In Play with Tom Markowski

Top games: First weekend offers a number of interesting east-west, non-conference match-ups including Clarkston-Dakota

Football   | Tom Markowski

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Beverly Hills – Coaches Brendan Flaherty and Jim DeWald didn’t have to spend much time motivating their respective teams for Thursday’s season opener.

There are many interesting matchups this week (read below) and the Birmingham Groves-Birmingham Seaholm game, to be held at Seaholm at 7 p.m., promises to be one of the more hotly-contested.

“It’s a big one for us,” Flaherty, the coach at Groves, said. “I think (Seaholm) will be better than they were last season.”

The rival schools compete in the Oakland Activities Association but are in different divisions; Groves the Blue, Seaholm the White.

Seaholm holds a 40-15 advantage in the series that began in 1961. Seaholm won the first seven games in the series. Groves won last season, 42-19.

Seaholm won the Blue Division title in 2012 and ’13 before the Maples got bumped up to the White. They were 4-5 last season after three consecutive winning seasons.

Groves was 7-4 last season losing to Birmingham Brother Rice in a Division 2 district final. Flaherty has seven starters returning on defense and four on offense.

Offensively the Falcons will keep it simple. Flaherty and coordinator Matt Turner will run the offense out of the I-formation and feature running back Cedric Boswell. Boswell is one of the fastest backs in the state having finished second in the 100-meter dash at the Division 1 finals this past spring.

On defense Groves will be led by two of its captains, Ian Rice (LB) and Nathan Lazor (DE), a three-year starter. Pick: Seaholm by 2.

All games start at 7 p.m. unless noted.

Thursday’s games

Clarkston at Macomb Dakota: Clarkston won last year, 24-21, at home. The Wolves led early and nearly let it slip away. Playing at home Dakota could have the edge. Clarkston’s offensive line might need time to gain experience. Dakota could expose this lack of experience. Pick: Dakota by 6.   

Holland West Ottawa at Muskegon Mona Shores: This is an O-K Conference crossover that could tell us much about Mona Shores. West Ottawa, being a member of the Red Division, is accustomed to tough, physical games and could have the advantage in this area. Mona Shores has a number of college-bound players and we’ll get a look at Tyler Trovinger who is expected to get his first varsity start at quarterback. Pick: Mona Shores by 2.  

Lake Orion vs. Clinton Township Chippewa Valley at Wayne State: These teams played a wild one last season with Chippewa Valley slipping past the Dragons, 38-35. If Chippewa Valley can shore up its defense this one might not be nearly as close. Pick: Chippewa Valley by 9.

Plymouth vs. Utica Eisenhower at Utica High: Both teams have experience on the line so it could be a stalemate there. Plymouth appears to have the edge in the offensive backfield with the return of Cam Stella. Pick: Plymouth by 6.

Walled Lake Western at Lowell: Western should be able to put points on the board as it returns one of Oakland County’s top quarterbacks in Kyle Thomas. Western’s problem will be containing Lowell’s veer offense led by cousins Max and Zeth Dean. Pick: Lowell by 8.

Friday’s games

East Kentwood at Farmington Hills Harrison, 6: East Kentwood, a Division 1 semifinalist last season, is picked to win the O-K Red Division. Harrison looked good defensively in its scrimmage and this unit needs to be on its toes to keep the speedy East Kentwood backs in check. Pick: E. Kentwood by 8.

Muskegon at Detroit Catholic Central: The Big Reds return the favor and take the three-hour drive this season. C.C. went to Muskegon last year for the opener and lost 21-14. The Big Reds have depth and experience on the offensive and defensive lines. C.C. is much improved in these areas but the Shamrocks might need more time to gain experience to compete at Muskegon's level. Pick: Muskegon by 7.  

Rockford at Saline: Rockford coach Ralph Munger might have bitten off more than he can chew here. The Rams are a little wet behind their horns and will need time to grow. After losing in the Division 1 final last season Saline is chomping at the bit. If it can keep away from big mistakes Rockford could make it close. Pick: Saline by 7.  

 

Saturday’s game

Detroit King vs. Warren De La Salle at Wayne State, 2: This is the most intriguing matchup of all the openers. King has received much publicity, good and bad, with regards to the half dozen or so transfers who have enrolled recently. De La Salle is fresh off of its first state title and have one of the state’s top defenses plus of the top junior running backs in Allen Stritzinger. De La Salle must be concerned with King’s team speed. Pick: De La Salle by 3.