ORCHARD LAKE >> There were some consistent themes running throughout the prepared remarks by the Detroit Catholic League’s 18 coaches on hand for the conference’s annual football media day Tuesday.
The upper division schools spoke of unrivaled strength of schedule and their mutual respect for one another, while the smaller programs addressed matters of inexperience and small roster sizes, each speaking to the inherent difficulties ahead.
“Our numbers every year are 25 to 30 players. This year, I don’t know. It just gets thinner and thinner every year,” Royal Oak Shrine coach John Goddard said, entering his 49th season of coaching.
Related: Photo gallery from CHSL Media Day
Several new Catholic League head coaches will patrol the sidelines this season, including at two of the more storied programs in the state.
At Birmingham Brother Rice, the Warriors brought in one of the school’s former assistant coaches in Adam Korzeniewski, who said the team will have a lot of work to do in establishing confidence and regaining the success of years past. The Warriors went 7-4 in 2016.
“It’s been very busy and very intense because you’re creating everything for the first time and not working off of a template from the year before,” Korzeniewski said of the offseason transition.
Last year’s Division 1 runner-up, Novi Detroit Catholic Central, hired long-time assistant Dan Anderson in March to replace veteran coach Tom Mach, who retired with the third-most wins in state history.
“The tradition of being a hard-nosed team is going to stay, and the belief that defense wins championships is still there,” Anderson said of taking over the Shamrocks program from Mach. “The X’s and O’s will be a little different, but overall, the mentality will remain the same.”
Absent from the postseason since 2013, Madison Heights Bishop Foley brought in Brian Barnes as head coach this winter with the idea of getting the Ventures’ program turned around.
“So far it’s been very positive. The kids have really bought in to what we’re doing,” Barnes said. “We’ll be up tempo and be very versatile. We’re hoping to have the ability to score a bunch of different ways.”
The preseason coaches poll was also revealed, signaling the early favorites to take home division titles this season.
In the Central Division, three-time defending Division 3 champion Orchard Lake St. Mary’s (10-4 in 2016) was voted as the expected winner in large part due to the return of its senior backfield tandem of quarterback Caden Prieskorn and running back RaShawn Allen.
Catholic Central and Brother Rice were chosen second and third, respectively, in the poll, while Warren De La Salle was picked fourth.
In the Intersectional I Division, Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood (7-3 in 2016) was unanimously chosen as the team to beat once again. The Cranes will return six starters offensively and five on defense, with a trio of seniors, defender Chris Smith, running back Aaron Wiggins, and quarterback Trevor McConnell among the team’s impact players.
The Intersectional II Division featured a three-way tie atop the coaches poll.
Coming off of a season in which it won its first-ever playoff game, Clarkson Everest Collegiate will again have a small roster, but three-year starting quarterback Grant Burgess is back in the fold to lead the Mountaineers.
Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes, which won the Intersectional II Division a year ago, and 2016 district title-winning Royal Oak Shrine will also be in the mix.