After the off-again, on-again, who-knows-what’s-going on preseason, the Michigan high school football season is finally here. Three weeks late and three games shorter than usual, but finally here.
Roosevelt, which lost a non-league game with Riverview and league games with Dearborn Edsel Ford and Trenton, drew the unenviable task of opening the 2020 season with defending Downriver League champ Woodhaven, which was undefeated through 10 games last year and has a record of 32-9 over the past four seasons. That would be tough enough under normal conditions, but with a start-and-stop preseason and no live scrimmage game to help remove the kinks, it’s even tougher.
The Bears and Warriors played Sept. 18 after our deadline.
The Warriors came into that game with 58 players, a number that made Wyandotte coach Ron Adams jealous. Although the Bears have some good talent this season – especially at the skill positions – they have just 32 players on their roster.
“We have good skill talent, but we do not have depth,” Adams said. “We have to rely on guys both ways, so we will have to pick our spots and do what we can to get guys rested.”
Wyandotte’s talent starts right at the top in the most important position on the field – quarterback.
Jalen Pitchford returns for his third season as the team’s starting signal-caller. Last year, as a junior, Pitchford threw for nearly 1,100 yards and 11 touchdowns as the Bears went 6-3 in league play and tied for second place with Carlson and Allen Park and had a 7-3 mark overall. The 6-foot, 200-pounder also gained nearly 200 yards rushing and scored seven touchdowns.
The Bears graduated some talent behind Pitchford but caught a break when DeAndre Bell, a junior, transferred in from Southgate. He will team up with shifty little sophomore Elvis Valverde in the Wyandotte offensive backfield.
Lending more stability back there is junior fullback Logan McGraw. McGraw led the team in tackles from his linebacker position a season ago with 91 and he will be among the team’s top defensive players again, but he is also the team’s best fullback.
Roosevelt lost a multi-dimensional offensive threat when Hayden Loya graduated and expected to fill those shoes is the 6-foot-4, 210-pound Richard Clark. Clark was a key defensive player last year with 58 tackles, but he’ll be asked to be a force on both sides of the ball this season. He will play tight end, receiver and defensive end.
“We need him to have a big year,” Adams said.
Also at wide receiver will be Donavan Canterberry. The 6-foot, 185-pound junior is listed on the Roosevelt roster as an “athlete.” He will play receiver, defensive back and is the team’s back-up quarterback. Although he still has two years of high school left, Canterbury, who is one of the top baseball players in the midwest, has already committed to play that sport at Xavier University in Cincinnati, OH.
“He is going to be big for us,” said Adams. “He can run, he can throw and he has great hands.”
The offensive line is a little thin, but talented and experienced. The linemen are, seniors Dylan Sanderson, David Certa and Dominic Nael and juniors Lu Peterson and Matt Gardner.
On the defensive side of the ball, those same linemen will be counted on.
The linebacker position has often been a Roosevelt strength in the past, but this season – with the exception of McGraw – the Bears are breaking in a new crop of backers.
Joining McGraw will be senior Jacob Dennison and junior Brendan Millen, although Adams did say there “is a little competition” there and others will be getting a look.
“We are a little inexperienced and we lack some depth back there,” Adams admitted.
The solid defensive secondary features Canterberry, Anthony Peterson, Jalen Jackson and Camari Garrison, who Admas said, “has great speed and is a heck of a cover guy.”
Patrick Schilk, who also plays soccer, will do the place kicking and Nate Hanson will handle the punting chores.
Adams said all the questions surrounding the 2020 season as well as the cancelled first games and restrictions put on the teams, players and coaches has had an effect, but he said the Bears are as ready as can be expected.
“We had a pretty good core of players working out all summer,” he said.
The team moved weight lifting equipment out of the weightroom, which was closed by executive order, and players lifted all summer in the parking lot behind the school.
“Really, the kids have responded well to all the things that have gone on,” Adams said.
After opening the season with Woodhaven, Wyandotte will play Lincoln Park, Taylor, Allen Park, Southgate and Carlson.
Adams said he expects the Downriver League to be chasing Woodhaven again this year, with the Bears, Allen Park, Trenton and Carlson in the next group.
The regular season in Michigan will be just six games long this year and all teams playing will make the playoffs. The playoff formula and format have not yet been released by the Michigan High School Athletic Association. Because Ford Field will be unavailable, even the site of this year’s championship games is up in the air.
Nothing, it seems, is set in stone this year, but as of this writing, there will be no band or flag teams and other support organizations allowed at games and the crowds will be sparser, too, as each player and coach will be allowed just two tickets each for spectators.
2020 Roosevelt Bears football
2 Garrison, Camari Sr WR/DB
4 Valverde, Elvis So RB/DB
5 Bell Deandre, Jr RB/LB
6 Pitchford, Jalin Sr QB/DB
7 Canterberry, Donavan Jr Ath
8 Jackson, Jalen Sr WR/DB
9 McGraw, Logan Jr RB/LB/DB
10 Breaux, Ethan Jr TE/DE
11 Murasky, Tyler Sr WR/Db
13 Clark, Richard Sr TE/DE
14 Cushman, Daniel Sr WR/DB
16 Carroll, Liam Jr WR/DB
18 Bryne, Xavier Jr WR/DB
20 Hudson, Josh Sr OL/DL
21 Schilk, Patrick Sr K
23 Denison, Jacob Sr RB/LB
25 Blackwell, Mike Sr RB/DB
44 Millen, Brendan Jr RB/LB
50 Harper, Charles So OL/DL
51 Hastings, Leo Jr OL/DL
53 Chaaban, Brandon Sr OL/DL
54 Cerda, David Sr OL/DL
55 Peterson, Lu Jr OL/DL
56 Arminiak, Colin Jr OL/DL
57 Bridges, Weston Jr OL/LB
58 Nael, Dominic Sr OL/DL
59 Sanderson, Dylan Sr OL/DL
60 Baker, David Sr OL/DL
62 Hale, Collin Jr OL/DL
64 Murray, Zach Jr OL/DL
66 Keithley, Damian Jr OL/DL
74 Gardner, Matthew Jr OL/DL
75 Valentine, Joe Jr OL/DL
82 Stallings, Logan Jr WR/DB
88 Hanson, Nate Sr WR/LB