by: Seth Kinker, email@example.com
Tomorrow, the Dexter Dreadnaughts (8-1) will host the Livonia Churchill Chargers (5-4) in their first-ever home playoff game.
Last year, the Dreads not only broke the state’s longest losing streak but made the playoffs for the first time in school history. Despite making the playoffs and a great game at South Lyon, the Dreads still haven’t won their first playoff game in program history.
The players and staff made it clear from the offseason that last year wasn’t something they wanted to be a one time thing.
Colin Gay, a sports reporter for Hometown Life, was kind enough to answer some questions about the Dreads opponent tomorrow night.
Sun Times News: A slow start with a late push for the Livonia Churchill Chargers (5-4) of the Kensington Lakes Athletics Association (KLAA) East, although that record may be misleading. With those four losses coming to quality opponents, what did you learn about this Chargers team this year?
Colin Gay: “When you ask Churchill head coach Bill De Fillipo, the Chargers should have beaten both Fordson and Franklin and played close with both Belleville and Brighton. I think Churchill learned early what level it has to play at if the Chargers want to go far in the playoffs. They are an extremely young team — playing mostly juniors and sophomores — and they molded their success trying to match some of the powerhouse programs in the state.”
STN: A younger team for Chargers head coach Bill DeFillipo. Citing your work from last week, there’s 10 sophomores, eight of which are starting, and three or four seniors that he said get regular playing time. How have those young guys stepped in to bigger roles this year?
CG: “Like I said, I think teams like Belleville and Brighton kind of gave Churchill, especially the younger players, a level of expectation to meet, which kind of first showed up in a way against Franklin in that triple-overtime loss. It seems to start and end with the quarterbacks, whether it’s junior quarterback Gavin Brooks, who runs most of the offense, and sophomore change-of-pace QB Taj Williams. Also, junior wide receiver Shane Morelli has been a superstar, allowing the Charger offense to become more vertical with Brooks’ passing ability.”
STN: Junior QB Gavin Brooks and sophomore Taj Williams add an interesting dynamic to the Chargers offense, what can you tell me about the Chargers signal callers?
CG: “Brooks and Williams both have the ability to use the ground game. In the final game of the regular season against Howell, both scored rushing touchdowns: a 21-yard rush by Brooks for the first touchdown of the day and a 13-yard read by Williams later in the game. Brooks has also shown an ability to use his arm, that Williams will get a chance to when Brooks is gone. Brooks is a high-completion passer, allowing slants and short-yardage looks to move the ball downfield.”
STN: Offensively, besides the quarterbacks, who should Dread fans be on the lookout for against the Chargers?
CG: “Morelli and senior receiver Mitchell Regan use the Charger passing game to their advantage. With the slants and short-yardage passes, both have the speed to get out into space, making defenders miss. The best example I can give is on Regan’s touchdown against Howell. He scored on a 32-yard wheel route to the left side, gaining possession not even 10 yards from the line of scrimmage. Those are two guys to watch if this Churchill offense is going to do anything.”
STN: Defensively, since a 49-48 triple overtime loss against Livonia Franklin on 9/27, the Chargers have only given up 24 points in their last four games including two shutouts. What helped the defense get on track at the perfect time down the closing stretch of the regular season?
CG: “To me, it actually started in that Franklin game. The Charger defense allowed 28 points in regulation to a team that had not scored under 40 points in a game before that point in 2019. Churchill stepped up on third down, with Franklin failing to convert a third-down try on 10 attempts in regulation. That’s the game, not only for the defense, but for the team as a whole, that was the turning point for Churchill. That loss was the point where they became a playoff team, in my opinion.”