassa - Brother Rice
2. Tom Mach - CC
3. Chris Bell - Lake Orion
4.Gary Griffith - Troy
5. Kurt Richardson - Clarkston/Dan McClean - DCD 

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Pee Wee's Playhouse

Watch out OC, Pee Wee is coming to town. Desmond "Pee Wee" Barnes that is, one of the best junior guards in the state. Scorching the nets for 18 ppg as a sophomore at Detroit Consortium Prep, Barnes has just transferred to Southfield and will team with Carlton Brundidge, THE best and most highly-recruited guard in the same 2011 class, to make a devastating backcourt combination for the Blue Jays this winter. When its all said and done, Brundidge and Barnes could end up the best backcourt in the state this year.
Both players are physical slashing types that "drive" opposing coaches and defenders nuts. Expect a good 45 points a night, at least, from head coach Gary Teasley's newly-anointed "Killer Bees". Brundidge is such a bucket-hound, he can score 25 points in his sleep. He will get 50 before he graduates in two years, mark my words! Pee Wee is the perfect compliment to Brundidge too. His game is as smooth as silk and he attacks the basket with same relentlessness that's his new teammates does. There won't be any adjustment curve either. The chemistry is already there, the pair having played this whole summer on the same AAU team and being close friends.
Wow, what a force they're going to be. Mark my word, the OC WILL become Pee Wee's playhouse and the Blue Jays, led by the whirling-dervish duo of Brundidge and Barnes will be as dangerous as ever in 2010 and 2011.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Training Camp Report - Roughriders Mount Up For Title Shot

Talent and experience on the soccer field is rich and plenty over at Birmingham Roeper this season.  With the majority of the team's starters returning from last year's district championship squad, the Roughriders are one of the favorites to win the MIAC, the premiere small school soccer conference in the state, in 2009. It will be no easy task though, as the MIAC has added a number of new schools with competitive soccer programs and is the home to the 2008 Division 4 state champion, Oakland Christian Lancers. The 'Riders and head coach, Ed Sack, know the road ahead of them is going to be a tough one, but they are embracing the challenge, evidenced by the hard work the team was exerting at a practice I stopped by this week 

Sack, a former college soccer stud in his own right at Eastern Michigan back in the 1980's, thinks this team could end up being one of his best ever. Taking over the perennial state power in 1998 from former University of Michigan head coach Mike Ruddy - who took the program to a state final and back-to-back final four appearances in the mid-90's and three straight quarterfinals appearances in the 1980's - Sack has maintained the winning tradition, having claimed five district titles and two regional crowns in his tenure so far. "These kids have the skill and the heart to do some real damage on the field this year," he said. "Playing in this league makes you tough and we know every time we go out there its a prove yourself type of a game."

The high-scoring trio of seniors Carter Sims and Ryan Zinser and junior Warner Roenecki will provide the bulk of the Roughriders' fast-paced offensive assault. Roenecki has a serious nose for the net and had 15 goals and nine assists as a sophomore last season, second on the team to only senior all-stater Brad George, who scored 26 goals and missed a third of the year due to injury. Sims is a dynamic ball handler, who can control tempo from his spot as an athletic attacking mid-fielder. Zinser is one of the hardest working athletes in the county and like Roenecki, exhibits the rare skill to always manage to be around the ball and the goal at the most opportune times.

The Roeper defense will be headlined by all-state senior sweeper Jacob Saslow, senior goalie Cole Stasek, and the Vellette Brothers, sophomore Jordan, the squad's stopper, and freshman David Vellette, who has earned a starting spot at defensive midfield. Saslow is the team's captain and coach on the field. Sack calls him, "the best leader I've ever coached.". Stasek, a three year starter, is in the upper-echelon of the conference in netminders. He's big - 6-5 - and athletically savvy and will keep opposing forwards honest with his long wing span. The Vellettes, both small in stature, each have big time on-field IQ's and use their lack of size to their advantage. 

