Last season’s record: 10-4
League: Catholic High School League Central Division
Returning starters: Seven
First game: 7 p.m. Aug. 24 vs. Macomb Dakota
The wins have mounted in the past three years, as have the state titles.
Yet, as St. Mary’s begins 2017 in hopes of a fourth Division 3 state title in a row, the fact of how the offense will operate remains unchanged.
“Like usual, we have to be able to run the ball,” coach George Porritt said simply.
It’s what the Eaglets have mastered for decades, and this fall will be no different.
“We have some good backs,” Porritt added. “We have a good quarterback back in the mix. We feel strongly about what we can do.”
Caden Prieskorn returns under center for his senior season, while Kyren Cunningham and Rashawn Allen will star in the backfield.
Both are athletic and dynamic runners.
The last time Allen was in game action, for example, he rushed 25 times for 145 yards in the state final.
The area where eyes will focus the most, though, is up front.
“It’s a work in progress,” Porritt said of his offensive line, a collection of mostly new starters. “We have to get those guys going.”
The Eaglets will live and die with the running game, as always, but Prieskorn used the state final as his stage to prove he can wing it, throwing for 200 yards and two touchdowns.
“It always depends what the defense gives us,” Porritt said when asked about passing more. “We are confident he can throw the ball. He did a great job last year.”
Defense was the consistent fall-back for the Eaglets last year, who after allowing 35 to Dakota in the opener, didn’t allow more than 28 in a game the rest of the year.
But with just two starters back, this year’s group is going to have to learn, and learn fast.
“How fast we jell and how fast we get guys to mesh will be key,” Porritt said. “This is high school football, so that’s how it goes. But we need to get guys going.”
Cunningham and Nathan Kolwich are the only starters back.
“We have to figure things out,” Porritt said. “We have the athletes. We have to get them some experience.”
“We can’t make mistakes,” Porritt said of the season. “We start the year with three great teams before we get into the league. We have to come out of the gates ready to go. We can play good football and lose, but that’s the reality of our schedule.”
vs. Macomb Dakota (7-4) — 7 p.m. Aug. 24
This one was a classic last year, with Dakota winning 35-28. The season opener is the second meeting ever between these two programs.
vs. East Kentwood High (4-5) — 7 p.m. Sept. 1
East Kentwood reached the state playoffs three years in a row — and made the 2014 Division 1 semifinals — before going 4-5 last fall. The Falcons are expecting a bounce-back year.
at Mishawaka Penn (Indiana) (12-1) — 7 p.m. Sept. 8
The first road game of the season will be a tough one, as St. Mary’s takes on a Penn team that didn’t lose until its state playoffs last year and defeated the Eaglets 10-7 in Week 3.
at University of Detroit Jesuit (6-3) — 7 p.m. Sept. 16
This Catholic High School League rivalry has been one-sided, with the Eaglets owning a 20-2 all-time record. The Cubs’ last win was in 2003.
vs. Warren De La Salle (4-5) — 1 p.m. Sept. 22
The Eaglets won a 14-7 decision over the Pilots in 2016. St. Mary’s is 17-5 all-time against DLS.
vs. Birmingham Brother Rice (7-4) — 7 p.m. Sept. 29
Some teams don’t play opponents that reached a state final the previous season for years. But for Rice, it will play two in two weeks after facing Novi Detroit Catholic Central in Week 5. St. Mary’s hasn’t allowed a point against Rice in two years and leads the all-time series 16-13.
at Novi Detroit Catholic Central (13-1) — 7 p.m. Oct. 6
Half of St. Mary’s losses last fall came to the Shamrocks, who won 28-7 in Week 7 and then 17-14 in the Prep Bowl. The Shamrocks went on to lose in the D-1 final to Detroit Cass Tech.
at Opponent to be named — TBD Oct. 20
St. Mary’s opponent to close out the regular season will be announced at a later date.