GAMEDAY: Saline Hosts Chippewa Valley to Open 2018 Football Season

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 08/23/2018 - 05:58

Saline starts the 2018 football season with excitement, questions and the knowledge that they begin with the toughest opening-night opponent in the Joe Palka era.

Saline hosts Chippewa Valley at 7 p.m., Thursday, at Hornet Stadium. High School football writer Mick McCabe ranked the Big Reds as the third best football team in the state.

“It’s going to be a heck of a test. But to be the best, you’ve got to beat the best,” said Palka, who is starting his seventh season as head coach at Saline. “Chippewa Valley is probably the toughest team we’ve had on opening night.”

The Hornets are no slouches. McCabe ranked Saline as the 17th best team in the state. How many teams would love to be ranked 17th in the state.  But Saline has a lot of young players learning on the job.

Like all high school football coaches, Palka is less concerned with pre-season rankings than he is with post-season rankings.

“I really like our team. We’re making progress every day. We’re thin at some spots, but this team has a chance to be a typical Saline team that keeps getting stronger as the season goes on,” Palka said. “We have a lot of growing to do right now. But we have great listeners and our kids show great effort and they’re improving by leaps and bounds.”

Hornets Offense

Nowhere are there more questions than on offense, where RB Brendan Murphy and TE Brendan Munday.

Senior Andrew Arbaugh is the QB. Arbaugh, who was one of two backups to Cole Daniels last year, throws the ball well and makes good decisions with the ball, Palka said. He completed eight of 11 passes for 65 yards last year.

He’s throwing to a receiving corps that’s mostly brand new.  At receiver, the targets are junior Kolton Malinczak, junior Trevor Arico and MJ Griffin.

Griffin, of course, the star from the Hornet’ secondary, who committed to Temple. He’s the first Hornet of the Palka era to be announced as a two-way starter.

“We’re green at receiver. We’ve got some growing up to do there. So MJ is talented an athletic and we need him playing as much as we can,” Palka said.

Griffin caught three passes for 43 yards and a touchdown last year.

Another target is TE Murphy, who caught 14 passes for 275 yards and three touchdowns.

“He’s a great leader who does a nice job blocking and who has great hands. He runs faster than he’s given credit for and he’s hard to tackle. He’s a tough kid and one of the studs on this team,” Palka said.

Brendan Munday ran 111 times for 643 yards and 17 TDs as a junior. He rushed for seven touchdowns as a sophomore. He’s no stranger to the end zone. Hayden Scott (32 carries, 329 yards, 3 TDs), Joel Klomega (15 carries, 59 yards, one TD), and Ryan Liebert (11 carries, 70 yards, 1 TD) also return to varsity this year.

The offense is playing behind a nearly all-new offensive line. Junior Lance Blaszak and sophomore Kyler Blake-Jones are playing tackle. Noah Ayers is at right guard while Evan Schunck and Carter St. Lawrence play at left guard. Chase Hartley plays center. Hartley and Ayers have the most experience, having played in the second half of several games last year.

“I’m really surprised by our offensive line. It’s a young group, but they’re improving quickly,” Palka said.

Hornets on Defense

Starting on the defensive line are DE Brad Wisniewski, DE Jonah Ashby, DT Zach Sabin and DT Adonis Gammo.

Wisniewski, at 6’4 and 230 pounds, is the only returning starter. Last year he made 27 stops, had two sacks for 19 yards, forced two fumbles and recovered another. Ashby, at 6’2 and 220 pounds, starts on the other side. Palka likes the speed of his defensive ends. Gammo made seven tackles – including two sacks for 10 yards last year. He also recorded a safety. He’s joined in the middle by Sabin, a 6’2, 225-pound junior.

Palka likes his linebackers. Senior Connor Terech begins his third year on varsity. The 6’2, 205-pound Terech led the Hornets with 40 tackles last year. He also broke up five passes, intercepted a pass and recovered a fumble.

“Connor’s grown with the program and turned into a great linebacker. He has height, range and he runs well. He’s an important leader on our team,” Palka said.

Terech is joined at linebacker by Alex Morrison, moving up from safety, and Max Fair. Morrison (6’0, 210) started as a safety last year. He had 14 tackles, a fumble recovery and an interception.

“Alex looks really good a linebacker. He might need a game or two to get comfortable, but we’re very happy with our linebackers,” Palka said.

MJ Griffin and Kyle Greenwood start at safety. Griffin (6’2, 190) played corner last year, recording 12 tackles, 10 pass break-ups, an interception, a forced fumble and fumble recovery. The Temple-commit is the star of the defense. Greenwood, a junior, is another player with good athleticism.

At corner, junior Noah Nelson and senior Isaac Zambeck will start. Both are first-year starters.

JT Turner will punt and place kick for the Hornets. Turner has been on the varsity team since his sophomore year, when he kicked a clutch field goal with 1:07 to play to lift Saline to a 24-21 victory over Canton. Last year he went 13-for-14 on extra points and had six touchbacks on 13 kickoffs.

