Like most everything else in the world, the 2020 Michigan High School Athletic Association football season was a weird one.
The first three games of the season were cancelled outright, the regular season lasted just six games, forfeits due to COVID outbreaks were common and every team, regardless of record, made the postseason playoffs.
Throughout it all the Roosevelt football team did what it has mostly done through coach Ron Adams’ 15 years: Win games.
The Bears went 6-2 overall and won two of three playoff games.
And the plan for this year is the same as always: Aim for the Downriver League championship and win as many playoff games as you can.
The Bears are 128-36 under Adams and have never missed the playoffs in his 15 years as coach, so the bar is set pretty high. But Roosevelt has never had trouble clearing it.
This year the team will break in a new leader in quarterback Donavan Canterberry, a 6-foot senior, who replaces three-years starter Jalin Pitchford. Canterbury is new to the pressures of playing quarterback, but not new to the pressure of playing high-level athletics as he is one of the top-rated baseball pitchers in the state. The senior is committed to play baseball at Xavier University in Cincinnati.
Canterbury was scheduled to back-up Pitchford at quarterback last year, but fractured his wrist and missed the season.
“He’s just what you want in a quarterback,” said Adams. “He’s a good student, a tremendous athlete and a humble young man. I really believe that if he wasn’t such a good baseball player, he’s good enough to be a college quarterback.”
Canterbury will have some weapons at his disposal, too, including a pair of big receivers in senior Ethan Breaux and sophomore Chase Cline.
Breaux, who is 6-foot-5, qualified as a sprinter for the Class A state track finals spring. He will also line-up at tight end and play defensive end.
“Ethan will create some match-up problems,” Adams predicted.
The 6-foot-3 Cline is a future star, according to his coach.
“In two years you will be writing about what college he is choosing,” said Adams.
Junior Nathanael Gonzalez, a transfer from Southgate Anderson, is another receiver, who will cause headaches for opposing defenses.
In the backfield, DeAndre Bell returns. The senior shared time in the Bears backfield last year and never really broke loose. Adams called him “our go-to guy” this year.
Offensive line play is always crucial to a team’s success and the Bears should be solid on both the offensive and defensive lines. Adams called the lines one of the strengths of the team.
“We have the most experience coming back on the offensive line as we’ve had in three or four years,” said Adams.
Lu Peterson, a 6-foot-3, 220-pound senior, anchors the lines. He will be joined on offense by junior Charles Harper (5-11, 234), sophomore Darryl Harper (5-7, 217), junior DeMarrio Roetherford (6-2, 230) and senior Leo Hastings (5-9, 169).
“We’re going to be alright,” Adams said. “We are not very big, but our kids are very strong and athletic. We don’t have a lot of depth, though. I wish we had five or six more players, but it is what it is.”
Other projected starters for Roosevelt are running back Brennan Millen, defensive lineman Collin Hale, linebacker Goerge Lovell, defensive back Alex Biundo, defensive back Liam Carroll and defensive back Xavier Byrne.
The Roosevelt varsity will roster 36 players this season.
Adams said the usual cast of Downriver League characters will likely challenge for the Downriver league title this year. Those teams are Woodhaven, Allen Park and Carlson, along with Roosevelt. Woodhaven was 7-2 last year, Allen Park 5-3 and Carlson 4-3. Wyandotte beat Carlson 30-29 in overtime last year. It was the second straight year the Bears beat the Marauders by one point.
The Bears open the 2021 season Aug. 27 at home against Allen Park. This is always a great game. The Jags and the Bears did not play last year, but Roosevelt lost to Allen Park in 2018 and 2019.
“The last couple of years have been hard because of COVID,” said Adams, “but our kids and coaches have shown a lot of resilience. We’re tired of practicing and hitting each other, we want to get after it.”