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Basketball Star James Young is ‘The Best’ at Troy High School

The junior is being recruited by Division I colleges and could end up as Troy’s all-time leading scorer.

With his team up by 20 points late in the third quarter of last Friday’s 88-70 home-court win over Royal Oak, Troy High School’s James Young decided to put an exclamation point on the Colts’ victory.

Young brought the ball up the court, cut to the lane and unleashed a thunderous, one-handed slam dunk that sent the Troy fans into a frenzy.

“I taught him how to do that,” Troy coach Gary Fralick joked after the game. “That was a great teaching job.”

Troy fans can expect more of that this season from Young, a junior guard who Fralick said will likely one day own the school’s career scoring record.

“He’s the best that’s ever been through here, as long as I’ve been here,” Fralick said. Fralick has coached the Colts for 18 seasons and has seen several of his players go on to play at the collegiate level.

At 6 feet 6 inches tall and 190 pounds, Young is already being recruited by Division I teams like Michigan State, Florida State, Oklahoma and Indiana. He said he is also interested in attending one of the current college basketball powerhouses like Ohio State, Kentucky and Connecticut.

Last year as a sophomore, Young averaged more than 20 points per game as the Colts captured a share of the Oakland Activities Association White Division title. He earned all-OAA honors and was named as an honorable mention for the Class A all-state team.

Despite the individual accolades, a loss in the regional semifinals to Pontiac ended Troy’s season earlier than it would have liked last year, and Young said the team is committed to making a deeper run in the tournament this year.

“We trying to get past that now and make it a little farther than we did last year,” Young said.

During the off season, Young, who is left handed, said he worked on using his right hand more during games as well as improving his defense and three-point shooting.

Three games into the season, the hard work seems to be paying off as Young is once again averaging more than 20 points per game, and Troy is off to a 2-1 start. Fralick said he has been very impressed with Young’s progress so far.

“He has a lot of tools, he’s very athletic, he handles (the ball) pretty well, shoots it pretty well and when we get after him to rebound he rebounds pretty well,” Fralick said.

One aspect of Young’s game that adds even more to his versatility is his ability to play multiple positions on the court. The team lists Young as a point guard on the official roster, but Young said he is comfortable playing other positions such as shooting guard and small forward.

Fralick said Young’s ability to line up almost anywhere on the court helps create match-up problems for Troy’s opponents.

“It throws the other team off a bit,” Fralick said. “We have to get him working down low (in the paint), and I think then it’s going to be really hard to stop him.”

Young and the Colts will get a chance to build on their strong start on Dec. 29, when Troy will play Okemos at Michigan State’s Breslin Center as part of the Holiday Hoops Invitational.


Groves Ends Football Season with 53-7 Playoff Loss to Southfield

The Falcons are eliminated from the post-season, finishing 6-4 overall.

Groves High School’s season came to an end Saturday night as the Falcons lost at home to Southfield, 53-7, in the first round of the state football playoffs.

Senior running back Keon Collier had another solid game for Birmingham  Groves (6-4), rushing for 128 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries, but it was not enough for the Falcons to overcome a talented Southfield team. Collier’s 68-yard touchdown run in the third quarter were the only points for Groves in the game.

Southfield (7-3) scored on all six of its first-half possessions, as the Groves defense was unable to slow down a potent offense led by quarterback Justin Danzy and running back Brandon Watkins. The Bluejays led 46-0 at halftime.

Despite Saturday’s loss, Groves had one of its best seasons in recent memory, winning six games and qualifying for the playoffs for the first time since 2004. The Falcons also won their first division title since 2003, and beat cross-town rival Seaholm in the regular season finale.

Groves coach Brendan Flaherty said after the game that he believes the program is headed in the right direction.

“It was great to get back on track with a winning record, making the playoffs and beating Seaholm,” Flaherty said. “We turned the corner, but we have a long ways to go. We were playing six sophomores and a freshman today, so I think our future’s pretty bright.”

