Impressive Players In The State Championship Games

Jeffrey Cottrell

I had a fantastic time at the state finals. John Johnson, director of communications for the MHSAA was very nice. I got to have lunch with Ron Pesch, MHSAA historian who helped me with some of my research for my Football in Saginaw County exhibit back in the summer of 2007. Many of the games were stinkers; one team was obviously the better squad and by halftime you’d wonder if there would be a running clock. I spent about 26 hours at Ford Field on Friday and Saturday. It’s a fantastic facility and I’m proud to say that it’s a gem in downtown Detroit. For a couple of hours, those kids get to play where some of their football heroes run, make tackles, catch passes, and kick field goals. All the teams played well and we can be proud of the coaching staffs and the players for making it where many teams never do.

The reason for this article is to examine a couple of players that left a lasting impression on me. If you visit the Phalanx Forums, you probably read the talk about Holland Christian quarterback AJ Westendorp. One of the best receivers I saw was Detroit Country Day’s Bennie Fowler. Although Ovid-Elsie running back Chris Robinson didn’t lead his team to a championship, he played well. I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about MSU 2010 commit Max Bullough

First, let’s examine AJ Westendorp. They ran the spread offense and would frequently split out four or five players. The thing I was most impressed with was the decision making of this young man. He didn’t force a whole lot; rather taking what the defense gave him. There were many plays that I saw him bootleg right, forcing the defenders to come play the run. It was then that AJ would drop the ball right into the spot they vacated. If the defenders chose not to play come up, he would burn them with his running ability. On the game, he ran 19 times for 120 yards. His arm was very accurate as well. Westendorp set a finals record for completions and total yards. Willie Sneed IV was his favorite target. In my opinion, this guy will be good. I’m not so sure he will be a D1 player, but definitely D2. Talking to the Holland Christian stat man (who’s been involved with the program since the beginning) before the game, he glowed about the kid. According to him, he hits the weight room hard and has a chiseled body. After his performance in the biggest game of his life so far, he is bound to get some looks. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him go play D1 ball. Personally, I think he’d fit perfectly into Butch Jones spread offense at Central Michigan as the heir apparent to Dan LeFevour. It’s not very often you see the starting quarterback also be one of the starting linebackers. He plays quarterback with the reckless abandon of his defensive position.

Detroit Country Day’s Bennie Fowler was an impressive young man. He was fast and has great hands. There were plenty of receivers that played over those two days, but none ran the routes as smoothly as Fowler did. Fowler was also called upon to run the ball quite a bit as well. Heck, he ran the ball on the first play of the game. At 6’2 and 185lbs, he has the height to play at the next level. The kid is fast. He can outrun many DB’s in high school. Many people say that he raw and needs work, but who doesn’t coming out of high school? Fowler played very well but did not break a whole lot of tackles. Bennie will need to bulk up, but the frame is there and he can catch the ball. For the championship game, Fowler ran 11 times for 81 yards and caught five footballs to gain 84 yards. Bennie Fowler has the ability to be a good receiver on the next level if he puts forth the effort with the drive to be the best.

One of my favorite players I saw this year was Chris Robinson. Every time Robinson touches the ball, he can take it to the house. Unfortunately for Ovid-Elsie, he was injured in the game and was never the same after. You could see he was hurt, but every time he got back up, albeit slowly, and went back to the huddle. It was a testament to Muskegon Oakridge’s defense that he was held to 117 yards. There was also a long run (I want to say about 50 yards) that was called back due to a holding call. The kid never came out of the game. He was returning kickoffs and punts, played safety, and of course playing his regular running back position. Robinson put up the third most rushing yards in MHSAA history with 2,844 yards. His legs never stopped moving; when he got stuffed in the hole, he kept his legs churning and sometimes spun right out of tackles. Chris Robinson should be the top running back in Michigan next season. As far as where he could end up, I don’t know if his 40 is fast enough (I read he was timed at 4.55) to get the feature back position at a school like Michigan State, USC, or LSU, but he WILL play at the next level. We will have to wait until after his senior season or see if he commits at a football camp this summer.

Max Bullough was all over the place. This kid has a pedigree that few people have. Many people in his family (both sides) have played college football and his grandfather, Hank, coached at the NFL level. He is 6’3” and 225 lbs. When I saw him, I thought that he was a bit small. When I say that, I mean that he has not filled out his frame. He will put on weight and muscle over the next few years. Heck, Max only just finished his junior season. In the state championship game, he made 15 tackles, two tackles for a loss, one sack, kicked three extra points, and caught a two point conversion. This kid does it all. On top of that, he carries a 3.9 GPA and has a great knowledge of football. He will just get better and better over his senior year and when he gets to Michigan State, the coaches will have a player ready to make an impact. I was watching him at the beginning of the game and he didn’t do much. Then, he made a CRUNCHING hit on an Ubly player and got all pumped up. After that, he was all over the place and was always within a few yards of the ball, if he wasn’t in on the tackle. You could tell that he was a leader on the team and other players looked to him to provide that role.

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