Season Preview-The Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Cranes to defend league title in 2017
Cranbrook won the 2016 Catholic League Championship in football .
The Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Cranes begin their 2017 football season ready to defend their CHSL title.
The Cranes took a step forward last year with a post-season victory in the Prep Bowl.
“Cranbrook learned how to win big games last year,” says Cranes head coach Joe D’Angelo. “We became a more consistent team and learned to overcome several challenges. Our guys had some tough games last season and they stayed the course. I was happy with the team’s effort.”
Cranbrook Head Coach Joe D'Angelo was named CHSL Coach of the Year in 2016
The Cranes were picked to finish first in the Intersectional I division in the Catholic League coaches poll. Cranbrook was the only unanimous first place divisional choice in all of the Catholic League.
Cranbrook will face divisional rivals Riverview Gabriel Richard, Macomb Lutheran North, and Allen Park Cabrini in the heart of the schedule this year, with two of these three games on the road.
With a new addition in the Catholic League, the Cranes will add Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett to their divisional rivals.
“While we had a good record against our division last year, we must be ready for new challenges against these well-prepared teams”, says Coach D’Angelo. “Now that we have University Liggett in the division as well, it just underscores our need to prepare at a higher level.”
Cranbrook’s crossover games within the CHSL will pair them against Royal Oak Shrine in the Intersectional II Division and perennial powerhouse Dearborn Divine Child from the AA Division.
“These are two successful programs with a long history of good football,” says Coach D’Angelo. “We will be tested in both games.”
The Cranes will play a CHSL crossover game against Royal Oak Shrine Sept. 9
Cranbrook’s non-conference schedule will provide a unique set of challenges.
From the Western Wayne Blue Conference, Redford Union opens Cranbrook's regular season schedule.
Finishing 7-4 last year, Redford Union made it to the district finals in last year’s MHSAA state playoff.
Detroit University Prep returns after winning their last three games in a rebuilding season. Former Metro Division rival Livonia Clarenceville will round out the regular season for the Cranes.
“These teams will be difficult to prepare for,” said Coach D’Angelo, “but we will take one game at time and focus on playing good football.”
Cranbrook will have the opportunity to defend their Catholic League championship for the first time since becoming a member of the CHSL. The Cranes hope to return to the CHSL Prep Bowl come this October.
“We will have to work hard to earn the right to be there,” said Coach D’Angelo. “There are no short cuts to excellence.”
The MHSAA state playoffs also pose a challenge for the Cranes. Cranbrook will prepare to meet potential opponents in River Rouge, Detroit Country Day, and Harper Woods Chandler Park.
“We fell short of our expectations in the state playoffs last year so we must continue to prepare if we want to go further,” said D’Angelo.
The Cranes may face Detroit Country Day in the district round of the MHSAA playoffs
Cranes Forward-The Offense
This year’s team is led by 6’2’ 185 lbs senior QB Trevor McConnell who came into his own during last season. In relief of an injured starter, McConnell completed 50% of his passes, going 51 for 101 and 574 yards. He had 6 passing TD’s and 11.3 yards per catch. He finished the season with a quarterback rating of 107.9.
In his signature win last season against Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes, McConnell finished with 20 for 35 for 286 yards, 3 TD’s and a quarterback rating of 142.6. McConnell led Cranbrook to its first ever victory over WOLL.
“Trevor provides a steady and mature hand on our offense. He has shown poise in big moments for us,” said Coach D’Angelo. “I expect the team to respond well under his leadership.”
McConnell has drawn interest from Lafayette, Depauw, and the Univ. of Chicago for his collegiate career.
QB Trevor McConnell will lead the Cranes in 2017
The Cranes will have a key target with 2016 AP All-State Honorable Mention junior Kobi Russell in the wide receiver corps.
Last year, the 6’2” 170 wide out Russell led Cranbrook with 33 receptions, 590 yards, and 5 TD’s. Having been recruited over the summer by Northwestern, Pitt, and Lehigh, Russell looks to get better as he matures through his junior year.
“Kobi has grown in his poise and leadership over the last year. He’s a hard worker that has a knack for finding the ball,” says Coach D’Angelo.
5’11” 170 lbs junior WR Torrell Williams and senior WR 5’11” 175 lbs Marqis Stokes will add great compliments to the aerial assault of the Cranes.
