By DOUG DONNELLY
OTTAWA LAKE – Kareem Sadler has been a part of a couple high school state championship programs. Now he’s trying to build his own program into one.
Before that can happen, however, Sadler’s Detroit Leadership Academy football team will have to get through the Whiteford Bobcats. The Cougars and Bobcats meet in the Division 8 district semifinals at 7 p.m. Friday at Allen Park Cabrini High School.
Sadler spent this week preparing his 4-3 Cougars to face the 5-2 Bobcats, who have turned things around after starting 1-2.
“We are young,” Sadler said of his squad. “We’re trying to change the culture here. We’re playing championship caliber team in Whiteford. I respect Coach Mensing and what he’s done over there. They have a lot of talented players.”
Sadler was the co-offensive coordinator for Detroit Martin Luther King a few years ago when they won a state title. Today, he has built his Leadership offense in a similar style. They run mostly a traditional I-formation and like to mix the run with the pass.
“We play a lot of situational football,” he said. “We look and see what the defense is giving us. If we need to run, we’ll run. When we need to pass, we’ll throw.”
The Cougars are led by third-year starting quarterback Jahiem Stokes.
“He’s had a tremendous year,” Sadler said. “He’s up to two or three offers right now from colleges. He’s just trying to figure out where is the best fit.”
One of his targets is wide receiver Michael Lee, a big play guy. Fullback David Flowers is one of the running backs to watch, although the Bobcats expect multiple backs to carry the ball.
“We’ve got a young offensive line, but they are big,” Sadler said.
Whiteford comes into the game on a four-game winning streak and play as well offensively as they have in a couple of seasons. In last week’s game against BD, the Bobcats had eight scoring drives of between four and nine plays and all of them at least 50 yards. On the season they have 15 scoring drives of at least 65 yards and seven that took at least 10 plays.
Quarterback Shea Ruddy will be making his 18th career start for Whiteford and has passed or more than 800 yards and nine touchdowns this season. He has been spreading his passes around recently to several receivers, including All-TCC tight end Jack Andrews (13-339), Clay Speweik (15-176) and Levi Hillard (13-201).
Andrews has been a great story this season for Whiteford. He started on the offensive line last season as a sophomore for the Bobcats but was moved to end this year after Coach Mensing watched him play basketball last winter and was impressed with his hands and how athletic he was. Now, he is an All-TCC tight end and one of the league leaders with six touchdown catches.
Senior Devon Shaw leads the Bobcats in rushing with 722 yards, or 103 yards a game. Ruddy has more than 1,300 yards of total offense.
Whiteford is in the second round of the playoffs for the seventh time in eight seasons and Mensing’s playoff record is 17-7. Only one coach in Monroe County Region history has more playoff wins. Overall, Mensing is 81-21 at Whiteford, a winning percentage of just under 80 percent.
“We are excited to get to continue playing football this week and give our young kids another week to grow,” Mensing said.
The Leadership-Whiteford winner will take on the winner of Summerfield-Detroit Southeastern. That game is also at 7 p.m. Friday.