Collier will end his Groves career as the school’s all-time leading rusher. After the game, Collier said making the playoffs was a huge step forward for the Falcons.

“As a program, we’re trying to turn it around, get everybody to come back in and get some wins,” Collier said. “We just have to progress every year, and I’m always (going to be) a Falcon and I want them to do well.”

Collier said he has yet to decide where he will continue his career at the collegiate level, but the lessons he learned from his coaching staff in high school will help him find success.

“(Assistant) Coach (Kirk) Duncan’s the smartest man I know, and he taught me everything I needed to know,” Collier said. “You can always learn more, but he put me in a position where I could play to my maximum potential in high school, now I have to take it to the next notch when I take it to the next level.”

Athens Defeats Troy For First Time Since 2006 in Annual Rivalry Game

The Red Hawks finish the regular season 7-2 as they head into the playoffs.

Another strong effort from the Troy Athens High School running game was the difference as the Red Hawks defeated Troy High School, 31-13, in an Oakland Activities Association Red Division football matchup Friday night.

Athens (7-2, 5-2 Red) clinched a third place finish in the OAA Red Division with the win, and the Red Hawks will have a chance to host a playoff game next week against an undetermined opponent. Playoff matchups will be announced on Sunday night.

Led by Sam Haskell’s 123 yards and two touchdowns on nine carries, Athens earned its first win against cross-town rival Troy (3-6, 3-4 OAA Red) since 2006. For seniors like Haskell, getting their first win over Troy was huge.

“We didn’t take them lightly,” Haskell said. “Even though we had the playoffs (clinched) we still came out here and gave it our all.”

Athens coach Josh Heppner said he was impressed with the way the Red Hawks ran the ball and with the play of Haskell in particular. The Red Hawks outgained Troy on the ground, 240-180.

“Sam Haskell is amazing, along with all of the other (running backs) that we have,” Heppner said. “We still have some work that we have to do with our power backfield, but we’ll find that guy to replace (injured running back) Lonnie Jaynes. Hopefully Lonnie will be back in a couple weeks and we’ll be good to go.”

Senior quarterback Ben Bartnowak and running back Lonnie Bolden also scored rushing touchdowns, and Sandy Mouch added a 30-yard field goal to round out the scoring for Athens. Bartnowak also added 159 yards on 8-of-13 passing.

“All that hard work in the offseason paid off,” Bartnowak said. “It finally feels like we accomplished something this year that hasn’t been done in a while.”

Athens led 14-6 at halftime, but a 33-yard touchdown run by Troy quarterback Justin Losey brought the Colts within four points midway through the third quarter. That was as close as Troy would get however, as the Athens defense shut down the Colts’ offense the rest of the way.

Heppner said the Troy offense caught the Red Hawks off-guard in the early part of the game, but they were able to settle down and make some changes.

“Our secondary’s been riding high on how they’ve been playing, and (Troy) got some decent throws in on us, but we shut down the run and made some adjustments,” Heppner said. “They do a great job running it, and if you face teams like that you have to be able to shut it down.”

For Troy, four straight losses to end the year will mean the Colts will not be making a trip to the postseason. Troy coach Gary Griffith said the team played with great effort, but too many big plays given up doomed the Colts in the end.

“It’s really frustrating, and I feel bad for the kids,” Griffith said. “I honestly believe we are a better team than we showed the last three weeks.”

Griffith said he and his coaching staff will work on making changes, both offensively and defensively, in preparation for next season.

“We’re going to evaluate where we are and what we’re doing, and try and (determine) what are our pluses and minuses and what can we do.”

Troy Athens and Troy High Prepare For Annual Football Showdown

Playoff-bound Athens will try to beat Troy for the first time since 2006 in annual rivalry game.

With both teams’ postseason fates already determined, this week’s high school football matchup between Troy Athens and Troy High will be about pride.

