BRIGHTON – Bragging rights in the Lakes Valley Conference appear up for grabs on the gridiron in the league’s second year of existence. Walled Lake Western and Waterford Mott, the LVC co-champions in 2017, will be back in the thick of the race this fall, but so will Walled Lake Northern and Lakeland and possibly others.
The results of a preseason coaching poll had Western and Lakeland tied for being the frontrunner and Mott and Northern slotted second and third respectively. Coaches and players from all nine LVC programs attended Monday afternoon’s media day at Legacy Center sports complex in Brighton.
Perennial state power Western has a new coach in Alex Grignon, replacing the heavily accomplished Mike Zdebski, who left in the offseason for a job in Arizona. Grignon comes over to Western from within the ranks of the LVC – he was the offensive coordinator at South Lyon last year.
“The expectations are always going to be high at Western, that’s no big reveal, that was known the second I walked in the door,” Grignon said. “I inherited a hard-working and talented bunch of players and we’re going to play fast, play smart and let our athletes do what they’re capable of doing. We want to be loose, but disciplined and deliberate.”
Warriors’ senior quarterback Sam Johnson is committed to Boston College and senior offensive lineman Spencer Brown is committed to Michigan State. Junior Abdur-Rahmann Yaseen is a Division I college-recruit at wide receiver and will be Johnson’s top target in the passing game. Fellow junior and fast-rising college prospect, C.J. Brown, Spencer’s little brother, calls signals from the secondary as a safety.
Over the past three seasons, Western has gone 32-5 and played in the 2016 Division 2 state championship game. Last year, the Warriors were upset in the first round of the playoffs by Livonia Franklin.
Lakeland surprised people with a 7-2 regular season record in 2017 and return 13 starters. The Eagles' incoming junior class only lost one game between freshmen and junior varsity ball.
Finally free from MHSAA sanctions levied in 2016 barring head coach Chris Fahr from participating in the last two postseasons (improper social media contact), Mott is poised for another banner campaign as well. The Corsairs have nine returning starters off a 9-2 squad and bring aboard potential high-impact transfers in slot back Kobe Myers (Walled Lake Western) and wide receiver Christian Fitzpatrick (West Bloomfield). Sophomore slot back Quillen Howze has turned heads in the offseason and senior Matt Castillo takes over under center.
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Fahr thinks this club could be special.
“This team has a chance to be the best I’ve ever had,” he said. “We can’t rest on our laurels though, we’ve got to keep trending upward, keep putting in the time, effort and preparation.”
Northern might have the best crop of juniors in the league. Joe Boulus is in his second year on the sidelines. The Knights finished 5-4 last fall.
“It looks like it’s going to be a real good year for the Lakes Valley, everybody is pretty solid across the board.....there's an abundance of balance” Boulus said.
South Lyon, South Lyon East, Milford, Walled Lake Central and Waterford Kettering all bring double-digits back in the starter department. Milford welcomes Garfey Smith in as the Mavericks new head coach and Central sophomore tight end-defensive end Blake Nelson is already getting power-conference attention at the next level.