In Play with Tom Markowski

Top games: Livonia Stevenson hosts Northville for KLAA Central Division title

Football   | Tom Markowski

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Livonia – Gradually Randy Micallef has taken hold of the program at Livonia Stevenson.

Stevenson was a disappointing 5-4 in 2013, his first season as head coach. The Spartans made the playoffs last season at 6-3 before losing to West Bloomfield in a playoff opener. Stevenson is off to a 5-0 start and will host Northville (5-0) in a game that will decide the champion on the Kensington Lakes Activities Association Central Division.

Both teams are 3-0 in the division with two games remaining. Game time is 7 p.m.

“It’s been a huge sift,” Micallef said. “I took over in July and we had a good amount of returning seniors. We lost some close games that year. We were 6-3 the next and now those freshmen we had the first year are juniors. It’s been a nice change. We promote playing three sports as much as possible. We tell the kids that if you’re not playing a winter sport or a spring sport you’re in the weight room. Some parents come up to me and say they want their son to concentrate on one sport. I don’t agree with that.”

A good example of this is Sam Davidek. Davidek is 6-4 and a fine basketball player. He’s a returning starter at cornerback as is Nate Buntin. Buntin has an interception in each of the last four games and, naturally, the secondary is one of Stevenson’s strengths.

Offensively, the Spartans have shown consistency all season. Tailback Austin Petry is averaging 158 yards rushing and he’s also effective as a receiver. In last week’s 35-0 victory over South Lyon Petry rushed for 90 yards and had 80 yards receiving.

“Petry is a big kid,” Micallef said. “He’s our workhorse. He gained over 1,000 yards as a junior and he’s sees some spot duty on defense.”

Petry is 5-10 and 215 pounds, and he runs the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds. And Micallef uses him at safety at times. Against Walled Lake Northern, a team that runs the veer offense, Petry played defensive end to shore up the edges.

Northville traditionally has big linemen and this season, led by Alex Angelas, is no different. Stevenson must also contain Justin Zimbo, an athletic quarterback. Pick: Northville by 2.

 

All games are Friday at 7 p.m.

           

Allen Park (4-1) at Trenton (5-0): The fine and exciting season Lincoln Park (4-1) is experiencing has overshadowed another good story in the Downriver League and that’s the start Trenton has had. The Trojans haven’t been 5-0 since 2003 when they finished 9-0 and lost to Carleton Airport in the first round of the playoffs. Pick: Allen Park by 3.

Ann Abor Pioneer (5-0) at Saline (5-0): While Saline was expected to be undefeated at this point, Pioneer not so much. Much credit must be given to coach Jari Brown for Pioneer’s rise. Pick: Saline by 13.

East Grand Rapids (4-1) at Grand Rapids Christian (3-2): This is the end of a brutal four-game stretch for East Grand Rapids. The Pioneers survived a tough game (21-14 over Grandville) last week and are in position to make the playoffs but a loss here would be a damaging blow. With Lowell (4-1) still to play, Christian is also desperate for a win. Pick: E. Grand Rapids by 4.

East Kentwood (4-1) at Hudsonville (4-1): Many are still scratching their heads over East Kentwood’s 28-7 loss to Jenison last Friday. Either East Kentwood regroups and finishes the regular season strong or perhaps Jenison exposed a weakness or two. The winner of this game could very well claim the O-K Red Division title. Pick: Hudsonville by 2.

Ithaca (5-0) at Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary (5-0): Last year Ithaca trailed at halftime before coming back to win, 33-14. Seminary has not given up more than 14 points in a game this season. Still, Ithaca remains the class of the Tri-Valley Conference West Division. Pick: Ithaca by 10.

Reed City (5-0) at Big Rapids (4-1): This game is for the Pioneer Trophy along US-131 and Big Rapids leads this series 42-21-1. But Reed City has won the last five and has scored 95 points in the last two meetings. Pick: Reed City by 6.

Romeo (5-0) at Macomb Dakota (4-1): This MAC crossover matches the two highest-ranked public school teams in Macomb County. Romeo’s offense is as well-balanced as it’s been in years. Two factors favor Dakota here. The Cougars play a more demanding schedule in the Red Division and they’re playing at home. Pick: Dakota by 7. 

Troy Athens (3-2) at Clarkston (3-2): A critical game for both as they try to keep in the state playoff hunt. Clarkston has won two straight and is always tough to be at home. Athens’ offense hasn’t always clicked. Pick: Clarkston by 7.  

Walled Lake Northern (4-1) at Walled Lake Western (5-0): This is for first place in the KLAA North Division. Western leads this series 10-2. Northern last won in 2012, 17-10. That might be the first quarter score here. Pick: Western by 13.

 

Last week’s record: 7-3.

Season record: 35-15.