If Thursday's pre-season scrimmage against Division One foe, Waterford Mott, is any indication, the Roughriders could be in for one heck of a campaign. Roeper blitzkrieged past Mott 5-1, dominating the game from start to finish. Sims and Roenecki each had two goals apiece and Saslow chipped in with one as well.   

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Training Camp Report - Trojan Power

The senior-laden Clawson football team is getting ready for some pretty big things this fall. If the expectations go as planned, the Trojansm, dominated by three-year starters at all the most crucial spots, could be making some serious noise come playoff time and become one of the county's best feel good stories of the 2009 season. Over the past two years, this group has played some real quality football, yet just barely missed qualifying for the post-season in both '07 and '08. I predict this is the year they will get it done. Pencil head coach Tim Sparks' bunch of gritty gladiators for the school's first trip to the Division 3 playoffs since 2006 - Sparks has gotten his squad into the post season in three of his seven years at the helm
Its easy to have faith in this team, as they have two of the MAC-Bronze conference's best skill position players in senior quaterback, Rob Feeman and senior running back Howard Crippen, each being recruited to play at the next level. Feeman, getting looks from a number of mid-major programs and a whose-who of D2 schools, is an old fashioned gun-slinger with a rocket arm. He exhibits a magnetic leadership on the field that makes the players around him want to go out of there way to make sure they don't let him down. He's smart too, calling the majority of the teams plays himself from the line of scrimmage based on how he reads the opposing defense. That's how much confidence that Sparks and his staff have in him. "Its just amazing how mature his mind for the game is," said Sparks of his on-the-field leader. "He has sharpe instincts and is attune to all the little nuances that make quarterbacks great"
Crippen, also talking to a bunch of mid-majors, is fast and strong and is sure to be one of the more statistically prolific backs in the area this year. In addition to his hard-nosed running, Crippen is a danger catching the ball in the flat - over 70 receptions in his two years on Varsity -and provides Feeman a lethal checkdown option/safety valve in case of the blitz. The definition of a win-at-all-costs talent, Crippen plays both ways, captaining the squad's defensive secondary from his spot at Strong Safety. "The more you see of him, the more impressed you become," said Sparks, "He just a workhorse of every sense of the word."
Feeman's primary targets this season will be senior wide out Mike Griffen, last season's leading receiver, and junior Cody Lehman, a starter since he was a freshman in the slot. Griffen and Lehman each have the capability to shred up significant yardage against opposing cornerbacks and can hurt teams in both the short and long passing game. In the trenches, the Trojans line will be led by the beefy-tanden of Efremm Owens and Steve Wendell.
"I think this team has a big opportunity in front of it," said Sparks following a practice on Tuesday afternoon. "With the kind of skill and leadership this group possess, they have the chance to be very dangerous on the field and do something special. But I'm a put up or shut up kind of guy. So, you got to do it, before you have the right to be talking about it. Talk is cheap. Now, until we beat Lamphere, who in my opinion is the favorite in the league and a team we've had some recent problems with, none of this really matters much. That said, if we can do that, the sky's really the limit with these guys" 

