Michigan high school football: 10 story lines to watch

Will John Herrington make history? Can Detroit Cass Tech and Detroit King repeat? Here's a look at 10 of the top story

High school football season begins in less than two weeks across Michigan. Free Press special writer Keith Dunlap highlights 10 story lines to watch:

History for Herrington?

Farmington Hills Harrison coach John Herrington enters the season with 425 career victories, six shy of surpassing Al Fracassa as the state’s all-time winningest coach. But more important to Herrington is getting to six wins so his team can automatically qualify for the state playoffs.

PSL adds divisions

The Detroit Public School League split into three divisions this year, Black, Gold and Green. The league's top teams from last season — Cass Tech, Martin Luther King and East English Village — are in separate divisions and won’t play until the PSL playoffs.

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Detroit King head coach Tyrone Spencer watches his team play against Detroit Cass Tech on Oct. 1, 2016 in Detroit. (Photo: Salwan Georges, DFP)

New league debuts

The Kensington Lakes Activities Association went from 24 teams to 14 thanks to 10 schools breaking away, including nine that formed their own league. The three Walled Lake schools, two Waterford schools, two South Lyon schools, Milford and Lakeland now comprise the Lakes Valley Conference.

Can West Bloomfield take next step?

The Lakers have 22 regular season wins over the past three years, but haven't advanced past the second round of the playoffs. Postseason success is a hurdle they're trying to clear, and they might have they're most talented group yet this season with quarterback Bryce Veasley (Bowling Green commit), wideouts Taj Mustapha and A.J. Abbott (both committed to Wisconsin) and lineman Justin Foster (Central Michigan).

 

Muskegon Catholic Central dominance

After winning back-to-back Division 8 state titles in 2013 and 2014 with loaded rosters that might have competed for titles in higher divisions, it appeared Muskegon Catholic Central was going to become more vulnerable. But that didn't happen. The program quickly reloaded, and after titles in 2015 and 2016, Catholic Central is aiming for five straight and has become the gold standard for small-school programs.

Another benchmark for St. Mary’s

The storied Orchard Lake St. Mary’s program never had won three straight state titles before last year. It did so thanks to a late touchdown in a 29-28 win over Muskegon in the Division 3 title game. The Eaglets now want to become the first Division 3 team to win four in a row since East Grand Rapids won its fifth straight in 2010.

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Detroit Cass Tech's players celebrate with head coach Thomas Wilcher winning the title against Detroit Catholic Central during the Division 1 High School Championship game on Saturday November 26, 2016, at Ford Field in Detroit, MI. Cass Tech won 48-20. (Photo: Salwan Georges, Detroit Free Press)

Can Cass Tech and King repeat?

Absolutely. Both the Technicians and Crusaders lost future college players to graduation, but more are in the pipeline and ready to shine this fall. Cass Tech DB Kalon Gervin is considered by many to be the state's top player, and LB DeAndre Square (Kentucky), WR Brandon Gray (Washington State) and DE Andre Carter (Western Michigan) are among the team's other Division I recruits. WR/DB Jaeveyon Morton (Iowa State) and junior QB Dequan Finn lead a talented King squad.

Wide open in 8-man

Now that do-everything quarterback and athlete Jason Whitens has graduated from two-time defending state champion Powers North Central, many teams feel there is more hope of a state championship this year. Crystal Falls Forest Park, Deckerville and Pickford join North Central as contenders.

Going 5-for-5?

The state's west side has produced many dynasties, and the latest is Grand Rapids West Catholic in Division 5. The Falcons will attempt to win their fifth straight state championship following a 43-7 rout of Menominee in last year’s final.

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New Novi Detroit Catholic Central football coach Dan Anderson (Photo: Courtesy of Novi Detroit Catholic Central)

New era at DCC

Tom Mach, who's third on the state’s all-time wins list at 370-94, retired as Novi Detroit Catholic Central's coach this off-season, ending a 41-year run that included 10 state titles. Taking over as head coach is longtime assistant Dan Anderson, who has been with the program since 1999. The Shamrocks were Division 1 runners-up last season.

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