Team name: Sterling Heights Parkway Christian Eagles
Last season’s record: 4-5
League: Michigan Independent Athletic Conference
Returning starters: 13
First game: 7 p.m. Aug. 25 vs. Fowler High
Second-year coach Joe Beck said the team is counting on its offensive line to control the line of scrimmage and open running lanes for the squad’s running backs. Parkway returns all of its starting offensive linemen from 2016, led by junior Kyle Petipren, senior John Bowling and sophomore Zack Jaksa.
Beck said experience will be key for his defense this fall.
“We were very young last year defensively, so all of our top tacklers return,” Beck said. “We should be able to play much faster and cause more turnovers.”
The Eagles defense is anchored by junior defensive tackle Brandon Challangoe, junior linebackers Maurice Hutchinson and Bryce Perko, sophomore defensive backs Tayshaun Peterson and Griffin Adams, and sophomore defensive end Javen Cook.
“Our numbers may be low, but the whole team made a huge commitment in the offseason, and we’re really upset we didn’t make the playoffs last year,” Beck said. “We start the season (against) two teams that are in the top 12 in the state in win percentage (Fowler High and Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes). The coaches wanted to get tested early and see what this team has got, and they seem up to the challenge and are fired up to play Fowler Week 1.”
vs. Fowler High (6-4) — 7 p.m. Aug. 25
This is the first meeting between Parkway Christian and Fowler. Parkway Christian hopes to end a streak of two consecutive season-opening losses. Fowler, which is located northwest of Lansing, is currently on a run of eight straight playoff trips.
at Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes (6-4) — 7 p.m. Aug. 31
Parkway Christian is 0-2 against the Catholic High School League squad. The last meeting resulted in a 54-29 Lakers win over the Eagles in a 2015 playoff game.
vs. Rochester Hills Lutheran Northwest (6-4) — 2 p.m. Sept. 9
Parkway Christian last season knocked off Lutheran Northwest 54-45. That gave the Eagles a 5-4 series lead. The Crusaders put up 36.7 points per game in 2016 on their way to a third straight playoff berth.
at Lutheran Westland (4-5) — 2 p.m. Sept. 16
Week 4 sees Parkway Christian for the first time this season square off with a team that did not qualify for the 2016 state playoffs. The Eagles bested the Warriors 36-16 in Week 7 last season to take a 5-3 series lead. Parkway Christian has won three of the last four matchups.
vs. Detroit Cesar Chavez (4-5) — 7 p.m. Sept. 22
Cesar Chavez joins Parkway Christian in the Michigan Independent Athletic Conference after four years as an independent. Parkway Christian won the only other meeting 62-14 in 2013. Cesar Chavez surrendered at least 40 points five times last season.
vs. Dearborn Heights Star International (0-9) — 2 p.m. Sept. 30
The Falcons managed 48 points total last season and allowed 413. Star International is 9-96 as a varsity program. Parkway is 7-2 against Star International.
vs. Auburn Hills Oakland Christian (4-4) — 7 p.m. Oct. 6
The Eagles beat the Lancers 22-14 last season to improve to 7-1 in the series. Oakland Christian lost four of its last six after starting 2-0. Parkway Christian last season averaged 45 points per game in its four wins.
at Southfield Christian (1-8) — 7 p.m. Oct. 13
Parkway Christian has won three in a row in this series. Last year’s meeting featured plenty of offense as Parkway rolled to a 68-22 win.
vs. Detroit Public Safety Academy (2-7) — 7 p.m. Oct. 20
This is the second season for the Detroit PSA football team. The squad in 2016 scored eight points or less six times, and one of its wins came via forfeit. Last fall was the first since 2012 that Parkway Christian missed the playoffs.