Last week, Athens clinched its first playoff berth since 2004 with a 13-12 win over Southfield in an Oakland Activities Association crossover game. The win gave the Red Hawks a 6-2 record, and teams with six wins automatically qualify for the MHSAA state playoffs.

Troy Athens has improved each season under the guidance of third-year coach Josh Heppner, who said taking the next step and making the playoffs was huge for the program.

“Being able to do something like this just helps that belief, helps that buy-in factor that you’re trying to get from your players and the program,” Heppner said. “If you can turn things around like this in such a short time, it just makes it easier to get these guys committed in the offseason to do the things you need them to do to make sure you keep it rolling.”

With a playoff berth already clinched, this week’s game against Troy will be an opportunity to gain some bragging rights over the Red Hawks’ cross-town rival. Athens’s last win against Troy came in the 2006 season.

“If you look at the history of Troy vs. Athens, Troy dominates,” Heppner said. “We have worked so hard to get to where we are and to lose against Troy High would be just unfortunate, so (we) are going to do everything possible to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

For Troy High, the season hasn’t gone the way the Colts had hoped it would. After a 42-13 win at West Bloomfield on Sept. 23, Troy’s record stood at 3-2, however three straight losses have dropped the Colts’ record to 3-5 entering Friday’s game.

Even though the Colts are out of playoff contention, Troy High coach Gary Griffith said his team will be fired up to play Athens.

“Regardless of what the records are, this for us is our Michigan-Michigan State game, our Ohio State-Michigan game,” Griffith said. “This is our rivalry game, and the kids are going to be excited to play.”

Griffith said this matchup will be especially meaningful for Troy’s seniors who will be playing their final high school game.

“This is going to be the last taste they have of high school football,” Griffith said. “You always want to try and play a great game the last game so the kids go out on a positive note and they look back fondly and have some memories of that last rivalry game against Athens.”

Kickoff for Friday’s game is scheduled for 7 p.m.

Troy Athens Rallies to Beat West Bloomfield

Homecoming win leaves Red Hawks just one win away from clinching their first playoff berth since 2001, while West Bloomfield will look to rebound against Rochester.

Troy Athens High School survived a scare against West Bloomfield, as the Red Hawks made two key fourth-down stops in the final quarter to preserve a 27-17 victory in an Oakland Activities Association Red Division football matchup Friday night.

With the win on homecoming night, Athens improved to 5-1 on the season and 4-1 in the OAA Red, leaving the Red Hawks just one win away from clinching their first playoff berth since 2001.

The turning point in the game came with West Bloomfield leading 17-14 and facing a 3-and-1 from its own 46-yard line with less than six minutes to play. After the Lakers were stopped in the backfield by Troy Athens’ lineman Branden Terry and Kento Mori on that play, West Bloomfield was called for a false start on fouth-and-1 and lined up to punt. However, on the ensuing punt Athens was called for running into the kicker, giving the Lakers a shot at another play.

West Bloomfield (2-4, 2-3) elected to go for the first down, but on the next play running back Jalen Campbell was stopped immediately in the backfield by Terry, turning the ball back over to the Red Hawks.

“I had to blow up the line to stop the play, and I had to go harder than I ever had in the game so far,” Terry said.

With good field position, Athens needed just five plays to take the lead for the first time in the game. After a Ben Bartnowak run set up first-and-goal, junior Sam Haskell took a handoff and raced around the left tackle for a 10-yard touchdown with 2:23 left. The Red Hawks led 20-17 following a missed extra point.

Troy Athens stopped West Bloomfield again on fourth down on the Lakers’ next possession, and on the next play Haskell scored again from 11 yards out to make the score 27-17 and clinch the game for the Red Hawks.

Troy Athens coach Josh Heppner said he was especially pleased with his defense’s effort late in the game.

“Our defense has been coming up huge, and they’ve been making big plays for us all year long,” Heppner said. “They stepped up when we needed them to step up.”

Heppner said he was proud of the way the Red Hawks were able to battle back from an early deficit.