Monday, August 17, 2009

Training Camp Report - Blue Jays Re-Load

The Southfield Blue Jays have lost a lot of big time players from last season's squad that made a dramatic run all the way to the final four, but in no way, shape, or form is fifth year head coach Tim Conley conceding this year as a rebuilding project. And why should he. If you are a solid program with solid roots, like Southfield is, you don't rebuild, you simply re-load. "There is a lot of athletic talent on this team and that alone will be able to keep us competitive," he said on Monday in an interview. "I don't have a ton of tape on a lof of these guys, cause the experience and playing time just isn't there, but seeing what they've been able to do this summer and in this first week of practice, I like what I see."
After watching Conley's Blue Jays go through a heated and productive practice early-Monday afternoon, I'm pretty sure there will not be that drastic drop of a drop-off on the field when the season kicks off in two weeks. Conley and his coaching staff's dogged work ethic, coupled with a group of hard working players, won't let it. Although the departure of such Blue Jays gridiron stalwarts like QB Eddie "The Real Deal" Beal, RB Tim Keith (Wayne St.), and WR's De Andre Sutton (Findlay) and Antwon Robinson (Wayne St.), will most likely prevent the team from contending for a state title like in '08, there is no reason with the type of talent left behind that the squad can't contend for the league crown and a return trip back into the playoffs - after that, anything can happen. In fact, if I know coach Conley and his troops like I think I do - watching last year's miraculous come from behind post-season wins against Dearborn and Wyandotte Roosevelt, is all i had to witness to become a believer in the gutsy Blue Jays -, I expect it.
There might be a little lack of big game experience on this team, but judging by what I saw at practice Monday, the talent is still there for sure. The addition of a few transfers will help significantly. Especially on the defensive side of the ball, where All-PSL performer, Kevin Harmon, a dominating rush end who has come over from Detroit Henry Ford, will anchor Southfield's defensive front. Harmon led the PSL in sacks in 2008, racking up a rotund 23. Offensively, transfer Brandon Watkins, formerly of Novi, is battling it out with fellow 10th grader Justin Danzy, for the Blue Jays starting QB role. Watching them throw today, both seem to have nice touch with their passes and a good feel for the offense. The decision on who ends up starting probably won't end up being made to right before the season starts against Farmington on August 28.
Helping out whoever wins the job will be the rock of the Blue Jays team this season - their powerful running game. The bruising duo of senior battering ram Maurice Davenport and junior fire plug Daevon Robinson, will be one of the better tailback duos in the entire state. Davenport, with a scholarship offer from Eastern Michigan already, will also help Harmon run the 'D' from his spot at middle linebacker.
Conley will look to senior William Lyons to be one of his major playmakers on both offense and defense. The speedy Lyons is slotted to be the team's number one receiving option and he will captain the team's secondary from his safety position. "He's one of the best pure athletes I've coached. He's got wheels and good natural evasive instinct. We expect him to make a lot of plays for us whenever he's on the field.". Senior Kalen Willis will also be pulling double duty for Conley, lining up opposite Lyons as the Blue Jays number two receiving option and helping him out in the secondary at a cornerback spot. Willis made some big plays in the team's playoff run last Nov and hopefully some of that mojo will carry over to the upcoming campaign.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Bingham Makes Big Bang

In one of the bigger stories to emerge from the summer prep hoops scene and if early reports are true, it appears that junior power forward Urbane Bingham has transferred from Birmingham Detroit Country Day to North Farmington. Bingham is one of the best young post players in the county and is a definite DI college prospect. Teamed with senior guard Kyle Vinales, arguably the area's most pure scorer, the Raiders are suddenly a serious contender in the OAA. Don't forget about Thurgood McCants either. He's an athletic role player who will be significantly helped by the edition of Bingham too. Because he lives in Farmington Hills, Bingham is slated to suit up in his new Raiders' digs at the start of the season, instead of having to sit out until mid-January, per the usual protocol with transfers. The big man's departure underlines the one problem with head coach, Kurt Keener's Yellowjackets program over at DCD, perennial blue chip factory. With all that talent at your disposal, sometimes long jams develop with regards to playing time and certain players end up feeling undervalued. Last year, Bingham saw limited minutes on a squad that including himself, had four DI bigs. Even though two of them are gone to graduation, if Bingham would have stayed at Country Day, he would have had to play second fiddle to his former classmate, the 6-9 Amir Williams, the most highly-touted post player in the state's junior recruiting class and incoming senior Ray McCallum, the number five ranked prep point guard in the whole country. In contrast, in coming over to North Farmington, Bingham automatically become his new team's number one option in the paint and the only target for Vinales when he wants to run the pick and role or drives the lane looking to dish.  I don't know about you, but upon hearing this news, I Immediately got jacked up to see the Raiders play this year. Whatever record they end up sporting aside, the newly-revamped North Far mington hoops squad will without a doubt be one of the more exciting teams to watch in 2010

