FOOTBALL: Saline Opens Against Canton in a Tough District


As expected, the Saline football team beings the MHSAA Division 1 playoffs in a tough district.

The good news is, the Hornets will have home field through the regional final - if they can keep winning.

Saline, 9-0, opens the playoffs Friday night at 7 p.m. against Canton, 6-3. The winner will play the winner of Huron (8-1) and Belleville (8-1) in the district final the following week. The other side of regional includes Cass Tech (6-3), Dearborn Fordson (8-1), Dearborn (6-3) and Woodhaven (8-1).

For the Hornets, the district shook out exactly how projected it would - with Saline in a district with Canton, Huron and Belleville.

Palka was asked about the projection Friday.

"It's just the luck of being where we are at (geographically)," Palka said. "We've got to figure out who the next opponent will be, scout them like crazy and just keep getting one-day better. The projection right now looks tough, but you're going to have to beat them sooner or later, whether it's early or whether it's later."

Other teams might have bigger offensive or defensive lines but, Palka said, the Hornets will be ready to compete.

"This team was built to compete with teams like that. We may not have the physical size other teams do, but what we do scheme-wise and how hard the kids play makes a difference," Palka said.

Scouting the District:

Canton - Canton began the season with two losses (Dearborn Fordson and Howell) and then reeled off a five-game winning streak before falling to Hartland, 21-0, two weeks ago. Junior Caleb Williams, a CB/WR who also returns kicks and punts, is drawing attention from college teams. DT Julian Lockett (6'0, 200), and linemen Jordan Vidojevski (6'3, 240) and Giulian Bodiu (6'2, 250) are also getting attention from smaller colleges.

Saline has a 2-4 record against Canton, who ousted the Hornets from the playoffs in 2017 with a 42-14 victory. The year prior, Saline beat Canton, 37-31. The Hornets are 2-2 against Canton in the Palka era. Canton lost to Belleville in the district final last year, 53-29.

Belleville - Belleville is 8-1, with their lone loss coming to Livonia Churchill (28-21 on Sept. 10). The Tigers have been merciless this year. They've scored 46 points or more in seven of nine games, including a 78-0 win over Wayne Memorial.

(Note: Belleville beat Hartland, 49-6. Hartland beat Canton, 21-0).

The Tigers have a ton of talent. RB/WR/OLB Aaron Alexander has committed to Michigan. S/CB/RB Myles Rowser has committed to Arkansas. CB/WR Jeremiah Caldwell is getting offers from the likes of Alabama A&M and Tennessee. WR/S Christian Rapley has offers from Penn State and Arizona State. 6'3, 290-pound Ja'Kobe has committed to Southeast Missouri.

OLB Cameron Dyson and WR/CB Deshaun Lee have also received offers.

Saline has a 4-1 record against Belleville. In 2019, Belleville beat Saline 49-10 in the opening round of district play. Saline has a 2-1 record against Belleville in the Palka era. Belleville lost to West Bloomfield last year, 35-34, in a double-overtime semifinal.

Huron - The 8-1 River Rats are no strangers to the Hornets. Their only loss came to Saline, 35-21, way back on Sept. 3 at Hornet Stadium. Since then, they've won seven straight.  The River Rats are in the playoffs for the second straight year after going 17 years without making the post-season.

The River Rats have athletes. CB/S Tyler Bivens was committed to Kent State. WR Jamari Thomas and S Jamil Thomas have interest from Notre Dame. K Adam Samaha was offered by Michigan. DE/OLB/LS Bruce Williams has an offer from Central Michigan. DE Laith Shamma was offered by Toledo.

Saline has an 18-5 record against Huron, including this year's win. Last year, Saline beat Huron twice, including a 34-27 victory in the playoffs. The Hornets are 11-0 against Huron in Palka's tenure and have 13 straight wins over Huron. Huron lost to Saline in the district semifinal last year.

Saline - Let's not forget the Hornets several players attracting the attention of college programs.

QB CJ Carr has offers from Penn State, Wisconsin, Notre Dame, Eastern Michigan, Indiana and Nebraska. Injured QB Larry Robinson committed to Army.

TE Gavin Mesman has an offer from Mount Union. CB/S Max Koehn and OG Luke Masters have offers from Lawrence Tech.

OT Garrett Beazley has an offer from Concordia. 

Last year, the Hornets won the district championship before bowing out to Rockford in the regional.

Combined Won-Loss Record by District:

  • R1, D1 - 27-9
  • R1, D2 - 30-6
  • R2, D1 - 29-7
  • R2, D2 - 29-7
  • R3, D1 - 26-10
  • R3, D2 - 27-9
  • R4, D1 - 31-5 (Saline's District)
  • R4, D2 - 27-9
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