LAPEER, MI — Expectations accept been aerial for Lapeer’s football teams aback the city’s two aerial schools alloyed afterwards the 2013-14 academy year.
The Lightning haven’t disappointed, announcement 10-1 annal during the aboriginal two seasons Lapeer had a circumscribed aerial academy while authoritative the playoffs four beeline times.
But expectations ability accept been college than accepted this division accustomed the cardinal of players who alternate from aftermost year’s 6-4 team. The agenda consists of 25 seniors, several of whom are three-year starters and about 18 players who were audience on aftermost year’s team.
That acquaintance has apparent up on the scoreboard.
So far, the Lightning are absolute through eight amateur and accept put themselves in position to win their third Saginaw Valley championship in bristles seasons aback they host Davison (7-1) in Friday night’s regular-season finale.
Both teams are 5-0 in the Valley Blue Division and accept already nailed bottomward Division 1 playoff berths.
Davison and a Saginaw Valley championship are acutely aboriginal and foremost on everyone’s apperception in Lapeer but there’s additionally addition abeyant award-winning looming on the horizon.
“If we accumulate working, accomplishing our jobs, I anticipate we can win states this year,” said inferior linebacker Phoenix Dickson, who transferred from Linden afterwards authoritative the All-Flint Metro Alliance aboriginal aggregation as a linebacker aftermost year.
“We were assured a acceptable season, obviously. The ambition was to go 9-0. That’s what we’re alive for. We’re alive calm as a aggregation … and it’s activity good. We’re all alive as one unit.”
Dickson and chief quarterback Brady Apple both said the Lightning — who accomplished the approved division with a 9-0 almanac in both 2014 and 2015 — don’t allocution about activity unbeaten. But that doesn’t beggarly the ambition isn’t to accomplishment unbeaten.
When asked how abysmal his aggregation could go in the playoffs, drillmaster Mike Smith didn’t contrivance the catechism and articulate like somebody who has aerial expectations. But he wasn’t accessible to accomplish a anticipation as far as the postseason goes.
“We’ve got to comedy absolutely able-bodied together,” said Smith, who is in his 20th season as a arch varsity drillmaster and led Lapeer West to the 2000 Division 3 accompaniment semifinals. “It starts with accepting a abundant day today in convenance and again tomorrow and again let it rip on Friday.
“You booty every aggregation as far as you can. Activity into division we knew we had some acquaintance advancing back. There’s some positions we’re attenuate at, area if we accept an abrasion you don’t accept a lot of depth. But yeah, this accumulation is about football.
“They appear to work. They’re fun to be around. We’ve got some experience. I anticipate we brought aback 18 kids who … played a cogent amount.”
At the top of that account is a accumulation of three-year starters that accommodate lineman Will Sollie, an All-Saginaw Valley first-team aces aftermost year; Carson Currie, a bound end/defensive end; Drew Johnston, a advanced receiver/defensive back; linebacker Jordan Pohl; and active aback Jalen Kirkland.
The 5-foot-11, 225-pound Kirkland rushed for 1630 yards and 19 touchdowns aftermost division but got hur in Anniversary 2 this year and was alone for a brace of games.
Last week, he like the Kirkland of 2017, hasty for 217 yards and a touchdown in a 26-14 alley win over White Lake Lakeland.
“He askance his abate and it took him a while to get in his rhythm,” Smith said. “He absent a brace amateur and again boring got going. He’s now rounding into anatomy but it’s late. Maybe that’s a blessing.
“He’s not banged up from active the ball.”
Apple is in his additional year as the starting quarterback and is “more seasoned” this year, according to Smith.
He’s directed an breach that has helped the Lightning outscore their opponents 35-12 and could be a big agency aback Lapeer faces Davison for the seventh time in bristles years.
They’ve met alert in the playoffs with Davison acceptable aftermost year afterwards Lapeer prevailed in both the regular-season afterpiece and playoff opener in 2015.
“They’re activity to be a abundant team,” Apple said. “They’re actual able-bodied coached, lot of abundant athletes. They’re activity to action hard. This is a big animosity game. We’re aloof activity to stick with our actuality and comedy as adamantine as we can.
“We’ve been acceptable every distinct day and we accept to get afterwards it. I anticipate we consistently apprehend to win. We go in every distinct anniversary advancing as adamantine as we can and we aloof try to get befitting bigger anniversary day and I anticipate we have.
“We accept to accumulate rolling for this week.”
The affair that makes Lapeer so alarming is the Lightning don’t absolutely accept a brilliant amateur that opponents can focus on.
They apparently accept aloof accept one accepted Division I amateur — Dickson is actuality recruited by Michigan State, Purdue and Boston College — but there are affluence of Division II-caliber players who calm anatomy a almighty unit.
“I anticipate we comedy able-bodied as a team,” Smith said. “One anniversary it ability be Phoenix Dickson, addition anniversary it could be Jalen Kirkland, it could be Brady Apple on offense. It could be Carson Butterfield, it could Bobby Opalewski.
“Some weeks we’re aloof cutting it out. Aback Kirkland got hurt, some of our added backs did a acceptable job and we developed them. We can run four backs at bodies that that’s good. A lot of bodies accord for us to be good.
“We’re not aloof a distinct star.”
The statistics aback that up.
Five players accept rushed for at atomic 100 yards on the division and 12 accept best up hasty yards. Bristles players additionally accept at atomic 100 accepting yards and 12 accept bent at atomic one pass.
Eleven players accept denticulate at atomic one touchdown.
Apple has completed 70 of 113 passes — that’s 61.9 percent — for 1,055 yards and 10 touchdowns with no interceptions. Kirkland has rushed 98 times for 593 yards and one TD while Johnston has bent 18 passes for 254 yards and three touchdowns.
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