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Training Camp Report - Mighty Maples Show Resolve

There wasn't a team in the county who started practice this week with a bigger chip on their proverbial shoulders than head coach Chris Fahr and his squad over at Birmingham Seaholm. Coming off a brutally painful and disappointing 1-8 season, the Maples are looking to rebound big from the depths of despair and restore the respectability at the traditional suburban powerhouse whose loyal fan base has never been described as anything less than rabid. If anyone can lead the resurgence its the 35 year old Fahr, heading into his fifth campaign on the sidelines at Maple Field and one of the state's most promising young football coaching minds. In his first year at the helm in '05, he led the team to a 9-3 record, a conference championship, and the school's first road playoff win in over a decade. Back-to-back 5-4 campaigns followed before '08's disaster of a season.
Last year's squad was full of high profile talent that didn't produce on the field. This season Fahr's troops are significantly less heralded, but he a group he feels will do all the right things to put the program back on top. Understanding that drastic situations call for drastic measures, Fahr had his team on the practice field this week every day at 6:00 am and although he mixed in as many hydrating breaks as possible, film sessions, meals, and 2-3 hour rest stops, the squad didn't break for the day until past sunset. This is the kind of dedication that the program needs from its players to spearhead a major league turnaround in '09. With a solid core of on the field leaders and a fresh influx of some new talent, Fahr thinks its only a matter of time before fruits start to bare on the scoreboard and the standings. "These kids know what needs to be done, specifically, what things need to change, in order for us to re-find success," he said on the sidelines at a practice this week. "They want to sacrifice and give every ounce of themselves for the good of the team. Its just an unbelievable effort on the part of the whole group, especially the seniors, to make the changes needed to put things back going in the right direction. They're the hardest workers 'ive ever coached.  I have no doubt its going to translate to success on the field." 
Watching practice alongside the Michigan-born coach who got schooled in the ways of the gridiron on the highly-competitive high school fields in the state of Georgia, it was evident this team has overwhelming determination and resolve. Adding transfer Shawn Conway, a 6-4 big play receiver, returner, and cornerback, will aid the re-building effort. His breath-taking skill was evident during the practice session as he caught almost every ball that came his way, a lot of them in traffic, and displayed a magnetic leadership ability that drew the best out of the players around him. Seniors Jake Bowman (RB), Mac Howell (Lineman), Hunter Lukart (Lineman), Keith Otterbein (WR/QB), Jack Quigley (QB/TE) will headline the Maples attack.
The biggest story coming out of camp,besides the addition of Conway, is probably the fight for the starting QB spot being fought between the challenger, Otterbein, whose father is a college coach at Hillsdale, and Quigley,the incumbent and starter in '08. Whoever wins the job will have a stable of big and physical receivers to throw to. Besides Conway, 6-4 Jake Flattery, Chris Bahr, and Tommy McCardell all looked good running routes and catching passes in practice. Matt Roden, one of the  team's starting safeties, and Greg Joseph, will spell Bowman at the tailback position. New coordinators Nick Dean, previously at Troy and the new OC and Dave Furlong, previously of Madison Heights Madison and the new DC, will be great additions to Fahr's staff and should give the Seaholm faithful optimisim that much better days are on the horizon.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Training Camp Report - Soaring Eagles