“It just goes to show the resiliency of this team,” Heppner said. “This is a big win for us, and it puts us one more win closer to going to the playoffs, and these guys deserve it.”

Early on in the game, it appeared West Bloomfield was on its way to pulling off an upset. The Lakers scored first on a six-yard run by Campbell in the second quarter, and increased their lead to 10-7 at halftime following a 29-yard field goal by Connor Genrich.

West Bloomfield scored again just two minutes into the second half on a 15-yard run by Matt Farrow. The score gave the Lakers a 10-point lead, but they were unable to hold on for the victory.

Farrow led West Bloomfield with 103 yards on 17 carries, while Campbell added 53 yards on 12 carries. C.J. Braithwaite also had a solid day for the Lakers with 75 yards on 11 carries.

Athens will look to clinch a playoff berth next week when they square off with the OAA Red leader, Lake Orion, while West Bloomfield will look to rebound against Rochester.

Athens Seeks Homecoming Win to Add to Strong Season

Win against West Bloomfield tonight could give the Red Hawks a shot at playoff berth.

Troy Athens High School’s football team will have a lot on the line tonight, when the Red Hawks host Oakland Activities Association Red Division foe West Bloomfield for homecoming.

Athens (4-1, 3-1 OAA Red) will enter Friday night’s game in second place in the Red, trailing only Lake Orion in the standings. A win against West Bloomfield (2-3, 2-2 OAA Red) would give the Red Hawks five wins on the season, matching the team’s win total of the last two seasons combined and leaving the team one win shy of clinching its first playoff berth since 2001.

Before Athens starts thinking about possibly making a run at the playoffs, the team will need to get past a West Bloomfield team that is capable of pulling an upset. Athens coach Josh Heppner said his team is not looking past the Lakers, who have playmakers on both sides of the ball.

“We have to contain their speed,” Heppner said. “They have a lot of speed, a lot of talent and they have nothing to lose. They know they’re our homecoming game, so they’re going to hype that up.”

One key against the Lakers will be the play of the Athens defense. Two weeks ago, the Red Hawks shut out Royal Oak and last week the team forced eight turnovers in a win at Rochester.

Even though Athens won 21-13 at Rochester, Heppner said he wasn’t completely satisfied with the team’s performance. He said the team will need to cut down on its own mistakes after the Red Hawks were flagged 12 times in last week’s win.

“Offensively, we executed, we just couldn’t get rid of stupid penalties,” Heppner said. “We had 105 yards in penalties, which is unacceptable. We can’t have anything like that.”

Heppner said the team has worked on fixing some of those issues in practice this week.

“We’ve simplified some things, and we had to adjust different blocking assignments because of what Rochester threw at us defensively,” Heppner said. “We’re ready to go.”

Kickoff for Friday’s game is scheduled for 7 p.m.

Troy to Face Defending Champions at Home

Colts will face pressure from “all over the place” against Lake Orion tonight, coach said.

Two weeks after a disappointing loss to Clarkston, the Troy High School football team will get another chance to prove it belongs with the top teams in the Oakland Activities Association Red Division when the Colts host defending state champion Lake Orion tonight.

Last week, Troy (3-2, 3-1 OAA Red) defeated West Bloomfield, 42-13, in part due to another solid effort from the team’s rushing attack. The Colts rushed for 396 yards as a team in the victory, with senior running back Oliver Jiang accounting for 221 of those yards.

Troy coach Gary Griffith said he liked what he saw from his team against the Lakers.

“We cut down on the mistakes, we played physical, and we did a real good job on the line of scrimmage, both ways,” Griffith said.

The Colts will need another strong effort in those areas against a Lake Orion team that has won four straight games in convincing fashion after losing its opener at Oxford. Troy lost 45-0 last year at Lake Orion after the Dragons got off to a quick start, scoring touchdowns on three of their first five offensive plays.

Griffith said the Colts will need to avoid getting off to a similar start in this year’s game in order to beat the Dragons (4-1, 4-0 OAA Red).