Griffin and Klomega will handle returns. Griffin returned five kickoffs for 128 yards last year.

Chippewa Valley

The Big Reds went 10-2 last year before falling to Detroit Cass Tech, 32-26, in the regional championship game. Chippewa Valley took a 26-25 lead with 1:25 left in the game before Cass Tech engineered their improbable game-winning drive.

Saline faced a tough Rockford team to open last season. Chippewa Valley is even tougher.

“They’re picked as a top three team in the state for a reason,” Palka said. “They’ve got three or four kids going to D1 colleges. They’ve got three-year starters at linebacker, quarterback, running back and receiver. I don’t know how good their lines are, but they’ve got terrific skill kids,” Palka said. “This is as tough a first game test we’ve had since I’ve been here. Win or lose, we’ll learn from it and get better.”

Tommy Schuster is the QB. He was first-team, all state last year, throwing for 1,925 yards and 26 touchdowns against three interceptions. Marcel Lewis, inside linebacker and tight end, committed to Michigan State University. David Ellis, who caught nine TD passes last year and also places defensive back, committed to Central Michigan University. Running back and corner back Ja’Von Kimbson committed to Miami of Ohio.


# Name Grade POS Ht Wt
1 Kolton Malinczak 11th Rec 5'6 140
2 MJ Griffin 12th DB 6'2 190
3 Lucas Ebert 12th Rec 6'2 185
4 Luke Hoyt 11th DB 5'8 150
5 Trevor Arico 11th Rec 6' 160
6 Brendan Murphy 12th Rec 6'2 225
7 Nicholas Patteri 11th Rec 6'2 175
8 Grant Sitterley 12th Rec 6'2 195
9 Andrew Arbaugh 12th QB 5'11 160
10 Connor Terech 12th LB 6'2 205
12 Noah Nelson 11th DB 5'8 165
13 Kyle Greenwood 11th QB 5'11 170
14 Max Fair 12th LB 5'9 205
15 CJ Kraft 11th QB 6' 175
16 Harrison Hill 12th DB 5'11 155
17 Anthony Ferrari 10th QB 6'1 155
18 Austin Usher 11th QB 5'11 180
19 Ryan Liebert 12th RB 6' 190
20 Nick Zancy 12th DB 5'8 140
21 Isaac Zambeck 12th DB 6' 175
22 Joel Klomega 12th RB 5'8 170
24 Jack Plumley 12th DB 6'2 165
26 Brendan Munday 12th RB 5'9 200
28 Alexander Rodriguez 11th LB 5'6 150
29 Hayden Scott 12th RB 6' 175
30 Jordan Harris 12th DB 5'4 130
31 Cade Gilless 11th DB 5'10 165
32 Brendan Cropsey 11th K/P 5'9 150
34 Jeremiah Ohren-Hoeft 11th DB 5'9 170
36 Alex Morrison 11th LB 6' 210
41 Gavin Lytle 10th RB 5'9 170
43 Sam Lupascu 11th DB 5'9 170
44 Andy Clark 12th LB 5'7 180

46 James Turner 12th K/P 6' 200
50 Kyler Blake-Jones 10th OL 6'2 215
51 Daniel Cislo 12th DL 5'9 205
54 Evan Schunck 11th LB 6'2 220
55 Noah Ayers 12th OL 5'9 225
58 Chase Hartley 12th OL 5'8 230
59 Monty Green 11th LB 5'9 170
60 Jacob Bonde 11th DL 5'11 245
62 Alex Vollink 12th OL 6'3 230
64 Ryan Sutherland 12th OL 6'5 210
66 Colton Watson 12th OL 6'2 285
68 Evan Halloway 12th DL 6' 200
71 Carter St.Lawrence 11th OL 6' 220
72 Alex Dodson 11th OL 6'1 190
73 Sam Glenz 11th DL 5'8 230
74 Henry Koenen 11th OL 6'4 270
75 Josh Baars 10th OL 6'4 230
76 Clay Curtis 11th OL 5'9 205
77 Lance Blaszak 11th OL 6'1 195
80 Robbie Ferrari 12th Rec 6'4 190
81 Nathan Holmberg 10th Rec 6' 160
82 Logan Plumley 11th Rec 6'1 165
83 Spencer Dickensheets 11th Rec 5'8 110
84 Myles Peeples 11th Rec 6' 190
85 Ethan Tozer 11th DL 6'1 200
88 Luke Miller 11th LB 5'7 155
90 Jonah Ashby 12th DL 6'2 220
91 Zach Sabin 11th DL 6'2 225
94 Brad Wisniewski 12th DL 6'4 230
95 Ryan Lampman 11th DL 6'1 185
97 Brett Baldus 10th DL 6'1 255
98 Joshua Brannan 11th DL 6' 200
99 Adonis Gammo 12th DL 5'11 220



Tran Longmoore's picture
Tran Longmoore
Tran Longmoore is a veteran community journalist. He is founder and owner of He is co-publisher of The Saline Post weekly newspaper. Email him at [email protected] or call him at 734-272-6294.

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