A mere three years old, the Southfield Christian football program may play second fiddle to other, bigger Oakland County prep squads in things like size and overall exposure, but there is one thing the Eagles have that most area teams, no matter how big or small, don't - two bonafide Division I gridiron talents. After a spectacular summer in the recruiting trenches, senior defensive end Taylor Calero committed to play at Michigan State, while running back, Devon Bailey, is currently being recruited by a slew of mid-majors- Toledo, Akron, Bowling Green, EMU, CMU, and WMU among them - and expects to make a decision at what college program he'll end up at soon. These guys might not be household names in the local high school sports community, but they are both diamonds in the rough, deserving respect and consideration whenever the topic of the best in the county at their respective positions comes up in discussion.
Although Calero and Bailey, each nursing minor injuries, sat out Thursday's double practice session, its clear that head coach Tim Fracassi's group of high-flying Eagles will once again be a factor in the D7 playoff race. Led by a monster junior season by Bailey and the heady quarterbacking of senior Geoff Van Gorder, Southfield Christian, which started its football program in 2006, made its first post season appearance last year, losing to Rochester Lutheran NW in the first round.  Working hard under the hot sun Thursday afternoon, the Eagles appear to be determined to equal last season's accomplishments, if not exceed them. "These kids honestly believe, that barring any major injuries, they have a great shot at playing at Ford Field come November," said Fracassi. "It might be hard to believe, but Devon has gotten better. I'm talking bigger and faster. And Calero's summer speaks for itself. This group has an iron will. The morning after the loss to Northwest, these guys were calling my cell phone asking when they can get back in the weight room. That's all you need to know about this team"
Stepping into Van Gorder's field general role this season will be senior Connor Michaels, Bailey's blocking back last year. Watching him throw this afternoon, Michaels looked poised in the pocket and was precise with his passes. Even with  08's top receiver Aaron Miles is gone, Aaron Hoffenbacher and Devin Lazer are quality targets that got solid minutes last year and will combine with Michaels to give the Eagles a potent passing attack. 6-5 240 lineman, Justin Milne, another possible DI recruit, will team with Calero to make an imposing defensive front.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Training Camp Report - Warrior Mentality

Al Fracasaa and co. were up early and working hard on Wed morning, putting in a grueling yet productive four hour practice session from 8-12 am on their third day of camp. A master motivator, Fracassa oversaw the practice, chipping in with encouraging words and inspiring, fiery rants whenever he felt necessary. Watching from the sideline, I got so jacked up, I was ready to get into uniform and join the fray. Playing for a coach like Fracassa is a honor and with the reverence and respect his players afford the aging legend, I think they understand and appreciate that.
In case there was any doubt, let me just reassure the masses that this year's Warriors squad is gonna be a juggernaut. They've got their bases covered all around the field - speed, skill, strength, and size across the board. Senior QB Frankie Popp, entering his third season as a starter, looked sharp as ever, his timing with ace all-state receiver Kevonte Martin-Manley well on its way to mid-season form before the second week in August is complete. Senior RB Jeff DeClaire was on his game too, hitting the holes hard and picking up blitzing schemes and blocking packages like a true veteran.  After sharing carries last year with Danny Henneghan, he will be the Warriors primary ball toter in '09. Newcomer Adam Gorski displayed a led foot as the team's freshly-minted placekicker. A stud soccer and hoops player, Gorski was brought onto the football team this summer to replace a graduated Ryan Kelly. So far, it looks like it was a good move and could even get the team a win or two come the regular season.
With all the weapons available for OC Dave Sofran - a former Warriors QB himself -, lets not forget the stellar Rice 'D'. The unit is led by senior linebacker Justin Cherocci, an instinctive playmaker who led the state of Michigan in tackles in '08. Cherrochi is a local prep version of Brian Urlacher or Chris Spielman, a tenacious tackling monster with a no-nonsense attitude to boot. He was all over the field today, going sideline to sideline with reckless abandon. Lurking in Cherocchi's shadow, could be the next great Warrior defender, and will team with Cherocchi to possibly make up the best linebacker duo in the county. I am talking about junior Timmy "Jumbo" Hamilton, the leading tackler on the "08 Warriors JV team. Jumbo will play on the outside,as well as a little fullback. He's raw, but wow what a talent. Junior safety Jimmy Pickens, who will also spell De Claire at the tailback spot, will captain the Rice secondary. One of the hardest hitters in the area, Pickens, spawning from a long line of Warriors gridiron greats, has a good chance to end up at the next level as a free safety.     

