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4Frenzy Game of the Week: Undefeated Grosse Pointe South vs. improved L'Anse Creuse North

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Let’s get to the point: the Grosse Pointe South football team is off to its best start in 34 years thanks to a defense that rarely gives up points.

The unbeaten Blue Devils are only allowing five points per game as they head into Friday’s game at Macomb L’Anse Creuse North.

“It’s a combination of a couple things,” Grosse Pointe South coach Tim Brandon said of his team’s defense. “No. 1, these are smart kids. No. 2, they’re very physical and fast-flowing to the ball.”

That combo has helped the squad record three shutouts and qualify for the playoffs for the fourth straight season. With a victory over L’Anse Creuse North, the Blue Devils also would clinch at least a share of the MAC White Division championship for the third consecutive year.

“We get great kids who work hard and buy into the program,” said Brandon, in his 12th year at South. “We also have consistency on the coaching staff.”

This season defense has set the tone. Owen Chen and Miles Dearing anchor the line, with Dearing moving from MIKE linebacker last season to nose guard this year.

“He’s quick and tough,” Brandon said.

Terrence Lane, John Poplawski and Nick Fannon rotate at defensive end, and junior James Doerer and senior Jimmy Rauh lead the linebackers.

In the secondary, Grosse Pointe South relies on senior free safety Scott Rosati and junior strong safety Owen Bollaert.

“They are probably the most important part of the defense,” Brandon said. “They have to be smart and active.”

The offense has been as good as the defense. The Blue Devils are averaging 33.5 points per game behind a pair of returning starters in quarterback Ryan Downey and running back Connor McKenna.
Brandon calls Downey an “outstanding leader,” and McKenna rushed for 1,000 yards last year as a junior.

Grosse Pointe South has deep play threats in wide receivers Will Johnson, a freshman, and A.J. Benson, a junior who has scored three touchdowns of 60-plus yards.

Senior tight end Riley Francis led the team in receptions a year ago, and slot receiver Patrick Dougherty is a possession receiver underneath.

Seniors Tanner Belanger and Will Jackman anchor the offensive line at right guard and right tackle, respectively.

“This is just a great group of kids,” Brandon said. “They work hard. They play for each other.”
Most of the year, things have gone smoothly for the Blue Devils. But last week, they trailed New Baltimore Anchor Bay 13-6 in the fourth quarter before rallying for a 27-13 triumph.

McKenna sparked the comeback, rushing for 174 yards and three touchdowns.

“We showed a little bit of fortitude,” Brandon said.

This week South will face a L’Anse Creuse North team that has rebounded from a 1-8 campaign last year.

The Crusaders are 4-2 overall and 3-1 in the MAC White. With wins in two of their next three games, they could clinch a playoff spot for the fifth time in school history, according to the website michigan-football.com.

“They like to chuck the ball all over the place,” Brandon said. “They’re a throw to set up the run team.”