“We need to be able to move the ball and control the clock when we’re on offense, and defensively we have to make sure there are no big plays,” Griffith said. “If they drive the ball, they drive the ball. We do the best we can, but we have to try and eliminate big plays.”

Griffith said he expects Lake Orion to try and bring pressure from “all over the place” in tomorrow’s game, and that the Colts will need to make quick reads against Lake Orion’s defense.

“Last week we saw pressure, but it was always coming from the same spots, so our kids were able to adapt,” Griffith said. “I think (Friday) the kids have to recognize the fronts, the defense and how they’re lined up, and then anticipate what stunts are coming. If we can do that, I think we have a good shot.”

Kickoff for Friday’s game is scheduled for 7 p.m.

Troy Looks to Rebound From First Loss in League Play

The Colts will look to keep pace with the top teams in their division.

A week after suffering its first loss in the Oakland Activities Association Red Division, the Troy High School football team will look to get back on track when it travels to face West Bloomfield Friday night.

Troy (2-2, 2-1 in the OAA Red) had won its previous two games, at Royal Oak and at home against Rochester, in convincing fashion, but the Colts were unable to slow down a talented Clarkston team in a 28-13 loss on Sept 16.

Despite last week’s loss, Troy coach Gary Griffith said there were some positives with the way the Colts played, particularly in the second half. Troy trailed Clarkston 28-0 after the third quarter, but rallied for 13 points in the final 12 minutes.

“Our kids didn’t fold up the tent, and if you look at it from our perspective we won the second half,” Griffith said. “We tightened up defensively and we started moving the ball offensively. In hindsight, we felt like if we had been able to play at that level in the first half we could have made it a closer game.”

Troy will look to bounce back against a West Bloomfield team that will enter the game with an identical record to the Colts’, though one of those wins was the result of a forfeit. The two teams are tied with Clarkston and Troy Athens for second place in the division at 2-1 in league play, trailing only defending state champion Lake Orion.

Offensively, Troy will need to be better in terms of time of possession, which is an area that the team struggled in last week. Clarkston opened the game with a 14-play drive and controlled the ball for most of the first half, allowing the Wolves to build a 337-12 advantage in total yards at one point in the second quarter.

Defensively, Griffith said his team will be challenged by West Bloomfield, which has several playmakers on the offensive side of the ball.

“West Bloomfield has great team speed at the skill positions, and the quarterback throws the ball very well,” Griffith said. “They take advantage of that, and they have an absolutely enormous offensive line.”

Griffith said one of the keys for the Colts defensively will be to make sound pre-snap reads and stay true to their responsibilities.

“We’re trying to shore up our pass coverage, which we thought was a little weak last week, and trying to make sure our linebackers know what their (roles) are,” Griffith said. “We need to make sure we know where our help’s coming from and try to keep the ball in front of us and make our plays.”

Kickoff for Friday’s game is scheduled for 7 p.m.

Athens Looks to Build on Strong Start

Red Hawks would eclipse last year’s win total with a victory tonight against Rochester.

A week after a dominant performance at home, the Troy Athens High School football team will look to build on its best start under third-year coach Josh Heppner, as the Red Hawks travel to face Rochester Friday night.

In last week’s game, Athens jumped out to an early lead on the Royal Oak High School Ravens and didn’t let up en route to a 56-0 win. The lopsided score gave Heppner the luxury of giving playing time to the backups and younger players on the team.

“You never know when a (starter) is going to go down, they have an injury that puts them out for a game or two, and you have to have (the backups) prepared” Heppner said. “We do a pretty good job in practice trying to get these guys ready, but game tempo and game speed speaks for itself. It was nice to get those guys in there.”

The win over Royal Oak gave Athens a 3-1 record overall, and a 2-1 mark within the Oakland Activities Association’s Red Division. The Red Hawks won three games in 2010 and two in 2009, which were Heppner’s first two years with the team.