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Training Camp Report - Laker Day

I was out at football practice at West Bloomfield High School today and was quite impressed with what I saw. There's no doubt the Lakers - 6-3 and a DI playoff qualifier last year after winning three in the row the conclude the regular season - lost some quality personnel to graduation. Replacing the likes of QB Ryan Christianson, RB Eric Ellis, WR Chris Hurst, and defensive linemen Tony and 'Twan Credit, won't be easy. However, after seeing 3rd year head coach James Thomas the '10 WB squad in person this afternoon, I am quite certain there will not be much of a drop off in the success this season. If the team's uncertain quarterbacking situation stabilizes, the Lakers could be very dangerous.
First off, watching Thomas coach is like watching a great war general. The man is the personification of inspirational and has his players thoroughly disciplined. They hang on his every word and buy into everything he is selling. The Kentucky born and bred Thomas, who had a previous stint at Pontiac Northern prior to coming over to WB, also exhibits the important ability to connect with his players on a personal level that translates to tough-as-nails performance on the field.  Him and his staff - which now includes former NFL player and UofMichigan star Ron Bellamy helping out with the offense - run one of the better programs in the area.
Now, although there may be some big names gone, the Lakers' cubbard is far from bare.  Talent still resides and there's plenty of it on both ends of the ball. On offense, senior WR/return specialist Cameron Fields will be the unit's on-field leader. He's crafty and fast and destined to be one of the county's leading pass catchers this season from his position in the slot. Aaron White on the end will keep opposing d-backs honest with his wheels. Vincent Simpson, a mack-truck disguised as a bullheaded running back, will anchor the team's running game, while junior Phil Brown and senior Josh Levine are battling out for starting quarterback duties. Both Brown and Levine led their respective JV teams to undefeated seasons in '07 and '08 and although Brown had the early advantage, following the first two days of camp, Levine is pushing hard for the job and looks to have pulled even in the competition.
The 'D' is going to be good too. Just like Fields, who was overshadowed in the past, this unit has a number of players that might not be the biggest names in the area, but are formidable talents in their own right. Linebacker, Matt Judon, is an athletic dynamo in the mold of a Julian Peterson, with sideline to sideline speed. Judon, getting looks from several MAC schools, will be the squad's QB on 'D'. A lot of people have not heard about Judon right now, but the kid's skills speak for themselves. The kid's for real, plain and simple. Could end up a bonafide game changer. Safety Aaron Foster - also a wide out opposite White on the split end - leads a sticky and spidery defensive back unit which calls itself "The Wolf Pack" and will cause problems for opposing receivers. 

Monday, August 10, 2009

Quick Hits

I was out at Seaholm practice this morning and let me tell you, junior wide receiver Shawn Conway is the real deal holyfield. This kid runs like a gazelle, has hops like Kobe Bryant, and hands the size of King Kong.  On one play, I saw him catch the ball in traffic and then drag three teammates an additional 20 yards before being brought down. Defensive Coordinators, far and wide across the state of Michigan,  - watch out!

I am having the hardest time figuring out which team has the better running back duo, Southfield with Daevon Robinson and Maurice Davenport or Troy with Damon Brown and Chris Wheeler.  What do you guys think?

Former Oak Park QB, Keith Moore, is now at Cass Tech, depriving new head coach Mario Evans and the Oak Park faithful of a premiere talent - Moore would have replaced prolific Brandon Woods, gone due to graduation.  Tough loss for the Knights program.  

West Bloomfield head coach James Thomas will use a multitude of quick and slippery receivers to replace last year's all-stater Chris Hurst (Central State in Ohio).  The multi-headed monster receiving corps will be led by Cameron Fields - the team's second leading receiver from '08 with five TD's and already getting serious interest from numerous Big Ten and MAC schools alike - and will consist of a five receiver rotation. Aaron Foster and Aaron White will be on the ends, while Fields - also slated to see time at tailback this season -, Lawrence Brown, and Alex Long in the slot.  If pre-season performance is any indication and even with a new signal caller in junior Phil Brown, the Lakers' spread offense doesn't seem to have lost any of its steam.

