In Play with Tom Markowski

Macomb County community mourns deaths of students-athletes involved in weekend car crash

Football   | Tom Markowski

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Sterling Heights – It’s a time for prayer and healing at Sterling Heights Stevenson and Utica Ford after two separate car crashes Friday night.

Five students, all age 17, were involved in a car crash at Stony Creek Metro Park. In Clinton Township another serious automobile accident took place involving a Stevenson student.

Two students from Stevenson, Jonathan Manolios and Emanuel Malaj, and Michael Wells of Ford died in the accident at Stony Creek. All three played on the varsity football team at their respective schools.

Stevenson varsity football coach Kevin Frederick said Manolios and Malaj were juniors on his team but neither player was a starter. Manolios played linebacker; Malaj defensive end.

“Both played sparingly for us,” Frederick said. “And both were getting ready for next season. Jon was gearing up. He was excited to (compete) for a starting role, and he was on his way.

“They were so well-liked. Their smiles lit up a room and they were great kids. It’s sad they made some bad choices.”

Stevenson is a Class A school and a member of the Macomb Area Conference Red Division. Last season was Frederick’s first as head coach at Stevenson. He guided the Titans to a 7-3 record and a spot in the Division 1 playoffs.

Frederick said he met with members of his team and reminded them that he and his staff are there for them and that they are not alone in dealing with this tragedy.

“They’ve been leaning on each other throughout this,” he said. “We told them not to be afraid to show their emotions. We have to move on from this experience and the mistakes that were made.

“We also told them to stay away from the social media. There are people out there who are making judgements on a three-paragraph story about an accident. As adults we have the power to make changes. We’ll teach them.”

Frederick said Manolios and Malaj were outgoing students whom many of their peers looked up to.

“Jon was constantly talking about the upcoming season,” Frederick said. “Now there are empty seats where they once sat.”