Ron Bellamy is entering his 10th season as the head football coach at West Bloomfield. He has completely turned this program around, taking the team from consistently being a last-place team in the OAA, to being a state powerhouse contender. The Lakers are 44-14 since 2012 and have 5 straight playoff appearances.
Last season, the Lakers ended with a 9-3 overall record and lost to Belleville in the Division 1 Regional Finals 13-10. West Bloomfield’s 3 losses (Southfield, Clarkston, Belleville) were by a combined total of 8 points.
The Lakers have made huge improvements but a lack of offense in the big playoff games have been the reason they are still looking for their first state championship. The last 3 seasons the Lakers have struggled to put points on the board against the elite teams in the playoffs. In 2016, they scored 6 points in a playoff loss to Southfield. In 2017, they missed out on winning a state championship after losing to Clarkston 3-2 in the finals. In 2018, they lost to Belleville 13-10.
Teams that have won state championships have all gone through tough challenges in years leading up to being the last team standing and holding the trophy above their heads at Ford Field. Is 2019 the year West Bloomfield can put it all together and win their first championship?
The Lakers definitely have what it takes but will be without 3 great players from the 2019 class; Tre Mosely (Michigan State), Lance Dixon (Penn State), and Tyrone Broden (Bowling Green).
On offense, the Lakers averaged 30 points per game and have a lot of key players returning. CJ Harris did well in his first year as the starting quarterback after taking over for Bryce Veasley (Bowling Green). The 6-4, 190-pound senior is committed to Ohio University and the team will look to expand his role leading the team and throwing the ball successfully downfield.
Harris will have a lot of weapons to throw to in the passing game with Chase Glover (6’4 200), Ethan Bunch (6’1 180), Jaquan Wiggins (5’10 170), and Kyle Johnson (6’0 170).
A player that West Bloomfield missed in the playoffs was running back Donovan Edwards. Edwards is a 6’0 195-pound junior that was outstanding early in the season last year before his season-ending injury. He stood out as a sophomore on a team that was loaded with Division 1 talent. His performance earned him offers from some of the biggest schools in the Midwest and he currently has over 30 offers. As long as he can pick up where he left off and stay healthy, he could be the piece to the puzzle that can help them secure their first state championship.
Edwards will have some quality help in the backfield to take some of the load off his shoulders. Dillon Tatum (5’11 180) and Anthony May (5’9 175) shared the duties last year when Edwards went down. Tatum is a talented 2022 prospect and May is a senior that is elusive and a nice receiver out of the backfield. All three running backs give West Bloomfield depth at the position.
Cole Hall (6’1 275) and Brett Bradley (6’4 245) are the only returning starters on the offensive line from the 2018 team. Both 2020 prospects have added size and strength from last year and will be the leaders in the trenches. DeAntwan Franklin (6’2 290) is a young promising 2022 prospect that should start for the Lakers.
The Lakers gave up 20 points per game on defense in 2018 and that was up a few points from their 2017 team that went to the state finals. This year with 8 returning starters and some nice young talent stepping in, the Lakers will be tough to score on this year.
Makari Paige, Cornell Wheeler, and Sterling Miles are 3 superstars that will lead the defense in 2019. Paige is a 6’3 190-pound senior that has a ton of versatility playing strong safety and outside linebacker. He is one of the top prospects in the country and has offers from over 25 Division 1 programs. He recently committed to the University of Michigan.
Wheeler (6’1 215) is the top linebacker in the state and he is also committed to the University of Michigan. He sets the tone on defense with his physical play stopping the run, and his speed rushing the passer and making plays behind the line of scrimmage.
Miles (6’5 225) is the prototype defensive end with his size, athleticism, and his ability to put a lot of pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Miles is committed to the University of Cincinnati.
The three underrated players on the defensive line that did extremely well last season are Beau Davis (6’1 260), Jaden Green (6’0 250), and Chris Johnson (6’2 215). All 3 played key roles and were impact players in 2018.
Jordan Hoskins (6’0 205) will start again at linebacker for the Lakers and is a nice talent in the 2021 class. He will be joined by sophomore sensation Michael Williams (6’2 215). Williams is an athletic 2022 prospect that already has several Division 1 offers. Chandler Swoope (6’1 187) did well last season as a defensive back and is rated high in the state. Hoskins and Swoope are the two that get a little overlooked on this roster but they will have every chance to showcase their abilities this season.
The Lakers are loaded with talent and have a great coaching staff, but their first four games are brutal and could be one of the toughest schedules for any team to start the season. They have a week 1 showdown against Oak Park. This will definitely be two Top 5 teams slugging it out. The Lakers won a close one last season 27-21. In week 2, they will play a tough Birmingham Groves team. The Falcons have given West Bloomfield trouble in the past. They play Southfield in week 3. The Lakers will look for revenge after losing to them last year 37-35. In week 4, they will get their conference rival, the Clarkston Wolves. This has been an even matchup the last several years, but Clarkston won 28-25 last year and they beat them in the 2017 state championship game.
There is no question West Bloomfield is one of the most talented teams in Michigan. Every game will be a challenge and they must take it one game at a time and not overlook anyone. The first 4 games will be a good indication of what this team is all about. They must stay healthy and not suffer any key injuries that could change the outcome of their season.
This is a season where West Bloomfield has to get over the hump and really put it all together when it matters most. Offensively, they have struggled in big games in the playoffs. When you have this kind of talent and don’t win state championships, or only score 10 points or less in do or die games, other questions arise.
Do you think West Bloomfield can put it all together and be the 2019 Division 1 State Champions?