Whoever takes over the Lahser QB spot from departed field general Drew Jackson, who took the Knights to a D2 semi-final in '08, will have a plethora of lethal options on offense to help ease the transition. Running Back/Return Specialist Bernard Tyler, tailback Chris Brown, receivers Jacob Hatchett and Jess Haji-Shiek, can all wreck havoc with opposing defenses. 

Good luck to head coach Gary Ganfield, formerly of Notre Dame Prep, and the inaugural football season of the new Pontiac High School. Ganfield has his work cut out in front of him, but the newly-christened program couldn't have more of a class act at the helm.  

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Sleeper Too - WB's Cam Readying To Have A Field Day

Watch out area prep football fans, West Bloomfield senior wideout Cameron Fields is about to have a breakout year. When Fields is playing somewhere at the next level in a few years, you can say Burney told us about this kid before he was a star.  And a star in the making is just what Fields is - a sure-handed 6-2 speedster who will make opposing defenses have to continue to respect the Lakers down-field passing game, even with last year's number receiving option, all-stater Chris Hurst, lost to graduation. Playing in the shadow of Hurst the past two seasons, Fields has been easy to overlook. This summer, however, that all changed. Impressing college recruiters with his performance at a variety of camps and combines over the last two months, Fields has shot up the scouting charts and has positioned himself as one of the hidden gems of the state's current recruiting class. Despite the lack of exposure and touches he got early in his career, is natural talent, determination and steadfast work ethic and attitude, has made him a hot commodity. Central Michigan, Western Michigan and Indiana, amongst other major and mid-major programs in the Midwest, are currently courting him to come play for them. Make no mistake, he won't disappoint.  Look for Fields and new starting qb Phil Brown to make up one of the more dangerous passing combos in the county for '09 and for Fields to pile up stats at a breakneck clip. People may not have heard of Fields right now, but when it all shakes out, I predict he will be one of the more heavily-applauded local athletes of the upcoming school year. 

Monday, August 3, 2009

Seaholm Sleeper

On the basketball court, Shawn Conway is the undisputed genuine article - an athletic wing, who can play inside and out and as a sophomore last season helped the Seaholm Maples to the first conference championship in quite some time. On the football field, however, he is an unknown commodity and the definition of a sleeper.  This is primarily because the 6-4 split end/defensive back has only played in 2 varsity football games in his first two years of high school, due to a transfer at the end of his freshman year from Cass Tech in Detroit to Seaholm in Birmingham to be closer to his family and first cousin/teammate Richaud Pack (a top-tier hoops recruit).  

That all said, when the curtain finally does come down on Conway's HS football career in the fall of 2010, he could wind up being one of the best players in the county, not to mention the state, certain to earn offers to play at the next level. Maples head coach, Chris Fahr, believes right now, even minus the experience and exposure factor, Conway is one of the ten best players at his position in Michigan. Simply put, this kid's a warrior.  he can go deep or across the middle. he's not afraid of contact like some other finesse wideouts his size/caliber and he's said to have big hands,  a big heart, and a true passion for the game. and we already know about his great jumping ability from his gravity-defying dunks during last year's basketball campaign, so the fade route on the goal line is certainly to become a staple in the Maples' red zone packages this year and next.  Playing on defense, Conway has the potential to be a lockdown corner, already slated to take on the opposing team's best receiver. 

Conway is such a sleeper, he didn't even make my pre-season top 40 for '09. I did the rankings based on past-performance,, and since Conway, doesn't have much of a on-field resume at this point, i was forced to leave him off.  If Conway shakes out as advertised - which i am quite certain he will - there's  little doubt in my mind, that he will be at the top of the pre-season ranking for 2010. I also predict, Conway, along with senior QB Jack Quigley and a stellar sophomore class, will  restore the Maples program - the 2nd winningist program in the county over the past 20 yrs, but coming off a tough '09 where they were only able to muster one win - to its past gridiron glories sooner rather than later. With the addition of fully-eligible Conway, look for Seaholm to challenge for a return to the playoffs this year and be a top county power in 2010.