In order to improve to 4-1, however, Athens will need to get by a Rochester team that defeated the Red Hawks by three touchdowns last season on its way to a playoff appearance. Despite entering this year’s game with a 1-3 record, Rochester still boasts talent on both sides of the ball.

“Rochester has some key players that we’re concerned with, but we’re going to try and make sure we keep the ball away from them and out of their hands,” Heppner said.

In order to keep the ball away from Rochester’s playmakers, Athens will need another strong performance from its running game. Last week against the Ravens, Athens rushed for 388 yards as a team despite being without key rusher Kris Gervin, who did not play due to injury.

In preparation for this week’s game, Heppner said the Red Hawks have been continuing to focus on playing strong fundamentally.

“We’re making sure that we’re doing our assignments and doing what we’re supposed to do,” Heppner said. “I strongly feel that if we execute the way we should, teams are going to have a tough time trying to stop us.”

Kickoff for Friday’s game is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Rochester High School.

Troy Athens’ Ground Game Dominates in 56-0 Win Over Royal Oak

Red Hawks score early and often in lopsided game to improve their record to 3-1 on the season.

Troy Athens rebounded emphatically from its first loss of the season, as the Red Hawks rushed for 388 yards as a team and defeated Royal Oak, 56-0, in an Oakland Activities Association Red Division game Friday night.

The Red Hawks had 12 different players run the ball in the game, none of whom carried it more than three times. Senior running back Lonnie Bolden had two carries for 78 yards and two touchdowns, while juniors Sam Haskell and Joe Shields each had touchdown runs of more than 80 yards.

“We have multiple backs that, whenever they get the ball, they can go for a touchdown,” Bolden said. “We’ve been working hard since the offseason and it’s paying off.”

Quarterbacks Ben Bartnowak and James Ortmann also scored rushing touchdowns for Athens, while Bolden added a 25-yard interception return for a touchdown to round out the scoring.

Athens coach Josh Heppner said part of the team’s game plan was to keep the running game simple.

“We know that we have some very effective tailbacks at multiple levels – first, second and third string,” Heppner said. “Our big plays came off of our base run game.”

Heppner said he was particularly impressed with Bolden’s play on both sides of the ball.

“Lonnie’s amazing, he’s a tremendous athlete and I expect to see him at the next level,” Heppner said. “He’s grown up and matured so much since his junior year, and it’s really shown. I’m very proud of the way he’s produced on the field, and off the field, the type of leader that he is.”

The game got out of hand early as Royal Oak (1-3) fumbled on its second play of the game, and Athens linebacker Matt Fitzpatrick scooped up the loose ball and ran 29 yards for a touchdown.

By the time Athens had run four offensive plays, the Red Hawks already led 21-0. Athens took a 49-0 lead into halftime, and a running clock was used for the entire second half.

Defensively, Athens earned its first shutout of the season. Heppner said Royal Oak used some formations that he didn’t expect, but that the team was still well-prepared for the Ravens’ attack.

“Our guys just stepped up and they made big plays when we needed to make big plays,” Heppner said. “That’s what wins ball games — when we can capitalize on turnovers that the defense makes. It doesn’t always have to be on the offense’s shoulders.”

For Royal Oak, the loss extended the team’s losing streak to three games, and the Ravens are winless in OAA play. Royal Oak coach Jeff Hill said the Ravens will continue to work hard in the upcoming weeks.

“The thing that we liked about what happened tonight is that our kids did fight,” Hill said. “Like we tell them all the time, this is a game, but it’s a game that teaches you lifelong lessons. We wanted to come out in the second half and continue to fight, regardless of what the score was.”

Hill said he knew coming into the game that the Ravens would have to battle hard to slow down the potent Athens ground game.

“We game-planned all week long to try and stop them, and we just didn’t have the night that we thought we were going to,” Hill said. “Unfortunately, we came out and made some mistakes, the snowball kept building and it rolled downhill pretty fast.”

Athens will play its homecoming game next week against Rochester, while Royal Oak will travel to face the defending state champion, Lake Orion.