2016 AP All-State Honorable Mention WR Kobi Russell looks to lead the Cranes receiving corps this year.
The ground game will be powered another year by 2016 AP All-State Honorable Mention senior RB Aaron Wiggins.
In the last two seasons, the 5’9” 175 halfback has amassed 2088 yards all-purpose yards and 28 TD for Cranbrook. He has had looks from Vanderbilt and Lehigh.
“Wiggins is a threat to score any time he touches the ball. He’s a great offensive spark for us”, said Coach D’ Angelo. “He’s a great motivator with the younger players and always helps to rally the team.”
The Cranes offensive line will be solid, with 6’8” 270 lbs senior Tim Hauxwell providing leverage. 6’4” 260 lbs senior Adam Samet will also contribute heavily to the effort in the trenches.
2016 AP All-State Honorable Mention RB Aaron Wiggins looks to have another good season.
Crane Strength- The Defense
The Cranes defensive front will be led by 2016 All-State senior DE Chris Smith.
At 6’2” 250 lbs, Smith was the Cranes defensive leader last year. He had 48.5 solo tackles, 35 assists, 4 tackles for a loss, 4 sacks, 6 fumble recoveries, 9 hurries, 2 batted down passes, and 1 touchdown.
Being recruited by schools in the MAC, Patriot, and Ivy Leagues in the offseason, Smith has committed to play football at Harvard University next fall.
“Smith is a versatile and powerful athlete who has a passion for the game,” says Coach D’Angelo. “He brings hard work to the weight room, the film room, and to the field.”
6’3’ 300 lbs junior Danny Files will play at nose tackle and will be a force to be reckoned with on the interior line.
2016 Free Press All-State DE Chris Smith will lead the Cranes defensive front
Senior CB Marqis Stokes returns to lead the secondary after a year off in recovery from an ACL tear.
In 2015, Stokes led the team with 5 interceptions, including a 45-yard returned TD interception. He also had 37 tackles, 2 TFL, and 1 fumble recovery.
“Marqis plays with tenacity and has great ball instincts, “said Coach D’Angelo. “He has very good technique for a cornerback and plays well against taller receivers.”
Marqis has acquired interests from Columbia, Cornell, and Tufts University.
Junior S Torrell Williams, the 2016 leader in interceptions and Valparaiso recruit, will have a major role in a veteran secondary.
The linebackers will be led by 6’0” 180 lbs senior Andrew Mertz and sophomore 6’2” 200 lbs Jack Fairman, with assistance from 5’11” 210 lbs senior Hani Abdelfatah, 6’1” 190 lbs junior Conner Toomey, and 5’11” 190 lbs sophomore Tariq Muhammad.
CB Marqis Stokes returns to lead the Cranes secondary in 2017.
Soaring Cranes-Special Teams
The Cranbrook special teams unit will be led by 2016 AP All-State senior K/P Pierson Cooke.
Cooke converted 9 of 12 field goals last year. He also made 30 of 33 PAT’s, for a 91% conversion rate. He scored 57 points through field goals and extra points for Cranbrook.
As a punter, he averaged 34 yards a punt with his longest being 51 yards. Of his 28 punts, 10 of them placed the other team inside their 20 yard line.
“Pierson is an accurate kicker with a strong leg,” says Coach D’Angelo. “He gives us an advantage whenever he is on the field. “
Cooke was rated a 5-star kicker by Kohl’s Kicking Camp this summer and is being recruited by several schools on the East Coast and in the Big Ten.
2016 AP All-State K Pierson Cooke will give the Cranes a special teams advantage.
Confidence and Preparation
Coach D’Angelo believes Cranbrook has the confidence to do well this season.
“I see it in their off season work ethic and belief in preparedness”, says D’Angelo. “The beginning of a good team is a confident attitude.”
Coach D'Angelo has assembled an experienced, committed and knowledgeable coaching staff which includes four former head coaches. This group is focused on the preparation and development of the players.
This year the team has an added bonus: rising junior varsity players who are coming from their own championship season.
"The JV team also won the Catholic League last year. These rising players will help sustain us where we had players graduate last year," said Coach D'Angelo.
The Cranbrook Football Junior Varsity were CHSL Champs in 2016
The 2017 Cranes football team is well-prepared and has a positive attitude going into the season. With new challenges ahead, Cranbrook looks to defend their CHSL title and make a deeper run into the MHSAA playoffs.
With solid talent and experience, look for a promising year from Cranbrook Football.